Blog Category: Apologetics



Responding With Love Online

Anger and offense are big problems in the world today — sadly, even among Christians. I can find myself getting easily irritated by this world, even though I know Christ asks me to live with patience and kindness. Do you often find yourself easily irritated, too?

When we’re angry, how quickly do we go on the attack? Is this how God wants us to respond to one another? No. There’s a better way. His way.

Responding like Jesus should be our daily intention.

Responding like Jesus

Responding in Attack Mode

Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, Inflammatory bowel disease, Multiple sclerosis. While these diseases are all different, they share a common thread, a similar root cause. They’re triggered when our bodies attack themselves. Our immune system goes haywire. Instead of protecting us like it’s designed to, it attacks us. It intentionally destroys healthy cells.

I think the same thing can happen in our relationships. We declare war on our relationships when we allow jealousy, conceit, pride, anger, and selfishness to take over. As we nurse our hurts and wounds, we find ourselves tearing each other down, rather than building each other up. In His Word, God repeatedly cautions us against this. He knows these actions only bring pain and suffering into our lives.

Some of us are our worst on social media. We can find ourselves saying things we’d never say to someone’s face. Words we can’t take back. Even if the post gets deleted, we leave hurt and brokenness behind.

Deep down we know that these thoughts and behaviors hurt God’s heart. And we know that our unChristlike behavior limits our influence to point others to Him. We need to do better


Responding Like Christ

So what can we do about this? We can set Christ-honoring habits that help us to respond like Him, even when we’re hurt, angry, or cranky. God wants us to respond rightly even when we’ve not gotten enough sleep, or not nurtured our hearts and minds with His Word. We need to look to Him to have the mental, physical, and spiritual strength to better reflect Jesus.

Here are four steps we can take before we post to ensure we respond with grace online:

  • Identification. We are to purposefully see others as created in the image of God, whether we agree with them or not. God created us all in His image. This means everyone deserves our respect. As John Calvin, French theologian, pastor, and leader of the Protestant Reformation remind us: “We are not to reflect on the wickedness of men but to look to the image of God in them, an image which, covering and obliterating their faults, an image which, by its beauty and dignity, should allure us to love and embrace them.”

Tip: Remember, when we hurt another person, we also hurt ourselves.

  • Motivations. Is our motive to be like Jesus when we add our post or comment? Will our words lift others up, or tear them down? Philippians 2:3-4 tells us to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. We are to humbly value others.

Tip: Remember, since Jesus humbled Himself, we need to follow His lead.

  • Assumptions. What thoughts do we have about others? Do we presume to know their motives? Do we give them the benefit of the doubt, or do we immediately assume the negative? As Ecclesiastes 10:13 teaches us, we are foolish when we make assumptions and jump to conclusions. It’s too easy to judge others when we do.

Tip: Remember, be quick to give people the benefit of the doubt and not  jump to conclusions.

  • Restoration. What do we do when we recognize that we’ve hurt someone with our words or actions? When we sin, God asks us to choose forgiveness and restoration. I focused on this point in detail in this earlier post.

Tip: Remember, if Jesus was willing to give His life to restore us, we need to be willing to offer restoration, too.


Loving Like Christ

How do we go about restoring a damaged relationship with someone? We start by softening our heart and responses. God has provided a three-step approach, which we find in 2 John 1:3. These action steps help us to get back on track when we’ve derailed:

  • Grace. Just as God has given us grace; we need to show grace. God’s grace is His total forgiveness in and through Jesus. God receives and embraces us, despite our worst sin against Him. We need to model this same grace to others. God has given us what we don’t deserve; we should do likewise with others.

This prayer might help: “Dear God, empower me to overlook insults. And give me a tender heart to see life from another’s perspective.” Imagine living that life! 

  • Mercy. Just as God has given us mercy, we need to show mercy. Because of Christ, we are reprieved from what we truly deserve: separation from God. As Jesus has held back punishment and condemnation, we need to be willing to show grace to others. Instead of lashing out, let’s hold back. Is this hard? Absolutely. But as we live with the intention to be like Christ, we can develop this habit.
  • Peace. Just as God has given us peace, we need to show peace. We were separated, out of joint with God. But He took action to repair the rift; He sent Christ to restore our relationship with Himself. Peace often starts with forgiveness.

There is so much power in forgiveness. Peter received unmerited forgiveness from Christ after he denied knowing Jesus not once, but THREE times on the night Jesus was arrested. This powerful lesson taught Peter that loving like Christ covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). The bottom line: There is nothing we can’t forgive, if we remember how deeply we’ve been forgiven.


Looking Like Christ

Reconciliation and restoration are NOT always easy. Especially for a hard-headed, self-righteous Believer like myself! I’ve just gone through an agonizing 17-month process, during which I held a grudge against someone who hurt my family. This person was clearly in the wrong, but in my moral superiority I held them in contempt. I focused all my energy on punishing them.

As I prepared for Easter, however, I saw afresh the grace, mercy, and peace that God paid for ME, a sinner. A radical thought came to me: Christ’s resurrection isn’t supposed to make me feel comfortable. It’s supposed to get my attention, even punch me in the gut! My resurrected Savior is more powerful than death. Therefore, His power in me should override my desire for righteous indignation toward others.

I immediately acknowledged my hard-heartedness to Christ, and humbly sought His forgiveness. My next step was to seek restoration with the person I was punishing.

Seeking restoration doesn’t always lead to restoration. But Romans 12:18 teaches us to do our best to live in peace with everyone. It’s not our job to force an outcome, only to be obedient. As I offered forgiveness, freely giving up my right to judge and hold a grudge, my inner peace returned.

Let me ask you to ponder this question: In a world looking for evidence about the truth of Jesus, what can be more convincing than our looking like Jesus in how we treat others? In how quickly we drop our anger. In how quickly we drop our self-righteousness. In how quickly we offer forgiveness.

There’s nothing worse than an unkind, unloving, unforgiving Christian. So let’s not be one! Especially online, where offenses can so quickly escalate. Let us live with the daily intention that our words and actions help people to see the beauty of Jesus. Amen!


NEXT STEPS

> Interested in knowing God personally? Get started with this really good info.
> Need prayer for more power in your faith? Contact us. We would love to pray for you!
> Connect with our Resolution Movement. Find freedom from your sin!
> We invite you to read Josh’s book, More Than a CarpenterThis short apologetics classic examines the historical evidence of Jesus. He died. He rose. He lives. He is our hope and example!


GUEST BLOGGER CHET GLADKOWSKI RECENTLY CELEBRATED HIS 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF TEACHING THE BIBLE. HE APPROACHES THE PAIN, ISSUES, AND HEARTACHE PEOPLE FACE WITH THE SOLUTION OF A RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST.


Freedom: Confession and Repentance

Having racked up more than a million miles on three airlines, I have met a lot of people on planes. Every single time, our conversations came around to how they weren’t happy in their lives. As I shared that I grew up in a religious tradition that put a lot of focus on guilt, without fail each person leaned in to hear more.

It became clear to me that we all tend to hold onto guilt. And we so desperately want to be free of it. Read on to learn the two simple steps I shared with them for doing just that!

Confession and Repentance

Self-Imprisoned By Our Guilt

In my chats with my fellow travelers, I was amazed to hear that they, too, had been raised under the dark, stormy clouds of guilt and shame. They would ask me the denomination I was raised in, but I kept it hidden, for one reason: I don’t think it’s fair to blame a denomination or specific church, when it’s individuals — myself included — who chose to sin.

Instead, I told them that what mattered is that I knew how they could get rid of their guilt. For good. Of course this piqued their interest, as they were suffering from not knowing how to resolve their guilt.

Some had tried self-medication with drugs, alcohol, work, or sex. Others had tried to find an emotional salve. But no matter what they tried, their results were temporary. Some told me they heard a nagging voice continually whisper that they’d done wrong. Others heard a shouting voice that got right in their face.

So how do we get rid of this condemnation? We turn to God. He did not create us to be weighed down by guilt. Which is why He has given us two simple steps to remove it: confession and repentance. Let’s look at what these words mean, and how our two actions differ.


HUMBLING CONFESSION

The first step is our confession that we have sinned. We have to name it, own it, and confess it.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight. (Psalm 51:3-4)

At its core, sin is our thoughts and actions that are against God. God is light, love, and purity. As God is holy, our sin revolts Him. Let me use the analogy of a dirty sock. Imagine a surgeon, all sanitized, gowned, gloved, and prepped for surgery, stooping to pick a dirty sock off the ground as he heads into the operating room. It would revolt us if the surgeon then approached the patient and began the surgery without again sanitizing his hands.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Our confession shows God that we recognize the dirtiness of our sin, and that we’re ready to repent of it so that it doesn’t stand between us and Him. We need to remember that our sin hurts God, because He is holy and incapable of sin. We feel guilt because we intuitively know that we’ve wounded Him by our sin. But, amazingly, God never turns away from us! At any point, because of Jesus’ great sacrifice, we can confess and walk free of our guilt and shame.


REDEEMING REPENTANCE

Our confession is our agreeing with God that we have sinned. Our repentance goes a step further: We turn from ourselves to respond to God. You and I can know that we have experienced repentance when we gain new understanding that leads to our living differently, on purpose, for Him.

Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. (Luke 3:8)

Our repentance is more than our saying we’re going to change. It’s our being intentional to actually change. Despite the pull of our sinful nature, we can commit to aligning our thoughts, words, and actions with God’s nature and His expressed will revealed in His Word. God knows this is hard for us, which is why He offers us continual grace. There are no loopholes. Jesus has provided our guarantee!

I can tell you that even when I’ve got confession and repentance down pat, I recognize there’s no guarantee that I won’t sin again. But there is great power and strength in seeing my sin in the light of the cross. This motivates me, more than anything else, to live my life in loving response to Him. Because I know how much He loves me — and how much I truly desire to please and honor Him — I stay willing to do the humbling work of confession and repentance. I encourage you to do the same!

Our ongoing process of sanctification is not enjoyable. But we can experience the JOY of being freed of our guilt as we take these two simple steps. Walk free of your guilt today!


NEXT STEPS

> Interested in knowing God personally? Get started with this really good info.
> Need prayer for more power in your faith? Contact us. We would love to pray for you!
> Connect with our Resolution Movement. Find freedom from your sin!
> We invite you to read Josh’s book, More Than a Carpenter. This short apologetics classic examines the historical evidence of Jesus. He died. He rose. He lives. He is our hope and example!


GUEST BLOGGER CHET GLADKOWSKI RECENTLY CELEBRATED HIS 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF TEACHING THE BIBLE. HE APPROACHES THE PAIN, ISSUES, AND HEARTACHE PEOPLE FACE WITH THE SOLUTION OF A RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST.


Really Listening for God to Speak

We can learn a lot about how God interacts with people by reading the Bible. Perhaps you’re familiar with the story of God calling out to young Samuel in the middle of the night (1 Samuel 3:1-21), or how Jesus appeared to Paul in a blinding vision, as Paul was attempting to destroy the early Church (Acts 9:1-9). In both cases, God spoke audibly, His message direct and clear.

How many of us have prayed that God would likewise speak so clearly to us? That leads me to ask: Does God still speak to us in our modern world?

Listening for God to Speak

Yes, though perhaps not in the way that we typically define the word “speak.”


Hearing God

Odds are, if God has a message for you, He won’t open the sky and beam Himself into your front yard. Or use a megaphone. Most of us can’t claim to have heard God speak to us in an audible voice — though some people do assert they have heard God say a word or phrase to them. It’s definitely possible, as the Bible proves. But God typically communicates to us today more subtly.

Have you ever been struck by the words of your pastor, or had a particular verse stand out to you as you read the Bible? That’s God speaking. Have you ever felt a persistent nudge to do something? That’s God speaking.

As we pay attention, we’ll find that God often uses His Word, as well as the words of others, to convict us of sin, give us answers, and guide us through tough situations. God also speaks to us through circumstance; the life issues personally affecting us.


Doubting God

If the Bible tells us that God regularly spoke to prophets and others, why doesn’t He talk to us so directly? Wouldn’t it make believing in Him and being a Christian so much easier?

Perhaps God wants us to get quiet, putting in real effort to hear Him. Perhaps He talked with the prophets directly because they spent so much time in prayer trying to discern His voice. Are you taking time to pray? Are you then patiently waiting for a response?

When I feel anxious or restless, I open my Bible app to find verses about trusting God. As I read the Scriptures, I feel God tell me not to worry; to simply trust His power and His goodness. I also hear God speak when He answers my prayers. In both cases, I am reminded that although I can’t see God, He is real and clearly at work in my life. My doubts diminish as my faith grows.


Trusting God

Perhaps God doesn’t speak to us audibly because He wants us to deepen our faith. In this era of science and technology, we’re told that it’s naive to believe in God because His existence hasn’t been proven by the scientific method.

Some argue that if God were real, He’d make it obvious not just by directly speaking to us, but by physically showing up. Then they’d believe He was real. God has already done so — in a big way. For three years, Jesus personally demonstrated God’s existence and supernatural power. Then He sacrificed Himself to prove God’s great love for us.

As much as we’d like to credit our human intelligence, we simply can’t comprehend God’s complex majesty. But through Jesus, we can know for sure that we haven’t been left here to muddle through life on our own.

God speaks to us all the time — because He longs to be in relationship with us. Are you making the time and space for Him to speak? Begin to do both, and you’ll discover how God, the Creator of the universe, chooses to speak to YOU.


NEXT STEPS

> Interested in knowing God personally? Get started with this really good info.
> Need prayer for more power in your faith? Contact us. We would love to pray for you!
> We invite you to read Josh’s book, More Than a CarpenterThis short apologetics classic examines the historical evidence of Jesus. He died. He rose. He lives. He is our hope and example!


GUEST BLOGGER CLAYTON THOMAS CARTER, A STUDENT IN PLANO, TEXAS, IS PASSIONATE ABOUT ENCOURAGING THE KNOWLEDGE OF A BIBLICAL WORLDVIEW. HE ENJOYS PLAYING TRUMPET AND SERVING AT HIS CHURCH.


Verdaderamente Escuchando para que Dios Hable

Podemos aprender mucho sobre cómo interactúa Dios con las personas leyendo la Biblia. Tal vez conozcas la historia de Dios llamando al joven Samuel en medio de la noche (1 Samuel 3:1-21), o cómo Jesús se le apareció a Pablo en una visión cegadora, mientras éste intentaba destruir la Iglesia primitiva (Hechos 9:1-9). En ambos casos, Dios habló de forma audible, con un mensaje directo y claro.

¿Cuántos de nosotros hemos orado para que Dios nos hable también con tanta claridad? Esto me lleva a preguntar: ¿Nos sigue hablando Dios en nuestro mundo moderno?

Listening for God to Speak

Sí, aunque quizá no de la forma en que solemos definir la palabra “hablar”.


Escuchando a Dios

Lo más probable es que, si Dios tiene un mensaje para ti, no abra el cielo y se lance a tu patio delantero. O use un megáfono. La mayoría de nosotros no podemos afirmar que hayamos oído a Dios hablarnos con una voz audible, aunque algunas personas afirman que han oído a Dios decirles una palabra o una frase. Sin duda es posible, como demuestra la Biblia. Pero hoy en día Dios suele comunicarse con nosotros de forma más sutil.

¿Alguna vez te han impresionado las palabras de tu pastor, o te ha llamado la atención un versículo concreto al leer la Biblia? Eso es que Dios está hablando. ¿Has sentido alguna vez un empujón persistente para hacer algo? Eso es que Dios está hablando.

Si prestamos atención, descubriremos que Dios utiliza a menudo Su Palabra, así como las palabras de otros, para convencernos del pecado, darnos respuestas y guiarnos en situaciones difíciles. Dios también nos habla a través de las circunstancias; los problemas de la vida que nos afectan personalmente.


Dudando de Dios

Si la Biblia nos dice que Dios hablaba regularmente a los profetas y a otros, ¿por qué no nos habla a nosotros tan directamente? ¿No haría esto que creer en Él y ser cristiano fuera mucho más fácil?

Quizá Dios quiere que nos mantengamos callados, esforzándonos de verdad para escucharle. Quizá hablaba con los profetas directamente porque ellos pasaban mucho tiempo en oración tratando de discernir Su voz. ¿Te tomas tiempo para la oración? ¿Esperas luego pacientemente una respuesta?

Cuando me siento ansioso o inquieto, abro mi aplicación de la Biblia para encontrar versículos sobre la confianza en Dios. Mientras leo las Escrituras, siento que Dios me dice que no me preocupe; que simplemente confíe en Su poder y en Su bondad. También oigo a Dios hablar cuando responde a mis oraciones. En ambos casos, se me recuerda que, aunque no pueda ver a Dios, Él es real y actúa claramente en mi vida. Mis dudas disminuyen a medida que crece mi fe.


Confiando en Dios

Quizá Dios no nos hable de forma audible porque quiere que profundicemos en nuestra fe. En esta era de la ciencia y la tecnología, se nos dice que es ingenuo creer en Dios porque su existencia no ha sido demostrada por el método científico.

Algunos argumentan que si Dios fuera real, lo haría evidente no sólo hablándonos directamente, sino apareciendo físicamente. Entonces creerían que es real. Dios ya lo ha hecho, a lo grande. Durante tres años, Jesús demostró personalmente la existencia de Dios y su poder sobrenatural. Luego se sacrificó para demostrar el gran amor de Dios por nosotros.

Por mucho que queramos dar crédito a nuestra inteligencia humana, simplemente no podemos comprender la compleja majestuosidad de Dios. Pero a través de Jesús, podemos saber con certeza que no se nos ha dejado aquí para que nos apañemos solos en la vida.

Dios nos habla todo el tiempo, — porque Él anhela estar en relación con nosotros. ¿Le dedicas tiempo y espacio para que te hable? Empieza a hacer ambas cosas, y descubrirás cómo Dios, el Creador del universo, elige hablarte a TI.


PRÓXIMOS PASOS

> ¿Estás interesado en conocer a Dios personalmente? Empieza con esta valiosa información.
>¿Necesitas orar para tener más poder en tu fe? Ponte en contacto con nosotros. ¡Nos encantaría orar por ti!
>Te invitamos a leer el libro de Josh, Más que un Carpintero. Este breve clásico de la apologética examina las pruebas históricas de Jesús. Murió. Resucitó. Vive. ¡Él es nuestra esperanza y nuestro ejemplo!


BLOGUERO INVITADO CLAYTON THOMAS CARTER, ESTUDIANTE EN PLANO, TEXAS, ES UN APASIONADO DEL FOMENTO DEL CONOCIMIENTO DE UNA COSMOVISIÓN BÍBLICA. LE GUSTA TOCAR LA TROMPETA Y SERVIR EN SU IGLESIA.



Add TITLE/TEXT Reliability of the Gospels | Video 2

If you're curious why Christians believe that we can trust the story of Jesus, you've come to a good place! This is the first episode in a series of 10 videos on the reliability of the Gospels. The Gospels are the first four books of the New Testament—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—which talk about the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

My name is Matthew. I’m a speaker and author with Josh McDowell Ministry. I look forward to our time together. Please feel free to ask questions along the way by leaving a comment here or on any of my social channels, which are listed below. I’d love to hear from you and be a small part of your own journey wrestling through these important questions about Jesus. Let’s get into it!

The books of the Bible were written thousands of years ago on material that typically only lasted for a couple of hundred years. So the original writings of the gospels are long gone. Instead, we have copies of copies of copies of the original writings. These copies are called manuscripts, and they are all different from each other in subtle ways because people make mistakes in the process of copying manuscripts.

In order to reconstruct what the original would have said, it helps to have as many copies as possible so that we can cross-check them with one another. We also look for the age of these manuscripts. Manuscripts that date closer to the time of the original writing have less time to become corrupted by mistakes or changes.

In both of these questions, the New Testament does far better than any other ancient document in history. If we take the New Testament, which is the writings about Jesus and content from his disciples, we have around five thousand eight hundred manuscripts in the original language, and almost 23-hundred of them include text of the Gospels.

To put this in perspective, most ancient historical writings of high regard have around a couple hundred manuscripts. Plato’s Tetralogies have about 237. The plays of Sophocles have about 226. The next runner-up after the New Testament is Homer’s Iliad, with around 1,900 manuscripts. Compared to the average ancient text, that’s incredible. But compared to the New Testament, it’s really small.

We also have a lot of manuscripts written very early after the original. According to New Testament scholar Dan Wallace, a manuscript specialist, “Today we have as many as 12 manuscripts from the second century, 64 from the third, and 48 from the fourth — a total of 124 manuscripts within 300 years of the composition of the New Testament. Most of these are fragmentary, but the whole New Testament text is found in this collection multiple times.”

If a manuscript lasts an average of several hundred years, then the earliest manuscripts we have may well be only a small handful of generations removed from the original. If there were only a few generations of copies, we would expect the manuscripts to be pretty close. There would be some spelling differences, some words missing or copied twice by mistake. And for the most part, that’s all we get when comparing our earliest manuscripts. But that’s no reason to doubt our confidence in what the original would have said.


For the sake of example, let’s say I have four different manuscripts which read as follows:

Everyone left for home when the party died down.

Everyone left for home as the party died down. 

Everyone left as the party died down.

Everyone left for home when the pary died down.

Even after all these differences, do you have a sense of what the original was trying to communicate? Certainly! When the party died down, people went home.


The exact wording is less clear. But the fourth manuscript has an obvious spelling mistake (“pary” instead of “party”). One of them doesn’t mention the people going home, but all the others do. It’s not clear whether people left “when” or “as” the party died down, but the meaning is essentially the same. With actual manuscripts we would have more to go by, like the dating. So let’s imagine that the earliest ones used the word “when,” making reading 1 most likely the closest to the original.

If we turned to the internal evidence for these manuscripts, looking at the larger context of the writing, looking at the typical styles and writing behaviors of the authors, we might be able to get even closer to an accurate and confident assessment of what the original text would have said.

When you work with manuscripts of the gospels and the Bible in general, the vast majority of your problems are not much different than this. There are some tricky spots, but there is no important doctrine or fundamental teaching of Christianity jeopardized by the differences in our manuscripts.

What if the Gospels were intentionally changed? Well, our early manuscripts come from different places around the middle-eastern world. It’s not like any person could travel the middle eastern world and change all of the manuscripts without the churches noticing. For this to work, they would have to access the text of the Gospels before it was copied and spread around the world. But how would they have known that the text was important enough to mess with until after it was already starting to spread? There’s just no good reason to suspect that we’ve lost the meaning of the original text, either by accident or by malicious intent.

Since we can be confident that the text we have today reflects the text that was written down, we are ready to ask if the text written down is true. I invite you to watch the rest of the videos. And please subscribe to my channel!


ENGAGE WITH MATTHEW

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Matthew is a Christian writer and speaker with a passion for the church to be united, strengthened, and unleashed to spread the good news of Jesus to every corner of the world. With a focus on apologetics and spiritual growth, Matthew offers a fresh voice. Matthew holds an M.Div from Talbot School of Theology.


Do we have the original writings? Reliability of the Gospels | Video 1

If you're curious why Christians believe that we can trust the story of Jesus, you've come to a good place! This is the first episode in a series of 10 videos on the reliability of the Gospels. The Gospels are the first four books of the New Testament—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—which talk about the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

My name is Matthew. I’m a speaker and author with Josh McDowell Ministry. I look forward to our time together. Please feel free to ask questions along the way by leaving a comment here or on any of my social channels, which are listed below. I’d love to hear from you and be a small part of your own journey wrestling through these important questions about Jesus. Let’s get into it!

The books of the Bible were written thousands of years ago on material that typically only lasted for a couple of hundred years. So the original writings of the gospels are long gone. Instead, we have copies of copies of copies of the original writings. These copies are called manuscripts, and they are all different from each other in subtle ways because people make mistakes in the process of copying manuscripts.

In order to reconstruct what the original would have said, it helps to have as many copies as possible so that we can cross-check them with one another. We also look for the age of these manuscripts. Manuscripts that date closer to the time of the original writing have less time to become corrupted by mistakes or changes.

In both of these questions, the New Testament does far better than any other ancient document in history. If we take the New Testament, which is the writings about Jesus and content from his disciples, we have around five thousand eight hundred manuscripts in the original language, and almost 23-hundred of them include text of the Gospels.

To put this in perspective, most ancient historical writings of high regard have around a couple hundred manuscripts. Plato’s Tetralogies have about 237. The plays of Sophocles have about 226. The next runner-up after the New Testament is Homer’s Iliad, with around 1,900 manuscripts. Compared to the average ancient text, that’s incredible. But compared to the New Testament, it’s really small.

We also have a lot of manuscripts written very early after the original. According to New Testament scholar Dan Wallace, a manuscript specialist, “Today we have as many as 12 manuscripts from the second century, 64 from the third, and 48 from the fourth — a total of 124 manuscripts within 300 years of the composition of the New Testament. Most of these are fragmentary, but the whole New Testament text is found in this collection multiple times.”

If a manuscript lasts an average of several hundred years, then the earliest manuscripts we have may well be only a small handful of generations removed from the original. If there were only a few generations of copies, we would expect the manuscripts to be pretty close. There would be some spelling differences, some words missing or copied twice by mistake. And for the most part, that’s all we get when comparing our earliest manuscripts. But that’s no reason to doubt our confidence in what the original would have said.


For the sake of example, let’s say I have four different manuscripts which read as follows:

Everyone left for home when the party died down.

Everyone left for home as the party died down. 

Everyone left as the party died down.

Everyone left for home when the pary died down.

Even after all these differences, do you have a sense of what the original was trying to communicate? Certainly! When the party died down, people went home.


The exact wording is less clear. But the fourth manuscript has an obvious spelling mistake (“pary” instead of “party”). One of them doesn’t mention the people going home, but all the others do. It’s not clear whether people left “when” or “as” the party died down, but the meaning is essentially the same. With actual manuscripts we would have more to go by, like the dating. So let’s imagine that the earliest ones used the word “when,” making reading 1 most likely the closest to the original.

If we turned to the internal evidence for these manuscripts, looking at the larger context of the writing, looking at the typical styles and writing behaviors of the authors, we might be able to get even closer to an accurate and confident assessment of what the original text would have said.

When you work with manuscripts of the gospels and the Bible in general, the vast majority of your problems are not much different than this. There are some tricky spots, but there is no important doctrine or fundamental teaching of Christianity jeopardized by the differences in our manuscripts.

What if the Gospels were intentionally changed? Well, our early manuscripts come from different places around the middle-eastern world. It’s not like any person could travel the middle eastern world and change all of the manuscripts without the churches noticing. For this to work, they would have to access the text of the Gospels before it was copied and spread around the world. But how would they have known that the text was important enough to mess with until after it was already starting to spread? There’s just no good reason to suspect that we’ve lost the meaning of the original text, either by accident or by malicious intent.

Since we can be confident that the text we have today reflects the text that was written down, we are ready to ask if the text written down is true. I invite you to watch the rest of the videos. And please subscribe to my channel!


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Matthew is a Christian writer and speaker with a passion for the church to be united, strengthened, and unleashed to spread the good news of Jesus to every corner of the world. With a focus on apologetics and spiritual growth, Matthew offers a fresh voice. Matthew holds an M.Div from Talbot School of Theology.


Get Quiet to Hear God

The angry noise of our world has become deafening. Would you agree that now is the time for Christians to help lower the volume?

We all have painful memories and scars, the result of society’s deterioration of civility, harmony, and even friendliness. As the writer Henry David Thoreau noted more than 150 years ago, “Our once boundless optimism was slowly replaced with ‘lives of quiet desperation.’” Many, today, feel that despair has only amplified. 

So how might you and I effectively share the Good News with a world so filled with discord? Some people think that God has gone quiet. Perhaps He has. If so, what might change if you and I started a quiet, personal revolution within ourselves, our churches, and our communities? Could it be that He hasn’t gone quiet, but that we’re not getting quiet enough to hear Him?

quiet

Deafening Noise, Desperate Souls

Peter Catapano, a senior staff writer with The New York Times, wrote about his daughter’s emotional baggage of going off to college with “a vivid awareness of mass shootings, natural disasters, the climate crisis, poverty, racial and political hatred and violence, and at last, the unimaginable — a silent, invisible pandemic that has so far killed nearly six million people — had all become undeniably woven into the fabric of life.”

Catapano admitted that he could not bring himself to look his daughter in the eye and tell her everything was going to be okay. It wasn’t, not really, and she knew it. “People are frustrated and angry,” he wrote. “And those feelings are fueling increases in violent crime, customer abuse of workers, student misbehavior in school and vehicle crashes.”

Another writer lamented over the angst of our culture, noting, “All that’s left is to yell at one another.” But I’d bet my last dollar that our powerful and majestic God doesn’t share that opinion. He has a better way: building hope and love and peace, through you and me. It’s time that we, as committed followers of Jesus Christ, quietly reach out to our friends, neighbors, coworkers, and communities in love. But first, we need to get quiet. How? 


Get Quiet to Hear God

I can suggest these six ways to get quiet to hear Him.

Quiet Confessing – Our first step is to agree with God that we have added to the noise by sinning with our words, thoughts, and actions. Let us quietly confess, with personal humility. Who do you need to forgive? Who do you need to ask to forgive you? 

Quiet Repenting – Once we admit our sin, we must change how we live. God empowers us to alter the direction, speed, and motivation of our life as we purposefully change our words, thoughts, and actions. As we repent and take action, God can use us to quietly impact others for Him.

Quiet Praying – Let us frequently retreat to a quiet place without people, phones, and other distractions. We need this break from the noise that continually bombards us. Personally, I find quiet in my prayer closet. I meet with God early to pray, even before my dog gets up. And I meditate on His word. I will admit to you that I have a well-developed ego and pride, so my kneeling is a physical act that helps me to get humble before God. Only after this quiet time do I turn on, log in, and catch up with the world.

Quiet Listening – When people talk, our immediate response should be to actively listen. Not to debate or argue, but to open our minds to seeing life from another’s point of view. God is looking for gracious, patient listeners to be His ears, hands, and feet. We can’t listen if we’re too busy trying to be heard. Shhhhhhh!

Quiet Waiting – We must get still to invite God to speak. This is hard for many of us, as we have so much to do. But we’ll find that when we do wait on God, He often will direct us to where we need to go, and what we need to do. As a technology geek, it’s hard to admit that I recently lost five chapters of a book I’m writing. When the text “disappeared” from my computer, without backup, my natural response was to blow a gasket and look for someone else to blame. God provided me with very godly advice through my wife, which involved waiting and rewriting the chapters.

Quiet Serving – Let us look for ways to meet the practical needs of others without fanfare or “likes” on social media. We needn’t go on a mission trip to serve. The needs are great in our own neighborhoods. I recently volunteered with a local food bank, helping to develop an advertising video to help raise needed funds via email and social media. And don’t forget the power of numbers. We amplify our ability to quietly serve when we invite others to join us. Who might you ask to quietly, humbly, generously serve with you this week?


Quiet Examples in Scripture

The Bible tells us many stories of people who got quiet to hear God speak.

During a time of severe drought, for example, as he sat hungry beside a dried-up brook, the prophet Elijah got quiet before God. God directed Elijah to “go at once” to a town called Zarephath, where a widow would supply Elijah with food. Upon asking the woman for water and bread, Elijah learned that she and her son were in desperate need themselves. Possessing only a handful of flour and a tiny bit of olive, the widow was about to make their last meal “that we may eat it — and die.”

God was about to do some compounding. Elijah responded, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’” In getting quiet before God, Elijah was empowered to meet the nourishment needs of the widow, her son, and himself until the end of the drought. And let us not forget that God answered Elijah’s prayer to breathe life into the widow’s son when the boy got sick and died a short time later. Many believed in God when this happened!

In the book of Luke, we read that “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit” after being tested by Satan in the wilderness for 40 days. How did Jesus defeat Satan, despite his terrific hunger and thirst? He got quiet to remember who He was — and His mission.

The Bible also gives us the example of Tabitha, a Christ-follower who was part of the inner circle of the early church. Here was a woman who did more than just think or talk about doing good. She took action by serving the poor in her town of Lydda. When Tabitha died, her friends called for the disciple Peter, who was visiting a neighboring town. When Peter arrived, the weeping widows for whom Tabitha had made garments were eager to show Peter the beautiful clothing. Peter got quiet before God to pray that Tabitha be restored to life. She was, which gifted her even more time to continue her generous, quiet serving. Peter inspires us to remember the power of getting quiet before our powerful God. Tabitha inspires us to see the quiet impact we can have on others as we serve.

I’m tempted to suggest that you pick the “quiet” step above that you find the easiest, and start there. But I believe that God requires us to start with the basics: confessing and repenting. It is only in our getting humble before Him that we are able to reset our hearts and motivations. It’s the daily example Jesus demonstrated for us to follow.


NEXT STEPS

> Interested in knowing God personally? Get started with this really good info.
> Need prayer for more power in your faith? Contact us. We would love to pray for you!
> We invite you to read Josh’s book, More Than a CarpenterThis short apologetics classic examines the historical evidence of Jesus. He died. He rose. He lives. He is our hope and example!

Guest blogger Chet Gladkowski recently celebrated his 50th anniversary of teaching the Bible. He approaches the pain, issues, and heartache people face with the solution of a relationship with Jesus Christ.


How Can I Believe Christianity ?

Some time ago, I had the chance to sit down with someone who wanted to see if I could help him recover his long-lost faith in Christianity. As we talked, I found myself confused about what he was actually struggling to believe in. Questions such as the existence of God, the reliability of the Bible, and the resurrection of Jesus actually made pretty good sense in his mind. As it turned out, what was really hindering him from believing in Christianity was that there’s just so much out there!

The sheer magnitude of false and misleading information in our world has made it difficult for some people to trust in Christianity, even if it makes sense in their minds. Because of this, I put together a video sharing my thoughts on how it’s even possible to discern our way through Christianity and countless other religions and spiritualities.

Transcript:

For many people both inside and outside the church, we are confronted with so much information that we are left asking: “How can I believe Christianity when there’s so much out there?

How can you study every religion? Even if Christianity makes decent sense, the fact that there’s so many religions—so much out there—makes it hard to really know if Christianity is true.

When it comes to a critical evaluation of all the different religions and beliefs out there, it helps to begin with the recognition that only a small handful of them are the kinds of beliefs which are able to be evaluated.

For instance, you cannot investigate religions that are grounded in myth or folklore. Right? Greek mythology has all of these stories of titans and the gods interacting with one another. Tribal religions talk about the gods who protect them and give them rain. But if we’re concerned about whether or not something is actually true, the burden of proof for any of these religious beliefs is on them, and when they have little or nothing to say, then it seems reasonable that we needn’t spend much time there.

Jesus, on the other hand, is almost universally accepted as a real historical figure who lived and taught and was crucified, followed by a dramatic historical movement of people proclaiming that he rose back to life. Now we have something attached to human history. Something happened 2000 years ago in the city of Jerusalem, and this deserves an explanation. We can work with that.

Likewise, you cannot evaluate religions that are all based on preference rather than fact.

A lot of New Age and Eastern religion beliefs are like this. For them, spirituality is a matter of personal belief, not something that can be objectively looked at. “If spiritual Yoga works, do that, if not try transcendental meditation!” The idea is that you find something that works for you, not something that is objectively true.

Just listen to people when they talk about taking on an Eastern religion. They often say that they “liked” the teachings, or that they found it very “interesting.” It’s fashionable! Curiously enough, people in the East often think of Western religions in the same kind of way. This is no way to determine what’s actually true.

So, after eliminating all of these beliefs, you aren’t left with much that can be rationally discussed. Apart from Christianity, you’ll still need to think through Islam, Atheism, Judaism, a few others. But this is much more manageable! And so you get into the deep work. Listen to the different perspectives. Hear their arguments. And then weigh those arguments against each other. Focus on the foundational core of these beliefs, and ask yourself if it’s coherent and justified.

And I would add this: Yes, it can be difficult to believe Christianity when there is so much out there. But in other ways it’s not hard at all. Because at the end of the day, God is the one who does the work bringing us into faith. Although God has given us a mind to think about these things, it can only go so far as to open the door. And so my last piece of advice is this:
As you study these things, take God with you!

Even if you don’t believe he exists, you can still pray and ask sincerely, “God, if you are real, I want to know, and I will commit myself to the evidence no matter where it takes me.”

I would urge you to make this prayer a habit of yours, and that you would start even before you click onto the next thing.



Didn’t Jesus Chastise Thomas for Wanting Evidence?

At Josh McDowell Ministry, we seek to help people understand why we can believe that Christianity is true. As I have argued in a previous blog post, this kind of ministry can be supported biblically. However, some people think that reason and evidence is a bad thing for Christian faith, based on how they understand Jesus’s interaction with “doubting Thomas” in John 20:24-29. However, this passage has been misunderstood, and so I have addressed this in the following video. Enjoy!

Play Video

Transcript:

If Christian Faith in God is grounded upon reason, as I have talked about in previous videos, then how do we understand Thomas’s doubt and the way Jesus appears to have chastised him for refusing to believe the resurrection unless he could see for himself?

In John 20, it says that Jesus was resurrected after he was nailed to the cross and died. He appeared to most of his disciples, but Thomas wasn’t there. So they tell Thomas. But then “doubting Thomas” said in John 20:25 [ESV], “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” Then Jesus appears, he allows Thomas to do all those things. Thomas believes and says to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus says, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” It sounds like Jesus is saying, “Really, Thomas? If only you believed without reason. That would have been better!”

But is that what’s really going on?

We are inclined to challenge this interpretation because of everything else going on around it.

First, we have already read that Jesus appeared to the rest of his disciples, even showing his hands and his side, and thus they believed [John 20:19-23]. So Thomas’s experience onto belief is hardly any different from the rest.
Second, though Thomas’s demands seem a bit aggressive, Jesus is fully willing to satisfy them. That’s telling for how we should think about this story.
Third, a lot of other translations do not have Jesus asking Thomas a question. Rather, it’s a statement: like the NIV: “Because you have seen me, you have believed.” [John 20:29a NIV] The original Greek in that time period would not have included question marks, and so it’s a perfectly valid way to interpret and translate this. In fact, many commentators prefer this approach. So Jesus is not expressing disappointment at Thomas though a rhetorical question. He is confirming Thomas’s faith.

And then look closely at the blessing Jesus gives:

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. [John 20:29b]

He’s not saying blessed are those who have no reason to believe and yet have believed. It’s a blessing for those— unlike Thomas or any of the other disciples—who have not seen. I stress this because Jesus knows that as far as belief goes, his disciples had it easy. They were able to see Jesus die and come back to life. That in itself is not bad. Jesus wanted that! In fact, just in the next verse it says that Jesus performed even more miraculous signs in their presence. But then there are people like us who have not seen and have not had that experience of being with Jesus and touching his side and all that. Our believing of Jesus is in the testimony of others who passed down what began with the disciples. In fact, the next thing you read is verse 31 where it says, “But these are written that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, and Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Long story short: read the whole book of John. Read the testimony! See for yourself how well the story checks out. Don’t be shy about thinking rationally about the claims made by the writers. And listen to the testimony of Christians today who claim to have experienced Jesus transforming their lives. Check out my other videos where I talk about these things!

One final point about how to understand Thomas’s doubt…

Thomas may have been the last disciple to believe in the resurrection of Jesus, but he was also the first one to really “get it.” Here he calls Jesus, “my Lord and my God!” [John 20:28] This is the climax of where John’s testimony was intended to take us. And it comes through Thomas! I can’t help but wonder if Thomas arrived at this high theology of Christ because he had the courage to press these questions harder than anyone else.



Walking By Faith

When a child is born, he is not expected to be able to walk until he is about a year old. But if he is not walking by the time he is around 2 years old, it’s clear that something is wrong. Learning to walk is a major turning point in the child’s life, as it ushers in other major developmental milestones. 

Have you considered what is involved in the process of walking? First, we must learn to support our body weight on our legs. Then we have to learn to balance, and stand without support. Finally, we must learn to momentarily place our full weight on one leg, and then transition that weight to our other leg. Only in mastering this transition do we gain the faith that we will, with practice, be able to easily walk on our own.

> Note what the Bible says about the process of walking. 2 Corinthians 5:7: “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” As I studied this idea of walking by faith, I noticed three descriptive prepositions that accompany our spiritual walk.


walking by faith


> The first preposition is the word “in.”

Scripture tells us to walk in the steps of faith (Romans 4:12), in newness of life (Romans 6:4), in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 25), in love (Ephesians 5:2), in Him (Colossians 2:6), in the light (1 John 1:7, Revelations 21:24), and in truth (3 John 1:4). Just as a child learning to walk uses props to aid his balance, these give us balance to trust the Lord during our faith walk.

> The second preposition is the word “as.”

This word is used illustratively, revealing additional truth. 1 Corinthians 3:3 directs us to walk as mature adults; as followers of Christ who have long passed the elementary stages of just beginning to walk. Ephesians 5:8 directs us to walk as children of light, mature in our faith.

> The third preposition is the word “by.”

2 Corinthians 5:7 reveals the methodology of walking on the spiritual level. The Lord is represented by one leg, and you and I by the other. He carries the weight of responsibility and direction; we carry the weight of obedience and faith. We cannot move until He directs us, and He will not move without our obedience and faith.

Our first steps of faith are uncertain, our trust a new process. But as we begin to understand how God is developing us, we gain confidence and skill in walking in harmony with Him. This process is necessary to grow our faith, so that we do not remain undeveloped in His image and likeness. Without developing, we remain insensitive to the Lord’s voice, ineffective in our service, and unconscious of our spiritual existence. Simply put, we become salt that has lost its savor.


Hinderances

Christians often struggle with learning to walk in faith when they lack strong examples. Some don’t receive encouragement to grow, while others hold on to wrong teaching and other hindrances that stall their walk. It’s like they are only able to hobble. Hobbling, as a mode of forward movement, does not get us very far. And the energy it requires is impossible to sustain.

To walk by faith, then, we must trust in the Lord, not ourselves. And as we learn to trust Him to lead and empower us to do His will, we begin to see Him doing more and more through us. We find ourselves not just walking, but running to finish our race!


Guest blogger Vernon Ball, a retired pastor, is 75 years young. In his 50 years of preaching, Vernon pastored five churches and served as interim pastor of four others. He is the author of the book, The Mystery of Faith. A great-grandfather of 12, Vernon is currently involved in international ministries in Eastern Asia. His website: Ballministries.com.


What Happens to People Who Die Without Hearing the Gospel?

Ephesians 2 tells us that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. When we repent of our sin and accept Jesus as our savior, He restores our broken relationship with God, that we might live with Him forever.

But what about people who die without hearing about Jesus? Will they miss out?


Bridging the Gap blog #hurthealedwhole


This important question goes back to the Bible itself

Consider Acts 17:26-28, in which the apostle Paul preaches, “From one man He [God] made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being.”

Scripture appears to be saying that we are each ordained by God to be born exactly in the moment of history that gives us the opportunity to find Him. Some overlook this opportunity, some disregard it, and others eventually wholeheartedly accept Him.

Josh McDowell, for example, was brought up in an abusive family, which led to his pain … which led to his hate … which led to his quest to soundly disprove God … which backfired and led him to accept Christ as Lord. Josh had no idea he would make this about-face and step into his life’s purpose!

Because Josh chose to not cling to his wrong assumptions about God and Christ, God has used Josh over the past 50+ years to teach millions around the world about the historical and archeological evidence that supports the resurrection of Jesus and other claims of the Bible. 


Effectively sharing the Good News

No human really knows how God will deal with the souls of those who die without hearing about Jesus. So not a single one of us is qualified to judge or assert who will or won’t be in Heaven. (There are bound to be surprises!) But one thing we do know is that God is good and just, and will do what is just.

Our tension with this question should only serve to motivate us to readily share the Good News of Jesus.

Remember, patience and humility should be our default when we dialogue with people about Christ. Jesus never bullied, blamed, or shamed anyone into believing in Him or following Him. He was gentle and loving — even as He suffered on the cross.

If you find yourself angry at non-Christians because they won’t “see the light,” the attitude you need to adjust is yours. In His amazing grace, God offers each of us the complete freedom to accept or deny Him as Savior. We need to offer this same grace.

Some blog posts with helpful tips on sharing your faith with others, so they don’t die without hearing about God’s amazing love and grace:

Christians: Dialogue With Skeptics Part 1
Christians: Dialogue With Skeptics Part 2
5 Reasons Apologists Get a Bad Rap


NEXT STEPS

  • Want to watch the movie about Josh’s life? Click this link.
  • Interested in knowing God personally? Get started with this really good info.
  • Need prayer for more power in your faith? Contact us. We would love to pray for you!
  • We invite you to read Josh’s book, More Than a Carpenter. This short apologetics classic examines the historical evidence of Jesus. He died. He rose. He lives!
  • Check out Matthew Tingblad’s video on this question.


If God Loves Us, Why Do We Face Persecution?

Religious persecution is alive and well in our world.

While we see this happening against numerous religions, perhaps the most persecuted group are Christians. Countless believers have been tortured and killed for confessing Jesus as Lord. Even in the Western world where we have the Constitutional right to freedom of religion, we experience subtle forms of persecution. With every passing year, additional pressure is being put on churches and individual believers to abandon or compromise their convictions.

Our response is telling. Some of us feel betrayed by God because things aren’t going well for us. But despite what some Christian preachers say, the Bible doesn’t promise a comfortable life. Many of are walking around feeling angry, weak, and defeated. Is God failing us, or could it be that we’ve bought into wrong Christian teaching?


Christian Persecution


If God really loves us, why do we experience persecution?

I can understand where this question comes from. Our diet in the Western world has been pleasure and comfort. When we divorce this privilege from our gratitude, we turn them into demands. So even the subtlest pricks of persecution sting like hornets.

We often connect God’s love with our own comfort. So when we follow God and discover that it actually costs us, we question God’s love and start flirting with the idea that Christianity isn’t “working out” for us.

But the real issue is not a failure on God’s part. The real issue is a theological gap in our understanding of suffering. Consider the following verses:

  • Acts 5:41: “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name [Jesus].”
  • Romans 5:3: “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.”
  • Romans 8:17b-8:18: “We share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
  • 2 Corinthians 1:5: “For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”
  • Philippians 1:29: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him.”
  • Philippians 3:10: “I want to know Christ — yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:6: “You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.”
  • 2 Timothy 1:8: “So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me, His prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.”

These verses are remarkable! What we learn from them is that suffering takes a different perspective in the Bible. As bizarre as this may sound to the Western ear, Christians don’t experience persecution in spite of God’s love. Rather, it is because of God’s love that by suffering we are privileged to share in the life of our glorious Savior who also suffered.

Many persecuted Christians assert that their closest moments with God came during their hardest times in life. You might not like hearing this, but it appears that our spiritual sense of God’s love is heightened when we suffer for Him. It is a grace that God gives us to endure these difficult times. But we often miss this, because we feel entitled to comfort.

To be clear, we should stand up for justice, even when it’s an issue of religious persecution. But we also must learn to expect persecution as a form of grace in our lives as we become more like Jesus.

Let’s take to heart the words of the apostle Peter in his first epistle:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” ~ 1 Peter 4:12-14


Next Steps:

  • We’d love to pray for you! Please send us a prayer request via this form.
  • Do you want to have a relationship with God? Start here.
  • Print out these Bible verses about God’s goodness! Read them. Believe them. Memorize some!

Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


How Do We Count the Number of Fulfilled Biblical Prophecy?

How many biblical prophecies have been fulfilled? Do we have an exact count?

In this post Matt Tingblad gives a brief overview of the two types of prophecies, answering the question of whether the Bible continues to prove itself reliable. Read on!



Prophecy: Several Factors to Consider

Calculating the number of fulfilled prophecies in the Bible is difficult for two reasons. Here’s what I mean:

1. Not all prophecy is the same.

When most people think of prophecy, they think of predictive prophecy. That is, they think of prophecy that foretells the future. The prophecy predicts what will happen. Another kind of prophecy is called forthtelling prophecy. Forthtelling prophecy is when God speaks a word concerning the present hour.1See Playing with Fire by Dr. Walt Russell, Chapter 9

When we talk about the number of prophecies fulfilled, we are interested in predictive prophecies — prophecies that will be fulfilled in God’s timing.

Yet predictive prophecy is not always easy to identify. For instance, in Psalm 22:1 David writes, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” This doesn’t initially sound like predictive prophecy, but we see Jesus alluding to its fulfillment when He cried these same words from the cross (Matthew 27:46).

Prophecy shows us that God has a plan for this world. By the foretelling of persons, places, and events — even hundreds of years before they are fulfilled — Scripture gives a strong testimony to its own inspiration.

2. Not all fulfillments are the same.

Some predictive prophecies concerning Jesus can be easily understood. But many predictive prophecies about events after Jesus are difficult to understand. So scholars continue to debate whether these prophecies were fulfilled in the events of the late first century, are progressively being fulfilled across history, or are yet to be fulfilled in a cataclysmic event immediately preceding the return of Christ.

Regardless, we can say that a lot of prophecies in the Bible have been fulfilled, with some of the clearest ones about the life and ministry of Jesus. The number of fulfilled messianic (Jesus-related) prophecies is over 300. This is truly remarkable, as Josh McDowell demonstrates in this video. Christians, as far back as the Bible authors themselves, have rightfully stressed these fulfilled prophecies to show Jesus to be the Messiah.

In addition to messianic prophecies, the Old Testament continually prophesies about events that have happened: Israel’s future into exile, nations that will be destroyed, Israel’s kingdom being restored, etc. These predictions further demonstrate that we can trust the Bible as truly inspired by God. 

The Bible itself gives the purpose of prophecy: “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done… ” (Isaiah 46:9-10, NASB).


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Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


Who Recorded Events in the Bible?

When significant events happen in our world today, witnesses record the stories through writing and video. This raises questions about how the Bible was recorded. Take these three events, for example:

  • How was Moses able to write about creation, Adam and Eve, Abraham, Isaac, etc. when he was not there?
  • Who recorded the long dialogue between Job and his friends? Was there a scribe with them documenting their conversation?
  • How is it that we have a record of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness? Wasn’t that a private meeting between him and Satan?

Let’s address these questions!



To understand the formation of the Bible, we have to understand the world of the Bible.

Question 1: How was Moses able to write about creation, Adam and Eve, Abraham, Isaac, etc., when he was not there?

The Ancient Near East was an oral culture; they passed down information through spoken word. Today we’re not good at this because we rely on print. But the ancients were very good at oral storytelling. Because of this, most books of the Bible simply used information that was passed down through the oral tradition.

For instance, Adam could have told his son Seth what it was like in the garden, and Seth passed it along to his son Enosh. Since the story was so significant and meaningful, it’s quite reasonable that an oral culture would preserve it until Moses committed the information into writing.


Question 2: Who recorded the long dialogue between Job and his friends? Was there a scribe with them documenting that conversation?

We don’t have much historical data on Job. The author and the date of writing of this text are unknown. But judging by the structure and message of the book, we understand that Job belongs in the category of “Wisdom Literature.” Thus, the narrator of Job is telling a lesson/story. This means we should read Job like a parable of Jesus. The story is created to teach us a lesson, not provide historical data. Even if the story of Job is a historical event, dialogue in the ancient Near East was understood as paraphrased conversation, not precise quotation. This would have made it easier for Job, or someone close to him, to recount the story and capture its essence.


Question 3: How is it that we have a record of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness? Wasn’t that a private meeting between Him and Satan?

This may sound like a difficult question, but it’s not difficult to propose a solution. Jesus probably shared the event with His disciples. He was their teacher, after all, and he taught with stories. Why not use one of His own?

Let us not forget that with this story and the others we addressed earlier, God helped the authors of Scripture to convey His message. As it says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

As you now understand how this works, you can apply it other questions of similar nature.


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Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


Is Apologetics Biblical?

What is “Christian apologetics”?

It’s the activity of providing a rational basis for belief in the Christian faith.When we seek to demonstrate that God exists, that the resurrection of Jesus actually happened, or that the Bible is historically reliable, we are doing the work of Christian apologetics.

Is Christian apologetics a good thing for Christians to be doing? If you’re reading this post and you know anything about what we do here at Josh McDowell Ministry, then you are safe to assume that we give a resounding “Yes!” Christian apologetics is good and important. But more than that, it is biblical.


The Word “Apologetics” In Scripture

The word apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia, which refers to a speech of defense, typically for one’s own self. The word appears eight times in the New Testament.

Sometimes it is used generally (Acts 22:1, 25:16; 1 Corinthians 9:3; 2 Corinthians 7:11, 2 Timothy 4:16), and other times it is explicitly connected to a defense of the Gospel (Philippians 1:7, 16; 1 Peter 3:15). Most notably in 1 Peter 3:15, when Peter says, “Always be prepared to give an answer [apologia] to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

In context, it is the means by which we honor Christ as Lord in the midst of holy suffering, and is demonstrated through our gentleness (1 Peter 3:13-18). Today, in a world where Christianity is viewed as intolerant and offensive, people are going to wonder why we continue to hold onto our faith. Are you and I ready to give them an apologia when they ask?

In 1 Corinthians 10:4-5, Paul seeks to clarify his mission with these words: “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedience to Christ.”

Evidently, the act of demolishing arguments against the knowledge of God, done rightly, is a holy endeavor of divine power. But what does this look like?

Apologetics in Acts

The book of Acts gives us a closer look at Christian apologetics in action within the early church. Acts 17:2-4 says, “As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,’ he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.” Verse 17 adds, “So [Paul] reasoned in the Synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.”

The Bible mentions the value of public debate for the Gospel. In Acts 18:27-28, an evangelist by the name of Apollos “was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.”

Within these verses, we see the work of Christian apologetics as having evangelistic impact, as well as beneficial value for those who already believe. It is no wonder that Peter encourages Christians to always be prepared to give an apologia.

Apologetics in the Gospels

Jesus was always willing to help people believe, and occasionally used persuasive techniques to build His case as Messiah. For instance, Jesus used logical rigor against the Pharisees in Matthew 22:41-45, showing how their own views lead toward absurdity. Note that it was an argument He initiated.

In John 5, Jesus appealed to the testimony of John the Baptizer (verses 33-35), His own testimony expressed in miracle-working (verse 36), the testimony of the Father (verses 37-38), and the testimony of the Scriptures (verses 39-40), appealing to all of this “so that you may be saved” (5:34).

We see the resurrected Jesus helping all of His disciples — not just Thomas — to believe (John 20:19-20), inviting them to see the holes in His hands and feet, to touch His body, and observe Him eating physical food (Luke 24:37-43). Jesus was privy to the fact that His own resurrection carried enormous persuasive power to confirm His identity as God (John 20:27-28).

Further, As theologian D. A. Carson argues, Jesus’ response to “doubting” Thomas was probably not a rebuke, as some translations erroneously suggest, but a confirmation followed by a beatitude (See Carson’s treatment of John 20:26 in the Pillar New Testament Commentary).

In Matthew 13:21, Jesus explains the parable of the sower, saying that the seed that fell on rocky ground is the Word of God which people received with joy. Yet because they had no root, persecution came and they withered away. The text isn’t clear, but I suspect that this “root” has something to do with a confident knowledge of God. Christian apologetics can help get us there. May we never forget this important piece as we seek to proclaim the whole counsel of God.


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Many Christians have shied away from apologetics, concerned that the use of persuasive reason trivializes faith, or that it gets in the way of God’s work. These concerns do deserve attention, because they can have a level of truth to them, especially if we don’t recognize the limitations of what apologetics is able to do for evangelism and for our own spiritual wellness.

  • I encourage you to check out this post, in which I engage with those objections. 
  • Need some tips and creative ideas for sharing your faith? Check out this post.
  • Looking for a way to share Christianity with your friends? You can purchase Josh’s apologetics classic, More Than a Carpenter, from our online store.

Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


Why does God Keep Satan Around?

I recently received this very intriguing question: “Why does God Keep Satan Around?”

To answer this question, it helps for us to know about the story of redemption that God began writing since the creation of the world.



Somewhere in history (presumably at the fall, when Adam and Eve first sinned) Satan was given a “legal right” or “dominion” over the earth.

In Ephesians 2:2, Paul talks about Satan, calling him: “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.”  

Certainly, God was still in control. But consider this:

In Luke 4:6-7, Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and tempts Jesus with this offer: “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” (Emphasis mine.)

I don’t think Satan was lying. If he were, Jesus would have known his bluff, and the temptation would not have been legitimate. But then everything changed! Jesus died and rose from the dead, destroying the powers of darkness (Colossians 2:15). He triumphantly declared, “All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).

Yes, Satan continues to exert power — but without authority. His power is illegal.


So why is Satan still around?

This brings us back to the original question: Why does God keep Satan around? Because a much greater plan is unfolding!

God has given the ministry of building His Kingdom to us, the Church. It’s our role, as His sons and daughters, to live for God and exercise His rule in the name of Jesus. Don’t miss this free Mp3 download of Josh’s excellent teaching on the authority God has given you!

Could God instantly end Satan’s power? Sure. But God is maximally glorified as we, His Church, exercise His authority in our fight against the powers of darkness (Ephesians 6:12). All authority has been given to us on heaven and on earth. We can be confidently fervent, knowing the power we hold because of Christ Jesus.

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who shed His blood for us, Satan is already defeated! Let’s believe it and act like it.

Satan works hard to blind Christians to the authority they hold over him. The bold authority that God delegates to all believers upon their salvation.

We may likely experience great pain during this intense battle. But let your trials serve to heighten your ability to worship God now, and even more when you finally get to see Him face-to-face!


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Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


Is God’s Goodness Evident During COVID-19?

Would you have guessed that you and I would spend 2020 fighting a global pandemic? Can we trust God’s goodness during this trial?

COVID-19 has done serious damage to the fabric of societies around the world. Some of us are batting unemployment, anxiety, boredom, loneliness — or the virus itself. For many, the situation goes even deeper; we are battling with the question of whether God is still good during this difficult time.

We have the philosophical dilemma of thinking that a good God will always remove bad things. But we also have the emotional realness of this time. The struggle to believe in God’s goodness is certainly understandable, as we consider all that has happened to us in the past month. How can God really be good, we ask, when there is so much hurt?

Continue reading, or click here to watch video.

Gods goodness


Bridging the Gap blog #hurthealedwhole


Do You Trust God’s Goodness?

We would do well to consider what we have allowed to influence our belief in God’s goodness. For many of us, our theology of God is based entirely upon our own experience of life. 

> If things go well, we think God is good.

> If things don’t go well, we think God is not good. 

We tend to reduce the God’s goodness down to what feels good in our own experience, and we tether our belief about God based on that. But when that thing is taken away, our faith goes away with it, and we start to question God’s goodness.

God’s goodness influences our world, certainly. And His goodness has no doubt stopped many, many horrible things from happening — things we never know about. But God does not promise us a pleasant life, nor does He promise that our experience of life is going to get better. These are false ideas about God that we have invented and wield as indictments against God when life gets tough.

Rather than seeing the goodness of God linked against the troubles of this world, the Bible calls us to see God’s goodness as the answer to the troubles of this world. 

God’s goodness transcends our present circumstances, and points to the things eternal, the things unseen. “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows,” Jesus says in John 16:33,“But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”


So What is the Blessing of God?

In Romans 8, the apostle Paul spends a great deal of time writing on the blessings of God. We might expect “blessing” to mean that our lives will be comfortable and work according to our plan. But this is not what Paul means at all.

Look at verse 35, which says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” Paul goes on to quote Psalm 44, to affirm that hardships will indeed come. But then he says, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” 

Notice that these trials are the exact circumstances by which we find victory! Today we struggle against the deadly coronavirus, yet it can’t overcome God’s love for us. In fact, the Bible promises that our eternal security in Christ will make us victorious through this virus.

> Even if it takes our homes.

> Our jobs.

> Our lives.

We can say this because of God’s goodness, not in spite of it! The fact that our world suffers, only goes to show how much greater God’s plan of redemption must be that He would allow bad things like COVID-19 to take place. Romans 8:18 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.” God’s goodness is magnified in these times, not diminished!

You and I can continue to pray that COVID-19 will quickly pass; I think we should. But we also can be confident that God is fully good and fully in control of everything that happens in our world. As it says in Psalm 112:7: “They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.” 


Next Steps:

  • Watch my video on dealing with anxiety during COVID-19.
  • We’d love to pray for you! Please send us a prayer request via this form.
  • Do you want to have a relationship with God? Start here.
  • Print out these Bible verses about God’s goodness! Read them. Believe them. Memorize some!
  • Catch up on our Bridging the Gap posts. Experience God in a deeper way!

Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


Why Did God Create Humanity?

God knew that not all of humanity would accept Him, so why did He create us?

When God created humanity, He considered it “very good” (Genesis 1:31). God’s assessment can be difficult to understand, considering what people have done against God from the start.

You and I, as objects of His love, have been created to worship and enjoy God, who is worthy of all praise. Though God desires that every person would be saved, as it says in 1 Timothy 2:4, He leaves the choice to us. So why did God create us, knowing that many would reject Him?



The Right Question?

The reason God made us has less to do with his foreknowledge of our individual response, and more to do with His nature and His ultimate end to receive glory.

Allow me to explain. From cover to cover, the Bible is about God. Specifically, Scripture tells the story of God being glorified.

One of the primary ways that God is glorified is through His gift of salvation to humanity (Ephesians 1:4-6, 12). But we must recognize that salvation is just one side of the coin. Salvation is always delivery from something. This “something” is judgment. So for salvation to work, there must be a fork in the road: one path leading to salvation — and the other to judgment. Both options must be real, if God is to be glorified through our salvation (Romans 9:22-23).

Humanity Given Free Will

This is where our free will comes in. God gifted all of humanity with free will, so that every person could personally choose his or her salvation — or judgment. God knew that many would reject Him, certainly. But God also knew that many would cherish Him as their friend and Savior. Our free will also makes it possible for us to gift God with glorify as we worship. If we had no free will, our worship would be forced. It wouldn’t be genuine.

God receives the maximum glory for creating a world in which He became our salvation from judgment. If you have yet to receive Christ, take the next step below. If you received God’s merciful gift, give Him praise! You can live free from shame as you look forward to spending eternity in His presence!


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Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


Has the Bible Been Altered Over the Centuries?

To declare that the Bible has been “altered” over the centuries could mean a number of different things.

For instance, you could talk about how later scribes added punctuation markings, lower-case lettering, etc., as their Greek language evolved over time. But that is of little concern. When most people say that the Bible has been altered, they mean that the original written text has changed in content over many years, is now corrupted, and the original meaning lost.

It is very common these days to hear someone say that the Bible has been altered. This might come from a skeptic, but it also might come from followers of other religions that have spun off the Christian tradition such as Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Islam. In asserting that the biblical text became corrupted, they add that their religion’s holy writings have corrected the problem. And they use their holy writings to provide new spiritual insights that support their religious view.



Understanding the term “altered”

Despite certain anti-Christian motivations to challenge the Bible, we don’t have compelling reasons to believe that the modern Bible is wildly different from what was originally written. Even though we don’t have the original writings, we have many copies of these original writings which scholars call manuscripts.

These manuscripts have some differences, and this is to be expected because of human error. But there are enough existing manuscripts that we can compare and cross-check them to reconstruct what the originals would have said. With proper technique, we can do this with a very high degree of accuracy. We can see what was altered.

But what if the original text was changed before a bunch of copies were made? If this happened, then all of our copies would have come from a bad text, and we would never be able to know what was originally written!

Some believe that the text of the Bible was intentionally changed during its early development, perhaps motivated by political or theological reasons. At best, this is a borderline conspiracy story. One of the main problems with this argument is this: people wouldn’t have known which writings really counted as Scripture until after they became widespread across many churches. Indeed, the fact that the writings multiplied so quickly across churches helped believers to realize that the Holy Spirit was on those texts. By then, because the writings had already spread across the early church, it would have been too late for anyone to maliciously change them! 


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Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


Could the Gospel Writers Know What Jesus Actually said?

There was a long period of time between the life of Jesus and the composition of the four Gospels in the Bible. Even when we take conservative estimates for their dating, the earliest we typically see is the book of Mark, written around AD 55-70, about the time the apostle Peter was martyred.

We’re talking several decades. How were the authors able to remember what Jesus said and did after all that time? I can hardly remember what I said and did last week! 


How Do We Know the Gospel Writers Got it Right?

Let’s keep the following points in mind:

1. Unlike our own society, these authors lived in an oral culture that was strong on preserving information through spoken word. They didn’t rely on written material like we do. Their ability to memorize and retell stories accurately was well practiced.

2. Jesus mostly taught in stories and parables. These kinds of teachings are easy to remember, even for us today. And we must recognize that in an oral culture, people learned to be good listeners as their ability to recall information would have served them well.

3. We shouldn’t expect that the writers captured perfect quotations of what Jesus said, as though they had access to tape recorders. Quotations in that time were not intended to be as word-for-word precise as they are today.


The Gospels don’t provide a straight journalistic record. But the Gospel writers did not simply make stuff up. They were held in check by others familiar with Jesus; eyewitnesses who would have known if they did not record details accurately.  


4. Even if the Gospel authors weren’t writing about Jesus immediately after his departure, they were continually teaching about Jesus. This would have kept the information fresh in their minds.

5. It’s possible that Jesus’s disciples did write down details about Jesus, which they referred to in later years as they wrote the Gospels.

6. Christians believe that the Bible’s authors were guided by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). So while each brought their own method, style, and message to the readers of Scripture, each focused on God’s love for mankind, including salvation through Jesus.


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Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry, with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


Isn’t the Bible Full of Disagreements?

One common concern that skeptics have about the Bible is that it doesn’t line up. That it’s full of disagreements, which they say proves that it’s a man-made document, not inspired by God.

This question can lead to very murky conversations; however, because people mean different things when they discuss “disagreements” in the Bible. In fact, there are at least four different ways in which the Bible is accused of sharing disagreement!


Isn't the Bible Full of Disagreements


4 Different Ways the Bible is Accused of Sharing Disagreement


For the sake of brevity, I have supplied the above links that cover the first three types of disagreements. Let’s briefly discuss the fourth reason in this post.

Some people believe that the Bible has theological disagreements because they observe Christians disagreeing over theological issues — and using the Bible to support their stance. But these disagreements aren’t really because of clear-cut theological disagreements in the Bible, but because of these three reasons:

1. The authors of Scripture emphasize different events and subjects because of their natural mode of thinking and the audience they are trying to address. This, however, doesn’t mean that what they’re talking about contradicts itself. As readers of the Bible, we can’t take one passage in isolation without considering how it is informed by the rest of biblical theology.

2. Christians often take what is unclear in the Bible and convince themselves that they clearly understand its meaning. But Scripture itself recognizes that the meaning is not always apparent. Peter explicitly says that there are some things in Paul’s letters that are difficult to understand (2 Peter 3:15-16). And in Romans 14, Paul says that there are disagreements that we, as the Church, should learn to live with.

3. Even where the Bible is clear on issues, such as salvation and the deity of Jesus, the Bible is interpreted by people (including you and me!) who are flawed by sin. This isn’t to say that the theological task of interpreting Scripture is futile, but we have to be mindful of our own limitations. We inevitably bring subjective, personal views which, left unchecked, could twist its text to mean what we want it to say. 

With all this in mind, we need not be discouraged. Yes, there are many disagreements. This is expected when we are talking about the infinite God of this universe! But there is also remarkable agreement over the fundamental doctrines of Scripture. Most Christians, for example, believe in salvation by grace. Most believe in the Trinity. Most believe in love and justice. Most believe in the second coming of Christ. In the midst of diversity, we have profound unity through the Holy Spirit.


Want to dive into this further? Watch this short video I created titled, “Why do Christians disagree about stuff?


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Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry, with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


Breaking Out of the Christian Bubble

Private evangelical Christian schools can be dangerous. I should know; I’m finishing my last semester at one as a seminary student.

It’s not that I don’t like them. I’m actually very grateful for the education I have received at my university. In fact, I would do it all over again! But there is risk involved whenever a Christian chooses to go the route of private evangelical schooling. Here, we call it the “Bubble.”


Bridging the Gap blog #hurthealedwhole


Life in My Christian Bubble

The meaning of the “Christian Bubble” is not hard to recognize. Students who attend these schools tend to live in a world where everyone is Christian, at least nominally. We create this utopian society inside a bubble, and have very little contact with people in the outside world. This hit me one day during my second year.

Here I was, studying in seminary with a bunch of evangelical Christians. I worked remotely for a ministry with a bunch of evangelical Christians. I went to church every week with a bunch of evangelical Christians. I had been living in Los Angeles for over a year, and I still did not know one person in the city who was not a Christian! Los Angeles!!

I do not blame the university for a moment. This was on me. I needed to realize that a private school was not going to spoon-feed me everything I needed to live faithfully as a Christian. After all, our purpose on earth is not just Bible studies and fellowship with other Christians until we go to Heaven.

God has called us to make disciples everywhere (Matthew 28:19), to preach the word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). Jesus said that we are to be the “salt” of the world, and we dare not lose that quality (Matthew 5:13). He goes on to say that we are to be the “light” of the world, and we would be foolish to keep our light covered. 

There is a temptation to soak in all this knowledge of God and keep it for ourselves. There is a temptation to think that life inside our nice utopian bubble is the Christian life. But this is far from the truth. For students attending private Christian schools, we need to be even more intentional about our calling to live as ambassadors in a world that is not our home (2 Corinthians 5:20).


Breaking Out of My Bubble

Once I realized this, I grew desperate. I felt complacent on the inside, but biblically I knew that I needed opportunities to experience community with non-Christians. I needed to carve out a space in my schedule to interact with people outside of my Christian bubble.

As a full-time graduate student holding a part-time job and volunteering at my church, this was not easy. But I went online and searched for community groups in the south Los Angeles area. I discovered a website called Meetup, which connects people with local communities all around the world. I was shocked to discover how many different social communities exist in my area through Meetup!

I ended up joining a group that gathered to play board games that made it explicit that it is a safe space for people with same-sex attraction. I have never been huge on board games, nor do I have same-sex attraction, so this sounded perfect! People who were not like me! Admittedly, I was nervous on the first day I met with them. As they were friendly toward people with same-sex attraction, how would they respond to an evangelical seminary student?? As it turned out, they were very welcoming!

I learned a lot about same-sex attraction from these members, which helped me to understand their community. And I enjoyed building friendships with them, though I was only able to stay with the group for a couple of months, as shifts in my life pulled me away. I would have liked more opportunities to deepen these relationships and eventually share my faith more explicitly. But I believe God still used that time.

Sometimes we can be a light by simply sharing that we are Christians, and then not acting like it’s our job to fix people who simply need a loving friend.


Does Your Bubble Need Busting?

Many of you can relate to these Christian bubbles we inevitably find ourselves in, even if you don’t attend a private Christian school. I would encourage you to venture beyond your bubbles through Meetup or another social app. What are your hobbies or interests? There’s probably a group for them near you. Go for it! Get to know people. As you do, I believe God will create opportunities for you to show them Christ.

>> Read how the Bubble can be used as a positive force here.

>> Ready to get involved in your local community? You can create a Meetup account.

>> Need some tips and creative ideas for sharing your faith? Check out my earlier post.

>> Looking for an inexpensive way to gift a book about Christianity to your friends? You can purchase Josh’s apologetics classic, More Than a Carpenter, in a 6-pack or more from our online store.

I’d love to know your thoughts. Share your comments below!


Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


Should Apologists Quote the Bible When Trying to Prove it?

There’s a common objection apologists hear from skeptics: “You can’t quote the Bible to prove the Bible.” 


The answer to that? Yes and no.

Sometimes people try to prove the Bible is true by using what the Bible says concerning itself. 2 Timothy 3:16-17, for example, says that all Scripture is breathed out by God. This is a useful verse for theological purposes, but we would spin into circular reasoning if we tried to use it as proof for the Bible’s authority. 

However, there is a right way to quote the Bible in order to make a case for it. It is the process used by apologists called internal evidence.


Should Apologists Quote the Bible


Internal evidence continues to vet the Bible’s historical reliability.


Imagine that you are in a courtroom, listening to an eyewitness provide testimony. The jury must determine if the man’s story is true, based (in part) on what he says. To help the jury reach a verdict, the lawyers on the case ask questions about his story, in search of internal evidence: Does the story contradict itself? Does the story contradict other stories? Does the story omit difficult details? Does the story mention people and places that can be verified? The man’s testimony is then compared to testimony provided by others, to ferret out the truth.

The same methodology can be applied to the Bible, particularly with the stories of Jesus provided in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These disciples were very careful to include details in their narratives that could be verified by people alive at the time the disciples were teaching.

Not even the Jewish leaders responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion rejected their teaching that Jesus died on the cross, or that He was buried in a tomb guarded by Roman soldiers. Nor could the leaders produce His body, to stall the disciple’s claims that Jesus resurrected, when Jesus was reported to be seen over the next 40 days in His resurrected form.


Apologists Use Internal Evidence to Prove the Bible Reliable

Internal evidence assumes that any document is considered innocent until errors prove it unreliable. A bread recipe is trustworthy when it produces a delicious loaf of bread. An apology letter is sincere, until the apologizer repeats the offense. Similarly, the Bible’s historical details continue to be confirmed as legit.

Listen to Josh explain the process of internal evidence in these two short videos titled “Internal Evidence Test” and “Innocent Until Proven Unreliable.”

To place the Bible under scrutiny, we have to know what it says. You can get up to speed on how the Bible has proven its reliability by reviewing our blog series based on Josh’s apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict.

In order to speak with authority and power, we have to know what we’re talking about. For more reasons to confidently believe in the claims of the Bible, God, and Christianity, check out two reliable books by Josh and Sean McDowell: 77 FAQs about God and the Bible and Evidence That Demands a Verdict.


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Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


Why Believe in God if I Can’t Feel, Hear, or See Him?

It’s easy to believe in things that we can perceive through our senses. But the sensory things of this world aren’t the only things we believe in, right?


We believe in many things that can’t be felt, seen, or heard. Consider the following. We believe in:

    • Scientific theories, such as the Theory of Relativity.
    • Certain things about the future, including that the sun will rise tomorrow.
    • Certain things about the past, including that George Washington was our first president.
    • Mathematical proofs, such as 2+2=4.
    • Moral standards, including that racism is hurtful.

We believe in them because we recognize that not all knowledge comes from the senses. To add another item particularly relevant to God, we even believe in the existence of certain things we can’t sense, such as quarks or dark matter.


Why should I believe in God


Sometimes we believe in things because of logic or intuition. Sometimes because the evidence makes it likely or necessary. And sometimes because we trust the source or person speaking about them.


We can believe in God for similar reasons:

We may not be able to feel, hear, or see God, but we can still come to believe in God’s existence through many avenues of reason. The Bible touches on this in Romans 1:20, which states,

“For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

For more reasons to confidently believe in God and Christianity, check out 77 FAQs about God and the Bible by Josh and Sean McDowell. To dive deep into the historical validation of Christianity, also study their apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict.


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  • Interested in knowing God personally? Get started with this really good info.
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Matthew Tingblad is a communicator at Josh McDowell Ministry with a seminary education from Talbot School of Theology.


The Bad News and Good News About Christmas

This Christmas, there’s good news and there’s bad news!

Any Christmas that revolves around Santa comes down to this: are you on the nice list, or are you on the naughty list?

If you’ve been good — you qualify for the nice list — and get the reward! If you’ve been bad – you end up on the naughty list and miss out! It’s important for parents to help children understand decisions have consequences — both good and bad — although without deferring to Santa as the source of moral authority [smile].

But, when it comes to the REAL reason for Christmas, there’s good news and bad news.

First, the bad news.

The Bible says, we’re ALL on the naughty list!

Ouch!

Jesus said, the thoughts we think are enough to know – and show we are broken people living in a broken world. There is an ultimate gift from God — a relationship with Him that lasts forever, but it’s out of reach, since we can never earn or deserve God’s favor.

You don’t see this on too many Christmas cards.

But here’s the good news that turns Christmas upside down, or I should say the right way up.

The Bible says, God loves every person — despite the fact we’re on the naughty list — so much that He was willing to do what was necessary to get us out of trouble.

In the classic Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life a broken man cries out to God when he’s burdened with a debt he can’t repay, until someone else steps in and saves the day.

In the movie, the story makes sense because he was a good man who deserved it.

In the real Christmas story — which is HIStory, God came to save people who didn’t deserve it. Jesus lived among us. He died for us — to pay for everything that ought to separate us from a Holy God. It’s got nothing to do with our goodness, it’s all about God’s grace.

Now that’s a real gift – the kind we don’t deserve and can’t afford.

And that’s why this message is celebrated around the world!

This is a gift you can unwrap this Christmas. How? Ask God to forgive you, trust in Jesus who died for you and believe that He rose again to conquer death, offering you new life that starts today and lasts forever!

Merry Christmas!

Alex


Many thanks to guest blogger Alex McLellan.

Catch up: The introductory post to the Journey Together series.



Jesus Died for Me … So Why Do I Still Feel Guilt?

I remember years ago when I tuned into a message by a Christian speaker who was addressing guilt…

He asked the audience a simple question: “How many of you have trouble dealing with your past?” There was a pause. He continued. “You know why? It’s because you don’t believe it’s been dealt with already.” He was referring to the sacrifice that Jesus made to remove all of our guilt and shame.

guiltSometimes our guilt can run so deep, that this simple truth just doesn’t seem possible. We don’t feel any better. In fact, maybe statements like that make you feel even more guilty because it’s supposed to work.

I have nothing against these simple statements of truth, but in most cases it takes time to heal and to see yourself with a healthy self-image and identity. We must keep this in mind as we feed on a healthy diet of the Gospel message.

It helps to identify that there is a distinction between guilt and shame.

Maybe you have heard this before: Guilt is a feeling that you have done wrong and deserve punishment. Shame is feeling that you are wrong because of the things you have done. These feelings often mix together, though shame tends to be the bigger issue. Josh McDowell Ministry speaker Ben Bennett has written some helpful articles on shame here and here.


Allow me to offer three helpful tips specific to guilt:

1. You don’t need to feel not guilty in order to be not guilty.

The Bible tells us that guilt is a condition objectively true or false for a person, and is directly connected to sin. Those who sin are guilty of death (Romans 6:23). Guilt is not a feeling; it is a verdict. The judge is the one who decides, not you. We may experience feelings, but the reality is based on an objective standard, not our feelings.

The Bible is clear that those who have confessed their sins to Jesus are forgiven of their sins.

This forgiveness is not accomplished by our feelings, emotions, or the degree of our faith. It is because Jesus is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Our judge has decided. Still, some people think that they have to feel not guilty in order to be right with God. That’s simply not true.

If you have confessed your sins to God and trust in the saving power of Jesus to remove your sins, you are washed, justified, sanctified, and set free from all of your sin and guilt (1 Corinthians 6:11). It is a bonafide fact of your reality in Christ, despite your feelings. This truth is the first step in finding freedom from feeling guilty.


2. Guilt is an invitation to abide with God who heals us.

Earlier I used a “judge” metaphor. God is the judge who has declared us innocent. This metaphor can be helpful, but it also creates a mental conflict: Nobody hears this and thinks, “Thank heavens! Now I can spend time in a wonderful and intimate relationship with my judge!”

Several months ago, a woman told me that she felt guilty for something she did in the past. She was desperate to get rid of her feelings of guilt. I appreciated her willingness to make things right, but I wondered if her sole motive was her desire to “get God off my back.”

We often think: As long as I don’t have a guilty conscience, I don’t have to worry about God and I can get on with my life.

This is wrong thinking on so many levels, but the idea can easily find life in the subconscious of many Christians. Instead of running to God — the only one who can heal us from guilt — we hide like Adam and Eve. The reality is that our feelings of guilt is a reason to press harder into our relationship with God. He is prepared to receive us in love and to help us along the way. He isn’t afraid of our mess.


3. Forgiveness with God is not the same as forgiveness with another person.

Sometimes we really do need to take steps to make things right. We are already right with God when we confess our sins, but what about our standing with others?

Our feelings of guilt may actually be conviction from the Holy Spirit to make things right. If you feel guilty because of something you did against another person, have you done your part to humble yourself and ask for forgiveness? Even if this person was 97 percent wrong, and you were only 3 percent wrong, God says you are still responsible to seek forgiveness for your part.

God calls us to live at peace with others as much as we are able (Romans 12:18). To seek forgiveness from another person is one of the hardest things you may ever do. But it can also be completely liberating. Even if the relationship is not fixed, you will know that you have done your part, and you can take joy in knowing that your actions have pleased God.

For more on knowing God personally, check out this really good info.

Need prayer? Contact us.



Josh McDowell: My 3-Pillar Approach to Apologetics

Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, our latest post in our year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” In this post Josh explains his 3-pillar approach to Apologetics.

 


Click video to watch.

Many people ask me, “Josh, you’re an apologist. So why do you talk about sex and pornography?”

Here’s why: I believe the rapid decline of our society demands it. I am, indeed, a classical apologist. But I must now focus on relational and moral apologetics as well, if I am to fully share God’s truth. Let me explain these three pillars further:

Classical Apologetics

As an evidential apologist I share evidence that confirms the truthfulness of the Bible. The term “apologist” actually means “to set forth positive reasons why you believe.” I believe, with all that I am, that Jesus is who He says He is, because God’s Word can be trusted. Though I started out a disbelieving skeptic, it has been God’s call on my life, for the last 50 years, to share the evidence that supports both of these claims!

But here’s the problem: I recognized, years ago, that when we try to present truth outside of the context of relationships, it’s so often rejected. So I can’t just be focused on the evidence itself, but on whether people are in productive relationships — an established foundation of trust, openness, and acceptance — to have productive conversations about God.

Relational Apologetics

Here’s the phrase I created to express this: Truth without relationships leads to rejection. So I want to help people to build good relationships with each other. I especially want parents to have these relationships of trust with their kids, so our youth won’t disregard God’s truths. I call this relational apologetics.

Moral Apologetics

I also discovered that the number one barrier that keeps a young person from trusting Christ, God, or the Scriptures is morality. That’s why I launched the “Why Wait” campaign years ago. Today,  the greatest barrier to a person coming to Christ is pervasive internet pornography, which has become a huge societal problem — even inside the Church. We must address porn addiction head-on, if Christianity is to maintain a positive influence in society.

So, I hope you now understand why these three pillars are our current focus here at Josh McDowell Ministry. My team and I thank you so much for your support, both your prayers and your financial gifts, to keep our efforts going!

Josh


In our next blog post, we look at topic many parents would rather skip: talking to their kids about sex.

Catch up: The introductory post to this series.



What Are the Top Religious Philosophies?

religious philosophiesA.W. Tozer, a famous Christian thinker, is known for penning the words, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” He uses this statement to open his book Knowledge of the Holy. Even if you are not a Christian, there is much to be appreciated about Tozer’s statement.

Our lives are oriented around our belief (or lack of) spiritual things. No wonder, as religious philosophies concern what counts as ultimate reality, and pertains to our souls and the deepest questions of life. So what are the common religious philosophies today, and how should we view them? Let’s look at nine philosophies, in alphabetical order.


Agnosticism

Sometimes Agnosticism is not a philosophy at all; it is simply ignorance, or not knowing what to believe. But there is a particular kind of Agnosticism, a “hard” or so-called “ornery” Agnosticism, which teaches that we can’t know things pertaining to religion; that the search for religious truth is considered a hopeless endeavor.

Reasons for holding a hard form of Agnosticism vary, but it is not difficult to imagine why. There are so many different view and opinions about spiritual things, so many arguments and so many different claims to truth that are difficult to sort through. By taking the hard, “we can’t know” Agnostic position, a person is able to stay out of the mess and carry on with life as he or she deems fit. But is this really a wise approach to the most important questions of life?


Atheism

Some Atheists say, “I believe God doesn’t exist.” But many simply say, “I lack belief in God.” The distinction is that many of them don’t like to be associated with having beliefs of any kind pertaining to God, and they want to be clear that the burden of proof for belief is on the theist.

Typically, Atheism includes a lack of belief for anything pertaining to spirituality. Atheists operate under a naturalist worldview, where matter is all that there is, and everything — thoughts, feelings, consciousness, pain, suffering, etc. — can be reduced to chemicals in motion. There are no spirits, no seers, no reincarnation, no channeling, no karma, and no providence. The life you live now, is the only life you will ever experience.

Atheists are sometimes demonized in the minds of those who are spiritual/religious. This is unfortunate, as most Atheists care about people and the state of the world. They are concerned that spiritual/religious people believe through “blind” faith (which is sometimes true), which they would never do. They consider themselves students of Science and empirical evidence.

Atheism struggles to provide satisfying solutions to questions of purpose, meaning, destiny, and morality — at least, in any kind of absolute sense.


Buddhism

Buddhism is a popular Eastern religion founded by Siddhartha Gautama in the late 500s BCE. As the story goes, while sitting under a Bodhi Tree in deep mediation, Siddhartha became enlightened and was thus called a Buddha (often translated an “Enlightened one“). Siddhartha spent the remainder of his life teaching what he came to believe.

Buddhism recognizes reincarnation, but the goal is to get out of it and break from existence. The way of Buddhism is based on recognition and acceptance of these “Four Noble Truths”:

~ Life is suffering.

~ We suffer because nothing is permanent, and we are trying to hold onto things which are lasting.

~ We eliminate suffering by ending attachment to this life. We must break from desire in the cycle of life and reincarnation.

~ By following the 8-fold path (a set of moral guidelines to life), we are in a better position to understand the first three noble truths.

There is a psychological appeal here, as most people would agree that suffering is often (perhaps always) a result of something changing that we don’t want to change. The challenge for Buddhism is substantiating the rest of the system. What reason do we have to believe in reincarnation, and why should we believe the solution proposed by Siddhartha?


Christianity

Christianity teaches that there is one God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, who loves and desires to be in  relationship with His creations. Yet all of humanity has done wrong in His eyes. This “sin” separates us from God, which He must punish, because He is holy.

But all is not lost, because God sent his son, Jesus, who willingly died on the cross as payment for our sin. Three days later He rose from the dead in bodily form, to offer eternal life as a free gift to those who confess their sins and receive Him for the salvation of their soul (see Ephesians 2:8-9).

Unlike most religious philosophies, the leading role is held by God, not people. God is the one who saves the day. In the Christian system, moral character is not the means to a relationship with God; it is a result of it.

It is also worth noticing that the central piece of Christianity is connected to an event in history. Christianity stands or falls on whether or not this historical religious figure named Jesus really existed, died, and resurrected. This event can be evaluated and weighed on historical grounds. We offer numerous resources on this website that answer these questions of history, to show why believers don’t simply rely on “blind faith.”


Hinduism

Hinduism is an Eastern religion with great diversity. Generally speaking, Hindus believe in karma, reincarnation, a caste system, and the Brahman, the absolute universal singularity in which everyone and everything is a part. The goal of life is to escape perpetual reincarnation by accumulating enough good karma over multiple lifetimes. Adherents tend to orient themselves toward on one of three divinities in the Hindu system: Vishnu, Shiva, or Devi. Oriented around a caste system, it is difficult to be a Hindu in a non-caste culture, especially if the culture values humanity having equal potential and freedom.

It’s a mistake to think of Hinduism as having a set doctrine. Many Hindu follow the Vedas, Upanishads, and/or the Bhagavad-Gita. Some forms of Hinduism involve gurus going into trance states, becoming possessed by various powers to provide specialized help. The culture of Hinduism varies by region, family influences, and other factors, and has a tendency to change or evolve. For this reason, Hinduism has often been called a way of life rather than a religion.


Islam

Islam considers itself the religion of Adam, Abraham, and Moses. Despite their similarities with Christianity, Islam theology differs dramatically in its view of God, Jesus, Scripture, and Salvation. Jesus was a great prophet, for example, but to call him “God” is a major abomination. Islam teaches that the Bible is corrupted, and that the prophet Muhammad provided the Qur’an, the only true word of God.

Of the most significant differences, salvation is a matter of moral character. This is largely determined by an adherence to Islam’s “five pillars”:

~ To confess, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.”

~ To pray five times daily.

~ To fast from sunrise until sunset during the month of Ramadan.

~ To make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in your lifetime, so long as you are able.

~ To give at least 2.5 percent of your earning to the poor.

These pillars, along with adherence to the Qur’an, are imperative for the salvation of Muslims. They are left to hope that they have been good enough to earn Allah’s favor into eternal life.


Judaism

Jews trace their roots to Adam, Abraham, and Moses, similar to Christians. But Jews do not believe that Jesus was the Messiah — because their Messiah has yet to come. The Jewish sacred text, what the Christian Bible calls the “Old Testament,” places special emphasis on the Torah, the first five books.

Judaism also developed an extensive oral tradition, which was written down as the “Talmud.” Judaism typically adheres to Rabbinic teaching and the Law of Moses. Adherents see themselves as belonging to the covenant of God, but they don’t share the New Testament view of God’s radical self-giving to forgive sinners and grant them full access to his presence.


New Age

New Age spirituality is one of the most diverse, and therefore most difficult, religious philosophies to succinctly define. Broadly speaking, this movement beckons followers to strip the different religions of their doctrine to fashion a spiritual smorgasbord from which to pick and choose.

It can be as simple as believing in your fortune cookie message, to being a full-fledged spiritual guru who performs healing therapy by channeling the energies with magic beads and crystals. Sometimes, New Age spirituality appears as a mystical movement that explores the idea of God consciousness within. Other times, it takes the form of a more magical movement with psychics, mediums, healers, and spiritual forces. As a whole, followers talk about enlightenment, about the exciting dawn of spiritual pluralism, and about helping  people awaken to their self-potential.

New Age spirituality has become popular in the U.S. because it promises a have-it-your-way non-judgmental path to spirituality — it serves to “catch” those who forsake their former religious upbringing but desire to remain spiritual. I discuss this movement in greater detail in this article.


Paganism

Modern Paganism is often called Neopaganism to distinguish itself from the old local village religions that we typically think of. Modern Pagans base their spirituality on nature, with an emphasis on practice, rather than belief. Their practices usually involve the use of magick (the “k” is used to distinguish it from fake “magic” tricks used for entertainment).

The most well-known form of Paganism is Wicca, of which there are variations. The basic form of Wicca worship involves creating or casting a circle somewhere, invoking or inviting deities into the circle, and using their powers to produce some kind of change. This can be concerning to any Christian friends, who understand that not all spirits are good ones.


Final Thoughts

I have not written this survey of popular religious philosophies without bias, but neither have I intended to mislead or deceive. Questions of God, spirituality, and religion are deeply important, both for daily life and eternity. At Josh McDowell Ministry, we have no doubt that the Christian faith is defensible and trustworthy. We know that Jesus is the Good News, and that God, alone, can address the needs of life over these other religious philosophies.

I invite you to spend time reading our online articles and resources, as well as Josh’s books, to learn about Jesus and the relationship He wants to have with you.

 

 

 



Showing Christ Relevant to Our Whatever Culture

Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, our latest post in our new year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” In this post, Josh shares nine ways he believes that Christians can show Christ relevant to non-believers in our modern “whatever” culture.

We can’t just claim, “Christ is truth” anymore, says Josh. We must provide historical evidence for the truthfulness of the Bible, but also share the deep and personal convictions we’ve gained through our committed walk with Christ.


Is Christ’s Truth Still Relevant? Yes!

Sadly, even inside the Church, most young people have bought into the secular idea that there is no absolute truth. But God’s standard of truth has not changed. What has changed is our tolerance for “situational” truth.

Yet when “truth” is based on situation, is it really truth? Vegetarians, for example, believe their “truth” that it’s wrong to kill animals for food. Nudists believe their “truth” that clothes are a hindrance. And scammers believe their “truth” that it’s perfectly acceptable to steal what belongs to another. Each defend their position, based on the “truth” of their subjective value system.

Tolerance used to mean respectfully acknowledging other viewpoints while not endorsing them. Now tolerance is defined as needing to respect all values, beliefs, and lifestyles as equal and valid — supposedly because there’s no “intelligent” way to discern which option is the best.

We conveniently push God’s absolute truth aside, viewing it to be old-fashioned and not applicable to a modern world. Or we decide there is no God.

But if there is no set truth, Josh reminds us, there are no answers. And if there are no answers, there are only questions. “People say, ‘I’m smart enough to create my own moral code,” says Josh. “But if we accept that norm, we justify even the actions of mass murderers.” Josh wisely notes that “truth” is not truth just because we believe it is.

Christians today are tasked with showing Christ relevant to a world that views Him as just one more option. How can we do so? Let’s look at Josh’s 9-step action plan.


Josh’s Nine Steps for Showing Christ Relevant to the World

Step 1: Create Community

Our society is full of broken people from broken homes suffering the fallout of dysfunctional relationships. How do today’s youth view success? One of the top rankings is a happy home life. People want to experience real love. You and I are to commit to loving so fiercely that people take note and wonder, “How is this possible?” We will sometimes fail  — but even in messy brokenness we can point to our source: Christ. Invite people into your life. See them as God sees them: as worthy and loved and cherished.

Step 2: Demonstrate Christ-like Compassion

Josh reminds us that it is only when we are convinced that another cares about us that we allow them to have influence in our life. Our churches should be known for their outreach ministries — but you and I need to be the ones signing up to participate to give these ministries life. We also need to minister in our personal lives. Are we good neighbors? Are we good friends? Are we willing to help a stranger, just for the opportunity to be like Christ? Ask God to help you live selflessly like Jesus.

Step 3: Context Truth Relationally

Bottom line: we must live out the truth of Christ through loving relationships. Do we allow others to take up our time when they need a helping hand or shoulder to cry on? Or do we live conditionally, only “serving” when we feel like it or because we think we’ll benefit? If you and I are to have the honor of showing Christ relevant in other people’s lives, we must do from a position of authentic relationship. We can build trust with people through grand gestures, but we build real intimacy by showing up, again and again, over time.

Step 4: Creatively Communicate Your Personal Testimony

Nothing will have more impact on showing Christ relevant to others than our effectively sharing our testimony. Can you confidently share ways that Christ has/is making a difference in your life? “Some people try to tell me they don’t have a testimony,” says Josh, “but I say, ‘Yes you do! You’re just being lazy. Set aside time to identify how your life was before Christ, how you came to know Christ, and how He’s changed your life.'”

It is because Josh has put in so many hours thinking about concrete examples to answer these questions that his personal testimony rings with authenticity and power. Because Josh KNOWS how Christ is relevant in his life, he is ever ready to share his testimony when asked. You and I should be just as prepared and hopeful at getting the chance to share ours. Start with this post about answering questions about Jesus.

Step 5: Demonstrate Caring Relationships

In our high-tech world, people crave caring relationships. As Josh puts it, “High tech calls for high touch.” The Church has the unique opportunity to meet this craving through loving community. But, again, entering a church can be an intimidating experience — especially for a non-believer who assumes s/he will be outed for not know when to sit, stand, pass the offering bucket, or even which book in the pew is the Bible.

People! We need to make sure we’re making it easy and comfortable for anyone to kick the tires of a church. That doesn’t mean we soften the message of our need for a Savior. It means we lead with caring. So the next time you go to church, don’t just say hi to the people you already know. Say hi to at least five people — especially those who look a bit anxious. Your friendly gesture of inclusion may be the single reason they decide to come back.

Step 6: Be Christ’s Love

It’s no big deal to love the lovable. But we enter a whole different ballgame when we show grace and patience and kindness to people who aren’t. The world is watching how you and I respond to the rude grocery cashier or jerky driver who just cut us off. The world is watching how we treat the homeless, convicts, and the adulterer next door that the neighborhood is having a field day gossiping about. “It’s loving the unlovable that will reach people’s hearts and minds to consider Jesus as the source of true love,” says Josh. “That’s the supernatural truth about the Christian faith.”

Beth Moore’s story about brushing a stranger’s hair in the airport always strikes me as the perfect example of showing Christ’s love. As Beth says, “When we are filled to the measure with the fullness of Christ, you cannot believe the needs we can meet. We can do what we know we can’t.” When we allow Him to, God can do through us what we simply can’t do on our own.

Step 7: Demonstrate Conspicuous Christ-like Marriage and Family

There can be no argument that America’s acceptance of easy divorce has severely handicapped the stability of the family unit. Why work hard on something that is just so much easier to leave behind? Kids suffer from the decisions of their parents on so many levels.

Today, most kids truly don’t know what the word “committed” really means. They throw away their water bottles, their barely used clothing, their gadgets — and their friends, when convenient. Because it’s the model they’ve been shown to follow. But you and I can make a difference by giving power and purpose to the word “committed.” We can demonstrate humility and selflessness and generosity. We can demonstrate sticking to hard stuff because it’s the right thing to do. We can demonstrate love. We can demonstrate the joy of living within God’s boundaries. “What has opened more doors for me to impact culture,” shares Josh, “has to do with the love I demonstrate for my wife and children.”

Step 8: Develop Credible Convictions

Before you and I can share our faith or testimony, we have to put in the work of growing the convictions we hold. As Josh mentioned above, some Christians have gotten lazy. To them, Christianity is a passive relationship, not an active, living/breathing relationship that gives their life peace and clarity and power. Some Christians have never even read the Bible!! People, how can we get in the game, if we don’t know the coach or the play book??

Here Josh gets very direct: If someone asks you why you take the truth of Christ at His word, and your reply is, “Because that’s what I was taught,” you prove the weakness of the foundation for your faith. Two other “dumb answers,” says Josh, are “Because I believe it” and “Because I have faith.” Ouch. But he’s right. Muslims have belief and faith. So do Mormons and Hindus and Buddhists and the New Age crowd. So how is your faith in Christ any different? “Faith,” says Josh, “doesn’t make something true.”

It’s a problem when the Church teaches a belief system without conviction. A conviction, explains Josh, is not just what you believe, but why you believe it, and how you’ve experienced it in your own life. Take the phrase, “Jesus saves.” In your own life, what does that mean? How has God showed you that 1) you matter to Him, that 2) He is changing you, and 3) That you can trust Him. Are you convinced, for example, that God is good, even when you don’t get what you want? The conviction that God is good, all the time, can only take root in our lives when we let go of how we think God should show up, and take Him at His word that He has a good plan for our life.

Step 9: Congregate Where People Are

Jesus didn’t check into a hotel in each town and tell the crowds to grab a number to visit with Him. What Jesus did do was make Himself accessible. He risked hanging with people that the religious leaders viewed so beneath them that interacting with them would soil both their fine clothing and their souls. But what they should have done, says Josh, is “throw the pearls, and let God decide who is swine.”

The point is to not set ourselves up as better than others, and to seek to create relationship with anyone needing God — even those that society disrespects or ridicules. Do you volunteer at church as a teacher or greeter? Have you served at a homeless shelter or food bank? Have you delivered meals to a shut-in? Have you participated in a prison ministry or a home for unwed mothers? Jesus loved loving on “sinners” because He felt compassion for the hurting. He was always on mission to draw them into loving relationship wth God.

Christ is extraordinarily relevant. We just have to get out there and show this truth to the world. God, alone, does the drawing of people to Him, so don’t feel like you have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Just keep to your lane — being a conduit He can use — and God will do what only God can do. 😉


In our next blog post, let’s look more at tolerance, and how society has derailed its traditional definition.

Catch up: The introductory post to this series.



5 Attributes of God: Viewing God Correctly

Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, our fourteenth post in the year-long blog series we launched in January that we’re calling “Journey Together.” In this post we ponder five attributes of God. We can know Him!


God lives up to His promises because His character never changes. His faithfulnesses, as the Bible reminds us, is immeasurable. Click To Tweet

Why is it important that we view God as He really is?

A.W. Tozer, in his classic book, The Knowledge of the Holy, puts it this way: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

What does Tozer mean by this? He means that if we are to truly experience the life-changing power of Christianity, we must hold the correct view that God is all-powerful, sovereign, holy, just, and merciful. Adds Tozer: “Man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshipper entertains high or low thoughts of God.”



God has shared numerous attributes about Himself, so that we can correctly view Him within the limited capacity of our human brains. Click To Tweet

Can We Really Know God?

How do we know what God is like? The Bible. The Bible is full of details on what’s important to God. In broad strokes it tells us what He loves (us!), and what He hates (sin). It gets nitty gritty on His guidelines for how we are to love and forgive others, and His stance on stealing, coveting, and killing. It tells us how to battle our pride. It even leaves us with no doubt as to His views on some of our biggest societal issues, including porn, abortion, and homelessness.

Quick question: Do you entertain “high” or “low” thoughts about God? Do you know Him as your Creator — or more as a cosmic genie? Do you have a daily relationship with God — or do you seek Him out only when you have a problem?

Let’s look at five attributes of God’s nature. Each of them points us to seeing God correctly: as good, gracious, and reliable. He is who He is, not who we try to make Him into. God loves us fiercely, but His justice is as concrete as His love.


God is All-Powerful

“O Sovereign LORD! You have made the heavens and earth by Your great power. Nothing is too hard for You!” (Jeremiah 32:17)

God enjoys unlimited power; absolutely nothing is too hard for Him. God can simply speak something into existence! Everything God wants to happen, will happen; nothing can thwart or prevent His plans. God even has power over life and death. None can challenge Him or His plans. Because God is good, His power reflects His good character. We can trust that God not only holds this crazy world in the palm of His hand — but our individuals hurts and fears and needs as well. We serve a BIG God.

Notes Tozer: “God knows instantly and effortlessly all matter and all matters, all mind and every mind, all spirit and all spirits, all being and every being, all creaturehood and all creatures, every plurality and all pluralities, all law and every law, all relations, all causes, all thoughts, all mysteries, all enigmas, all feeling, all desires, every unuttered secret, all thrones and dominions, all personalities, all things visible and invisible in heaven and in earth, motion, space, time, life, death, good, evil, heaven, and hell.” 

God is all-powerful because He is sovereign.


God is Sovereign

“All the people of the earth are nothing compared to Him. He has the power to do as He pleases among the angels of heaven and with those who live on earth. No one can stop Him or challenge Him, saying, ‘What do You mean by doing these things?’” (Daniel 4:35)

God is self-sufficient and self-sustaining. He has no need of anything, including us. Yet He finds it a good thing to work through us to accomplish His master plan. So why are we too often guilty of trying to define God, stuffing Him inside a box we label and think we control? As if! Let’s not kid ourselves. God has dominion over all, including our life and death. God’s power diminishes any we think we have!

“Left to ourselves we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms,” notes Tozer. “We want to get Him where we can use Him, or at least know where He is when we need Him. We want a God we can in some measure control.”

God is sovereign because He is completely holy and just.


God is Holy and Just

I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” (Isaiah 46:9-10)

God is perfect. Thus His holy presence demands that He reject our sin. But because He loves us so fiercely, He sacrificed Himself on the cross so that we can stand in right relationship with Him. Think about that: only God’s holiness could cover the filth of our sin. But just as He fights for us, God will turn His back on us if we refuse to give up our sin. Because God respects our free will, He leaves the choice entirely up to us. Now that’s a gracious God!

“Justice is not something God has,” notes Tozer. “Justice is something that God is.” 

Because God is holy, He is pure love. 


God is Loving

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from His love, Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can not keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 37-39)

God’s goodness stems from His loving nature. Not even our gravest sin minimizes God’s love for us! As Joyce Meyer frequently says, God separates our “who” from our “do.” We may have bad moments, but that doesn’t make us bad people in God’s eyes. Isn’t that amazing?! He instantly forgives us when we ask, and remembers our sin no more. He hears even our softest whisper of remorse!

“We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God,” notes Tozer. “He is nearer than our own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts.”

Because God is fully loving, He extends unmeasured mercy. 


God is Merciful

“The LORD is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.” (Psalm 145:8)

God is omniscient; He knows the past, present, and future. He knows every thought and word and action we’ll take today, tomorrow, even next year. Yet He has promised to “never relent from showing mercy to His children.” Thus, he administers His justice to us fairly. God listens to our pleas for mercy, and washes away our transgressions.

“As judgment is God’s justice confronting moral inequity,” adds Tozer, “so mercy is the goodness of God confronting human suffering and guilt. Were there no guilt in the world, no pain and no tears, God would yet be infinitely merciful; but His mercy might well remain hidden in His heart, unknown to the created universe. No voice would be raised to celebrate the mercy of which none felt the need. It is human misery and sin that call forth the divine mercy.”

God promises to never relent from showing His mercy to us. It is instantly given, when we confess our sins. As a society, however, we have decided we don’t need mercy. Because, we’ve decided, that a loving, merciful God won’t eventually punish us by casting us from His presence. Tozer puts it like this: “The vague and tenuous hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly, has become a deadly opiate for the consciences of millions.”


God is Who God Is, Not Who We Say He Is

The truth, of course, is just the opposite. God is who He is, not as we try to mold Him into being. He makes the rules, we don’t. That sounds harsh, until we finally begin to understand His utterly holy and just character.

So, we have a choice: accept and follow Him as He is, to eternally remain in His precious presence. Or refuse to love and follow God, and miss out. I personally can’t wait to be overwhelmed by the majesty and glory of God. 

This Tozer quote is utterly fab:

“O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, ‘Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.’ Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.”


Study the attributes above, until you begin to get a solid, truthful view of who God is. He’s kinda irresistible once you open your heart and brain to all that He is!


In our next blog post, let’s pay homage to great moms everywhere, by looking at how they reflect God’s love! 

Catch up: The introductory post to this series.



3 Foundational Truths of Christianity

Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, our thirteenth post in our new year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” In this post we’ll dive a bit further into three foundational truths of  Christianity.


What do Christians basically believe?

For starters, that God has a wonderful plan for humanity — though Adam and Eve mucked up the works pretty darn fast. Were the actions of these infamous first sinners a surprise to God? No. Because in creating us, God intentionally gave us free will. Just like He gave Satan. Despite knowing that we, too, would all too often choose sin over Him, God allows us the freedom to choose. God isn’t interested in robots, but messy people who sincerely love Him. 

Amazingly, God continually seeks to bring us back into right standing with Him. That’s true tolerance!

Let’s look at three foundational truths that committed Christ-followers find compelling enough to exclude all paths except Jesus.


foundational truths Christianity


Foundational Truth #1: Jesus Proved His Deity

During his 3-year ministry, Jesus repeatedly told His followers that He came from heaven to die for mankind’s sin, in order to reconcile us to God. In dying and resurrecting, Jesus fulfilled numerous Old Testament prophesies uttered hundreds of years before His birth.

But Jesus knows that talk can be cheap. So how did He make good on His claims? Through His actions.

Did Jesus demonstrate compassion, kindness, and acceptance? Yup! Jesus called out sin, but He foremost made it clear that He was motivated by the love that God the Father has for every single one of us. Did Jesus demonstrate incredible wisdom? Off the charts! He left even the most educated stumped. Did Jesus demonstrate miraculous power over nature, disease, demons, and death? Totally! Even over His own death, which validates His claim of the being the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Everything Jesus said AND did were congruent. Everything about Him, as I heard one scholar put it, “Hangs together.” It may still take quite the leap of faith for some of us to believe that God would come down in human form. But Jesus could NOT have done more to relationally prove God’s love.

Externally, Jesus appeared to be just a first-century Palestine peasant. But He proved His deity with His actions. Who can this be, asked His wowed disciples, that even the wind and sea obey Him? Click To Tweet


Foundational Truth #2: Christianity Changes People

The Bible clearly says that humanity’s woes stem from our collective sinful nature. Even our modern technology can’t save us from ourselves. Just look at the online porn footprint, which has become a multi-billion dollar industry. Despite the societal view that modern man has become “enlightened” by leaving God behind, we just can’t get beyond the pull of addiction, abuse, hatred, revenge, and other crippling, destructive behaviors.

Many people actually are looking for a “savior” — but they’re placing bets on the wrong ponies. It won’t be government intervention or subsidies, New Age philosophies, the media, the money of the super wealthy, or even the “right” president who will be able to “fix things.” Because they can’t address the real root of the problem: Us.

As Jesus notes in the Bible, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man.” (Matthew 15:19-20)

It’s so frustrating to Christians that they don’t instantly become like Jesus the moment they accept Him as Lord. God might, of course, immediately release a person from an addiction or situation that had so painfully ensnared them. But to become the loving, patient, self-controlled person that Christ modeled, we must go through the daily (and sometimes painful) process of partnering with God to put ourselves second.

But here’s the good news: because God offers us complete assurance of His love, acceptance, and forgiveness, we can RUN to him and find His arms open to us every time we mess up. We need that grace so much!


Foundational Truth #3: The Bible is Historical & Reliable

The Bible is God’s Word to us. It’s very cool that God not only cares about the issues we’re struggling with, but that in His Word He provides answers to many of our questions about life and purpose. To critics who suggest that the Bible is outdated, irrelevant, and in no way applicable to modern society, I’d have to ask if they’ve actually read much of it. The Bible teaches us how to love, how to forgive, where to place our focus, even how to be great spouses, friends, and parents.

The Bible’s integrity, specific to both its historical and geographical record, continues to be supported by external sources and archeological discoveries. Critics like to claim that the Bible can’t be trusted due to the element of human error. But this just isn’t true. We have lots of blog posts that cover the reliability of Scripture that you can peruse. Just one notable confirmation of the authenticity of the Bible can be found in the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered in a cave in Qumran only about 70 years ago.

Jesus fulfilled loads of Old Testament prophesy through His birth, death, and resurrection. Even today, the Bible continues to provide convincing prophetic accuracy. The Bible isn’t an ordinary, static book. It contains the Spirit of God!


“I’m just not sure that I can make the leap that Jesus is God. Or that He really cares about me.”

I totally get this! Because I had to overcome these mental hurdles, too. I hated that Christ died such a gruesome death; it took me years to gratefully accept that Jesus purposefully, willingly chose to hang there to express God‘s ceaseless love for ME. Because of that sacrifice — not my actions — I am deemed worthy to enter God’s presence without shame or guilt. That’s mind-blowing!

When Jesus said, “I am the Way,” he meant it. It wasn’t small talk, it wasn’t bragging, it was truth. 

Where else, in all of existence, can we find a restorative relationship based not on our do, but on our who? Show me! Among all world religions, ONLY Christianity offers grace and full acceptance of our messy insides — even if they resemble that ghastly Dorian Gray’s portrait. #yowza

The foundational truths of Christianity are based on the historical personage of Jesus. He lived, He died, and He resurrected, to intimately show us God’s amazing power and love. But the choice is up to us: Will we accept that we are so valued and wanted by the Creator of the universe?

Only through Christ can we receive the free gift of unconditional acceptance and love that we instinctively crave. This makes Christianity completely unique, and completely cool. Click To Tweet


In our next blog post, let’s look at five attributes of God. Wanna know God better? Don’t miss that post!

Catch up: The introductory post to this series.



Why Did Jesus Have to Die?

Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, our twelfth post in our new year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” In this post we’ll look at two answers for the question “Why did Jesus have to die?”

Here’s why the “Why did Jesus have to die?” question is critical: if you and I don’t get clear on the need for Jesus’ cruel death on the cross, we’ll never fully grasp the full nature of God. And we’ll cheapen the significance of the cross — which I’ll admit I did for a whole lot of years. People, I was 100 percent disgusted by the cross. I hated hearing about it in church. And there was no way I was going to wear a shiny gold replica of it around my neck! Gross! As a young child I can remember thinking, “Poor grown-up baby Jesus!”

“Why did Jesus have to die?” Let’s look at two important reasons!



Why Did Jesus Have to Die? Because of Justice.

Why did Jesus have to die? Reason #1: So that God can welcome us into His holy presence.

Once humanity chose to sin, our sin separated us from God. Because God is completely holy. This might be hard for us to understand, so let’s use an analogy. Imagine a freshly shampooed carpet in our family playroom — and our muddy-pawed puppy racing toward it. We’d stall the puppy to prevent it from spoiling the carpet, right?

The torture that Jesus endured on the way to His death was shameful. Crucifixion, perfected under the oh-so-enlightened Romans, remains the most monstrous form of public execution ever devised. It is horrific, excruciating, and inhumane.

But when we isolate the words horrific, excruciating, and shameful, we get our first hints of the depth of sacrifice God was willing to make of Himself to reconcile us to Him. Click To Tweet

As a child — okay, even for a whole lot of my adult years — I missed the of Himself part. The phrase “God sent His son to die” muddies the reality that God and Jesus are one.

Author Max Lucado has been a tremendous influence in opening my eyes to just how up-close and personal God was during Jesus’ crucifixion. God wasn’t a distant bystander. Rather, because God and Jesus are interconnected, He also agonized over what needed to happen. He must have felt every slap, punch, and lash of the whip. He must have felt the jarring pain in each step to Golgotha. He must have felt the desperate overwhelm of suffocation of hanging on the cross. For sure, God felt the suffocating weight of our evilness and sin that draped heavily on Jesus. God or Jesus could have prevented the cross — but then again, no, if you and I were to be redeemed.

Jesus sweated drops of blood at the thought of what He was to endure. But He chose to willingly make that ultimate sacrifice, so that we can approach Him and the Father without obstacle, 24/7.

Dr. Andy Bannister of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries answers the question of “Why did Jesus have to die?” like this: The cross, he explains, is the cross-section of God’s mercy and justice. When true forgiveness or mercy is bestowed, someone has to pay the price for it. The cross offers true mercy and forgiveness, but not at the expense of justice. God, through Jesus, was perfectly unselfish. He stepped up to pay the exorbitant fine required for our sin. Notes Richard Cunningham in his excellent article on BeThinking.org: “We underestimate the significance of our sin — which is why the death of Jesus looks like gratuitous violence.” Bibleinfo.com adds, “…a just and perfect God could not simply sweep sin under the carpet and go on running a perfect universe.”

Because we can’t see our sin the way God does, we kinda think, maybe, that His standards are too high. That perhaps God should take a chill pill. But our perspective is wrong!

Christ's suffering was so terrible because it was equal to the seriousness of our sin. Click To Tweet

Here’s my prayer for all of us: that we begin to see how our sin hurts God — and that we gain the desire to truly honor Him wholeheartedly with our words, thoughts, and actions. To be as committed to reflecting the love expressed on the cross, as Jesus was in allowing Himself to be nailed to it.


Why Did Jesus Have to Die? Because of Love.

Why did Jesus have to die? Reason #2: To demonstrate God’s complete and utter love for us.

Why, asks Cunningham, did Jesus so deliberately co-operate with a series of events that took Him to a place of torture and bloody execution? It seems unnecessary. Except for the point we just made in Reason #1: That God Himself was in Christ, personally dealing with the sin.

“True love has the power not to ignore hurt, but to absorb it,” wisely notes Cunningham. God and Jesus absorbed the pain of our sin and digested it. And Christ, he adds, “plumbed the depths of His own divine heart for those inner resources which alone can quench God’s righteous anger.”

Bibleinfo.com’s view is spot on: “The cross is graphic enough to reach the most hardened criminal, but also the most sensitive humanist.” Jesus was willing to die brutally for us, to prevent our brutal punishment. Once we understand the depth of His sacrifice, we can’t help but be grateful.

Have you accepted Christ as Lord? The expiration date on His loving invitation ceases only upon your last breath. But why wait? Come feel His love now!


In our next blog post, let’s look at some of the foundations of the Christian faith. Christianity is based on truth!

Catch up: The introductory post to this series.



Josh Asks: Why Celebrate Easter?

Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, our eleventh post in our new year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” 

As our excitement for Easter’s approach builds, I have a question for you: What should be our focus? The story of a chocolate-totting bunny? Or, maybe, the sweetest love ever?


Real Meaning of Easter


I don’t know why the Easter Bunny gets so much press at Easter. I’m pretty sure he’s not real. 🙂 I’ve found no historical record of him in the Bible. Not in the Old Testament, and definitely not in the New.

Okay, I’m kidding about searching for the mythical Easter Bunny in the Bible! But I do want to make this point: Easter isn’t about chocolate and jelly beans and colored egg hunts. It’s not about new dresses and fancy lunches and making a rare appearance in church.

Easter, friends, is about the personal, life-changing relationship God wants to have with each of us. No chocolate treat that you and I can receive or give this Easter has a smidgen of the sweetness of that amazing gift. 

I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Scripture is reliable and its very words are inspired by God. The Bible beats with God's heart. Click To Tweet

Yes, I Know It’s A Radical Story

You may not know this about me, but I once totally doubted God and the truthfulness of Christ’s deity. In fact, right after college, I set out to prove that the Bible is nothing more than a collection of distorted and unreliable records of historical and mythical events. Simply put, if I could prove that the Bible wasn’t a reliable document of history, then I could show that everything it says about God and the Christian faith is in question.

I REALLY wanted to do that. Because God’s existence did not jive with how I saw the world. Having absolutely no doubts that my worldview was correct, I assumed that discrediting God and the Bible was going to be delightfully easy. I couldn’t wait to expose God and Christ as frauds! So I traveled all over Europe, seeking out historical manuscripts and knowledgable scholars to not only validate my view — but to do so beyond any shadow of doubt.

Here’s the egg-on-my-face part of the story: Eventually I had to admit that the evidence for Christ being exactly who He said He is was overwhelming. To be intellectually honest, I couldn’t deny or ignore this truth. I had to accept it and adjust my worldview to align with this truth. It would have been an intellectual cop-out for me to say, “I simply refuse to accept this.”

It is a wise man who can admit when he has been intellectually lazy or wrong. Click To Tweet

Evaluating Life Via Our Worldview

I fully get that each of us views life through the lens of our personally constructed worldview. Some of us acquire our perspective through secular influences such as Darwinism, Postmodernism, or even Enlightenment philosophy. Some of us forge our worldview by the way people treat us. Some of us simply accept as truth whatever we’re taught by our parents, friends, or educators. (Ack! Please don’t trust and believe what you hear on social media!)

But I will say, boldly, that a true worldview explains the world as it actually is. Not as we choose to see it.

Some people find it nigh on impossible to believe that God is a personable being who keeps us on His mind 24/7. A delightful young man I met at a conference, for example, is attached to the idea that “God” is simply a massive energy force. So a “personal” relationship, he insists, is neither possible nor intended.

Hmmm… I’ll agree that God is supernatural energy. But impersonal? No way. An “energy force” who doesn’t hear my prayers, or dry my tears, or celebrate my wins can’t compare to the very personal, hands-on God I’ve come to know over the last 50 years. Friends, God is active in the smallest details of our lives. The Bible tells us so, and our own daily experience bears this out.

One reason I find the Bible so valuable is that it shows us who God is, and who we are in His eyes. Click To Tweet

Man-Made Construct?

“But your God and your Bible are man-made constructs,” argued my young friend, “All world religions are the same in this.”

In truth, Christianity is *nothing* like any other religion. Nor did it piecemeal itself together by borrowing from earlier religions, as some critics like to suggest. (This truth is self-evident, if you put in some study effort.)

The Bible gives us concrete knowledge of God’s loving yet holy character. It teaches us that God is an eternal being who is all-powerful, ever present, never changing, all-knowing — and crazy about us. The Bible is crystal-clear on one point: the personal cost God was willing to pay to prove His undying love for us.

The Bible affirms God's unyielding love for us, and the unique and special way each of us fits into God's universe. Click To Tweet

It’s Easter: Be Sweet Like Jesus!

My friend can’t yet see the value of Jesus’ sacrifice, nor the sweet, sweet joy we Christians have because of Jesus’ resurrection. So I asked him to do me a favor: To consider the truth of God with an open mind, like I did when I was his age. To at least question the validity of his worldview.  “Who knows,” he conceded, as we warmly shook hands in parting. “I might change my mind one day. In part because you were willing to discuss this so amicably with me.”

Friends, his comment pierced my heart as surely as Christ’s nails pierced His hands and feet! The resurrection story is the most amazing story ever. But if we don’t share the Good News with an attitude of love and respect and grace — in Easter speak: if we’re not sweet — we lose the opportunity to share our love for Jesus. We lose the opportunity to have influence. This Easter, let’s model the sweetness of Jesus!

This Easter season, when people are more open to hearing the Gospel message, let's model the sweetness of Jesus. #easter Click To Tweet

In our next blog post, let’s look more at why Jesus had to die for humanity. Some think His gesture unnecessary, some think it grotesque. What’s your view? How did you develop your view?

Catch up: The introductory post to this series. Did you miss last month’s posts on Christ’s resurrection details?



Hope: Not Wishful Thinking For Christians

Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, our latest post in our new year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” In this post we’ll dive a bit further into how our relationship with God infuses us with hope.

Hope over our missteps of the past, which God can redeem. Hope for our present. And hope for the future, on the glorious day we will see Him face-to-face. A Christian’s hope is not simply a desire for something possibly attainable. A Christian’s hope is certain, because God has guaranteed it. God loved us at creation, and sent Jesus to ensure our eternity with Him when we accept Him as Lord.

Bottom line: our hope gains us strength, rest, and contentment. Let’s look at three ways we can tap into this hope, and keep it with us on a daily basis.



—-Hope That We’re Special to God

Our value comes from one single source: God. Only what He says about us matters. Not what society says, not what our spouses say, not what our children say, not what our parents say, etc. God tells us over and over and over again in the Bible that He will never stop loving us, rooting for us, carrying us, and seeking after a relationship with us. Why? Because we are that special to Him.

If you’ve gotten the idea from your church that you’re not highly valued by God, you heard wrong. God may not like our behavior when it runs counter to His standards, but he never, for an instance, views us without love. That’s AMAZING grace, friends! The Bible tells us He CRAVES to be in relationship with us. Because He knows that if He can get our attention, He can tells us His love message over and over and over until it finally sinks into our souls and echoes with every heartbeat. Jesus covered all of our sins at the cross. God’s face is always turned toward us.

—-Hope That We’re Not Our Mistakes

I CANNOT tell you how much I love this one! We all want to be redeemed from our dumb choices, right?

On our worst days, we long for a Do Over button. The good news: one actually exists. God keeps His finger on it, ever willing to push it. Click To Tweet

God repeatedly tells us to drop our soiled baggage at His feet — and to stop picking it up again. Yes, it can be so hard to sometimes let go of the guilt and shame we think we have to keep punishing ourselves with. But God tells us to drop our load because He knows how much it hobbles us in moving forward. Anyway, He’s already forgiven it. The FIRST time we asked!

You might have been told, as a child, that you were a screw up. You might have been reminded last week by a family member, boss, or stranger, that you’re a screw up. You might even, at this very moment, be hearing voices in your head that you’re a screw up. BUT YOU ARE NOT. Trust me; I know how hard this can be to believe!

I was raised in a church that taught that God’s love for me was conditional. So it intentionally reminded me of my screwed-up nature every single Sunday. Family members also repeatedly told me that I didn’t measure up. So sometimes the negative self-talk in my head is downright vicious. That’s when I limp to God, to anxiously test if He’s still with me. My hope returns when in my soul I hear God assert, “Your who is NOT your do, beloved child of mine. You are redeemed because of my son, Jesus.” That renews my spirit!

Amazing grace. So hard to believe. But so necessary to believe if we're to love, trust, and wholeheartedly follow God. God's standards never deviate, but neither does His unceasing love. Click To Tweet

—-Hope That Our Life Matters

There is nothing worse than wandering through our days without meaning and purpose. Because without either we get antsy and depressed and start to think of ourselves as inconsequential. And then we begin to compare ourselves with others, which is never good, because we lose hope.

God’s Word tells us that HE distributes our gifts and talents. And that HE doesn’t view one person’s talents as more important than another’s. You might feel yourself a tiny minnow in a miles-wide ocean, but that’s not how God sees you. He sees you as the right person, in the right place, to do what He needs done in the right moment.

You might not be aware of it, but your words and actions have the power to change the trajectory of many other lives. Your bright smile might be the very nugget of hope that buoys another person. Your shared meal might be the small gesture of generosity that soothes another’s rejected heart. Your carving time out of your hectic schedule to sit with a hurting friend might plant seeds of hope that blossom and bear fruit that others get to gratefully gobble up. 😉

We’re all connected; Our actions matter because WE matter to our Creator!

So if you’re lying in a hospital bed right without hope, let this post remind you. If you’re having trouble finding a job and view yourself as worthless, let this post remind you to regain hope. If you’re going through a painful divorce and view yourself as unlovable, let this post remind of God’s great love for you. God says He’s with us through even our lowest of lows. Our hope shouldn’t be dependent on our circumstances, because the source of our hope is a solid rock.

Our hope in God's ceaseless love is grounded not in our wishing or fabricating, but in truth. The truth of God's Word. Click To Tweet

Accept it. Believe it. Live it. You matter, you are special, and you are loved no matter what. Allow Jesus’s sacrifice to spark hope eternal in you!


In our next blog post, let’s look toward Easter!!!!

Catch up: The introductory post to this series.



Reason for Our Hope: Christ’s Resurrection

Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, the ninth post in our new year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” In this post let’s explore the hope that buoys us because of Christ’s resurrection.

Life to death. The exact moment that our earthly constraints unchain and our eyes open to the majesty of what's next. Some won't be ready, others will be chomping at the bit! Click To Tweet

If we love Christ, that poignant moment will bring unbridled joy. Why? Because in proving His power over death, Jesus promised us the privilege of being in His presence for eternity. One of the tenet verses of the Christian faith, John 3:16, puts it this way: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” 

Let’s look at why stepping into Heaven is going to be the most amazing moment ever.



Are You Chomping at the Bit?

Dude! We will be ushered into His presence! The most glorious sunset can only dimly hint at how much this will blow our minds. #justsayin

My heart aches for people who confidently declare there's nothing after death. Too often, they have no basis for their view. Click To Tweet

Those who put their hope in Christ do so because they know Him to be real. And not just because His ministry, death, and resurrection have been historically documented. And not because they dutifully shuffle in and out of church every Sunday. It’s because in earnestly seeking after Him, they feel His presence.

Jesus promises that all believers shall experience eternal joy. Not because we’ve earned it — but simply because we call Him “Lord.”


What’s So Great About Heaven, Anyway?

Spoiler alert: Heaven will be great because God will be there. You think the universe is awesome? God will be a million times more awesome, because He's the Creator. Click To Tweet

When I was a child, I gotta admit: I was not impressed to hear that Heaven is full of mansions, streets of gold, and non-stop choirs of angels. Ho-hum, that sounded boring. Now, as an adult, I gotta be honest and admit that it still does. LOL. So I’m happy to report that Heaven is SO. MUCH. MORE:

~ In Heaven we’ll be reunited with our dearly missed loved ones — fathers, sons, grandparents, even pets (maybe?) — who have gone before us. Oh, happy day!

~ In Heaven we’ll finally get to experience the fullness of God, without the filter of sin that hangs so heavy over this world.

~ In Heaven we’ll finally get answers to our huge philosophical questions. You know, like, “Why was I born?” … “What was my purpose?” … “What was the meaning of life?” … “Why was life so hard?” … and “Did I make you proud, Lord?”


The Truth: Let’s Grab It!

I know it’s cool for some to say, “I’m looking forward to partying with the sinners in hell.” I’m hoping that’s only because they don’t understand that hell isn’t going to be anything close to Party Central. Whether it’s blistering fire and brimstone, or a darkness so crushing that it suffocates the soul, the worst part of hell will be separation from God’s holy, amazing presence. That’s like seeing the beauty of the VIP table, but being banned to the kitchen to wash dishes for the rest of the meal. #justkeepingitreal

Jesus took Hell seriously. It's why He paid the ultimate price to display His power over it. That's the truth of the resurrection! Click To Tweet

Heaven: the place we’d be foolish not to want to be in for all of eternity. It’s our hope, and our promise, our reward for committing to Him. Heaven is the wonderful home we crave deep in our soul. Can you hardly wait to get there?


In our next blog post, let’s look even deeper at our hope in Christ. Continue the journey with us!

Catch up: The introductory post to this series.



The Resurrection of Christ: The Disciples’ Reaction

Can we can place our trust in Christ’s resurrection?

What kind of person takes the blame for something he didn’t do? Attach that adjective to Jesus. He took the punishment we could not take, to offer the hope we cannot resist. #resurrection Click To Tweet

resurrection


The Wavering Became Rock-Solid Believers!

Let’s try to picture the arrest and death of Jesus from His disciples’ point of view: These mostly rough and tumble guys had walked away from their ho-hum lives to follow Jesus. In return, for the next few years, they got to bask in the notoriety of being Jesus’ inner circle. When they walked into a new town with Him, I bet they did so with swagger. They knew what was about to happen: where Jesus went, He brought the miraculous. Can you just hear these guys saying, “Yeah, I’m just passing through. With Jesus.”

And then, BAM!

A deal was made, a disciple's dastardly kiss was completed, Jesus was arrested, and His disciples scrammed, proving themselves uncommitted. Click To Tweet

But, THEN! There’s no getting around the fact that something incredible happened to transform this motley crew from quivering cowards into red-hot evangelists! These men went from hiding behind locked doors to brazenly sharing the Good News. Did they let the threat of also being arrested, tortured, and possibly killed stop them? NO. (All but one were, in fact, killed for the Gospel message).

Why did they refuse to save themselves now? Because they KNEW that every claim Jesus had made about Himself and God was true.

For 40 days, Jesus gave His followers the opportunity to engage with Him in community before He went to Heaven. He proved Himself in the ways they needed: He ate, drank, and spoke with them. He reminded them of where they had been, and where they were headed. He revealed to them how Old Testament scripture had been fulfilled by His grisly death and glorious resurrection. He even pushed back his sleeves and opened His robes to reveal His wounds to Thomas, the doubter on record who asserted to the other disciples:

“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” ~ John 20:25

Poor Thomas; he has no idea that history has forever pegged him to this moment. But let’s not judge Thomas too harshly; we can be just as bad with our faith requirements. Don’t we use the “I won’t believe it” argument regularly today?

Thomas redeemed himself a week later, when Jesus appeared to the disciples. Jesus gently chided Thomas for trusting more in his eyes than in Jesus’ promises, but it’s clear that Jesus wasn’t judging Thomas for his low moment of faith. Just as Jesus didn’t judge Peter when he faltered in walking on the lake toward Jesus, or when Peter publicly denied Jesus three times after His arrest. Rather, Jesus lovingly lifted Peter from his self-condemnation. God is all about our restoration.

Our Creator is generous with His grace when we question His existence and love. Patiently He also points out the mental and emotional roadblocks we put up that stall our choosing to trust Him. God doesn’t demand blind faith, He want us to wholeheartedly follow Him because we truly believe.

Look, facts matter, even when it comes to Christianity. Because if Jesus isn't who He says He is, then we're all wasting our time here. Click To Tweet

Develop Your Confidence in Jesus!

So what’s it gonna take for you to believe that Christ is who He said He is?

Do we believe that our dining room chairs will hold our weight? Yes. Because we’ve tested them. Do we believe that lemons are sour? Yes. Because we’ve tested their acidic juice on our tongue. Can we likewise test the Bible, to believe that what it says about Jesus is true? Yes.

Some links to blog posts that provide you with truthful, vetted facts about Christ’s resurrection:

~ Resurrection of Jesus: Code Critical
This post explains defines the term “resurrection,” and explains why Jesus’ rising is so significant for us today.

~ Resurrection of Jesus: Pre-Resurrection Facts
This post shows that Christ was verified to be dead before they removed His body from the cross, historical context for Jewish burial practices, and physical details about Christ’s tomb.

~ Resurrection of Jesus: Hoax or Truth?
This post looks at various theories scholars and critics have proposed over the centuries to debunk Christ’s resurrection. Ironically, we can debunk them using logic and science.

~ Is Jesus’ Resurrection Fact? History Weighs In
This post looks at details of the empty tomb, discarded grave clothes, an12 distinct instances highlighted in the Bible in which Jesus appeared to individuals or groups of people after He rose.

An important reminder: we can “fact ourselves to death” as I heard one person put it, as we look for evidence that supports the Christian faith. Eventually, though, we must simply CHOOSE to trust Him. Christ’s disciples — eyewitnesses who had NOTHING to gain from their commitment to sharing the Good News — declared that Christ resurrected. That should count for a lot.


In our next blog post, we’ll look at the hope we have for the afterlife. Keep journeying with us!

Catch up: The introductory post to this series.

 



Trusting in Christ’s Resurrection: The Disciples’ Reaction

Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, the eighth post in our new year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” Can we can place our trust in Christ’s resurrection?

What kind of person would take the blame for something he didn’t do? When you find the adjective, attach it to Jesus. He took the punishment we could not take, to offer the hope we cannot resist. Click To Tweet

Jesus Resurrection


The Wavering Became Rock-Solid Believers!

Let’s try to picture the arrest and death of Jesus from His disciples’ point of view: These mostly rough and tumble guys had walked away from their ho-hum lives to follow Jesus. In return, for the next few years, they got to bask in the notoriety of being Jesus’ inner circle. When they walked into a new town with Him, I bet they might have done so with a slight swagger. Because they knew what was about to happen: when Jesus showed up, He brought the miraculous. Can you just hear these guys saying, like it was no big deal, “Yeah, I’m just passing through. With Jesus.”

And then, BAM!

A deal was made, a disciple's dastardly kiss was completed, Jesus was arrested, and His disciples scrammed, proving themselves uncommitted. Click To Tweet

But, THEN! There’s no getting around the fact that something incredible happened to transform this motley crew from quivering cowards into red-hot evangelists! These men went from hiding behind locked doors to brazenly sharing the Good News. Did they let the threat of also being arrested, tortured, and possibly killed stop them? NO! (All but one were, in fact, murdered for the Gospel message). Why did they refuse to save themselves now?!

Because they now KNEW that every claim Jesus had made about Himself and God was true. Click To Tweet

For 40 days, you see, Jesus gave His followers the opportunity to engage with Him in community before He ascended into Heaven. He proved Himself in whatever ways they needed: He ate, drank, and spoke with them. He reminded them of where they had been, and where they were headed. He revealed to them how Old Testament scripture had been fulfilled by His grisly death and glorious resurrection. He even pushed back his sleeves and opened His robes to reveal His wounds to Thomas, the doubter on record who asserted to the other disciples:

“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” ~ John 20:25

Poor Thomas; he has no idea that history has forever pegged him to this moment! But let’s not judge Thomas too harshly; we can be just as bad with our faith requirements! Doesn’t the “I won’t believe it” argument get used regularly today?

Thomas did redeem himself a week later, when Jesus appeared to the disciples. Though Jesus did gently chide Thomas for trusting more in his eyes than in Jesus’ promises, it’s clear that Jesus wasn’t judging Thomas for his low moment of faith. Just as Jesus didn’t judge Peter when he faltered in walking on the lake toward Jesus, or when Peter publicly denied Jesus three times after His arrest. Rather, Jesus lovingly lifted Peter from his self-condemnation over doing so. God is all about our restoration!

The message I get from Scripture is that our Creator is generous with His grace when we question His existence and love. But He also points out the mental and emotional roadblocks we put up that stall our choosing to trust Him. God doesn’t demand blind faith; He asks for our trust:

Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”~ John 20:26-29.

When Jesus showed up, He brought the miraculous. But when Jesus showed up, things also got real. Click To Tweet


Develop Your Own Confidence in Jesus!

So what’s it gonna take for you to believe that Christ is who He said He is?

Do we believe that our dining room chairs will hold our weight? Yes. Because we’ve tested them. Do we believe that lemons are sour? Yes. Because we’ve tested their acidic juice on our tongue. Can we likewise test the Bible, to believe that what it says about Jesus is true? Yes! Some of the ways of testing we’ve already discussed, including eyewitness accounts and confirmation of Bible facts via archeology and non-biblical historical texts. Want to read some of these facts?

These are links to blog posts that provide you with truthful, vetted facts about Christ’s resurrection:

~ Resurrection of Jesus: Code Critical
This post explains defines the term “resurrection,” and explains why Jesus’ rising is so significant for us today.

~ Resurrection of Jesus: Pre-Resurrection Facts
This post shows that Christ was verified to be dead before they removed His body from the cross, historical context for Jewish burial practices, and physical details about Christ’s tomb.

~ Resurrection of Jesus: Hoax or Truth?
This post looks at various theories scholars and critics have proposed over the centuries to debunk Christ’s resurrection. Ironically, we can debunk them using logic and science.

~ Is Jesus’ Resurrection Fact? History Weighs In!
This post looks at details of the empty tomb, discarded grave clothes, an12 distinct instances highlighted in the Bible in which Jesus appeared to individuals or groups of people after He rose.


Look, facts matter, even when it comes to Christianity. Because if Jesus isn't who He says He is, then we're all wasting our time here. Click To Tweet

But an important reminder: we can “fact ourselves to death” as I heard one person put it, as we seek evidence to support the Christian faith. Eventually, we must simply CHOOSE to trust in His resurrection. Christ’s disciples — men who had NOTHING to gain from their commitment to sharing the Good News — declare that Christ resurrected. Why shouldn’t we trust these eyewitnesses?


In our next blog post, we’ll look at the hope we have about the afterlife because our Lord defeated death. Please continue the journey with us. We’re just getting started!

Catch up: The introductory post to this series.



Deity of Christ: True or False?

Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, our fifth post in our new year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” In this post we’ll dive a bit further into whether Jesus claimed to be God.

Some Bible critics assert that Jesus didn't say He was God. Not true. In the Gospel of Mark alone, Jesus claimed His deity more than six times. I AM, He said. Click To Tweet

We look around at our majestic world and we ask, “Did this all really just occur through fortunate happenstance?” Or is this the work of a Creator, whose love of order and beauty and creativity extends also to us? To believe in God  doesn’t actually require all that much faith, because the clockwork intricacies of our world truly are astounding. Our souls yearn for a connection to Him. Yet some of us still fight so hard against believing in and trusting in God and the deity of Christ. Look, we can take our own explanations for life — or God’s Word. Which will you choose?



Did Jesus claim to be just a great spiritual guide — or God in human form? (Hint: the latter!)

Some skeptics like to assert that Jesus wasn’t God — and never claimed to be. So not true, people!! We should scratch our heads in confusion at these claims, because the Bible’s New Testament writers clearly wrote otherwise.

Take, for example, when the high priest asked Jesus, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Jesus replied, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

“Blasphemy!” cried the high priest, as he tore his robes to signal his condemnation of Jesus. “What further need do we have of witnesses?” he asked the assembled Jewish leaders. And with that, without a fair and just trial, these leaders decided to murder Jesus. He wasn’t just stealing their thunder, He was uncomfortably questioning their beliefs.

But here’s the thing: Jesus allowed them to kill Him. Jesus didn’t care about saving Himself. So He didn’t, in all of recorded Scripture, tiptoe around the issue of His deity. He was God and claimed to be such. He did so calmly. Assuredly. Without worry. Because Jesus knew He was fully in control of the outcome of this and every other moment. #truth

Jesus kept His focus on the mission He came to complete: dying to wipe our life slates clean. The Gospel of John records that Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent me.”


~ With Humility, Jesus Boldly Claimed His Deity ~

John also records that Jesus said, without ego, Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Yet at this claim to deity, the Jews grabbed stones to try to kill Him. Why? Because they knew that, according to Mosaic law, any person daring to make such a claim was deserving of death. An important point: We know, from their reaction, that they understood Jesus to be claiming His deity. You and I should arrive at the same conclusion. When critics say otherwise, they ignore the obvious.

Jesus claimed to be worthy of the same honor due God. And that to see Jesus was to see God. Surely only a fool would make such a claim… and yet, Jesus DID walk on water! And calm the storms! And heal the lepers! And send all demons scurrying! Could anyone but God do so?

Jesus said that He pre-existed with God before coming to earth in human form. John 17:5 reads, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory that I had with You before the world existed.” In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” In John 5, Jesus tells us that God the Father “has given all judgment to the Son.”

And in the Gospel of Matthew, in what is referred to as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus claimed to have higher authority than the sacred Old Testament law and established Jewish tradition. Jesus is recorded as gathering a group of His disciples in Galilee to tell them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Again, not to air a massive ego, but to simply assert His deity. To assure ALL Christ followers going forward that He holds the universe in His hands. We can trust Him!


~ And Humbly Displayed His Deity Via His Actions ~

Even in healing people Jesus humbly put His power and nature on display. He healed everyone — from the highest in stature to the lowest social outcast. Jesus wasn’t motivated by the highest bidder, but by His pure love. I adore that about Him!

As recorded in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus healed a paralytic brought to Jesus by four friends. Upon seeing the man, Jesus declared, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” “Blasphemy!” again cried the Jewish leaders. “Who but God can forgive sins?” As Sean McDowell explains in his post on the deity of Christ, “They believed the man was paralyzed because he had sinned against God, and yet Jesus had the audacity to claim that he could personally forgive these sins.” Because He WAS who He said He was, dudes! 

Jesus furthered His claim to divine authority by healing a man in the synagogue over the Sabbath. Some of the Pharisees were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched closely to see if He would heal on the Sabbath. “Which is lawful on the Sabbath,” asked Jesus, “to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” Scripture tells us His critics stayed silent, but plotted in their hearts to kill Him.

Rather than be floored by the miraculous, these hard-hearted Jewish leaders chose to besmirch Jesus’ deity and turn people against Him. Some even suggested that Jesus had power over demons simply because He, Himself, was a demon. Circular logic at its best! 


~ Yet Jesus Still Doesn’t Force the Issue ~

In His prayers to God, the Gospel writers tell us that Jesus used the Aramaic word Abba for father. It’s a word that suggested His closest possible intimacy with God. In claiming this unique relationship, Jesus calmly asserted His authority over Old Testament Scripture and the Jewish leadership. But His claims seriously upset the Jewish leaders’ apple cart.

Would you and I get just as mad at Jesus’ claims if He arrived today, declaring to be the Messiah and telling us to look to Him for life and answers? Quite possibly, if we similarly viewed Jesus through the lens of our selfish pride.

Yet Jesus had zero pride issues; He never moved beyond humility. Isn’t that freaking amazing?! He didn’t force people to believe in Him. He didn’t waste time chasing after people or trying to persuade them. He simply stated who He was, then got busy displaying the truth of His claims through His actions. Who but God has the power to control the natural world? Jesus performed the miraculous as easily as child’s play. He healed the sick just with a word or gesture. And salved the wounds of the hurting. And restored the lives of any who sought His help.

Though He possessed all the power of heaven, Jesus chose to die a criminal’s death to display the depth of His endless love for us. And through His resurrection, Jesus soundly settled the argument of His deity. But He gives us the freedom to choose whether we will trust Him on this.

So what say you? If you’re still hesitating to take Jesus at His word, I invite you to get up to speed on the historical evidence for Christ. You can start by reading through the year-long blog series we did last year, based on Josh and Sean McDowell’s book, Evidence That Demands a Verdict.

Jesus proclaimed His deity, and humbly proved it through His love and actions. The evidence is plentiful, if we choose to see it. Will we believe? Click To Tweet


In our next blog post, let’s look at five misconceptions non-believers have about Christians. (One is that we have no fun. Whaaaaaat? LOL!)

Catch up: The introductory post to this series.



Can We Trust God?

Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, our third post in our new year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” In this post we’ll dive a bit further into how our trusting God affects our everyday life.

So here’s the thing: many of us don’t trust God. I’ll go a step further: NOT one of us fully trusts God every single moment. (Or if you do, WOW! You’re amazing!) But if we don’t learn to trust God, we’ll never gain a firm foundation for our Christian faith. We’ll always be unsure if He sees us as loved and accepted and important. (He does!!!!)

If we view God as a genie, that’s not trust. If we view God as a grumpy guy we have to butter up, that’s not trust. If we merely hope when we pray, that’s not trust. So how do we learn to trust God, even when it feels like He doesn’t existWe can start with deciding that we can take His Word as truth. By reading the Bible, and choosing to believe what it says about how God sees us, we can begin to trust that He really is our loving, caring creator.

Overheard: If you don't have a relationship with God, it's quite possible it's because you don't open your Bible. Click To Tweet


In What Do We Trust?

When you think about it, we sure do trust a lot of man-made things that can fail us at any moment. Our cars, for example, and other high-tech transporters such as trains and airplanes. Think about the latter for a second. We willingly put ourselves in a metal can that hurtles through the sky at 500+ mph, at a commercial cruising altitude of 35,000 feet! That’s a long fall to the ground if the wing snaps or the engine fails!

We put our trust in stop lights. And stop signs. And the blinking “Walk” sign at crosswalks. We trust that the bank will return our money to us when we want it. The bank, itself, trusts us to pay off our credit cards and house loans. That trust isn’t always rewarded.

Too, we trust our well-being — if not our very lives — to other people. Every time we step into a new relationship, we open ourselves up to potential joy and chest-crushing pain. Even when we open our arms to offer a hug, we expose our hearts to rejection.

Some of us trust in philosophies so bizarre that they require not only our blind faith, but our total dismissal of reality. Critics like to say that Christians do both, but their claims lack truth. Christianity isn’t bogus; it’s based on vetted historical facts, and the very real personage of Jesus.

Lastly, most of us put a TON of trust in ourselves. We’ve been influenced by society to believe that our individual fates are entirely due to our own efforts. Say what?!


In God We Trust?

Have you ever looked at a United States coin or bill and wondered, “Why does it say ‘In God We Trust’?”

Though this motto currently remains on our national currency, I think we can all agree it’s now a minority view. Some are lobbying to have the statement removed, as it is a tangible reminder that the U.S. once respectfully acknowledged God. Will the replacement text be “In Ourselves We Trust”?

Primarily through our increasingly secular media and educational systems, we’ve been conditioned away from trusting God and toward trusting in the inherent power of humanity. We have no idea just how immoral we’ve become. As I overheard one person put it, “We don’t even know what immorality is anymore.” #ouch #truth

Many people simply can’t stand a biblical standard of morality, because it stops them from feeling good about their habits and behaviors. They believe it’s perfectly acceptable to blame God for what they think should be different in the world, and to use their view as justification for rejecting Him. Hold up! Do we seriously believe we have the right to judge and condemn God?!


God Is Trustworthy!

Friends, are you as tired as I am of the hamster wheel that society tells us to keep racing on to achieve our “best life”? In our frenetic chasing of power and wealth and popularity, we lose sight of our real purpose. We’re not here to amass the most toys, Facebook likes, and YouTube views. We’re here to live full lives made wonderful and satisfying through our focus of honoring God and serving others.

The Bible shares, in great detail, how we are to correctly view and respond to life. It tells us who we are! It teaches us how to love. It tells us how to forgive, and why it’s critical that we do so. It instructs us on how to deal with disappointment and failure and setbacks. And it assures us that God continues to pursue us to have a personal relationship with Him. How mind-blowing is it that the Creator of the universe wants us to know and love and trust Him?!

The very planet itself, as Sean McDowell points out, shouts, “God is real! See Him in the details!”

Sure, we can live by a lower standard than God wishes for us — but we only shortchange ourselves. Give God the chance to show you that trusting Him is worth it. You can start to develop that trust by opening His Word.


You are hereby challenged to take the 30-day Proverbs Challenge!

Instead of firing up Facebook first thing tomorrow morning, jump on over to the YouVersion app. It will take you just a few minutes to read the wealth of wise tips in the 31 Proverbs. Read a Proverb a day! Here’s one of my favorite bits of wisdom. #goodstuff

Double Dare: post a favorite verse on Facebook! You’re going to be known for something, right? Why not for being wise? 😉


In our next blog post, let’s look at why viewing yourself as God views you is a HUGE deal. It’s a game-changer, really.

Catch up: The introductory post to this series. Last week’s post: Is the Bible Fact or Fiction?



Is the Bible Fact or Fiction?

Welcome! Thanks for joining us for this, our second post in our year-long blog series we’re calling “Journey Together.” Our aim in this post is to dive further into whether we can trust the Bible.

The contents of the Bible were written over a period of over 1500 years, by 40+ authors from every walk of life: kings, fisherman, statesmen, poets, philosophers — even peasants. Some wrote in the wilderness, others in dungeons, some in a palace, and others while on military campaigns. And they wrote from three different continents, and in three languages, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Wow!

Can a book so unique really be factually and historically true? Is the Bible, as some believe, merely a “man-made” work of fiction — or a book guided by the hand of God?

“The case for the reliability of the New Testament,” asserts scholar and prolific writer Dr. Howard Vos, “is infinitely stronger than that for any other record of antiquity.” Let’s look at why he can confidently say this.



Trusting Historical Testimony

Because you and I weren’t there to see it for ourselves, we trust that our knowledge of the past is based on verified sources: written, oral, and physical testimony. Written testimony is a written record of what happened. Oral Testimony, the primary way in ancient times of faithfully passing history from one generation to the next, relied on meticulous storytelling. Physical testimony is tangible evidence, such as a fingerprint, photograph, clay pot, or manuscript.

Let’s apply these testimonies to just two events that we’re all at least vaguely familiar with:

~ How do we know that in 1945 the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan? Because of details and facts from all three forms of testimony. Eyewitness testimony for the event is especially compelling. Recounts one 14-year-old boy: “Night came and I could hear many voices crying and groaning with pain and begging for water. Someone cried, ‘Damn it! War tortures so many people who are innocent!’ Another said, ‘I hurt! Give me water!’ This person was so burned that we couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman. The sky was red with flames. It was burning as if scorching heaven.”

~ How do we know what the Nazis did to Jews during World War II? Because of the horrific testimony that can’t be denied by those willing to look at the facts. Credible eyewitness testimony is critical to our understanding of what really occurred in the past.

So why do scholars have to admit that Jesus really did live and die? Because evidence, even from non-biblical sources, claims that He did. Why do Christians believe Jesus also resurrected? Again, because of compelling eyewitness testimony. 

The Bible’s Book of Acts, for example, is full of eyewitness testimony. Verse after verse emphasizes that people personally saw and interacted with Christ over a 40-day period after He resurrected. We’re not talking a period of four days, or forty hours! We’re talking forty days, people! Some examples:

Acts 2:32: “God has raised Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses to the fact.”
Acts 3:15: “You killed the author of life but God raised Him to life and we are witnesses to this fact.”
Acts 4:20: “As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

We can trust that the Book of Acts is legit. Or can we???


You Can’t Prove That!

You might be thinking that historical testimony isn’t necessarily reliable. Because we all know that sometimes people lie. And sometimes they intentionally skew the truth. Maybe, you’re thinking, their memory was faulty. Or maybe the disciples just wanted to make themselves seem important or grab power!  

Sorry, those aren’t reasonable suggestions. Why? Because not only were the writers of the New Testament eyewitnesses — or faithfully recorded eyewitness accounts — they appealed to the knowledge of their listeners concerning the truth about Christ. They confidently assert: “You were there. You saw Him do that. You heard him say that. You were there when He did that!” The apostles throw the whole arguments of what Jesus said and did back onto the laps of their audiences by saying, “You know as much as we know of what Jesus said and did.”

Don’t miss this critical point: the apostles presented their facts in the presence of knowledgeable, hostile people who would have immediately known if they were presenting false information.

The eyewitnesses of the events in question were still alive when the traditions were being completely formed about Christ! Even better: among those eye witnesses were bitter enemies of this new religious movement who would have contested and exposed any false statements the apostles tried to concoct or spread! That, in itself, is authentication.

The disciples could not afford to risk inaccuracy or to make stuff up, if their goal was to have people believe in Jesus. Click To Tweet


Testing the Authenticity of a Manuscript

There are two standard tests exist by which all historical documents can be vetted.

The first test is called a historiography. The second is the external evidence test. There, scholars ask, “Is there external evidence totally apart from the book under investigation that confirms its inner testimony or accuracy?”

We’d start our testing by examining the paper and ink used to record the manuscript. Then we’d study its timeline — how far the manuscript is removed from the original (autographa). Next we would determine the manuscript’s approximate date. We could use clues such as ink color, letter size, punctuation, ornamentation, and even text division.

Want to know what scholars find when they examine the Bible’s timeline? That they can date the earliest version of the written New Testament to within fifty years of Christ’s death!

You might be thinking that’s a long gap, but let’s put the gap into perspective. The closest version we have of all other non-biblical historical documents is closer to hundreds of years. There is a 50-year gap between the New Testament and the autographa — but a 500-year gap with the Iliad! 

We also can test a document via archaeology. Non-biblical historical literature verifies certain facts about Christ. We know that He lived during the time of Tiberius Cesar. That He lived a very virtuous life. That He performed miracles. That He was acclaimed to be the Messiah. that He was crucified under Pontius Pilate, on the eve of the Jewish Passover. That darkness and an earthquake occurred when He died from crucifixion. That His disciples interacted with Him for 40 days after He rose. That His disciples were willing to die for their beliefs. And that Christianity spread rapidly, as far as Rome.

Another benchmark scholars consider: how many copies of the original text exist? The more copies available to review, the easier it is to reconstruct the original document. Again, let’s compare the number of manuscripts of  literature of antiquity.

Many people consider the Roman historian Tacitus to be Rome’s most important historian. Yet there are only twenty manuscripts that remain of his annals. Of Pliny the Younger, only seven manuscripts survive. Of Aristotle, only 49 manuscripts. Of the Greek historian, Herodotus, only eight manuscripts survive. Of the Iliad, 643 manuscripts exist. But of just the New Testament, scholars have confirmed the existence of 24,633 manuscripts! 

The evidence for New Testament writings is so much greater than the evidence for writings of other classical authors.

Notes Josh McDowell, who once thought Christianity completely bogus until extensive research convinced him otherwise, “We can hold the New Testament in our hands and confidently say, ‘Jesus really said and did what it says.'”


In our next blog post, let’s look further at the tension between our trust and the Bible. (Hint: it often starts with our inability to trust in God.)

Catch up: The introductory post to this series. Last week’s post: Meticulous Scribe, Trusted Manuscript.

To view videos of Josh speaking on the topic of the trustworthiness of the Bible, click here.

 



Meticulous Scribe, Trusted Manuscript

Welcome to the first post in this series we’ve titled “Journey Together!”

Each week we’ll look at our Christian beliefs, and whether they help us to answer these four important questions: “Why am I here?,” “What is truth?,” “Why should I believe this truth?,” and “How does this truth affect my every day life?” Can we, by daily applying God’s standards to our lives, really live the best version of life God wants for us? Let’s Journey Together to find out!

To get us started, below I share why I’m so excited about an ancient text, the Lodz Torah, which I had the amazing honor of acquiring. I named it in memory of the Jews who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis during WW II.

The rare scroll showcases the strict standards historical scribes followed to ensure they faithfully copied older biblical texts. What these strict standards mean, of course, is that we can trust the validity of the Scriptures! We can open up the Bible and pretty confidently say, ‘Thus saith the Lord.”


“Baruch, it is certified!” Moshe exclaimed, as he burst through the door of his friend’s home. “I could not wait to tell you.”

Baruch immediately grasped Moshe’s elation, feeling it flood his own heart. Moshe was bringing the news he had been hoping to hear for many weeks now: that the rabbi had certified the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) that had taken Baruch a year to painstakingly copy onto a new scroll.

Meticulous Scribes, Trusted Manuscripts

It’s easy for me to visualize the above scene, because I, too, now 550+ years later, am overwhelmed as I touch the edge of this ancient text prepared by a dedicated Ashkenazi scribe.

The scribe undoubtably followed the strict requirement of preparing the skins and ink, as well as the traditions of precisely copying the Scripture. He certainly was rigorously trained, and highly skilled, a respected religious scholar in his community. To be certified as a scribe, this professional scribe had to memorize 4,000 different laws and principles dictating how to copy Scripture. Wow!

His work was eye-straining and back-breaking, as he worked hours on end hunched over a table, slowly and meticulously copying Scripture in a room dimly lit by candles or an oil lamp. Let’s follow his process.

Exacting Process

To begin, the scribe obtained ceremonially clean animal skins from a Jewish butcher, and created the panels for the scroll. Next, he carefully soaked the animal skins in water mixed with his barley leaves. For this particular scroll, he soaked five skins. The soaking softened the skins, making it easier for him to scrape off the hair and fibers.

Then came the critical task of ensuring that he copied every letter clearly and straight. Using threads as guides, the scribe took a dull knife that would not cut through the skin and carefully scored the surface horizontally. This indented the skin slightly to form a distinguishable line. He repeated the same process vertically, creating a perfect cross-pattern grid on which to copy each and every letter of God’s written Word. The scribe believed, like all the Jewish scribes before him, that he had a solemn responsibility to reproduce every letter perfectly and clearly. Writing his letters on the grid aided him in accomplishing this goal. He knew that miscopying what God said could mean misreading, mispronouncing, and worse, misinterpreting and misunderstanding what God wants his people to know about him and his ways.

In following typical Jewish tradition, this scribe would have dipped his new quill in the freshly prepared ink and uttered each word aloud before he wrote it. “In the beginning…” he would have recited, as he painstakingly formed the letters. But he would have stopped before completing the last letter of the word just before the word “God.” Because, according to tradition, he would need to put down his quill and ceremoniously wash his hands. It was critical to purify himself and sanctify the ink that would pen the name of God.

With 304,805 letters to write — and not a single one allowed to touch another — the scribe’s task was daunting. His meticulous care and deliberation is why it took him over a year to complete this very old Torah.

When finally finished, the scribe’s manuscript had to be certified as having been transcribed correctly. Some traditions required three separate rabbis to check the accuracy! This meant these persons had to completely unroll this 72-foot scroll to check and count every single word and all 304,805 of the letters. They had to be sure there was the same number of letters in this scroll compared to the Torah from which it was copied.

Not only that, when they counted the words, they knew the center word was found in Leviticus 13:33. If the center word of the new scroll did not fall exactly within verse 33, it could not be certified. They did the same thing for every letter. The center letter was found in Leviticus 11:45. If the center letter in the new scroll was in verse 45, they could be confident they had an exact replica of the previous Torah.

Proving Reliable

It is overwhelming to realize that God has superintended the writing and passing down of his words from generation to generation so that you and I can have an accurate revelation of him! He has gone to extraordinary lengths to restore the intimate relationship with us that he once had with Adam and Eve in Eden. And he has chosen the Bible as the means to reach out in human language, reveal the essence of his relational heart, and share the Good News of Christ as our salvation.

In Deuteronomy 10:20, Moses instructed the children of Israel “to fear the Lord your God and worship him.” To fear meant to be in awe of God, to revere him and worship him as the Almighty God who shows mercy and grace to his people. That awesome reverence is clearly evident as each scribe performed his solemn duty to pass down the Scripture from one generation to another with such accuracy and exactness.

Now I hope you can understand why I felt such strong emotion when I held this centuries-old medieval copy of ancient Scripture in my arms!It is a tangible embodiment of the scribe’s dedication, skill, and painstaking labor, and the work of all such committed scribes to ensure the preservation of God’s message of love to us!

Stay with us as we continue this blog series. Let’s  journey together!


The full version of this article by Josh McDowell can be found here. To visit the introduction page of this series, click here. Click here to read next week’s blog.  

Josh McDowell

Josh McDowell, founder of Josh McDowell Ministry, is passionate about “Serving others until the whole world hears about Jesus.” Blog content from Josh is based on extensive works and research he has done over the decades.



Journey Together

Welcome, friends! We’re so excited about this Journey Together blog series! We’re thrilled to have you join us!

Life! So full of questions and fears! You know it’s ok to have doubts, right? And to ask questions — even of God?

As humans, we have an insatiable thirst for knowledge and understanding that we daily try to fill. We want to understand our surroundings, our experiences, and the mysteries of life. We also want to enjoy life — and to live fully, with purpose. Deep down we yearn to be amazing people, right?

But how do we get there? Can we really know and trust that God exists and cares? Can we trust that what He says is true? And that when we apply His standards to our lives, we really can live our best life possible?

Let’s journey together and find out! My team of bloggers and I would like to walk with you through a year-long journey … a quest, really, of discovery … together. Think of it as a treasure adventure!

We’ll start at the beginning. And we’ll do so without using a lot of deep church lingo. We’ll dig into subjects that our founder, Josh McDowell, has researched and taught for decades, as well as stories from other people that will help us to make sense of life, so that we can live fully — and effectively encourage and share our faith with others.

Here’s a preview of our weekly blog lineup:

Belief Basics (January – April)

Our journey will begin before the compilation of our modern Bible. In our next blog post, for example, Josh shares why he finds it so emotional to hold a centuries-old Torah scroll in his hands. Each week, as we journey through historical facts, we will determine whether our belief in Christ has merit, and why we should allow our Christian beliefs to influence every aspect of our lives.

Belief Affects Our Relationships (May – July)

What we believe at our core affects everything about us, from our self-image and self-worth to the relationships we have with others. In an increasingly secular world, we desperately need a Christ-based perspective when it comes parenting and marriage.

Belief Affects Our Morals (Aug – Nov)

Whether we’re struggling with issues related to tolerance, religion, morality, sexuality, or love, our belief structure decidedly influences our choices and how we respond to culture.

A Life of Freedom (Nov – Dec)

Life is hard, but we can live fully — and in freedom. Let’s experience the wholeness and solutions to be found in living as God asks of us. Let’s live lives fueled by strength of character, purpose, and meaning!

As we journey together this year, we’ll keep asking and answering these four questions:

  • “Why am I here?”
  • “What is truth?”
  • “Why should I believe this truth?”
  • “How does this truth affect my everyday life?”

This is going to be fun! We’re thrilled you’re taking this journey with us! Feel free to contact us, at any time, with questions you might have about the content we cover!

Christina Gordon

Christina (Hleboff) Gordon is Josh McDowell Ministry’s Social Media and Digital Marketing Manager. She lives in the Dallas area with her husband and four kids and enjoys all sorts of adventure.



Who God Says YOU Are

God says

It’s What God Says About You That Matters.

The world does its best to define and categorize us, often from a place of lack: too fat, too skinny, too loud, too dumb, too left, too right, too religious, too uncool, blah, blah, blah. But when we choose to believe what God says about us, it puts the world’s labels into proper perspective: wrong.

The Bible gives us the basis for believing that God exists, has purposefully created us, and invites us into relationship with Him so that we discover why He birthed us. #purpose


Who God Says YOU Are:

  • YOU possess His strength

    Philippians 4:13 –  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.


  • He sees YOU with grace

    1 Corinthians 1:4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.


  • YOU are God’s handiwork

    Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”


  • God pursues YOU

    Psalm 23:6 – Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.


  • YOU are loved

    1 John 4:10 – Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.


  • YOU are forgiven

    1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.


  • Christ calls YOU friend

    John 15:15 – I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.


The “God Hole” That Draws Us

So, here’s the thing: We all seek love and validation from the world. But the truth is that God designed us with a hole in our heart to draw us to seek Him. Our spouses can’t fully fill the void we’re born with. Our parents can’t fill it. Not even our best friends can be what we need and want them to be 100 percent of the time. But God can. It’s the role He designed for Himself.

Only by accepting God’s love are we able to deal with feeling unloved and unwanted by others. Even better: when we accept His love, we’re able to then authentically love others! Our worth is not determined by the world, but by Him. God says that we’re worthy of His love and of loving ourselves. End of story. Case closed. Always and forever. 

 

Evidence book cover Apologists

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!

If you’d like to start from the first blog post in this series, click here: Apologetics: Apologizing for Believing in God?.

 



Tips for Selflessness. Let’s Be Like Jesus

There was once a nymph named Narcissus, who thought himself very delicious; so he stared like a fool, at his face in a pool, and his folly today is still with us.


One of the reasons we’ve spent so many weeks blogging about the evidence for Christ and the historical roots of Christianity, is to remind us that we don’t serve a mythical God. Rather, we serve the Almighty Creator — who is very real, very present, and very much cares how those of us who claim to be “Christians” think and act. We’re supposed to be striving for selflessness, like Jesus. 

Let’s be real: the constant tug we feel to wallow in self-worship is relentless. We definitely need God’s help to battle it.

In Matthew 22, Jesus tells us that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. But in doing so, He places the emphasis on treating others as well as we, ourselves, would like to be treated. Agape love, the kind of love Jesus perfectly modeled for us, seeks to notice and act on the needs of others. Easier said than done? Too often! Our pesky human nature loves to focus on self. 

Thankfully, God knows that our developing the habit of selflessness is a daily, life-long process. That in some moments we’ll hit the mark, and in others we’ll utterly fail. God “gets” that it’s impossible for us to be selfless 100 percent of the time — though Mother Teresa may have gotten close! The truth: We’ll only be perfected when we get to the other side. But we can commit to allowing God to work on our selflessness now.

We must get past our own interests, if we’re to interest our self-absorbed world in the transforming love of Christ.


Does “Selflessness” Mean I Ignore Myself?

Nope… though some Christians have gotten the idea that, in “taking up Christ’s cross,” they must meet everyone else’s needs before their own. That only leads to resentment and burnout. Some Christians think they have to live in abject poverty to be a “good” Christian. Nope. The Bible clearly shows us that God enjoys blessing us — so that we will be a blessing to others. Money is not evil; it’s the love of money that gets us into trouble.

And waaaaay too many Christians walk around thinking they have to think badly about themselves to appear to be humble. Where does the Bible tell us to repeatedly kick ourselves — as if we’re unloved, unwanted, and unacceptable? It doesn’t! The Bible repeatedly affirms that we are infinitely loved, and fully understood and accepted by God. He has engraved us on the palms of His hands, that we are always on His mind, that He is working for our good daily.

With the assurance of His faithfulness, even when we mess up, we can live with a spirit of grace, with our hearts and hands open.

But don’t miss this truth: we must accept God’s grace and love for ourselves before we can cultivate the habit of being selfless. I think a lot of people walk around trying to amass and hoard stuff because they don’t know God has their back.

Joyce Meyer, a popular Christian speaker and author with a global ministry, once grappled with accepting that there was anything lovable about herself. One day she decided to write “God loves me” on her bathroom mirror — and to repeat the phrase, aloud, for as long as it took for her to believe this truth. The day finally arrived! Joyce found her heart leaping for joy as the words rolled off her tongue.

It wasn’t merely repeating the phrase that convinced Joyce, of course. It was God. In daily digesting the phrase, she gave God the focus and space to rewire her thinking.

Joyce never doubts God’s love now. Because she knows that she knows that God is consistent. And in becoming secure in His love and acceptance, Joyce began to desire to share it with others. Many of her world-wide ministry activities now significantly help to address the pain and needs of many.

When we willingly set aside our plans and desires, and pursue being of service to others, we are being selfless in the way the Bible asks us to be. “Love cannot remain by itself, it has no meaning,” noted Mother Teresa. “Love has to be put into action, and that action is service.” 


Demonstrating Selflessness, Jesus-Style

Mother Teresa put it exactly right. We can’t “hope” or “envision” a better world, or even “send good thoughts into the universe,” and expect the world to right itself. Positivity and hope and vision don’t accomplish anything unless they’re accompanied by action. And action without love doesn’t really represent Jesus.

Our perfect role model, Jesus poured Himself out extravagantly. He went out of His way to be inconvenienced, to be compassionate. He treated the marginalized and ignored with kindness and respect, and in so doing reminded them that they matter. Every single one of us is so important to Jesus that He died to make it crystal clear.

Wanna mirror Jesus’ selflessness? 

To develop this habit, we can give these three tips a whirl:

 1. Study up on verses in the Bible that ask us to serve. Like Joyce, we’ll find that meditating on them drives them deep into our hearts. And where our heart goes, so go our thoughts and actions.

Here’s just one verse, found in 1 John 3:16-18“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

 2. Choose to go about our day feeling grateful for what Christ has done, and continues to do, for us.

Again, this is way different than purposing to have a “positive mindset.” Positivity too easily evaporates when we step into our own bad circumstances. But when our joy is based on our trusting God’s goodness, even in dire circumstances, our positive outlook has staying power. “I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart,” go the song lyrics. I don’t know about you, but even humming that song puts me in a joyful mindset. When we’re joyful, we’ll naturally spill joy on others.

 3. Ask God to open our eyes to the needs of others.

And when our eyes are opened, let’s go. Again, some days we will utterly fail. But let’s dust ourselves off, get back on the horse, and ask for another chance to serve as the solution for another’s need. 

Hey, wouldn’t it be GREAT if, when we accepted Christ, we really were able to “go and sin no more?” Unfortunately, most of us have a lot of baggage and bad habits that God needs to work through before we’re able to hit that target. John R. W. Stoutt, in his book The Cross of Christ, captures our ongoing battle with self perfectly:

“There is, therefore, a great need for discernment in our self-understanding. Who am I? What is my ‘self’? The answer is that I am a Jekyll and Hyde, a mixed-up kid, having both dignity because I was created and have been re-created in the image of God, and depravity because I still have a fallen and rebellious nature. I am both noble and ignoble, beautiful and ugly, good and bad, upright and twisted, image and child of God, and yet sometimes yielding obsequious homage to the devil from whose clutches Christ has rescued me.”

Indeed! Christ was crucified, died, and resurrected to prove His great love for others. To demonstrate our selflessness can change the world. When we share His amazing love, even in tiny drops, it spreads around the globe.


Love, wrote Mother Teresa, is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.


Evidence book cover Apologists

 

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!

If you’d like to start from the first blog post in this series, click here: Apologetics: Apologizing for Believing in God?.

 



Is Jesus’ Resurrection Fact? History Weighs in.

You, ultimately, get to decide for yourself if Jesus’ resurrection is fact or fiction. Choose wisely.

In this year-long blog series based on Josh and Sean McDowell’s extensively updated classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, we’re focused on proving to you that the Christian faith is rooted not in fairy tale, but on historical fact that confirms that Jesus lived, was crucified by the Romans, died on the cross, and resurrected.

In this post we’re honing in on four facts that validate His resurrection: the empty tomb, the left-behind grave clothes, post-resurrection appearances by Jesus, and lack of opposing Jewish refutation. If you missed our earlier three posts on the resurrection topic, you can view the first post here.

Jesus resurrection

Post-Resurrection Facts

The Empty Tomb

Jesus’ body was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin — the ruling body of Jews who ensured Jesus’ crucifixion.

It is highly unlikely that the Gospel writers would fabricate this detail, given the hostility the early Christians would have felt toward these Jewish leaders. They must have thought, “How the heck did this happen?!” But in asking for Jesus’ body, Joseph — a secret follower of Jesus — put his reputation and social standing in jeopardy to provide Jesus with a proper burial.

Assisted by Nicodemus, a fellow member of the Sanhedrin, Joseph helped to fulfill Jewish prophecy about Jesus uttered hundreds of years prior: “He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth” (Isaiah 53:9).

The Gospels also tell us that, among His followers, it was the committed group of women who first noted the empty tomb. The fact that the women brought spices to anoint Jesus’s body clearly shows us that they did not expect Jesus to beat death. But they were surprised to see the stone rolled aside when they reached the tomb.

Why does the testimony of the women help to validate the historical truthfulness of the empty tomb? Because at the time of Jesus, in first-century Mediterranean culture, women weren’t considered credible eyewitnesses, given their low status in the eyes of the courts. One of them, Mary Magdalene, had been previously possessed of seven demons before Jesus healed her. She, perhaps, would have been viewed as the least reliable witness among them.


Women: The First Evangelists

The fact that the Gospel writers acknowledge that women — not men — were the first to proclaim Jesus’ resurrection shows us that the writers weren’t interested in embellishing the story to make it more palatable to contemporary readers. (Gals, don’t you love that God refused to be boxed in by cultural norms of the day?)

Hearing the women’s eyewitness account, Peter and John found their courage and ran to see the empty tomb for themselves. Just as fast word spread that the tomb was, indeed, empty. This common knowledge explains why there is no mention of people continuing to view Jesus’ tomb site as a place of religious worship, though the practice was common at tombs of other prophets and holy persons in Jesus’ time.

Imagine the consternation among the Jewish authorities. Here they thought they’d rid themselves of the Jesus “problem,” but the “problem” refused to quietly die. Ironically, these Jewish leaders knew, from the eyewitness accounts of the terrified soldiers, that a supernatural resurrection had occurred. Yet they stubbornly refused to acknowledge and receive Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah.

Their flimsy story about the disciples stealing Jesus’ dead body might have held up if Jesus wasn’t repeatedly seen, alive and in full possession of His mind and body, meeting with people. 


The Grave Clothes

The Bible tells us that Peter and John were the first disciples to spot the abandoned burial clothes:

At that, Peter and the other disciple went out, heading for the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and got to the tomb first. Stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying there, yet he did not go in. Then, following him, Simon Peter came also. He entered the tomb and saw the linen cloths lying there. The wrapping that had been on his head was not lying with the linen cloths but was folded up in a separate place by itself. The other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, then entered the tomb, saw, and believed.  John 20:3-9

Have you ever wondered why Jesus’ grave clothes were left behind? It’s such an interesting detail. If grave robbers took Jesus’ body, what would be their purpose in laboriously removing the spices-laden burial clothes (75 pounds of myrrh and aloes, per the Bible) from Jesus’ lifeless, mutilated body? Body snatching isn’t a leisurely activity — it’s a quick, clandestine activity.

The abandoned grave clothes, then, serve as yet one more detail, clearly orchestrated by God, that factually support the truth of Jesus’ resurrection.


Numerous Appearances by Jesus

  • The Bible gives us 12 distinct instances in which Jesus appeared to individuals or groups of people after He rose:
  • Mary Magdalene: see John 20:11-18 — saw, heard, touched Jesus
  • Women leaving the tomb: see Matthew 28:8-10 — saw, heard, touched Jesus
  • Emmaus disciples: see Luke 24:13-19 — talked with Jesus
  • Simon Peter: see Luke 24:34 and 1 Corinthians 15:5 — saw, heard Jesus
  • Disciples without Thomas: see Luke 24:36-43 — saw, heard, touched, Jesus ate with them
  • Disciples with Thomas: see John 20:24-29 — saw, heard, touched, saw wounds of Jesus
  • Disciples at the Sea of Galilee: see John 21 — saw, touched, Jesus cooks for them
  • Disciples on a mountain in Galilee: see Matthew 28:16-17 — saw, heard Jesus
  • Disciples: Luke 24:50-52 — saw, heard Jesus
  • 500 believers: 1 Corinthians 15:6 — saw, heard Jesus
  • (Jesus’ half-brother): 1 Corinthians 15:7 — saw, heard Jesus
  • Paul: Acts 9:3-6 — saw, heard Jesus

To both the women and the disciples, Jesus appeared in a physical, resurrected body — not in a spirit form lacking physical matter, as the “lost” Gnostic gospels would have us believe. The disciples touched Jesus’ wounds, spoke with Him, and even ate with Him. There was no way the disciples would later be convinced that they were merely hallucinating. Because they interacted with Jesus in the flesh, they were able to fully support the claim that Jesus lived.

Jesus was not just a spirit, and the term “resurrection” is not just a figure of speech. Jesus appeared to his disciples in His human body, though it now possessed supernatural attributes. Jesus could, for example, appear and disappear at will.


Silence of the Jewish Authorities

The Jewish leaders could not adequately explain the empty tomb. From our modern perspective it appears that they fumbled the ball in coming up with a good rebuttal. Seriously? The best they could do was suggest and spread the fictitious tale that the disciples took Jesus’ body?

But don’t miss this fact: at no time do we have record of any disciple, when arrested and disciplined by the Jewish authorities, being charged with grave robbery. The silence of the Jewish authorities is as significant as the testimony of the early Christians that Jesus lived.

The church was founded on Jesus’ resurrection; disproving it would have destroyed the whole Christian movement. Yet the Jewish authorities focused their efforts on post-event intimidation: threatening, beating, flogging, imprisoning, and even killing the disciples when they refused to give up their faith.


Jesus’ Resurrection: the Core of Christian Belief

The bottom line: The world-changing impact of the empty tomb can’t be underestimated — not in Jesus’ time and not in ours.

Sean McDowell puts it this way:

Christianity was a movement begun by Jews in Jerusalem not because they were all tired of Judaism and wanted to invent something new. It was birthed because they experienced such a life-changing experience interacting with Christ. No evidence exists that the earliest Christians considered the resurrection secondary; rather, the centrality of the resurrection in the earliest creeds, which pre-date the New Testament books (for example, Romans 1:3-4, 4:24-25; 1 Thessalonians 4:14; 1 Corinthians 15:3-7) shows just the opposite — that the resurrection, its historical reality, itself grounded faith in Jesus as Messiah.

Let’s remember that the disciples in the Gospel accounts were slow to believe that Jesus was alive. They are not portrayed as poster children of amazing faith. That is believable: the disciples experienced the same issues of faith that you and I face. Will you choose to believe in Jesus’ resurrection? For you, is it fact or fiction?

 

Evidence book cover Apologists

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!

If you’d like to start from the first blog post in this series, click here: Apologetics: Apologizing for Believing in God?.

 



Resurrection of Jesus: Pre-Resurrection Facts

The resurrection of Jesus is critical to the Christian faith; without it, we don’t have a foundation for believing that Jesus is God.

Skeptics argue that the resurrection of Jesus isn’t provable. But is that true? Let’s look at some important pre-resurrection facts that definitively say otherwise.

Resurrection of Jesus

Jesus’ crown of thorns.

Jesus’ Death Certified

The Romans were master executioners. Their go-to form of killing those they deemed to be criminals was crucifixion. The Romans were the principle utilizers of this barbaric form of torture for more than five centuries. They apparently learned the practice from the Carthaginians, then rapidly developed a high degree of efficiency and skill with it. By the time of Jesus, they had perfected it.

Why is it important to stress that they were experts at crucifying people? Because some critics (and the writers of the “lost” Gnostic gospels) assert that Jesus wasn’t really dead when He was removed from the cross. The suggestions is that Jesus merely “fainted.” 

Sorry, no; both biblical and secular historical accounts say He was certified as dead. In fact, the soldiers did not have to break Jesus’ legs to speed up His death, as was customary with crucifixions. By piercing His side with a sword, they confirmed His death. Pontius Pilate required a centurion to confirm Jesus’s death before he allowed Joseph of Arimathea to take possession of Jesus’ body for burial.

Is it possible to withstand brutal floggings and crucifixion, and still live?

There is only one example, in the writings of the Roman historian Josephus, of a person surviving crucifixion. Josephus does not tell us how long his “former acquaintance” hung on the cross, or whether he, like Jesus, endured forty torturous lashes before being crucified. Josephus tells us only that he was able to use his influence to get this person taken off his cross while still alive, and to ensure that the man received the best medical care Rome could provide.


Historical Context for Jewish Burial Practices

Typically, burial took place on the day of death or, if death occurred at the end of the day or during the night, the following day. Joseph of Arimatheabravely asked Pilate for Jesus’ body, seeming to be motivated by a concern for the observance of the Jewish law that dictates that a body be buried within 24 hours. But Jewish law prohibits burial on the Sabbath and festivals. So Jesus had to be buried before sundown on Friday; waiting until after sundown on Saturday would have exceeded the 24-hour limit. Scholars confirm that the details recorded by biblical writers are consistent with known customs and normal practices of that time and place.

Some critics argue that the Romans did not allow crucified criminals to be buried. Not so, say historians. Nor is there anything irregular about the Gospels’ report that a member of the Sanhedrin requested permission to give Jesus a proper burial in keeping with Jewish burial practices.

Paul confirms the burial story in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5. There is conclusive evidence that Paul drew from material predating his writing that can be traced to within three to eight years of Christ’s death. The burial is told in a simple and straightforward manner, and no conflicting tradition about the burial story exists. Nor are there early documents that refute the burial story as presented in the Gospels. It is highly unlikely that Christians invented the story of Joseph of Arimathea burying Jesus’ body, as some critics assert. Why would early Christians make a hero of a member of the very court responsible for Jesus’ death?


First Century Tombs and Archeology/Joseph’s Tomb

Archeology has provided helpful insight into the tombs in and around first-century Jerusalem. Scholarly and public attention has focused almost exclusively on the rock-cut tombs that surround the ancient city of Jerusalem. Most of Jerusalem’s rock-cut tombs are not display tombs, but relatively modest, with an undecorated entrance and a single burial chamber with a loculi. Because of the expense associated with hewing a burial cave into bedrock, only the wealthier members of Jerusalem’s population could afford rock-cut tombs.

The Stone

What kind of stone was placed at the entrance to Jesus’ burial tomb? Square stones were commonly used in Jesus’ time to seal cave tomb entrances. They fit much like a cork in a bottle: one end of the blocking stone stone fit snugly into the entrance while the other end, like the top of a cork, was somewhat larger on the outside.

But three of the four Gospel writers say the stone was “rolled back,” implying that the stone was round. Writes archeologist Amos Kloner: “Of the more than 900 burial caves from the Second Temple period found in and around Jerusalem, only four are known to have used disc-shaped (round) blocking stones. … The handful of round blocking stones from Jerusalem in this period are large, at least four feet in diameter. They occur only in the more elaborate cave tombs, which had at least two rooms or, as in one case, a spacious hall.”

Don’t miss this point: Our Lord was buried in a grave created for a person of significance. God’s hand was even in that detail.

Scholars believe the massive stone, estimated to have weighed between 1.5 and 2 tons, could be rolled down a slanted grove to cover the entrance. Although it would be easy to close the tomb, it would take at least several men to roll the heavy stone away from the entrance to remove or steal the body. The large stone would have provided additional security at Jesus’ gravesite, which the Jewish authorities wanted, to ensure that Jesus’ disciples couldn’t easily steal His body.

The Guard

The Gospel of Matthew (27:62-66) provides the context and narrative for the requesting and posting of the guard. As the passage shows, the Pharisees and chief priests clearly do not believe Jesus will resurrect from the dead. Rather, their motivation for requesting the guard was to deter the disciples from making the claim that He resurrected on the third day.

Were the guards Jewish temple guards or Roman soldiers? Writes New Testament scholar Michael Wilkins, “Since they had no authority to post guards around a burial site of a criminal executed by Roman authorities, the religious officials had to ask Pilate for a contingent of guards. … The Jewish officials were not allowed to use the troops except for the purposes the Roman governor authorized. This explains why the guards will later go to the temple authorities to report Jesus’ resurrection rather than to Pilate himself.”

Too, if the guards were Jewish, they would not have been worried about Roman punishment for failing to keep Jesus’ body secure in the tomb. 

Matthew’s Gospel (28:2-4, 11-15) states that guards’ great fear and their effort to get help in order to account for the missing body. The narrative of the Gospel is impressive: seeing the angel of the Lord roll back the stone on that Sunday morning was so frightening that it caused the highly trained soldiers to become “like dead men.” They knew they were about to face extreme punishment, if not death, from their superiors for failing to keep the body entombed. But their necks were saved when the guards and Jewish authorities collaborated — each for their own vested purposes.

The Jewish authorities had only two choices open to them: admit that Jesus rose, or peg the disciples as looters of His body. Have you ever wondered  why Jesus didn’t also appear to the Jewish leaders? Or perhaps He did, but the Gospel writers weren’t privy to the details of any such visits. 


The Resurrection of Jesus is Real

Was Jesus a real, historical person? Absolutely. Did Jesus die on the cross? Absolutely. Was Jesus’ body buried in a tomb before it went missing? Absolutely. Did Jesus resurrect and interact with both crowds of people and his beloved disciples? The Bible says yes, numerous times.  So we get to choose whether or not we will believe it as truth.

According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus’ disciples quickly desert Jesus during His arrest, and remain largely in hiding during His trial, execution, and in the early days following His resurrection. Can you say, “Jesus picked some big chickens?”

Without Jesus, the disciples become dejected, and lost direction and focus. Some even return to the work they did before Jesus called them. Others, hiding behind locked doors, are paralyzed by their fear. But then … BAM! Something BIG got their attention and redirected their focus.

There’s no getting around the fact that something incredible motivated Jesus’ disciples, strengthening their faith and transforming them from quaking cowards to roaring lions! From unfocused to wholeheartedly focused on sharing the good news of Christ’s resurrection — even as these disciples recognize that their own death may be the penalty. (Scripture does tell us that all but the disciple John were martyred for their faith in Jesus’ resurrection.)

The resurrection of Jesus was real and life-changing for these men. That should get OUR attention.

 

Evidence book cover Apologists

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!

If you’d like to start from the first blog post in this series, click here: Apologetics: Apologizing for Believing in God?.

 



Does Historical Evidence Prove that Jesus Lived?

Evidence shows that Jesus lived. The question is, will you believe it?

At this point we’re not even addressing the question of whether Jesus was God in human form. There’s no point in doing so, if we don’t first show, through historical record, that Jesus did, in fact, live and have a ministry in and around Jerusalem before He was crucified.

Some critics say that Jesus was a fictional character, nothing more than a myth developed by zealots who wished to start a new religion. Dr. Robert Price, for example, an atheist and mythicist, appears to find it far easier to believe in aliens than he does Jesus.

Critics like Price view historical documents as having been clearly manipulated for one purpose: to gain the church legitimacy and authority over others. Historical writings, they say, can’t be trusted. Christianity, they assert, is nothing more than a knock-off religion that stole from other religions and mythical figures such as Hercules. Price goes so far as to equate Jesus to the fictional comic book character, Superman.

Argues Price: “Which is more likely: that a man walked on water, glowed like the sun and rose from the dead, or that someone has rewritten a bunch of well-known miracle stories?” Historian Bart Ehrman, who also rejects Jesus as God, still counters that Price and other scholars skeptical of Jesus the historical person are simply choosing to disregard clear evidence.

Both of these skeptics are entrenched in their position, though they do admit that their continued research continues to tweak their thinking. Phrases common with both of them — “It seems to me…” and “In my mind…” — stood out to me as, perhaps, the crux of the issue. Many people simply refuse to believe in Jesus because they can’t wrap their brain around a figure who can’t be proven, 100 percent, to be who He said He is. “I have’t met Jesus,” they say, “So I simply can’t know for sure that he lived, much less resurrected.”

But can we know? Is there enough evidence?

evidence

Trusting Quality Sources of Evidence

Can we trust the multitude of old writings that contain information about Jesus?

Definitely. It is critical, however, to evaluate the quality of any source that mentions Jesus; not every ancient mention of Jesus aids an investigation into whether He really lived.

The “lost gospels,” for example, offer a version of Jesus that totally differs from the four biblical Gospels, which is why they remain excluded from the Bible. Gnostic in nature, these 2nd or 3rd century texts suggest that Jesus came with a secret message of “inner knowing” for a select few. Wrong. Jesus’ message is open to everyone. Most scholars do not view these texts as credible sources on Jesus.

In contrast, leading New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham presents the Gospels as eyewitness testimony, pointing to the short distance between their writing and the people who would have seen Jesus in person:

“The Gospels were written within living memory of the events they recount. Mark’s Gospel was written well within the lifetime of many of the eyewitnesses, while the other three canonical Gospels were written in the period when living eyewitnesses were becoming scarce, exactly at the point in time when their testimony would perish with them were it not put in writing.”

What about Christian sources such as Paul or the authors of the General Epistles (letters) included in the Bible? What about the writings of 1st- and 2nd-century Christian leaders such as Ignatius and Clement of Rome? Or must we exclude them because they are pro-Christ?

That’s akin to asking experts not to have an opinion on a topic they know well! Are the writings of highly esteemed Roman historians Tacitus and Josephus quality resources? What about facts discovered during archeological digs? Do they support the case for a historical Jesus?

Ehrman, who is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, routinely lectures on the validity of Jesus the historical figure. He has authored numerous books on the topic.  Though he rejects the divinity of Christ, he is fully convinced that Jesus did live and was crucified. “Did Jesus exist is a historical detective story,” he says. “I invite you to look at the hard, cold facts and judge for yourself.”


Roman Historians Tacitus and Josephus

Flavius Josephus was a Jewish politician, soldier, and historian who lived around AD 37-100. He was born in Jerusalem shortly after Christ’s crucifixion. As his father, Matthias, was a highly respected priest, Josephus was born into a family that would have been acutely aware of the early Jesus followers, a movement that would have been viewed as a threat to Judaism. He may have even heard some of the apostles preach in prison.

Scholars view Josephus as the single most important Jewish historian of the ancient world. Among his works, Josephus penned Antiquities of the Jews, to explain the Jewish people and their beliefs to the Romans, in an effort to reduce anti-Jewish bigotry. Antiquities is important in our investigation of the historicity of Jesus.

In Antiquities 20.200, for example, Josephus writes about the death of James, at the instigation of the Jewish high priest Ananus. Josephus clearly labels James the brother of Jesus “who was called Christ.” By including these details, he offers us a clear, non-Christian attestation of the historicity of Jesus.

Cornelius Tacitus, another important Roman historian, lived approximately between AD 56 and 120. Modern historians view his Annals (which covers Roman emperors Augustus to Nero) to be the best source of information about this period in Roman history.

It is from Tacitus, for example, that we know that Nero blamed a devastating fire that happened in Rome in AD 64 on Christians. Wrote Tacitus: “Therefore, to squelch the rumor, Nero created scapegoats and subjected to the most refined tortures those whom the common people call ‘Christians,’ hated for their abominable crimes. Their name comes from Christ, who, during the reign of Tiberius, had been executed by the procurator Pontius Pilate.” 

Though scholars do not know where Tacitus obtained the information he used in Annals, they know he had access to the Acta Senatus, the Roman Senate’s archives of its activities. Those Roman records could have contained reports of Jesus’ crucifixion, and he could have retrieved the details from there. Or he could have learned the facts while he was proconsul in Asia.

Tacitus’ writing confirm the New Testament accounts that Tiberius and Pilate were in power when Jesus was crucified. Tacitus also points to the continued growth of Christianity in the years shortly after Jesus died, as reported in the New Testament book of Acts. His report clearly demonstrates the remarkable resolve of Jesus’ earliest followers, and the growth of the movement Jesus founded. It is because Tacitus is held in such high esteem by modern historians that his Annals carry such weight.

Professor Casey Elledge of Gustavus Adophus College holds this view of early non-Christian sources, including Tacitus, Josephus, and Seutonius:

“The testimonies of ancient historians offer strong evidence against a purely mythical reading of Jesus. In contrast to those who have denied the historical evidence of Jesus altogether, judging him merely to have been a mythological construct of early Christian thought, the testimonies of the ancient historians reveal how even those outside the early church regarded Jesus to have been a historical person. It remains difficult, therefore, if not impossible, to deny the historical existence of Jesus when the earliest Christians, Jewish and pagan evidence mention him.”


Paul

Paul’s writings are important because they are the earliest Christian documents and the earliest writings we have concerning Jesus as a historical person.

Within two years of Jesus’ death, Paul was actively hunting down His followers. But Paul did a complete about-face: from passionate persecutor of the early church to radical apostle for Jesus. So convinced was he of Jesus as Christ, that he helped to spread the Good News far and wide.

Did Paul meet Jesus personally? Historians suggest no. Did Paul personally know anyone who personally knew Jesus? Historians say yes. Three years after his “blinded by the light” conversion, Paul spent time with the disciple Peter, as well as James, the brother of Jesus, both of whom would eventually die for their faith. 

Paul is often faulted by skeptics for not laying out the history of Jesus’ life in the 13 letters (Pauline Epistles) that bear his name (scholars believe he wrote perhaps half of them). Yet to expect Paul to do so is ridiculous; his letters primarily focus on calling out specific concerns happening at specific churches.

Yet Paul clearly based many of his arguments on the assumption that Jesus did exist as a real person. We know that Paul saw Jesus as a Palestine Jew, a teacher/preacher, the son of a woman, and brother to siblings — and both fully human and divine. Paul was fully convinced that Jesus was the crucified messiah (a Hebrew word that translates to “anointed one”).

Jews, we must remember, were looking for their long-expected “messiah” to be a high and mighty figure, someone who would overthrow the enemy and set up God’s kingdom on earth. To invent such a demeaning death would have done Paul no favors in his attempt to grow a community of Christ-followers. Says Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:22-23: “Jews demanded signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”

As Ehrman says so matter-of-factly, “You can’t explain the crucified messiah as something that was made up. If it is hard to imagine Jews inventing the idea of a crucified messiah, where did the idea come from? It came from historical realities. There really was a man Jesus …. no Jew would have invented him.”

N.T. Wright, a leading English New Testament scholar, elaborates on the challenge for Gentiles to see Jesus as divine:

It flew in the face of all Hellenistic wisdom: part of the point of crucifixion was that it completely degraded the sufferer. It denied him any chance of a noble death, a considerable preoccupation among pagans. It also, in the normal run of things, denied him a proper burial as well, since the body would have been eaten by birds, rats, or other carrion and any final remains dumped in a common pit. The complete helplessness of crucifixion stood in sharp contrast to the Stoic, and indeed Socratic, ideal of the person who, perhaps through committing suicide, remained in control of their own fate.

Critics often use this argument to show just how “preposterous” it is to believe that God would come to earth and die. Logically, we humans can’t wrap our heads around it. I’ve been a Christian a long time and I still struggle with understanding why God would use this format to express His great love for us. But to imagine that my puny brain is capable of understanding God’s choices is what’s really preposterous. How, in any way, can I equate myself to the supernatural being who created DNA, much less sweet puppy kisses?


General Epistles

The Epistles found in our modern Bible were letters written to early churches and believers. It remains a mystery as to who authored some of them. But most scholars agree that the Epistles with known authors were written by an apostle or family member (James, Jude) of Jesus. That makes these letters very important for our study of the historicity of Jesus.

James makes no explicit reference to the person of the historical Jesus. But his references to “the wisdom …. from above” and “the righteous man” make it clear that he knew Jesus to be both human and God. Peter writes as one who had first-hand physical knowledge of Christ. Peter, you will remember, was a witness to the sufferings of Jesus, whom he wrote “suffered in the flesh.” Among New Testament writings, the letter to the Hebrews perhaps most clearly proclaims the gospel with the reality of Jesus as a historical figure. The book’s unknown author (perhaps Barnabas or Paul) writes repeatedly of Jesus’ obedience to God, including his painful, sacrificial death.

Per biblical scholars Richard Burridge and Graham Gould:

“Clearly, the debate here was not about what it means to call Jesus God, or Lord, or Christ, since that is taken for granted. Instead in these letters the question was the extent to which Jesus was human. …. It was the recognition that Jesus came ‘as a human among us’ which is crucial.”

The New Testament books would make no sense if they were written about a figure who did not historically exist. The Bible writers clearly and firmly believed that Jesus lived, died, and resurrected. 


Early Church Writings

The collection of writings from 1st- and 2nd-century Christian leaders, known collectively as the Apostolic Fathers, also prove helpful for our study. Let’s look briefly at two of these early leaders: Clement of Rome and Ignatius.

It is widely believed by historians that Clement personally knew the apostles, including Peter and Paul. After they were martyred, Clement became a leader of the church in Rome. Not much detail is known about Clement, but some of his writings provide valuable insight into the early church. His letter to the church at Corinth, for example, may be the earliest document we have outside of the New Testament.

Clement is best known for the letter ascribed to him, written to the church in Corinth, known as 1 Clement. The letter stresses the importance of the Corinth church to humbly interact with each other, in order to remain unified. To give power to his letter, Clement reminded his readers of his direct connection to Christ’s disciples. His teachings could be trusted, he was saying, because he personally learned from the disciples the teachings that Christ had personally given them. The Corinthians obviously agreed: Clement’s letter was read in the Corinthian church as part of the liturgy for many years.

Ignatius, a bishop of Antioch, was condemned to death in Rome in the early 2nd century. In several of his letters, he references the historical Jesus. In one letter to the church in Tralles, he writes:

Jesus Christ who was of the race of David, who was the Son of Mary, who was truly born and ate and drank, was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate, was truly crucified and died in the sight of those in heaven and on earth and those under the earth; who moreover was truly raised from the dead, His Father having raised Him, who in the like fashion will so raise us also who believe in Him.

Ignatius was clearly attempting to place the events of Jesus in the realm of history, in part because of the growing threat of Gnosticism, which I mentioned earlier. Gnostics refused to believe that Jesus was human, as they viewed physical matter as evil. They deemed the idea of God becoming human to be outrageous. This is one reason the writers of the New Testament so often described Jesus as “manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit.” They stress that He was buried, then “came in the flesh” to the disciples, that they might exam his physical wounds — which Scripture says they did.

The cross is critical to Christian belief. Not because Jesus hung there, but because He overcame death. If we downplay the severity of the torture Jesus endured on our behalf, or even suggest that Jesus didn’t really suffer, we cheapen His selfless act. God’s gift was costly. But because of it, we can know how far He is willing to go to reconcile us to Him. To be honest, I rejected this gift for many years because I hated the thought of Jesus humiliated and suffering in agony for me. But if we refuse to accept the cross, we will never fully love Jesus back with our whole heart.

Contemplating his own death, Ignatius rightly believed that if Christ had died only in appearance, his own willingness to sacrifice his life for Christ would have no meaning. It would be wasted effort. The early church grew because of this shared commitment to willingly follow in the footsteps of Christ. They were sold out for Jesus. Are we sold out, too?


Archeological Discoveries

So here’s the thing about archeology: it continues to validate Scripture! Every major city listed in the Gospels and Acts, for example, has been located and excavated! Scholars have recovered a number of amazing inscriptions, including one that mentions Pilate, the Roman governor who condemned Jesus to the cross. Think about how important that is!

Archaeological support of the Bible can’t be ignored. While no archeological evidence clearly points us to proof that Jesus existed — scholars have yet to discover any “Jesus slept here!” signs, for example — significant evidence does support cities and people described in the Bible. Therefore, we should give weight to the Bible’s claim that Jesus did exist.

It is exciting that each new discovery helps us to more clearly see the early church and how Jesus changed the lives of those who heard and accepted His message of grace and forgiveness.


Decide for Yourself if Jesus Lived

The bottom line: both Christian and secular scholars from a large cross-section of theological schools have concluded that we can have confidence that Jesus really lived — just as the Bible tells us.

Ehrman is just one scholar that asserts that too much evidence exists for anyone to say Jesus wasn’t born and crucified:

“The reality is that every single author who mentions Jesus — pagan, Christian, or Jewish — was fully convinced that He at least lived. Even the enemies of the Jesus movement thought so; among their many slurs against the religion, His nonexistence is never one of them…. Jesus certainty existed.

Ehrman gets sufficient push-back from modern skeptics on the validity of this “certainty,” but his point is well taken: Those who were closest to Jesus the man tell us that He did exist. If we choose to think them wrong, that’s on us.

Adds religious scholar and writer Reza Aslan, “The great Christian theologian Rudolf Bultmann liked to say that the quest for the historical Jesus is ultimately an internal quest. Scholars tend to see the Jesus they want to see. Too often they see themselves — their own reflection — in the image of Jesus they have constructed.”

If that’s the case, who do YOU say Jesus is? Myth? Man? Teacher? Savior? What makes you think so? 

I invite you to join us in our next post in this series as we begin to examine Jesus in greater detail. He made some lofty claims during His time on earth. Did He live up to them? Is it possible that He really is who He says He is?

p.s. Thanks for joining us for this weekly year-long blog series. Our goal is to strengthen your faith in the TRUTH of Jesus. Fortunately, we have plenty of FACTUAL EVIDENCE to do just that! As we get closer to our Easter celebration, be thinking about how you might share the GOOD NEWS with others!

 

Evidence book cover Apologists

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!

If you’d like to start from the first blog post in this series, click here: Apologetics: Apologizing for Believing in God?.



Archeology Validates Historicity of the Bible

archeology proves truthArtifacts Help Scholars Validate Scripture!

Archeology, a relative newcomer among the physical sciences, cannot “prove” the Bible is true. But archeology has provided exciting and dramatic confirmation of the Bible’s accuracy.

Per Yale archeologist Millar Burrows, an expert on the Dead Sea scrolls who was a professor emeritus at Yale Divinity School, archaeology has “unquestionably strengthened confidence in the reliability of the Scriptural record.”

Whole books are not large enough to contain all the finds that have bolstered scholastic confidence! Isn’t it comforting — and compelling — to know that so much evidence points to the Bible as being trustworthy?

Let’s look at just a few examples of how historical artifacts have validated Luke’s New Testament writings.


Archeology Supports the Amazing Accuracy of Luke’s Gospel

Archeology has absolutely confirmed historical detail that Luke included in his Gospel.

Luke’s primary focus in this book is meticulously showcasing who Jesus was — and what He came to do. He did so with facts, not fanciful detail.

At one time, however, scholars thought that Luke had entirely missed the boat regarding the events surrounding the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1-3). Critics argued that there was no census, that Quirinius was not governor of Syria at that time, and that everyone did not have to return to his ancestral home. But archeological discoveries show that the Romans had a regular enrollment of taxpayers and also held censuses every fourteen years. This procedure began under Augustus. Further, we find that Quirinius was, indeed, governor of Syria around 7 BC. It is supposed that he was governor twice, once in 7 BC and again in AD 6 (the date ascribed by Josephus.) A papyrus found in Egypt gives directions for the conduct of a census.

Concerning Luke’s ability as a historian, Sir William Mitchell Ramsey, one of the greatest archeologists to have ever lived, said, after 30 years of study, that, “Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy…this author should be placed along with the greatest of historians.”

As seen in the light of archeological evidence, the New Testament reflects the conditions of the second half of the first century AD, not the conditions of any later date. Historically, it is of the greatest importance that this has been so effectively established.


Archeology Supports the Reliability of the Books of Acts and the Epistles

Archeology has helped to identify the accuracy of detail in Luke’s writing of Acts. It’s impressive!

Thanks to archeological finds, most of the ancient cities mentioned in the book of Acts have been identified. The journeys of Paul can now be accurately traced as a result of these finds. In all, Luke names 32 countries, 54 cities, and nine islands without error!

In some cases, Luke’s usages of certain words were criticized by skeptics. For example, Luke refers to Philippi as a “district” of Macedonia, by using the Greek word meris. Some argued that meris referred to a “portion,” not a “district.” Archaeological excavations, however, have shown that this very word was used to describe the divisions of the district.

Still another case is Luke’s usage of politarchs to denote the civil authorities of Thessalonica. Since politarch is not found in the classic literature, Luke was again assumed to be wrong. (Poor Luke!) However, some nineteen inscriptions that make use of the title have been found. Interestingly enough, five of these are in reference to the city of Thessalonica. One of the inscriptions was discovered in a Roman arch at Thessalonica, and in it are found the names of six of that city’s politarchs.

Historian Colin Hemer catalogued numerous archeological and historical confirmations of Luke’s accuracy in his book The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History. In his detailed report, Hemer included specialized details, which would not have been widely known except to a contemporary researcher, such as Luke, who traveled widely. These details include exact titles of officials, identification of army units, and information about major routes. He also corroborates the dates of known kings and governors with the chronology of Luke’s narrative.

Though he was highly educated, I love Luke’s humble opening in his letter to Theophilus (Luke 1:1-4):

Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.

E. M. Blaiklock, previously a professor of classics at Auckland University, echoed Ramsey’s assessment of Luke by concluding, “Luke is a consummate historian, to be ranked in his own right with the great writers of the Greeks.”

Now we’re showing Luke some respect, people!


Will You Believe Luke’s Facts?

Some refuse to believe the Bible is true simply because none of the original Scriptural manuscripts (autographs) still exist. Yet they’ll trust that secular Classic literature has been reliably handed down — though autographs are missing for those works, as well. Here’s the thing about the Bible: when the facts are historically examined, they stand up. Luke is just one example of the Bible serving as a trustworthy resource, not fanciful drivel.

Others refuse to take the Bible as God’s Word because no one can prove that God actually exists. We can clearly see evidence of His design all around us, yet it’s ludicrous to them to credit God as being the Creator. They are only willing to accept what science proves. Interestingly, science can’t prove the origins of the universe, yet is willing to go to great lengths to assert the “truth” of secular theories.

Don’t choose to disbelieve the Bible simply because the scientific community says it’s bunk. Nor simply on the basis of your personal doubts. Search for answers! Absolute truth — contrary to what our postmodern society teaches — does exist.

Some of the greatest Scriptural finds to date have been made by persons, just like you and me, who decided to meticulously hunt for the truth. Some started as atheists even — including Josh McDowell.

Says Josh now: “As a young scholar I asked this question: How can I prove that Christianity is false? I traveled to many libraries in the U.S. and Europe in my search to find the answer. After trying to shatter the historicity, validity, and authenticity of the Scriptures, I came to the conclusion that the Bible is historically trustworthy. I also discovered that if one discards the Bible as being unreliable, then one must discard almost immediately all literature of antiquity.”

He adds, “One problem we constantly face is the desire on the part of many to apply one standard or test to secular literature and another to the Bible. One must apply the same test, whether the literature under investigation is secular or religious. Having done this, I believe we can hold the New Testament in our hands and say, ‘It is trustworthy and historically reliable.'”

See you next week when we address the question “Has the Old Testament been reliably transmitted?”

 

Evidence book cover Apologists

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!



8 Ancient Manuscripts That Validate the New Testament

Important early scriptural manuscripts that make the case for the reliability of the Bible.

The Bible we use today originates from really early historical documents. Scholars are able to assess the importance of a manuscript by how much of the Bible it includes, and by the date assigned to it. What factors help to determine the age of a manuscript? Lots of factors, including the material used, the letter size and form, text divisions, ornamentation, the color of the ink, and even Carbon-14 dating.

Let’s look at a handful of important early New Testament manuscripts that scholars have discovered so far. Each serves to validate that our modern Bible is, indeed, a reliable representation of those early writings.

manuscripts

John Rylands MS (AD 130)

This papyrus fragment, also known as “P52,” is encased within a climate-controlled cabinet located inside the John Rylands Library of Manchester, England. The manuscript fragment was among a group acquired on the Egyptian market in 1920, but not translated until 1934. The fragment contains words from the account of Jesus’ trial before Pilate. As the papyrus contains writing on both sides, it must be from a codex, a type of book, rather than a scroll. If you missed our earlier blog post on materials used to write the Bible, we invite you to give it a read. This portion of the Gospel of John is so old that it helps to confirm the traditional date of the composition of the Gospel to be about the end of the first century.

As writer Tim Challies says in his blog post The History of Christianity in 25 Objects, “This little scrap of papyrus is our oldest historical link to the New Testament Scriptures. It represents the thousands of manuscripts and fragments of manuscripts that have survived the centuries.”

He adds, “Of the manuscripts that remain to us today, no two are exactly the same. How then can we have confidence that the Bible we possess today is the Bible as God inspired and intended it? This is where we are grateful for the discipline of textual criticism. Textual critics are scholars who examine and evaluate all the surviving manuscripts in order to accurately reproduce the original text. And here we begin to see the importance of this little fragment of papyrus encased in glass in John Rylands Library. From this fragment we know that already in the first half of the second century there were Christians along the Nile and these Christians were reading the very same words of God that we read today.”


Bodmer Papyrus II (AD 150-200)

Martin Bodmer, who began amassing his collection of the world’s best books and early writings at the age of 16, died in 1971. He turned down an offer to sell his expansive collection. In 2003 the present Bodmer Library of World Literature opened in Cologny, near Geneva, Switzerland. Among the approximate 160,000 items is a copy of the Guttenberg Bible, and a group of manuscripts — “P66,” “P72,” and “P75,” some of the world’s earliest Christian writings.

“P66,” dating from AD 200 or earlier, contains most of John’s gospel. This codex is just one century removed from the time of the autograph (original text). “P72” is the earliest copy of the epistle of Jude and the two epistles of Peter. “P75,” which scholars date between AD 175 and 225, is the earliest known copy of the Gospel according to the Luke and one of the earliest of the Gospel according to John.


The Diatessaron (c. AD 170)

The Diatessaron, which means “Harmony of Four” was created by Tatian, a Christian writer in the second century. It combines the four canonical Gospels into a single harmonious narrative. Though Tatian closely followed the wording of the Gospels, he put the verses in a different sequence.

The Diatessaron was used as the standard Gospel text in the liturgy of the Syrian Church for two centuries. It has significance as an early manuscript because the remaining copies bear witness to the earlier Gospels.


A. Chester Beatty Papyri (AD 200)

These third century papyrus codices were purchased by British mining engineer A. Chester Beatty in the 1930s from a dealer in Egypt. Also known as “P45,” “P46,” and “P47,” they are housed in Beatty’s gift to the world: the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, Ireland.

“P45” contains part of a codex of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts. “P46” contains letters written by Paul: Romans, Hebrews, I and II Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, and I Thessalonians. “P47” contains the oldest known text of the Book of Revelation.


Codex Alexandrinus (Ad 400)

Located in the British Library in London, this early-5th century Greek manuscript contains almost the entire Bible. Interestingly, it is one of the earliest books to incorporate significant decoration to mark major divisions in the text.

Per the British Library website, “The beginning lines of each book are written in red ink and sections within the book are marked by a larger letter set into the margin. Words are written continuously in a large square uncial hand with no accents and only some breathing marks. It contains 773 pages, 630 for the Old Testament and 143 for the New Testament. Each page measures 32cm x 26.5 cm.”


Codex Bezae Cantabrigiensis (c. AD 450)

Located in the Cambridge University Library in England, the Codex Bezae dates from the 5th century. It uniquely contains the Gospels and Acts, in both Greek and Latin pages, which face each other. The only book that is complete is the Gospel of Luke; pages are missing from the other books. The codex was acquired by the theologian Theodore Beza in 1562 from a monastery in Lyon, France. He gifted it to the University in 1581.


Codex Vaticanus (AD 325-350)

Located in the Vatican Library in Rome since before 1475, this manuscript contains nearly all of the Bible. After a hundred years of textual criticism, many consider this codex to be one of the most trustworthy Greek manuscripts of the New Testament text.


Codex Sinaiticus (AD 350)

This extremely important manuscript, discovered in 1844 by Constantin von Tischendorf, a leading biblical scholar in his day, at the Monastery of St. Catherine at the foot of Mt. Sinai in Israel, is located in the British Library. The St. Catherine’s Monastery and libraries in Germany and in Russia hold a few separate pages. The manuscript contains almost all of the (4th century) New Testament and over half of the Old Testament. For the Gospel texts, its reliability is considered second only to the Codex Vaticanus. For Acts, its reliability is equal to the Codex Vaticanus, and for the epistles, its reliability is ranked first.

The discovery of this manuscript is a fascinating story. Tischendorf, while visiting St. Catherine’s, chanced to see some leaves of parchment in a waste basket of papers destined to light the oven of the monastery. Upon examination, they proved to be part of a copy of the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. Tischendorf retrieved from the basket no less than 43 leaves, no doubt horrified when a monk casually remarked that two basket loads of similarly discarded leaves had already been burned.


Great Reason to Believe

All told, the sheer number of New Testament manuscripts and the earliness of the extant manuscripts give us great reason to believe the New Testament accurately transmits the contents of the originals.

As we mentioned in a previous blog post titled Testing the Historical Reliability of the New Testament, of just the known 5,800+ Greek New Testament manuscripts, there are more than 2.6 million pages! That equates to one mile of New Testament manuscripts (and 2.5 miles for the entire Bible), compared with an average four feet of manuscript by the average classical writer. Combining both the Old and New Testament, we have more than 66,000 manuscripts and scrolls!

Is this interesting or what? It’s certainly factual information that you can share with critics who assert that the Bible has not been reliably passed down. Let’s keep going. Join us next week, when we look at how archaeology helps to confirm the historicity of the Bible.

 

Evidence book cover Apologists

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!



Testing the Historical Reliability of the New Testament

Vetted for Historical Reliability, the Bible Stands Strong.

Welcome to our ninth blog post in this series. If you’d like to catch up from the start, here’s the link to the first blog we posted: Apologetics: Apologizing for Believing in God?.

Apologetics — the defense of Christianity — is not about our apologizing for our Christian beliefs, but rather our sharing of the plethora of historical evidence that confirms the Bible’s validity — and, thus, Christ’s claims. We can all be confident apologists.

No more replying, “I don’t know if there’s evidence for that.” Armed with facts, you’ll be able to have a respectful, impactful conversation with skeptics about the truth of the Gospel.

reliability

The Abundance of Biblical Manuscripts

Scholars believe the New Testament manuscripts to be the most frequently copied and widely distributed books of antiquity. The abundance of Scriptural manuscript copies have made it possible to reconstruct the original text with virtually complete accuracy. The authenticity of the New Testament text we have today rests on the foundation of a massive amount of historical documentation.

A great source for manuscript study, should you choose to invest some time doing so, is the Leuven Database. Another is the Center for the Study of the New Testament Manuscripts. It fills me with awe to view a sixth century papyrus fragment containing the writing of Luke!

QUESTION: If stacked, how high do you think the New Testament manuscripts would be? Go on, take a guess!

Some facts:

* The earliest manuscript of plays by Sophocles, one of three great tragic playwrights of Athens, is about 3rd century BC, with about 200 extant manuscripts.

* The earliest of Plato’s Tetralogies (many of his works were compiled into groups of four called “Tetralogies”) is AD 895, with 200+ extant manuscripts.

* The earliest surviving manuscript of Homer’s The Iliad, which highlights the final weeks of the Trojan War, is about 400 BC. More manuscript discoveries have been made of this epic poem than any other classical work, yet the number of extant manuscripts is less than 2,000.

* Of just the 5,800+ Greek New Testament manuscripts, there are more than 2.6 million pages! Combining both the Old and New Testament, we have more than 66,000 manuscripts and scrolls!

ANSWER: That equates to one mile of New Testament manuscripts (and 2.5 miles for the entire Bible), compared with an average four feet of manuscript by the average classical writer.

Writes New Testament scholars and biblical linguistic experts Stanley E. Porter and Andrew W. Pitts:

When compared with other works of antiquity, the New Testament has far greater (numerical) and earlier documentation than any other book. Most of the available works of antiquity have only a few manuscripts that attest to their existence, and these are typically much later than their original date of composition, so that it is not uncommon for the earliest manuscript to be dated over nine hundred years after the original composition.


Reliability: Passing the Bibliographic Test

To further your growing knowledge, let’s look at the bibliographical test, which scholars employ to determine the historical reliability of any and all ancient literature, including the New Testament.

Scholars must use the bibliographic test with all ancient literature — including the non-Christian classics — as no original documents of any ancient literature exists.

The bibliographical test looks at manuscript transmission — how documents reach us. As scholars do not have the original documents of the Scriptures, they have had to determine if the existing (extant) copies of the originals are reliable The greater the number of copies, and the earlier their dating, the easier it is to reconstruct a text closer to the original and identify errors or discrepancies in subsequent copies.

Scholars representing different specialties and eras agree that bibliographical test validates and confirms that the New Testament has been accurately transmitted throughout the centuries.

So any skeptic choosing to reject the transmissional reliability of the Bible employs an obvious double standard. To reject the Bible’s vetted reliability requires also considering unreliable all other manuscripts of antiquity.

Says New Testament scholar J. Harold Greenlee in his Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism:

Since scholars accept as generally trustworthy the writings of the ancient classics even though the earliest manuscripts were written so long after the original writings and the number of extant manuscript is in many instances so small, it is clear the reliability of the text of the New Testament is likewise assured.

Is that cool or what? Some great information to have on hand and share the next time you’re asked why you believe in the Bible. In next week’s post we’ll look at eight tests that prove the accuracy of the New Testament accounts. See you then!

 

Evidence book cover Apologists

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE.

 



Does History Reliably Prove the Bible’s Gospels?

Historical Reliability Confirms the Gospels. Truth.

The historical reliability of the Bible can be tested by the same criteria by which all historical documents are tested. The Christian faith, after all, is tied to specific historical events that can be confirmed through multiple sources. It is not, as one critics assert, “just a bunch of made-up stories.”

Donald Hagner, professor emeritus of New Testament at Fuller Tehological Seminary, explains the connection between the Christian faith and real historical events this way:

“True Christianity, the Christianity of the New Testament documents, is absolutely dependent on history. At the heart of the New Testament faith is the assertion that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). The incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as a real event in time and space, i.e., as historical realities, are the indispensable foundations of the Christian faith. To my mind, then, Christianity is best defined as the recitation of, the celebration of, and the participation in God’s acts in history, which as the New Testament writings emphasize have found their culmination in Jesus Christ.

Gospels

Tests to Prove Gospel Reliability

Three specific tests that scholars, researchers, and archaeologists use to determine a document’s authenticity include the bibliographical test, the internal evidence test, and the external evidence test. As the original autographs of the New Testament books have not been found, scholars must examine the early handwritten copies of these Scriptures. Do they stand up to the question of “Is this really true?” Or are Christians simply clinging to “blind faith”?

I like what Dr. Steven Collins says in the start of his talk titled “Confirming the Bible Through Archaeology“:

If the realities of the events and the world presented to us on the pages on the Bible didn’t actually occur, then where in the world do we get off on trying to believe and place our lives on the invisible stuff? If you can’t trust the Bible for what you can see and test and dig up, then all of that other stuff, how would you put your trust in that? I don’t think it would be a smart bet to do it!”


Dating the Four Gospels and Book of Acts

When scholars assign dates to manuscripts, we find that those dates sometimes vary not just by a few years or even decades but even by centuries. Why is this? One major reason is the personal worldview and and presuppositions that scholars and researchers bring to their study of Scripture.

Conservative scholars tend to date the New Testament Gospels earlier that do liberal scholars. Conservative scholars, for example, date the book of Matthew to be early AD 60s-80, while liberal scholars date the writings at AD 80-100. Conservative scholars date the book of John at mid AD 60s-100, liberal scholars date the writing at AD 90-100. All scholars, however, typically place the date of Jesus’ death around the year AD 30, and Paul’s letters (the earliest New Testament books) in the decade of the 50s. So we can use those dates as starting points.

Matthew

When was this gospel written? A confirmation of the date of Matthew’s writing comes from an external source: a report by Irenaeus, a second-century church father, who said that Matthew composed his gospel “while Peter and Paul were preaching the Gospel and founding the church in Rome.” The only time that we know that Peter and Paul were together in the capitol of the Roman Empire was the early to mid-60s.

Those who reject this timing do so because Matthew writes of Jesus predicting the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem (Matthew 24: 1, 2), which happened in AD 70. These scholars argue that Matthew must have been written after the event, because they don’t believe in predictive prophesy. But if it can be demonstrated that supernatural events can and do, occur, this argument simply doesn’t hold up.

Another reason scholars give for proposing a later date relates to Matthew’s writing of the tensions between Pharisaic Judaism and Christian Judaism. Some argue that these tensions reflect the latter half of the first century, during the war with Rome that left these groups as the only two surviving forms of Judaism. This argument, however, ignores that the tensions had already started in the 60s. Matthew records Jesus at odds with Sadducees and other leaders, not just the Pharisees.

A third reason for proposing a later date for the gospel of Matthew is that the book of Mark was likely written first, and Mark is thought to have been written in the 70s. But Mark could very well have been written in the later 50s or 60s.

Mark

Though many scholars believe the book of Mark was the first gospel written, probably within 25 years of Jesus ascending to heaven, it is notoriously difficult to date. Early church tradition defines Mark as an associate of Peter. This is because of the considerable amount of attention the gospel of Mark gives to Peter, and the fact that Peter is mentioned near the beginning and the end of the narrative (Mark 1:16, 16:7). The majority of Mark’s oral materials were the result of his regular contact with Peter. Mark would most likely have been written before Peter was martyred (AD 65), or shortly thereafter.

A bilingual Hellenist, John Mark — John was his Hebrew name and Mark his Greek name — was a cousin of the wealthy Cyprian landowner Barnabas (Colossians 4:10, Acts 4:36), and would have been a very young man at the time of Christ’s crucifixion. His wealthy family occupied a significant place in early Christian communities, first in Jerusalem and later Antioch. His mother’s house in Jerusalem served as a gathering point for believers; Mark would have interacted with these believers closely.

Peter, later writing from Rome, would refer to Mark as “my son” (1 Peter 5:13), giving evidence of the closeness of their relationship. Mark joined his cousin Barnabas and Paul in their early travels from Antioch (Acts 12:25; 13:2-3) and, in spite of a falling out (Acts 13:13; 15:36-39), Mark later worked closely with Paul, even being summoned to Paul’s last imprisonment in Rome (2 Timothy 4:11). Some of Mark’s insights into Jesus’ significance may have come from Paul, to whom Jesus appeared (1 Corinthians 15:8).

Luke-Acts

The gospel of Luke and the book of Acts are often referred to together as “Luke-Acts” because Luke wrote both of these accounts, probably within a close time period. Although the date of Luke continues to be debated, it is generally agreed that Luke wrote his gospel before Acts and after Mark. Luke’s writings talk about Jesus’ ministry, and provide an account of the progress of the gospel after His death. Although Luke does not explicitly quote from Paul’s letters, his writings reflect the influence of Paul’s thoughts. The best estimate for the dating of Acts places the work between AD 62 and 64. Some factors can be listed that make a strong case for this:

* Luke mentions the city of Jerusalem about 30 times in his gospel, and about 60 times in the book of Acts; far more times than any other New Testament writer. Luke fails to mention the destruction of the Jewish temple, which took place in AD 70. It makes sense, then, to date the book of Acts before the temple was destroyed.

* Acts does not mention the severe persecutions of the Roman emperor Nero, which started in the mid-60s. If written during this period, surely Luke would have recorded this dark period of the early church. Luke does not mention the wars against the Romans, which began in AD 66.

* Luke records the martyrdoms of Stephen and James the brother of John, but is silent on the martyrdoms of Peter, Paul, and James. These three prominent figures died between AD 61 and 67. If Luke wrote Acts after their deaths, he probably would have recorded them in his history of the early church.

John

Throughout John’s gospel, we see Jesus in human form, compassionately interacting with the very humanity for whom He came to save. That makes it, perhaps, the most relatable gospel. John’s single focus: for us to recognize that Jesus is the Christ.

Scholars suggest a wide possible timeframe for the date of John’s writings; that any date between about AD 55 and 95 is possible. This is because no argument tied to a specific date is entirely convincing. Because of John’s emphasis on Jesus as the divine Son of God, however, many liberal scholars lean toward a later writing date, supposing that such a high view of Jesus’ divinity did not form until later in history. Some scholars believe John’s gospel was penned shortly before his letters, which were written in the 90s in response to gnostic misinterpretations of his gospel. This would place his gospel as likely being written in the 80s.


The Question to Ask of the Gospels

It is doubtful that there ever was a substantial period of time in which the early church lacked written accounts of Jesus’ ministry; it’s more a question of recognizing that the materials on which they were written had a limited shelf life. As we covered in a previous post, the early writers had to rely on papyrus and parchment. We’re fortunate for the availability of eyewitnesses and the reliability of oral tradition, as well as the fact that for centuries Scripture has been scrutinized to confirm its God-breathed truth.

It can be reasonably argued that all four biographies of Jesus, as well as the book of Acts, were written within a few decades — and certainly within a century — of the events they describe. Even most non-Christian scholars acknowledge this and place the canonical Gospels and Acts securely within the first century. But even if a radically late dating were correct, we would still have records for the events surrounding the origin of Christianity that are earlier than those sometimes used to support unquestioned events in history.

So, knowing that the Gospels enjoy historical validation, let’s look at their message. Are the Gospels true? Why do we need to care? Pastor Steven J. Cole has a ready answer:

“If Jesus is who the Bible portrays Him to be and who He claimed to be—the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God—then the only sensible response is to trust Him as your Savior from sin and judgment and to follow Him as your Lord. If He is not who the Bible portrays Him to be, then you’re wasting your time being a Christian, because you’re following a fictional character. ‘Who do you say that I am? is the crucial question in life!”

The Bible is God’s Word to us, and the Gospels his Love Song. Have confidence that God longs to have a relationship with you. We can trust the Good News!

 

Evidence book cover Apologists

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!

 



An Investigation: Materials Scribes Used to Write the Bible

Scribes Recorded Bible

How did scribes record the ancient scriptures?

Before the invention of the printing press, the only way to duplicate a manuscript was to spend hours (weeks? months? years?) laboriously copying it by hand. Note: It took one modern scribe four years, of writing up to 14 hours a day with fine-tipped markers, to handwrite a copy of the Bible! Can you imagine the pressure of not screwing up and having to start over?

Scribes in biblical times used primarily two writing surfaces on which to record scripture: plant fibers and animal skins. The oldest known papyrus (plant) fragment dates back to 2400 BC. Parchment (leather) scrolls have survived from about 1500 BC. To a lesser degree, scribes also used pottery chards, stones inscribed with an iron pen, clay tablets engraved with a sharp instrument and dried, and wax tablets created by covering a flat piece of wood with wax.


Materials Scribes Used for Paper and Pen

Papyrus, a paper made from reeds, was the most common writing material available in biblical times. The papyrus plant grew in the shallow lakes and rivers of Egypt and Syria. As large shipments of papyrus were distributed through the Syrian port of Byblos, scholars surmise that the Greek word for book — biblos — comes from the name of this port. The English word paper comes from the Greek word for papyrus, which is papyros.

To make papyrus, the thick stems of the plant reeds were stripped and cut lengthwise into thin, narrow slices before being beaten and pressed together into two layers set at right angles to each other. The two layers were then moistened, pressed together, and smoothed down. The reeds produced a natural adhesive as they were pressed together. Any jagged edges were trimmed off and the sheet cut to the desired size. When dry, the surface was polished smooth with a stone or other implement. Scribes were aided in writing straight lines by the lines that were naturally created by the fibers of the plant.

The inks they used were typically compounded from charcoal, gum, and water. Better inks were created in the 3rd century BC from gallnuts, which are growths or blisters that form on leaves, twigs, and buds of certain oak trees attacked by gall wasps. Iron Gall inks, as they are now called, became a permanent jet-black color when dried. The pens used by scribes to write on the papyrus and parchment were fashioned from reeds and quills.

Beyond papyrus, scribes used parchment and vellum as their writing surfaces. These leathers were more readily available in Palestine, as they didn’t have to be imported from Egypt. Parchment and vellum were made by scraping shaved animal skins (sheep, goat, lamb, calf, etc.) with a pumice stone to create a smooth writing surface. Vellum, the higher quality of the two, was often dyed purple and usually written upon with gold or silver inks.

Archaeologists have found both ancient scrolls and books (called codices) made from these sources. Scribes made the scrolls by gluing papyrus sheets together, or sewing parchment together with sinews from the muscles of a calf’s leg and winding the strips of skin around a stick. Though the average scroll was less than 40 feet long, large scrolls were difficult to handle. When scribes began making codices instead, by assembling sheets in leaf form and binding them between covers, the scriptures became much easier to handle and disseminate. Too, it became much easier to locate and read specific scriptures.

The most numerous historical items found by archaeologists as they excavate ancient sites are broken pieces of pottery called ostraca. Unglazed, earthen vessels were commonly used in biblical times, so the broken fragments were easy to come by, and offered a much cheaper alternative to papyrus and parchment. Archaeological excavations in Israel and Jordan have uncovered numerous ostraca from biblical times. Three collections dating back to the seventh and eighth centuries BC confirm details of historical information found in the Bible. These important artifacts are called the Samaria ostraca, the Arad ostraca, and the Lachish ostraca.

Most ostraca were written with ink, but some were incised with a sharp instrument. Smaller pieces of pottery were easily portable, so many of the smaller pottery chards found to date record aspects of daily life: tax records, taxes, letter, notes, receipts, and more. A lot like our note pads today!


The Challenge for Modern Scholars

The difficulty with discovering a handwritten copy of the Scriptures lies in the fact that it was written upon perishable materials. Papyrus did not survive well for any length of time, except in dry areas such as the sands of Egypt or in caves such as the Qumran caves in which more than 800 scrolls — called the Dead Sea Scrolls for the 11 caves along the northwest shore of Israel’s Dead Sea in which they were first discovered — in the late 1940s by Bedouin shepherds.

Papyrus was much less durable than parchment and vellum, which is why most early scriptures written on papyrus only exist in pieces, if at all. Trying to handle these delicate artifacts without damaging them further has proven painstakingly difficult. Fortunately, advances in technology now enable scholars to “digitally unwrap” ancient scrolls too delicate or damaged to touch to read their written text.

One technology, a computer imaging program called Volume Cartography, was developed by University of Kentucky computer scientist W. Brent Seales. Scientists used the technology to digitally unroll and read a badly charred Hebrew scroll first discovered in the 1970s near the Dead Sea.

To the naked eye, the scroll looks like a lump of black charcoal. So researchers were amazed to discover, after it was scanned, that the En-Gedi scroll contains the first two chapters of the Book of Leviticus. Scholars believe the writing is identical to the Masoretic Text (the authoritative Hebrew manuscript of the Old Testament). This suggests that the scroll is possibly the earliest copy of a Pentateuchal book (first five books of the Old Testament) yet discovered.

Fragments of every book of the Hebrew canon (Old Testament) have been discovered to date, with the exception of the book of Esther. These scrolls are priceless, as they are the oldest group of Old Testament manuscripts ever uncovered. Some of the major collections of Hebrew codices and their remains are located at the Vatican Library, the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, the Russian State Library in Moscow, the National Library in Jerusalem, and the British Library in London.

What’s interesting, as additional ancient manuscripts are found, is how they collectively validate the Scriptures included in our modern Bible. Christian apologists typically employ the bibliographical test to substantiate the transmissional reliability of the Bible. The bibliographical test examines the overall number of extant manuscripts and the difference between the date of original writing, called the autograph, and the date of the earliest surviving, or extant, manuscript. Since we do not possess the autograph of even one ancient document, this test best determines transmissional accuracy for any ancient document. As the Bible outstrips every other ancient manuscript in sheer number and earliness to the autograph, then the Old and New Testaments have a solid basis to evaluate how accurately they have been transmitted.


So Who Put the Bible Together?

If you’re thinking that it was Constantine, an emperor of Rome who championed Christianity after the severe Diocletian persecution, you’re mistaken. Perhaps you got that idea from watching or reading The DaVinci Code? It’s among the many wrong “facts” asserted by author Dan Brown. A fun read perhaps, but definitely a work of fiction. Some Christians, unfortunately, are easily confused by fiction because they don’t know much about church history OR what’s in the Bible. (Case in point: Does anyone really think Noah interacted with giant rock-beings, as the Hollywood version of that movie suggests? Please say no!)

In 313 AD, Constantine and his co-emperor Licinius issued the famous Edict of Milan, declaring Christianity to be a legal religion. While Constantine did commission scribes to produce 50 copies of the Scriptures “in a convenient, portable form,” so they could be used in the many churches he built in his capital city, Constantinople, Constantine himself played no direct role in determining the contents of the Bible. In our next blog post in this series, we’ll shed light on who did. Stay tuned!

 

Evidence book cover Apologists

This blog post highlights Josh and Sean McDowell’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict. We are certain this fully updated and expanded resource will be an effective evangelism tool for you, and strengthen your faith by answering the toughest questions tossed to you by skeptics. Know what you know, because it’s true. But share this truth with LOVE!

 



Biblical Scripture: Truth or Tale?

Can we Believe What We Read in Scripture?


The idea that “what’s true for you isn’t necessarily true for me” can lead a person to the conclusion that the moral truths from the Bible are all just a matter of opinion. But this conclusion simply reveals our confusion over the concepts of truth and belief.

We are all entitled to our own beliefs, which describe the way we subjectively think the world is. Truth, however, objectively describes the state of the world. Thus, our beliefs can be relative, but truth cannot. 

So it makes no sense to say, “It’s true for you, but not for me.” Truth doesn’t change; only our perception of it changes.

The sky, for example, might look baby blue to you, but robin blue to me. We can stridently argue our personal belief all day long, confident we’re right, but once we pull out the color wheel, the true color would be revealed. At least as long as the color wheel is rightly viewed as objective truth.

Similarly, many people argue over the “truth” of Scripture. Can the Bible, they ask, really be trusted to be from God? After all, wasn’t it written by a bunch of writers over a long period of time? Surely the Bible is merely these men’s take on life, rather than God really speaking?

Is Scripture the “Word” of God?

God, indeed, chose to use more than forty different writers, from every walk of life, over a span of fifteen hundred years, to convey his objective truth. 

We’re talking statesmen, masters, servants, tentmakers, tax collectors, shepherds, soldiers, poets, prophets, a physician, monarchs, and rough and tumble fishermen. Some of the writers wrote from despair, others joy. Some during times of certainty and conviction, others during periods of confusion and doubt. And they wrote in a variety of places: a palace, a prison, the wilderness, a dungeon, on a hillside, and on an island in exile.

Each brought differing talents and educational levels. Each brought his unique personality. Each brought his unique perspective of life. Each was 100 percent human. But the writers cited God as the author of Scripture, not themselves. They acknowledged that they were merely conduits that God used to highlight His message.

God chose Israel’s King David, for example, to record valuable lessons on failings, sin, suffering, loss, repentance, and forgiveness. David, you will remember, enjoyed great victories in his life when he wholeheartedly sought after God. But he also endured miserable failures and suffering because of his murder, adultery, and other sin. David’s most important message to us might be that God’s love for us is unconditional and unfailing, and that God willingly offers us forgiveness when we ask.

Moses’ personal experiences uniquely prepared him to be God’s spokesman for the first five books of the Bible. Brought up as a prince in the halls of Egyptian power, Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. He was just the man God needed to lead the children of Israel from their Egyptian bondage into the Promised Land, and communicate God’s expectations of how God’s people would differentiate their conduct from the rest of the world’s.

The apostle Paul’s background and life experiences — including his tenure as a tenacious and ruthless enemy of Christ — also were effectively used by God to spell out the amazing message of love, grace, and salvation through Jesus. Paul wrote many of his New Testament letters from prison. No matter the hardship he faced, Paul’s allegiance to Christ never wavered. He knew that he knew that he knew that he served the Risen Lord.

God even used Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, to show us that wisdom is a useless gift if we don’t choose to use it. Now that’s a sad story there! I can’t even image how Solomon, who was given the privilege of personally hearing from God, chose to also worship many of the foreign gods that his 700 wives worshipped. That’s major stupidness right there, people!

How kind of God to provide us with written documents that showcase His heart and mind. With this unique partnership between God and human writers, the sixty-six books of the Bible can rightly be called the “Word of God.” We can rest assured that the contents of the Bible have been vetted and are valid.

The Measuring Rod of the Canon 

At first, the Gospel message was spread by the disciples by word of mouth. But once the apostles’ writings began to be circulated, the Gospel message was transformed into a ministry of multiplication that fueled the spread of Christ’s message exponentially. Believers receiving these writings knew they had come from men who had known Jesus personally or were considered authorities on Him and His teachings.

Over the next two hundred years, the fledging church experienced explosive multiplicative growth, quadrupling every generation for five consecutive generations. We’re talking millions of believers! Again, it was the writing of the apostles, or men close to and endorsed by them, that each group believed were supernaturally guided by God to reveal the teachings and truth about Jesus.

From biblical and church history, we find at least four measurements that guided early church leaders in determining which Scriptures were authentic. This discovery process led to the inclusion of a certain group of books commonly referred to as the canon of Scripture. Canon comes from the Greek word kanon, meaning “measuring rod” or “rule.” The four measurements that had to be met:

  • The writing was authored by an apostle or prophet of God or by someone closely connected with one or more of the apostles or prophets.
  • The writings clearly evidenced the confirming power and presence of God.
  • The message was consistent with other recognized Scripture.
  • The writing was widely accepted by the Church from an early date.

Were there other writings that could have been included? Sure. But many were rejected because they contradicted the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and Paul’s epistles. Some of the contradictory teachings included the idea of multiple creators, that salvation is assured by “spiritual knowledge,” and that ignorance is at the root of humanity’s problem.The most definitive recognition that the whole of the Old Testament was God-breathed came from none other than Jesus himself. He quoted and repeatedly taught from the Old Testament.

Is the Bible the only teaching that God uses to reach us? No. Many writers have since penned songs, books, and other media that speak to our personal issues. But we can know with certainty that the Bible, the basis of our Christian belief, is objectively true. To know Scripture is to know when we’re living life according to God’s truth.

God’s Word Endures Despite Persecution

Many attempts have been made to destroy the Bible, but it has survived even amid great persecution. In AD 303, for example, the Roman emperor Diocletian issued an edict to stop Christians from worshipping and to destroy their Scriptures. Twenty-five years later, the historic irony of this event was noted by Eusebius, a fourth-century historian, when he recorded that the Roman emperor Constantine ordered fifty copies of the Scriptures to be prepared at the government’s expense.

Voltaire, the esteemed eighteenth-century French writer and skeptic, predicted that within a hundred years of his time, Christianity would be but a footnote in history. But it was Voltaire who ended up the footnote. God’s Word continues to inspire millions.

H. L. Hastings, the noted nineteenth-century scholar and writer puts the Bible’s unsinkability this way: “Infidels for eighteen hundred years have been refuting and overthrowing this book, and yet it stands today as solid as a rock. Its circulation increases, and it is more loved and cherished and read today than ever before. Infidels, with all their assaults, make about as much impression on this book as a man with a tack hammer would on the Pyramids of Egypt … If this book had not been the book of God, men would have destroyed it long ago. Emperors and popes, kings and priests, princes and rulers have all tried their hand at it; they die and the book still lives.”

If this book had not been the book of God, men would have destroyed it long ago. That one line, in particular, stands out to me. Because our God is the creator of the universe, nothing He creates can ever be stamped out. Perhaps one reason the Bible has endured until now is so that YOU have the chance to read it. So whynot crack open your Bible (you have at least one lying around, right?) and begin to hear what God wants to say to YOU.

Thought to Ponder

As cultural tolerance grows, it becomes more important that our beliefs about life be based on the solid rock of God’s Scriptures. It’s time to get serious about knowing God’s Word. If you don’t know how God views your daily struggles, you will never understand the depth of love, compassion, and grace He has for you. You will never know the power and comfort His word can give you when you need it most. This week, give God a chance to speak to you through His Word. You might start with one of our daily devotionals.

The Beauty of Intolerance by Josh and Sean McDowell

 

This blog post has been adapted from the book The Beauty of Intolerance, by Josh and Sean McDowell. To purchase a copy of this and other helpful resources, please visit our Store page.

 



Religious Freedom: Still an American Hallmark?

Religious Freedom + Cultural Tolerance = ?

religious freedom
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

When the First Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution, it was designed to erect a “wall of separation.” Not, as some think, to keep religion out of politics. Rather, the amendment was added to the Constitution to ensure that the government is thwarted in any attempt to limit the religious freedom of any American citizen. 

But our Constitution is under attack. Are you aware, for example, that a recent government report, titled Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Nondiscrimination Principles with Civil Liberties, appears to be fully committed to controlling religious freedom in America?

In his letter attached to the report, Martin R. Castro, chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, writes, “The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, or any form of intolerance.” Adds Castro, “…today, as in the past, religion is being used as both a weapon and a shield by those seeking to deny others equality.”

Those statements are so far from the heart of Christianity, that it’s hard to read them without shaking my head. Unfortunately, in large part because of cultural tolerance, many Americans now truly believe that God’s way are archaic and intolerant. And many don’t grasp the dangers associated with religious freedom becoming a norm of the past.

Growing Intolerance for Christianity? 

Despite our Constitutional protections, many government — and civic — leaders are pushing for society’s full embrace of self “truth.” Everyone, they assert, should have the right to believe and act as they want — without societal condemnation. My right to abortion, says one, trumps the Christian view that abortion is murder. My right to happiness, says another, trumps the Christian view that some lifestyle choices are “sinful” to God.

Who are you to tell me how to live, you hateful, bigoted, intolerant Christian?

Sigh. I don’t know about you, but I get sad when I hear that line. Perhaps because I want people to be happy. I want people to feel accepted. I want people to feel good about who they are. I really wish the world could function with each of us merrily rolling through life with whatever belief system we pick. But that world, very quickly (as we are daily seeing), turns into a self-indulgent mess due to a slippery moral code. Sinful choices lead to fear, pain, and hatred. And not just hatred of others, but deep, demoralizing self-hatred. It hurts my heart that suicide rates continue to climb in America, most markedly among adolescent girls.

For reasons I don’t fully understand, those who hate God truly believe that a world erased of Judeo-Christian influence will somehow lead to a utopia not possible under God’s influence. On the one hand I respect anyone who passionately believes in and furthers a cause. But on the other, it saddens me when I can clearly see where they are misguided. Convinced they are doing good, they may be hastening the downfall of America. As one lawyer plainly put it, “Once America loses her religious freedom, all of the other freedoms will go, too.”

Why? Because when a society chooses to remove itself from the authority of a higher power, man becomes the architect of right and wrong. Our founding fathers clearly understood the inherent dangers with our government holding such power.

(Source: davegranlund.com)

In an article writer Nicholas Senz penned for The Federalist, Senz writes, “The First Amendment prohibits the government from establishing a religion. But when the federal government declares ideas that everyone held until five minutes ago, supported by reason and lived out with compassion, as de facto hateful and criminal (“first they came for the photographers and bakers…”), then the government is essentially creating a new public faith and forcing everyone to adhere to it.” 

According to First Liberty Institute, some of the best lawyers in our country are hard at work, daily defending and protecting the religious freedoms of all Americans. Cheerleaders banned from painting scripture verses on cheer banners. School coaches banned for leading their sports teams in prayer. A U.S. Marine court-martialed for refusing to remove Bible verses in her workspace. An Oregon bakery fined for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.

Can those who demand tolerance for all lifestyle choices also refuse to offer the same tolerance to Christians? Not if the goal is true tolerance. If religious rights are removed from America, it will be to ensure control of society norms.

Per the example of Jesus, we know that true Christianity offers people the freedom to choose whether they will follow Him. You and I know that only through complete freedom can a person truly love Jesus. When the Church is guilty of coercion and hatred, it needs to repent and beg forgiveness for being so human.

What Awaits Us in the Future?

As evidenced by the presidential election, our country is clearly divided on whether Christian values should still be respected and followed. But even if society does manage to legally remove our right to religious freedom (We must diligently fight to retain this right for all religions!), will it succeed in binding the power of Christ? Nope. It’s simply not possible. God is our creator; His influence is, and always will be, ever present. The Bible tells us that if man won’t do it, the very rocks will cry out in praise of the creator!

As followers of Christ, we are called to actively live out our faith. By its very nature, Christianity is missional. God directs us to be His hands and feet. We are to get involved in the lives of others. To love, forgive, exhort, and be a blessing to others. And when given the opportunity, to help people come to a deep understanding of how much God loves us all. We must stay active, even in a culture that increasingly resents God. The Bible warns us to not be surprised when society abandons His principles. In John 15:18, for example, Jesus said, “If the world hates you, remember it hated me first.”

What do we do with such hate when we’re trying so hard to daily get past our own human failings to reflect even a glimmer of Christ’s love? We might follow the example of Daniel, who, per the Old Testament, found himself in a lion’s den because of his unwavering commitment to God’s standards.

Daniel trained in the courts of the great Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar for three years to prepare to enter into royal service. Though pressured to conform to Babylonian thought and practices, Daniel consistently and repeatedly held fast to his moral convictions, even to the threat of death. Let us, likewise, stay committed, when this crazy world pressures us to cave in or face the consequences.

Those of us who believe in Him understand that God, not our government, is in control of America. He holds the globe in the palm of His hand. Let us rest in that calm, that we might be a loving, calming influence on a world that seems to grow ever darker and chaotic. Let love flow, and let it begin with those who love Jesus.

Thought to Ponder

It’s time to grow up, grow in, and grow out. By growing up, we take responsibility for being aware of the state of our country and our world. Where do we need to actively engage to thwart Satan’s wins, including the debate on religious freedom? By growing in, our Christian maturity becomes paramount. Who is this Jesus we follow? Why do we love Him so? How can we love others? By growing out, we are intentional in helping  those in need and hurt. How, this week, can you take action in growing up, growing in, and growing out? Start by getting fruity (Galatians 5:19-23), to offer the world your best self. #growupinout

The Beauty of Intolerance by Josh and Sean McDowell

 

This blog post has been adapted from the book The Beauty of Intolerance, by Josh and Sean McDowell. To purchase a copy of this and other helpful resources, please visit our Store page.

 



The Bible: Just a Rule Book of “Thou Shalt Nots”?

blog_intolerance_devotion_smA lot of people get hung up on what they see as the Bible’s negativity.

The Bible gets a bum rap for being “negative,” for being a bunch of rules one has to follow, if God is to be good to us. God’s Word definitely contains “Thou shalt nots,” but God’s intention is not to limit our human experience. 

Rather, God’s standards are designed to help us to make wise choices that will lead to our experiencing whole, satisfying lives. Lives that honor God. Lives that give us strength and stability in this crazy world.

If we trust God — and we must make that leap of faith, if we’re to follow Him whole-heartedly — we will trust that He has, as the Bible states in Jeremiah 29:11, plans for us that work for our good.

Even when difficult, painful things happen to us. Even when we don’t get the things we pray for. Even when it feels like God isn’t with us. If we don’t turn to scripture, to remind ourselves of God’s promises of His faithfulness and love, we can get in the destructive habit of allowing ourselves to doubt that God exists or cares. 

Do you renew your mind with scripture? Or is your Bible closed, gathering dust, because you view its contents to be likewise dry and dusty, with no application for the right now? Friends, if that’s where you are in your Christian walk, you’re missing out! I’m here to testify that if you will begin to seriously spend time meeting God in His word, He will blow you away with just how relevant His word is to modern life!

By the way, here’s what a recent study uncovered on how millennials view the Bible. (Surprise, surprise: they prefer reading it in print, rather than online!)

Slippery Slope of Self “Truth”

One has merely to observe human history to see that God is routinely pushed aside. Oh, we want His help when we’re in deep trouble. But the minute we think we’ve got life under control, we forget Him. Some never give God a chance, because they they’ve bought into the lie that they have no need of a creator or savior.

While Christianity still exerts influence on modern society, postmodernism has definitely become entrenched in our thinking. Postmodernism teaches that words hold no “universal truths” — so texts such as the Bible and even the Constitution — can only be viewed through the lens of each person’s subjective interpretation. In other words, personal subjectivity trumps God’s universal truths of “right” and “wrong.” Truth is not there to be discovered; truth is there to be created.

You see the slippery slope down which we’re hurtling, right? If each person gets to decide his or her own “truth,” society has moved from concrete to sand piles.

Ask a Christian couple who define “sin” by their version of truth (rather than God’s) if they’re sinning by living together and they might say, “No, because we’re monogamous!” When Christians choose to tweak God’s standards, we have to ask ourselves why. Have they been so influenced by society that they don’t realize they’re not living to God’s standards? Are they thumbing their noses at God? Or are they not actively reading God’s Word, to have an intimate familiarity with how God wants His people to live?

We have to know, for ourselves, what the Bible says. The Bible is our playbook. When we try to make plays without it, we’re out on the field making fouls. 

Stability Found in the Bible

Yes, the Bible was written thousands of years ago, to cultures completely different from our own. But because its Author is a relational God, and the Holy Spirit is actively working in us to reveal God’s truth, scripture remains relevant today. We can be confident of this for three reasons: 1) The Bible reveals universal truths that provide an accurate worldview; 2) The Bible wisely counsels us on how we are meant to live; and 3) The Bible meets us at the point of our need.

When we study and read the Bible as a worldview book, we are able to relate the great universal truths of Scripture to our everyday lives. This gives us understanding of who we are as humans in relationship to God, how to distinguish right from wrong, and how God’s way can bring resolution to the physical, relational, social, moral, ethical, economic, and environmental problems we experience in life.

I think that’s what I am most struck by today: that our God is a personal God. He’s not just a rule giver. He’s not just some distant deity who doesn’t see every aspect of my life. He’s an engaged creator who birthed each of us for specific purposes. So His word is personally relevant to me. And you.

The amazing thing about scripture is that it speaks to the human condition: our very predictable, natural drift to go our own way. Fortunately, scripture also speaks to God’s unwavering commitment to chase after us. He wants us to have a very real, very personal relationship with Him.

If you’re not reading the Word, friends, you need to. It’s that simple. If you can’t find the time for God, you will never experience God beyond a superficial level. You won’t get to the deep level of trust that will allow you to fully believe that God holds you, and everything else, in the palm of His hand. Your money troubles? The Bible speaks to them. Your temper issues? The Bible speaks to them. Your fears of abandonment? The Bible is weighty with encouragement for you. Your inability to relinquish control? The Bible will show you how, if you will only open it and let its wisdom sink into your heart and mind.

bibleHow might you engage with God via His word? What tools might you use that will help you to view the Bible as a living, breathing document with huge relevance for today? You might start with a daily devotional. Devotionals are helpful because they focus our thoughts on a particular issue in scripture.

The bible is so much more than a rule book! It’s the greatest love story ever told. It’s the story of our past and our future. And its power helps us to deal with the right here, right now. Get excited about that! Christianity will come alive for you when you start reading the Bible. You will become firmly cemented in just how crazy in love God is with you. Once you taste that truth, you’ll never again be able to settle for just a ho-hum Christian experience!

When we trust that God is working in our lives — through collaboration with our active participation — we can live in joyful expectation of what He will do for us and through us to bless others. We’re invited to participate in an intimate adventure!

Thought to Ponder

This week, take up the devotional challenge. Find a 10-minute period of time each day in which you can read your selected devotional. Then go to the bible with the devotional’s scriptures as your guide. God is able to speak through His word and address specific issues in our lives — if we will give Him the time to speak to us.

The Beauty of Intolerance by Josh and Sean McDowellThis blog post has been adapted from the book The Beauty of Intolerance, by Josh and Sean McDowell. To purchase a copy of this helpful resource, please visit our Store page.

 



“Oh, my God!” Meaningless Expression or Power Words?

Speak God’s name with reverence.

"Oh, my God!"
One thing missing in society today is a deep, soul-level reverence for God.

We hear people utter God’s name, all day long, but they’re not actually talking to Him — or even about Him. “Oh, my God!” and “Jesus!” and “Oh, Lord!” become just meaningless expressions, convenient ways to respond to a funny joke or dumb thing we see someone do. Get upset, and many people attach God’s name to a curse word. (Even many Christians.)

“It’s just an expression,” says our culturally tolerant society. “It doesn’t mean anything. Use it all you want.” 

Really? The Bible specifically tells us to “not take the name of the Lord our God in vain.” That makes this societal “truth” one hundred percent untrue, people!

What does “take in vain” mean? In his article on ChristianityToday.com, Pastor John Piper suggests it means “don’t empty the name.” Says Piper, “So it doesn’t just refer to a certain tone of voice or a certain use of the word. It’s dealing with God and speaking of God in a way that empties Him of his significance.”

Just an Expression?

We’re all so used to hearing God’s name emptied of significance in everyday conversation that we act like it’s no big deal. We don’t get upset by it. We don’t ask people to stop doing it. Some of us really have never even thought about whether the expressions matter — or if they offend God.

Society has conditioned us to use God’s name publicly when we don’t mean it — but also to feel weird in wanting to use it when our intent is to purposefully bless someone. An easy example: When was the last time you heard someone say, “God bless you” when someone else sneezed? At best they got a watered down “Bless you.” But most likely they were ignored because, really, who cares? (God does!)

In his article for Decision Magazine, Don Wilton writes, “The name of God has everything to do with all that God is. When His name is pulled down into the mass of human society, everything pertaining to His unique and sovereign ability is devalued.”

Stop and think about that. Can you see how our mindless use of the expressions devalue and dilute our appreciation for the mind-boggling power of God? Note that I didn’t say that His power is diluted. It’s not. God still holds this world in the palm of His hand.

Power in the Name?

Adds Piper, “Not just swear ways but cheap ways, low and insignificant ways, that just treat Him like a commodity. And when you hear them you sense that there is no weight to that sentence, no corresponding emotion to that statement. It seems to have just been gutted. God, Christ, the cross, the things He is and the things He did are great, and they’re weighty. And there’s a certain corresponding demeanor of worship that should be there.”

Think about how often you personally use God’s name, in both your self-talk and in conversations with others. Do you blame Him with a curse word when you get upset? Is your “Oh, my God!” a killer Valley Girl imitation? (I had that one down cold, complete with eye roll and hand on hip!)

To get some perspective, I asked young kids, “Would you like it if people said your name every time they cussed or made fun of someone?” Overwhelmingly they say no. As one child said, “Jesus is my friend. That wouldn’t be a nice.” Out of the mouth of babes!

If Jesus is “our friend,” why would we talk about him in ways that don’t honor him? Reality check: if we’re praising God in church (or when trying to sound spiritual with our Christian friends), but using His name in vain outside of it, we might want to ask ourselves why that is. When culture tells us that something is okay — when it’s not — we have to make a conscious effort to not just go along with the flow.

Society, both subtly and overtly, tells us that we really shouldn’t talk about God publicly “because it might make someone uncomfortable.” God, by His very sovereignty, should make all of us uncomfortable! We’re all sinners in need of saving grace.

Worship leader Kim Walker, in her soul-gripping version of Break Every Chain, reminds us of the power held by the name of Jesus. The power to heal. The power to forgive. The power to restore. The power to defeat death! When we call on His name, we call on the power of Heaven itself. 

God cares about our words. That’s why the Bible tells us to use them wisely. Friends, let’s be intentional when we call upon His name.

Thought to Ponder

Try finding a movie or TV show these days that doesn’t blasphemy God’s name. Seriously. What’s the go-to expression for most characters? Yup. That one. Have you ever asked yourself why that is? Why don’t script writers find other names to use? They certainly have their pick! Would you agree that the issue might be a spiritual one? Satan has long been actively devaluing God’s name, to make it appear powerless. Fortunately, no matter how hard he tries, he won’t win!

Would you be up for a challenge this week? Okay, here goes: count the number of times you casually reference God and Jesus in your conversations this week. The count might be much higher than you expect. Talk to God about how you might be more mindful of how you use His name, and how you might use His name to be a source of blessing and power to those He puts in your path.

 



The Need for Conviction in a Wishy-Washy World

How deep are your beliefs about God?

belief or conviction
Some kids are nearly undone by peer pressure. Especially if asked to publicly acknowledge their gratitude to Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. The word “sin,” in case you haven’t noticed, has become a word to avoid, thanks to the growing influence of cultural tolerance

So how do we help our young people to honor God in a society that, increasingly, is choosing to abandon Him? How do we help our kids to separate the truth from the half-truths and outright lies?

We help them to develop personal convictions about who God is — and who He says we are. I’m talking about beliefs so deep, so personal, that our kids feel strengthened to enter the arena of antagonistic culture and not crumble under the pressure. If I can use the words of pop singer Taylor Swift, they’ll be able to “shake it off, shake it off.”

My Own Wavering Conviction

Back in the ninth grade, I clearly remember the sting of being laughed at for wearing a “Jesus Saves” patch that I had hand-sewn onto my windbreaker. An older student, a popular senior, took one look at the patch, curled his lip in derision, and spit out the words, “Jesus Freak!”

It still shames me to admit that I used my school books to hide the patch from public viewing the rest of the school day — and I promptly removed the patch the minute I got home. 

Why did I care so much about another student’s ridicule? I think it came down to my being mentally and emotionally unprepared for the attack. I remember how happy it made me to attach the patch to my jacket, because I did love Jesus. I thought the patch would give me a “safe” way to witness. Alas, like Peter, I quickly denied my Lord when I got some pushback.

The bottom line: I believed, but I lacked conviction. What I now know: we can’t be fully committed to God, if we don’t fully commit to knowing Him. It’s our personal relationship with God that gives us strength. As they say, “You can know of something, or you can know something.”

God used that event to help me sink roots of conviction and faith. My Savior loves me, and I love Him. My Savior knows me, and I know Him. My joy at that knowing can’t be shaken by any person.

How Belief and Conviction Differ 

To have belief in something is “to accept it as genuine or real.” To have a conviction about something is to be thoroughly convinced of its truth. Genuine conviction enables us to take a stand — regardless of the consequences.

The apostle Paul had this kind of belief. He endured beatings for Christ! He was imprisoned for Christ! He was stoned for Christ! What did Paul say about all this suffering? “I am not ashamed; for I  know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). Paul was so persuaded in his conviction about Christ that not even the threat of death could shake it. Paul was beheaded, but his conviction continues to help us get our heads straight today.

That’s the kind of belief that several students at Columbine High School had when guns were pointed at their heads as they were asked, “Do you believe in God?” Though it also cost them their lives, their conviction enabled them to boldly declare, “Yes!” One of the students, Rachel Scott, had earlier written in her diary, “I’m not going to apologize for speaking the name of Jesus…I’m not going to hide the light God has put in me. If I have to sacrifice everything, I will.” 

Should those of us currently lacking this boldness detest ourselves for it? I don’t think God is at all interested in our wallowing in our moments of weakness. As He did with his disciple Peter, Jesus is ever ready to forgive us, brush us off, and send us back into battle. 

Do Questions = Lack of Faith?  

While some of our youth are bold like the students mentioned above, many develop their strength of conviction only by taking baby steps. Like me, their confidence in God is built by a slow and steady walk with Him.

How might we guide our youth in developing this confidence? We can start by helping them to get clear on real truth — God’s truth — not the version of “truth” that our secular society loves to spew. Let us encourage our kids to examine the evidence of God. Does He love us? Does He have a purpose for us? Are we important to Him? Do our thoughts, words, and actions matter?

The Bible answers all of these questions, and more.

Many condemn Thomas for refusing to believe that Jesus rose, until the disciple personally saw Jesus’ nail wounds. But his disbelief does have some merit. Thomas refused to take another person’s word as truth. He was only going to believe after he personally experienced the risen Jesus.

Does the bible include this story to slap our hands for not having blind faith? My question to that is, “If faith is offered blindly, does it really have meaning?”

Faith, of course, is a foundational part of conviction. No amount of evidence can create 100 percent certainty. God likes mystery; he’s not going to answer all of our questions. But God, in His Word, tells us to earnestly seek after Him. Like Thomas, our youth probably have doubts about God. Instead of judging them for not simply believing what we’ve taught them, let’s encourage their personally investing time in getting to know God.

Through reading the Bible we learn the specific truths about who God is. This knowledge leads to trust, which leads to our willingly turning our lives over to Him. It is through the daily building of a personal relationship with God that our young people will form unshakeable convictions that will give them the strength to deal with life.

“Believing something without evidence is like taking a leap into the dark,” goes the saying, but “faith that is rooted in truth is like stepping into the light.” Our wish-washy, culturally tolerant society often feels dark. Let’s shine God’s unchanging truth on it.

Thought to Ponder

A lyric in a popular Christian song says, “Cause I’m all in…til the day I die.” Talk about conviction! This week, examine your own convictions about God. Does the bible influence your beliefs, or is society influencing your beliefs? Which do you trust more? Why? Stop and acknowledge that people can have deep convictions about something and still be tragically wrong if the things they believe with conviction are wrong beliefs. Our God is never wrong. I can’t say the same for this world.

The Beauty of Intolerance by Josh and Sean McDowellThis blog post has been adapted from the book The Beauty of Intolerance, by Josh and Sean McDowell. To purchase a copy of this helpful resource, please visit our Store page.



Judge Not, When it Comes to Cultural Tolerance?

Did Jesus Say Judge Not? That is the Question.

Judge or Judge Not?
If cultural tolerance has a theme verse, it’s Matthew 7:11: “Judge not, that you be not judged.”

That verse, by the way, is one of most commonly misused verses in the Bible. Christians and non-Christians alike often take it out of context. “Sure,” they say, “scripture offers moral suggestions, but each of us is to interpret and apply them as we see fit. No one has the right to judge the actions of another as morally wrong.” To this they add this kicker: “Jesus said so himself.”

Actually, he didn’t. A thorough reading of the New Testament shows that Jesus had very clear views on immorality and sin. And he always pointed people toward God’s moral truth. So why the confusion among readers?

What Did Jesus Mean?

Chapter 7 of Matthew is the continuation of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. Throughout the sermon, Jesus presents a worldview for his disciples to follow, if they are to be members of his eternal kingdom. He tells them (and us) how to think, be, and live within it. 

When we understand that context, Jesus’ meaning is clear when he says, “Do not judge.” It’s because his new kingdom already has a judge. God, who judges by His perfect standard of truth. When we condemn another person, we are presuming to determine who can and cannot be forgiven by God. That’s God’s job, not ours, and Jesus wants us to “get” that.

If you have seen a Christian look at someone and confidently declare, “That person is sooooooo going to hell,” that’s a problem. Worse, if they say it with an attitude of self-righteousness or even glee. That Christian needs a good deal of grace and prayer, because he’s forgotten that Christians aren’t to hold a view of “us against them”! Friends, we simply don’t have the right to determine where another person will spend eternity. In the blink of an eye, that person can choose to be saved, and their past no longer matters. I don’t know about you, but I rejoice in that amazing grace, because I was that person!

Both sides of the cultural tolerance debate, Christians and non-Christians alike, need to ask if they are truly offering others real tolerance. When we’re fueled by righteous indignation, the love we’re supposed to have in ready supply can quickly disappear. Jesus wants to put a screeching halt to that. We Christians are to offer everyone grace, despite their actions, even if we find ourselves being shown hatred. Who knows? It could be that those persons are simply returning the intolerance they felt first directed at them by Christians. 

Jesus Doesn’t Hate Anyone 

When we sin, is Jesus offended? Probably. But does he write us off, or start looking at us with less grace? Absolutely not. Though it’s almost impossible for our judgmental human brains to accept, we have God’s word on this. Remember the Bible parable of the lost sheep? Remember the Samaritan woman, the greedy tax collectors, the prostitutes, and all the other sinners Jesus met? He welcomed them. Like them, when we go astray, Jesus comes after us. God always sees us as worth rescuing! 

After Jesus tells his listeners not to judge, he next says, “The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged (Matthew 7:2). Now, it could be that many Christians read this verse and break out in a clammy sweat. Knowing their own tendencies toward sinfulness, they likely think, “I better not judge anyone, for anything, in any situation, just to make sure I’m not harshly judged by God for my own sins.”

But that’s not what Jesus meant. Jesus never tells us to turn a blind eye to sin. Rather, he tells us to be careful in following two rules when we speak to others about their sin: 1) we must use the correct standard (God’s standard), and 2) we must not presume to pass the sentence of condemnation. How much we resemble the Bible Pharisees, when we judge by the wrong standard and are condemning.

The Pharisees judged people from the basis of their own legalistic rules. And they did so without concern for relationship. They condemned without mercy every single time someone violated their standard. Yet they saw themselves as perfect.

Jesus had this behavior in mind when he said, “How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye” (Matthew 7:4-5).

I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want God to say to me someday, “My child, I had a hard time telling you and the Pharisees apart.” Shudder!

Know the Truth, and Speak it Humbly 

Brothers and sisters, when we speak the truth, even in love, we need to do so with humility. One of the accusations that proponents of cultural tolerance make against Christians is that we’re intolerant and arrogant. Yes, our belief in God’s “one way” can make us sound like we think we’re all that and a bag of chips. But we should never let our relationship with Christ lead us to feel superior to others who don’t yet know him. 

Christians should not be concerned with “winning” arguments about who and what is right and wrong. We follow Jesus to experience a personal relationship with the creator of the universe. As Christians, we are to be “salt” and “light” to the world, letting our “good deeds shine our for all to see, so that everyone will praise [our] heavenly father” (Matthew 5:16).

Of course, no matter how lovingly and humbly we speak God’s truth, some people will choose to reject God’s love for them. Some will hate Him, and us, for our “intolerance.” Even Jesus, the most humble man of all, had his haters. As we strive to be like Jesus, let us ascribe to this: If people hate us, let’s just be sure that it’s because we genuinely follow Jesus’ teachings, not because we show the world an unbiblical attitude.

Thought to Ponder

I recently stumbled across an article in which the writer declared that society’s woes weren’t due to atheism, but to Christians possessing a “warped intolerance” toward people who “don’t subscribe to a deity.” What is your response to that? Knowing that many in society view your commitment to God’s truth as warped and intolerant, how might you stay strong in your convictions? How might you lovingly guide the people God puts in your life toward giving God a chance?

The Beauty of Intolerance by Josh and Sean McDowellThis blog post has been adapted from the book The Beauty of Intolerance, by Josh and Sean McDowell. To purchase a copy of this and other helpful resources, please visit our Store page.



Flex Those Love Muscles, Dear Christian.

Anger Drains Your Love Power. Let it Go.

We only have to look on Facebook to clearly see that many of us currently living on the planet have become extremely rude in one area: offering respect to others who don’t agree with us. Have you been “unfriended” by someone yet, for not accepting a truth that this “friend” angrily demands is so obvious?

Isn’t it ironic that a country founded on personal freedoms is today comprised of citizens willing to slug it out simply because they can’t control the thinking of others? Thank you, cultural tolerance!

Cultural tolerance has taught us to believe that we’re each entitled to the validity of our personal “truth.” That I should be able to freely air my truth, without critique or judgment, from you. The reality, of course, is that if our views are opposed, one of us must be wrong. If I don’t champion gay rights, for example, and you do, then you might label me a “homophobe,” which is untrue. If you don’t believe in God, I might choose to think you’re rather dumb. Also untrue! People, we have to stop with the judgment and labels!

Cultural tolerance fails to produce authentic tolerance. Because tolerance isn’t the goal of those who demand we adhere to it. It’s control. Control of our minds and actions. Some of the tools used to achieve this manipulation of us? Anger. And fear. And scorn.

Do you feel it in the air like I do? The looming, heaving, broiling clouds of poker-white fury and condemnation? We’re all being primed to go off at the slightest provocation — and to feel justified when we do.

Cultural tolerance has trained us to entrench in our thinking and refuse to budge. Some of us are quick to show our emotional immaturity, lashing out and publicly denigrating those who disagree with us. Cultural tolerance feeds on our need to be right, not on our brotherly good will. If I’m mad at you, and you’re mad at me, it becomes impossible for us to create a loving, kind, respectful human family.

(Source: The Evangelion blog.)

Cultural tolerance, in its present form, creates an “in” crowd and an “out” crowd. One group of people increasingly finding themselves being pushed out are Christians.

Do Christians Deserve to be Called “Intolerant”?

We Christians are being labeled “intolerant” because we adhere to God’s universal truth. Absolute truth doesn’t sit well with people who want there to be no definite right or wrong. To suggest that we know the right way to live — God’s way — makes some people really mad. I know the issue is more complicated than that, but the heart of this ongoing debate is whether an all-powerful creator exists, and if He does, why does He get to call the shots?

Granted, the media does a great job of making Christians look like idiots. But we Christians add fuel to the fire by our own actions. We often, for example, do a really crappy job of demonstrating God’s love. Especially to someone who calls us a “homophobe” or “bigot” or “intolerant.”

Some Christians get so focused on proving the rightness of their stance, that they are unlovingSome of us, in fact, are downright rude and unkind to people we deem to be “sinners.” Some Christians are 100 percent positive that it’s their mission in life (their very reason for being born?) to remind everyone around them just how hot hell is, and the high chance of “sinners” personally feeling the burn if they don’t get their act together and call on Jesus. Friends, let’s take a chill pill, shall we? We all need God’s forgiveness on a daily basis.

I would just remind us to look at the method of evangelism that Jesus himself modeled.

In the words of King David, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy and loving kindness (Psalm 103).” Would Jesus have been so effective at drawing the multitudes, if he’d first beat them over the head with their sin? Jesus did speak to people about their sin, but he didn’t make them wallow in the guilt and shame of it before he forgave them.

Does scripture say that Jesus told Zacchaeus, a despised tax collector, to come down from the sycamore tree so Jesus could go to his house to list out the numerous ways Zacchaeus had been unkind and unethical and selfish? Hardly. Jesus told Zacchaeus to come on down so he could spend quality time with him. So he could show him that God values every person. Wrap your head around this, friends: Jesus was able to befriend tax collectors, without condoning their sinful actions. And a tax collector turned believer became a powerful messenger for Jesus.

We are to extend the same grace, love, and acceptance of others that God shows us. When others feel our genuine care for them, don’t you think they might be a lot more open to letting us then share a bit about our beloved Jesus? And possibly let go of some of the anger they’re really weary of carting around? 

Let us be sure that our actions don’t help cultural tolerance to persuade society that God’s ways are worthy of scorn.

How Do You Choose to View God?

I know two sisters who are fraternal twins. As teens, they were raised in a denomination that chooses to keep its focus on sin. The sisters are now in their fifties. One of the sisters is still so enslaved by legalism that she can’t comprehend the concept of grace. Her heart is hard, and she’s hard on people. There’s not a chance in hell (forgive my pun), that she would hang out with “sinners.” The other sister, who freely admits that she used to beat herself up mentally daily for being imperfect, now can’t get enough of grace. Some days she still struggles to trust that God sees her as redeemed, but when reminded to lay that distrust at the feet of Jesus, her joy is again renewed. Which sister do you think might be more effective for Jesus?

Friends, when we are confident in God’s love, we can view ourselves rightly: as supported, accepted works in progress. God is our biggest cheerleader, our biggest fan. Which means that we, likewise, if we follow His model, can view those who don’t yet know Him as works in progress, too. God loves non-believers just as much as He loves those of us who know him.

I think that’s one of the things I like best about God. He doesn’t play favorites. He’s ever-ready to extend grace to anyone (even the thief on the cross), to add a new member to the God Squad. Amazing grace, indeed!

Be Mighty in Respect and Love, Not Anger.

So, how do we show acceptance while not also approving of someone’s behavior? We start by respecting that all people are important to God. With that foundation, we can offer them the freedom to have their views, without taking it personally if they don’t offer us the same. (It might sting, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not critical, right?) And we look for opportunities to be of service, to be God’s hands and feet, because it’s through our actions that we most clearly demonstrate His love. Lastly, we must make sure we don’t fall into the trap of returning anger for anger.

Remember back in grade school when we wanted to shut someone up? When we’d taunt, “I know you are. But what am I?” Remember how utterly frustrating it was to have someone repeat this phrase to you? If you were like me, you balled your fists, just aching for the opportunity to punch these Neanderthals in the kisser and watch with pleasure as they hit the floor.

But we didn’t follow through on this fantasy, because we knew we’d get in trouble with both the principal and our parents. And we knew we’d disappoint God. When you look back at those days, do you laugh at how immature you were, and ask yourself why it was that you allowed yourself to be so easily goaded?

It’s a good question to ask ourselves today. Maybe we could choose to act this way, instead: Don’t put up your dukes to fight. Put up your dukes to fight off hate and anger. Let us not be intolerant of those who can’t offer true tolerance. Let’s focus on being loving like Jesus, to show the world His tolerance for our humanity. Jesus can work with and through people who open themselves up to Him.

Thought to Ponder

A good scripture to memorize is James 1:5: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry; for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” How might using this verse as one of your personal mantras help you to show acceptance, love, and respect, even when you don’t agree with another person’s viewpoint?

The Beauty of Intolerance by Josh and Sean McDowellThis blog post has been adapted from the book The Beauty of Intolerance, by Josh and Sean McDowell. To purchase a copy of this helpful resource, please visit our Store page.



The Bible: Why Youth Need to Know Its Truths

The Bible: Proven Truth.

yout reading bible

To be American is to embrace individual rights, right?

Having been brought up to believe this, today’s young people are uncomfortable with the suggestion that there is only one universal truth. “You can believe that silliness,” they might reply. “But I’ll decide my own truth.”

Because Christianity appears exclusive, many young people are uncomfortable with it, too. They might think Jesus was a cool dude, but the whole hell thing is just too uncool, you know?

If they do profess to be Christians, they may be putting conditions on what that means to them. They may not, for example, put much stock in reading the Bible. Because isn’t it an old, dusty book?

God’s inspired word is timeless. And powerful. And the way that God has chosen to tell us how to live.

I’ll Decide My Own Truth

As we have said in previous blog posts, cultural tolerance propagates the view that all religious belief and moral truth claims are equal. That there is no creator, just science.

So, they say, each person gets to create their own personal truth. This subjective “truth,” they add, guarantees that everyone gets to live life on their terms, without judgment. In other words, “I am the boss of me, not you. Butt out, if you don’t like it.”

At the heart level, this sounds so attractive. But if we apply the brains God gave us, we recognize that this just creates a bunch of “truths.” What a mess.

When we follow God’s moral truth, however, we have a single standard defining right and wrong. God’s ways are good, and created for our good. God isn’t setting boundaries to be mean. He’s setting boundaries because he’s good and wants us to enjoy good lives.

Some, sadly, view God’s ways as “foolish” and restrictive. This isn’t surprising, as man has long rebelled against God. If our society continues to more fully embrace the notion that self and science trump God, the pressure to not live a life committed to God will become more intense. But choosing God is the most important decision we will ever make.

To live life without a relationship with God is, in my opinion, hell on earth. To not know him means that we miss out on the stability and joy he wants us to experience while we’re here. And we’ll miss out on heaven.

What the Bible Tells Us

Unlike us, God doesn’t waffle. Especially when things get tough. He doesn’t change his mind or behavior, like we do, to make life easier, win friends, or gain “stuff.” God is a solid rock. He can’t be bought. He can’t be manipulated. He never gets tired of us. Exactly the opposite: God yearns for us. So we can approach him with assurance.

We know these things because the Bible tells us so. We so often have to admit, “I don’t know.” But God knows all, sees all, and is in control of all. His word tells us so. God understands us and accepts us. The Bible tells us so. This crazy world is chaotic, but when we trust in God’s goodness and power, we can have peace. The Bible tells us so. 

God gives us complete freedom to muck up our lives by rejecting him. If we don’t know the Bible verses promising God’s constant commitment to us, Satan can dribble the opposite into our ears and we’ll fall for it. Sin separates us from God, but only until we seek his forgiveness. His arms are always open to us.

Atheists and other detractors of Christianity often assert that Christianity is the root of all evil. “Look at the evil that’s been done in the name of God!” they cry. They’re right. Because we humans are messed up. And capable of horrible deeds, when we’re not committed to following Christ’s example of love and sacrifice.

But here’s some good news to counter their claims: it can be demonstrated that God’s mercy and justice as our model has provided more positive contributions to society in general than any other force in history. Hospitals, civic organizations, schools, even America’s founding principals of justice and civil liberties, can be attributed to individuals who chose to bestow love and compassion on others.

It’s when human greed and selfishness step forward that we begin to run amok.

It’s a Heart Issue

The core problem is our broken human nature. The gospel is actually the antidote to this. For it is only through transformation by the Spirit that our natures can be made new (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Bible reminds us to daily lay our lives down for others. To forgive. To be generous. To treat others with kindness. To love.

We must make regular bible study part of our lives. The Bible is full of stories of God’s redemptive nature. It’s the love story of God sending Jesus to reconcile us to himself. It offers unlimited wisdom on how we can deal with rejection, hurt, pride, fear, worry, and a host of other annoying human emotions. It teaches us how to trust in God’s goodness and strength, not ours.

So lead your family in loving God’s word. Help them to see that the Bible isn’t an antiquated book of stories, but a roadmap to joy, peace, and stability. That they can trust that even when they hit choppy waters, Jesus is already in the boat, ever ready to calm the storms.

Thought to Ponder

The Bible is God’s personal message that we matter. Discuss with your kids how the Bible helps us to know God, and to hear his truth. Even if your kids aren’t initially receptive to the bible’s importance, keep the dialogue going. Jesus never forced anyone to believe in him. Jesus drew people to him by accepting them, loving them, and continuously pointing them to God.

The Beauty of Intolerance by Josh and Sean McDowellThis blog post has been adapted from the book The Beauty of Intolerance, by Josh and Sean McDowell.



Is God Racist?

Some say that God is a racist.

A racist is one who believes that a certain human race is superior to any or all others, and that it is endowed with an intrinsic superiority, which makes the racial discrimination justified. Based on this definition, some say that God is a racist. They cite, as an example, that throughout history God has favored a chosen race, the children of Israel (the Jewish people). Another example of God’s alleged racism is when he cursed the descendants of Ham, Noah’s son, with being “the lowest of servants to his relatives” (Genesis 9:25). As the descendants of Ham were thought to be Africans, it was thought that God discriminated against all generations of Africans, condemning them to slavery.

Both of these charges against God come from misinterpreting and misunderstanding biblical narrative.

First, he never cursed Ham for what he had done — it was Noah who spoke the curse. And Noah didn’t curse his son Ham, but rather Ham’s son Canaan. It is true that at least two sons of Ham, Cush and Mizraim, settled in Africa (see Genesis 10:6-20). But Canaan’s descendants settled just east of the Mediterranean Sea, in a region that later became known as the land of Canaan—present day Israel (see Genesis 10: 15-19). So it is absurd to claim that God is a racist based upon a complete misinterpretation of passages in Genesis.

And what about God’s view of the Jewish people? It is true that he made a special covenant with Abraham and his descendants—and for good reason. He prophesied in his word that a perfect sacrifice—the Lamb of God—would be born out of the descendants of Abraham (see Matthew 1: 1-17). And it was the God-man, Jesus, who came to redeem all who would receive him, both Jew and Gentile. So, God’s choosing Israel wasn’t simply about Israel — it was about his making his name known and offering salvation to the rest of the world. God has always judged Israel as he did other nations (see 2 Kings 17). He was not playing favorites. Whether Jew or Gentile, we all equally must give an account to God.

Question: Does this post help you to understand that God favors his followers equally, even though in Scripture he speaks of the Jewish people as being his beloved people?

Question: What does it mean that “Whether Jew or Gentile, we all equally must give an account to God”?

Content adapted from 77 FAQs about God and the Bible.



Is God Sexist?

scale_gender_female_male_04_eps8As Christians, we view God through a completely different lens than the rest of the world. Nonbelievers portrayed God in many distorted ways, including misogynic (woman-hating), chauvinistic, patriarchal, and sexist. In doing so, they take Scripture completely out of context. Take the accusation of sexism, for example. God is not a sexist. This is not to say that historically the church and some Christian men have not treated women as inferior. Sexist behavior has plagued us for centuries. But God does not consider women inferior to men.

God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us …male and female he made them” (Genesis 1:26-27). Men and women equally share God’s image. The Bible also says that God made women as man’s “helper.” Some say this proves women are to serve. But the Hebrew word translated “helper” is ezer. It denotes one who surrounds, protects, or aids. It is the same word that Jacob used of God when he said, “May the God of your father help you” (Genesis 49:25). Moses used it when he said, “The God of my ancestors was my helper” (Exodus 18:4). Even David used it repeatedly in passages like, “We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield” (Psalm 33:20). This is no lowly servant role. It is a lofty role to bring help to one who needs it.

While the New Testament does say that wives are to submit to their husbands, this is by no means oppressive. In fact, Scripture commands that we all submit to one another (see Ephesians 5:21). And finally, throughout Scripture we see that God elevated women to places of authority and godly leadership. A sexist would not do that. Jesus, the Son of God, affirmed the rights of women when he spoke to the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-42). He affirmed Mary as she sat at his feet as a disciple. He gave great praise to the women who anointed him before his death (Mark 14:3-9). To Jesus, women were equals in God’s eyes. Relationally God sees no human status difference between male and female.

Question: What roles have women typically held in churches you’ve attended? Did you sense that women were considered inferior to male leaders?

Question: When you read the bible, do you sense that God values women as much as men? What examples can you share?

Content adapted from 77 FAQs about God and the Bible.



Is Some Truth Just Personal Preference?

You have probably heard someone say, “Well, that may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.”

Behind this phrase lies a deep-seated confusion between the concepts of truth and belief. Clearly, we are all entitled to our beliefs. But does that mean that we have our own respective truths? No. Truth is independent of belief. Beliefs, on the other hand, are necessarily personal.

blog_apologetics_truth beliefThis is the same when it comes to moral truths. God and his Word become the standard of what is morally true or not because moral truths stem from his character. So while moral truths are not up for consideration as personal or subjective, beliefs can be. In Romans 14, the apostle Paul makes it clear that issues outside of the universal moral law of God—such as what to eat and when to worship—are between an individual and God. Specific to worship, he said, “You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable” (Romans 14:5).

Personal beliefs are sometimes called “personal convictions.” Some people feel, for example, that it’s wrong to buy products on Sunday. Other feel that it’s wrong to enroll their kids in public school. Many of these people don’t condemn those who do otherwise, but they feel these are convictions they must follow. Paul made this point clear when he referred to the Jewish regulations on what foods were pure or impure. “I know and am convinced,” Paul wrote, “on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But is someone believes it is wrong [for them], then for that person it is wrong” (Romans 14:14). Personal conviction should be arrived at, then, after great care, study of Scripture, and the wise counsel of other mature Christians.

Question: Explain the difference between moral truth and personal conviction.

Question: Do you have any personal convictions about anything that God doesn’t specifically address in the bible?

 

Content adapted from 77 FAQs about God and the Bible.



Is it Even Possible to Know Truth?

First, let’s start by defining truth.

Typically, two definitions are offered to explain the same concept of truth. Webster defines truth as “fidelity to an original standard.” You and I can argue about which of our watches is correct. But to know for sure, we’d have to measure our watches against the international standard where all time is measured. Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is world time and the basis of every world time zone. Whichever of our watches matches GMT is the correct time. Applying that same truth definition to moral truth, we assert that God is the absolute standard for all moral truth.

The second definition of truth is “that which corresponds to reality.” This is roughly the idea that a truth statement is true if it matches up with the way the real world actually is. A statement can be proven true if it matches with reality. When we apply this definition to moral truth, we assert that moral truth conforms to the reality that God has created.

Some people, however, say “There is no truth.” The problem with this phrase is that it’s self-contradictory. The sentence refutes itself through its very existence. The statement “there is no truth” is a truth claim about at least one thing—namely that “there is no truth.” Yet this statement contradicts itself by claiming that truth does not exist. “We cannot be sure about anything” is another sentence that refutes itself, as does “Never say the word ‘never.’” Thus, the most important question becomes not if we can know truth, but what is truth? God is not only our standard of moral truth, but he has gone to extraordinary lengths to form a relationship with us. And relationship is key in knowing and living the truth.

Question: What is your reaction to the statement “There is no truth”?



Did God Create Intelligent Beings Other Than Humans?

Scientists say matter is spread over a space of at least 93 billion light-years across. There are probably more than 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, with countless planets. That blows the mind! And it may cause us to wonder, are we the only intelligent beings God created in this vast universe?

There are many books and studies and reports that claim to have credible evidence substantiating the existence of extraterrestrial beings. And there have been just as many books and reports to refute and counter those claims. Only one thing seems certain—if there were extraterrestrials capable of visiting earth, they haven’t elected to make their presence known widely to the public. Nothing in Scripture reveals that there is intelligent life on other planets. We are told there are demons, angels, seraphim, and cherubim, but there is no reference to other intelligent life.

But if there is life on other planets, it would not seem to contradict Christian beliefs. God is the creator of the universe, and if he created other life — forms and didn’t tell us about it—that’s his prerogative. And just because he doesn’t tell us doesn’t mean there aren’t other intelligent beings out there. We just don’t know.

Question: Are you curious about life on other planets?

Questions: If aliens visited earth today, would you ask them about their knowledge of God?

Content adapted from 77 FAQs about God and the Bible.



Why Did God Create Humans?

Did God create humans because he was needed someone to relate to? Was he bored and one day got really creative and produced a universe that included people?

Some speculate that God wanted or needed human relationships, so created us to remove his own aloneness. One big problem with this thinking is that it implies something is lacking in God. And yet God is perfect, nothing can be lacking. The other problem with this notion is that God has never been alone. Consisting as he does of three persons, he has existed eternally as relationship within the Godhead of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

So why did God create humans if he wasn’t lonely? He did so to give himself glory. God created us to live and enjoy relationship as he did. Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11). God in effect is saying, “Become intimate with me, allow my joy to be in you, and through our close relationship you will experience the true joy of living, for you will bear the fruit of my nature—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (see Galatians 5:22-23). And in doing so you will reflect my presence and give me glory!”

“Everything comes from him,” scripture states, “and exists by his power and is intended for his glory” (Romans 11:36). “Give to the Lord the glory he deserves” (I Chronicles 16:29). The Bible admonishes us to “do it all for the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31), “so that in all things God may be glorified” (I Peter 4:11). To bring glory to God—that is, to exalt him, lift him up, give him praise, to reflect upon him honorable—is in fact our purpose in life.

Question: Is it hard for you to get your head around an almighty God desiring a relationship with you?

Question: If you’ve felt that your life’s purpose has eluded you, is it reassuring to know that living a life that brings God glory is all that he asks?

Content adapted from 77 FAQs about God and the Bible.



If God is So Loving, Why Can’t He Be More Tolerant of Sin?

 

toleranceWe all know that God has a serious problem with sin, but if he is truly loving he should be more tolerant of our shortcomings, right?

The reality is that God is merciful, but that isn’t quite the same as being tolerant.  Tweet

There is a reason God can’t stand sin. You see, his core nature is holy and pure. (See Deuteronomy 32:4, Isaiah 54:5, and Revelation 4:8.)

So a holy God cannot be in relationship with sin in any manner. He is so holy that he “cannot allow sin in any form” (Habakkuk 1:13). To do so would violate the very essence of who he is. So our sin naturally separates us from God. And a relational separation from him causes spiritual death. “The wages of sin,” the Bible says, “is death” (Romans 6:23). It is this death or separation from God that preserves his holiness. And yet because he is a God of love, the Bible declares that he delights to show mercy (Micah 7:18). So what is he to do?

The answer lies in the combination of his loving mercy and his perfect justice. Sin has to be paid for. And that is where God’s justice comes in. Instead of being tolerant of our sin, God’s sense of justice combined with mercy makes the payment for it. He paid for our sin with nothing less than the life of his only Son.

His holiness is satisfied because Jesus was sinless—a perfect sacrifice without sin. We are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood (Romans 3:24-25). God paid a very high price to grant us forgiveness.

Question: How does the sacrifice Jesus made for you make you feel about God, sin, and mercy?

Question: What do you think about a God who would sacrifice his only son for mere humans?

Do you want to know God? Click here

 

Content adapted from 77 FAQs about God and the Bible.



Why is the Resurrection Important?

 

Christ’s resurrection is a historic necessity if our destiny means anything at all.

“And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless, and you are still in condemnation for your sins. . . . And if we have hope in Christ only for this life, we are the most miserable people in the world” (I Corinthians 15:17, 19 NLT).

The disruption and decay of this earth and the inevitability of death are a living reality. Pain and loss are felt every minute of every day somewhere in the world. Something inside us says, “This makes no sense,” and we hope that life will be better tomorrow. But even if tomorrow is better, it won’t mean much eventually because some day, all that we have and hold will fade from our grasp, and we will die.

 

resurrection

 

But at one point in history, there was a band of believers who trusted in someone to change all that. A handful of devout Jewish people thought a man named Jesus was the Messiah who would transform their troubled times into a godly kingdom on earth. Yet one day their Messiah hung on a cross, dying, and their hopes seemed dashed.

But far more than the fate of the disciples hung on the cross that day. The fate of the entire human race and their hope of a bright tomorrow and of life after death hung there with him. The human race seemed doomed to endure pain and anguish in this life and then to die, eternally separated from God.

However, as Son of the sovereign God, Jesus broke the power of death by rising from the grave on the third day and pierced the kingdom of darkness with a penetrating light.

Christ’s resurrection victory over death and despair not only broke the power of death for all of us who trust in Christ as Savior but also provided the means for us to receive a whole new perspective of life. Though we may endure pain, grief, and suffering here on earth, because Christ’s death was followed by his resurrection, we can know that such things are temporary— and that much greater things await us.

Because of the Resurrection, we are destined to live forever in new bodies on a new earth, an existence that will be so enjoyable that anything “we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory [God] will give us later.” For we “wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children, including the new bodies he has promised us” (Romans 8:18, 23).

We have the answer to where we are going in life, and in death. For we are destined to have our struggles, suffering, and death transformed into blessings, joy, and eternal life. With a belief in the Resurrection, we can face life’s difficulties with the conviction that no matter what, “if God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Romans 8:31). We can be assured that God has not lost control and will not abandon us (see Romans 8:32). We can be confident that he is not punishing us or condemning us (see Romans 8:34). And we can know that he still very much loves us (see Romans 8:38).

But our destiny can become a reality only if the resurrection of Christ literally took place. Because if Christ did not actually rise from the dead, it would be a strong indication that the sacrifice of sin was unacceptable to God and that Christ had not broken the power of death. For if Jesus didn’t break the power of death over his own body, how could he cancel our death sentence?

“But the fact is that Christ has been raised from the dead,” as Paul said (I Corinthians 15:20). It is a matter of historical record that Jesus literally died and that his lifeless body was placed in a tomb, but it is equally true that three days later that lifeless body was transformed into a living spiritual body.

Paul also points out that, “there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised first; then when Christ comes back, all his people will be raised” (I Corinthians 15:23). He further states, “Our earthly bodies, which die and decay, will be different when they are resurrected, for they will never die. Our bodies now disappoint us, but when they are raised, they will be full of glory. They are weak now, but when they are raised, they will be full of power. They are natural human bodies now, but when they are raised, they will be spiritual bodies” (I Corinthians 15:42-44).

However, all these great and precious promises are nothing but a fantasy, a dream, unless Christ truly rose from the dead. Christ’s resurrection is a historic necessity if our destiny means anything at all.

–Taken from Beyond Belief to Convictions, ©2002 Josh D. McDowell, Bob Hostetler, and David H. Bellis, Chapter 12



What Causes People to Sin Today?

To understand the cause of sin, we need to understand the condition of people who sin. And we need look no further than ourselves or our children.

sin

From infancy, it appears, we struggle for control to get what we want, when we want it, and in the way we want it. This independent drive to be in charge lies behind every struggle for power, every prejudice, every conflict, and every abuse of relationship since the dawn of time. But where does this inner compulsion — which started with Adam and Eve — come from?

Because Adam sinned, says Scripture, “sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned” (Romans 5:12). This means we start off from birth with a self-centered, self-serving nature. So it’s not the devil, or anyone else, who makes us sin. Our sinful nature exists because of our broken relationship with a holy God. People often say that terrible acts caused by humans are “inhumane and inhuman.” The reality, however, is that they are thoroughly human —- the result of people’s depraved nature. The human race has an unimaginable capacity for evil. Scripture says, “All have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one!” (Psalm 14:3). The cause of sin is from within, not from outside forces.Tweet

The good news, however, is that God sent his only Son to forgive us of our sins and purify our hearts. Though we continue to sin because of our sinful natures, we can daily approach God with confidence because Jesus has bought those sins through his death. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:80). God knows of your struggles with sin. He doesn’t ask for perfection, but a contrite spirit that earnestly seeks after him.

Question: Do you believe that your sinful nature is the root of sin —- or would you prefer to blame it on the devil?

Question: If you have a heart after God, are you sometimes surprised at just how spiteful, unkind, and selfish you can be? What does that tell you about man’s sinful nature?

Content adapted from 77 FAQs about God and the Bible.



What is Evil Exactly?

Evil, then, is the corruption of that which is good.

Evil is the corruption of that which is good.

Humanity first experienced evil when Adam and Eve chose to exercise their freewill and eat of the forbidden fruit. Evil is the corruption of free will, which God gave us in order that we might have the choice to believe he is the arbiter of right and wrong, and knows what’s best for us. When Adam and Eve decided he did not know what was best for them — which was corruption of a particularly good thing — evil was born. Evil, then, is the corruption of that which is good.

This means that evil is a parasite upon good. Evil depends upon the existence of good in a way that good does not depend upon evil. Just as the concept of “bentness” requires “straightness,” the existence of evil requires that good be previously in existence. Evil became a reality for us when there was 1) a rejection of what God said was truth and worthy of obedience, and 2) an act in opposition to God’s command. God wants us to trust and obey him. He purposely designed us to live fulfilled and meaningful lives by worshipping him and living in right relationship with him. When we chose to not trust in God and follow his ways, evil becomes a reality.Tweet

Question: We live in a fallen world. Do you daily feel the struggle to choose God’s way over your way?

Question: What are some ways you have found that help you to surrender to God and trust him fully?

 

Content adapted from 77 FAQs about God and the Bible.



Where Did Evil Come From?

Evil had to come from somewhere, right? But from where?

We know that God is perfectly good and holy, and that there is no evil in him. There is the capacity for evil in us, however, as God created humanity with the freedom of choice. Evil comes from an abuse of good power called free will. God may be responsible for the possibility of evil existing in the world, but it was in exercising this free will that Adam and Eve made evil a reality in the world.

adam and eve

Of course, God could have created a world without free will. We could have been “programmed” to do good and worship him perfectly. How pleasant life would be! Yet in a world without choices, the true meaning of “I love you” would be lost. The ability to love others is void and meaningless without the power to choose. God wanted us to experience the reality of choosing to love him. Along with that gift, God knew the great risk was the possibility of evil. Our responsibility to act on that possibility rests with us, not God.

So God made evil possible, yet humans made it actual. Eve was given a good thing by God. She was given the power to choose between determining for herself what she considered right and wrong and allowing God to set those parameters. God was, and is, the Sovereign who decides right from wrong. Eve coveted God’s wisdom, and acted out of her belief that God was denying his human creation what was good. Eve likely did not realize the evil she was about to unleash, but you and I are well aware of it. And how we choose, on a daily basis, to surrender our free will determines our walk with God.

Question: It’s easy to judge Eve, but have you considered that you, too, may have decided that God was holding back on you?

Question: Do you appreciate the gift of free will, or do you wish everyone was born with a heart after God?

 

Content adapted from 77 FAQs about God and the Bible.



7 Reasons the Bible is so Relevant

(ChristianPost Article) No one in the universe is more relevant than God, and so it makes sense that Scripture (comprised of 66 books) is the most relevant message ever presented. Without God, you and I would not be here. And without the Bible, we wouldn’t be able to discern which things in life are truly the most relevant.

So check out these 7 facts which demonstrate the Bible’s relevance.

1) The Bible explains how you got here.

You didn’t accidentally arrive on the scene. You have a Creator. He is the eternal God. He created the first man and woman as Adam and Eve. You have descended from them. If you miss this huge fact in the first book of the Bible, you may end up missing much of what God wants to teach you in the other 65 books.

2) The Bible explains what God did to reach us even after man chose to sin and rebel against God.

When parents have a child who is missing, they will go to any lengths to find their missing son or daughter. You and I were separated from God because of our sin. He could have allowed us to remain lost forever. Instead, He came after us by sending His only Son to rescue us. The death of Jesus on the cross “paid our way” back to the Father.

3) The Bible explains how you can please your Creator and fulfill His purpose for your life.

How am I to conduct myself so that God will be happy with me? The answer to that question is presented through hundreds of true stories and profound teachings in the Bible. God wants us to know His will for our lives, and so He made sure to send a “love letter” to His children. The Bible presents God’s message of grace and forgiveness for His people. It also reveals how God equips believers to serve others in practical ways.

4) The Bible explains how God can heal your heart after you suffer disappointment.

Everyone experiences a broken heart at one time or another. And only our Creator can put us back together. No amount of counseling can achieve the healing that God can work deep within us. When your heart has been broken, there is nothing more relevant to you than getting it fixed. And God is the great Fixer. Tweet

5) The Bible explains how to experience fulfillment in relationships.

One of the most challenging things in life is to maintain strong and healthy relationships. There are various factors which tend to work against this desired goal, and perhaps the biggest obstacle is our own selfishness. This makes it tough at times for us to fully connect with others. The Bible teaches God’s people how to make those connections in a way that promotes love, peace and unity. It is the best relationship manual ever written.

6) The Bible explains how to receive strength when you are feeling weak.

One might assume that a relationship with God will prevent hardships from touching your life. But as all of God’s children eventually learn from firsthand experience, that simply isn’t the way life works out. Everyone goes through periods of discouragement, weakness and weariness. The Bible illustrates how God’s strength empowers us especially when we feel the weakest. And of all the surprises in the Bible, that is probably one of the biggest.

7) The Bible explains the way a person can live forever in paradise.

Most people want to live forever in heaven. Even those who say they don’t believe in heaven still want to live forever in a happy place. You and I were not created to die. We were created to live forever with God. Through faith in Jesus, a person receives the free gift of eternal life. The Bible clearly spells out the path to paradise.

I hope you are beginning to see why no one is more relevant than God, and why no book is more relevant than the Bible.

Those 7 reasons are truly phenomenal. So go ahead. Dive into God’s Word. Soak in it everyday. Millions of books have been written, but only the Bible provides the ultimate explanation for life on earth, as well as life beyond the grave. Not only is Scripture #1 in terms of relevance, but there is not even a close second.

So are you ready to learn about relevance from the One who wrote the Book on it?


Dan Delzell is the pastor of Wellspring Lutheran Church in Papillion, Neb. He is a regular contributor to The Christian Post.

 

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Can God Do Wrong, Such as Get Jealous?

The Bible says that God gets jealous over us. But we’re taught early on that getting jealous is wrong. So is God capable of doing wrong?

No. Scripture promises us that “Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is” (Deuteronomy 32:4). And Hebrews 6:18 states, “For God to do wrong would go against his very nature and character, which he cannot go.”

So the issue must be with our definition of the word jealous. Although jealous in English is mostly used in an evil sense, in Hebrew, the words “jealous God” are el qana, which express passion and caring, most often in connection with a marriage relationship. God considered the Israelites to be his marriage partner, and he wanted them to love him as a wife would devote herself exclusively to her husband. Exodus 34:14 states, “You must worship no other gods, for the Lord, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you.”

As relational beings we can relate to wanting to be loved exclusively. We are designed to jealously crave each other’s exclusive love. And because God is perfectly good and holy, his jealousy is not in any way selfish. He knows that when we love him exclusively—with all our heart, soul, and strength—it allows us to experience the joy and meaning we seek in life. God’s jealous love is a model for us to follow.

Question: Have you ever been crazy jealous over someone? What emotions come to mind as you recall that relationship? Did you do anything really dumb when you were caught up in jealousy?

Question: Can you see how God’s jealousy for us is completely opposite, that it’s a good thing? How do you feel knowing that God desires a relationship with you so badly?

 

Content adapted from 77 FAQs about God and the Bible.



Is God Male or Female?

blog_apologetics_godmaleorfemaleTo ask the question, “Is God male or female?” is like asking if God is left- or right-handed. Or if his first language is Spanish or English. The questions are irrelevant, because God is not confined by our humanity. God created us in his image, but he is unlike us in many, many ways. True, he took on the form of a male when he came to earth as Jesus, but God does not exist as a material or physical being. So in that sense he is neither male nor female as we know the human sexes.


In Scripture, God has chosen to create and use imagery of himself that is both masculine and feminine. Throughout the Bible God primarily characterizes himself in masculine terms. He refers to himself as Father and Jesus as the Son of God. Yet Jesus spoke of himself in feminine imagery when he said, “How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me” (Matthew 23:37). So while God is neither male nor female, he relates to us as men and women equally, for he loves us equally and has made provision for us all to be in relationship with him. What an awesome God!

Question: How has your relationship with your own dad deepened or hindered your relationship with God the Father?

Question: When you visualize God, what do you think he looks like?

 

Content adapted from 77 FAQs about God and the Bible.



What Does it Mean That God is a Trinity?

trinityThe idea that God is three in one is confusing to many people. God exists as three persons, yet he is one being. Each person of the Trinity—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—has a separate identity while yet possessing the full nature of God.

Jesus is the divine Son of God. This does not mean that Jesus was created by God. We know this because Scripture states that Jesus has always co-existed with God (John 1:1-3). And while on earth, Jesus himself declared the same. Colossians 1:15-17 says, “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before God made anything at all and is supreme over all creation. Christ is the one through whom God created everything in heaven and earth…He existed before everything else began, and he holds all creation together.”

God the Holy Spirit is also deity. The Spirit has eternally co-existed with the Father and the Son and was present at creation (see Genesis 1:2). Jesus said of him, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate…He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth…When the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything I have told you” (John 14: 16, 26). Jesus called the co-existing Spirit holy because he is the Spirit of the Holy God, the third person of the triune Godhead. Rest assured that as you seek to know God, you will feel the presence and promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Question: In your own worlds, how would you explain the Trinity to a non-believer?

Question: Do you approach God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit with different requests?

 

Content adapted from 77 FAQs about God and the Bible.



Who is the Holy Spirit?

Who is the Holy Spirit?When we think of God, we may imagine the powerful Creator sitting on his throne in heaven. We may think of him in human form as Jesus, Savior of the World. But do we view him as the Holy Spirit? Just who is God in the person of the Holy Spirit, anyway?

The Holy Spirit is one of the three persons of God. He has feelings. Scripture tells us to not “bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live” (Ephesians 4:30). And he has a mind. According to 1 Corinthians 12:11, it is the Holy Spirit who distributes spiritual gifts to believers.

God “poured out” the Holy Spirit on his people on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) two millennia ago, becoming not just a noun, but a verb. The Holy Spirit is the dynamic, active, ever-present person of God who impels us to action. God the Holy Spirit is about living, loving, responding, enjoying, embracing, comforting, supporting, accepting, encouraging, respecting, disciplining, growing, empowering, and a myriad of other such verbs. His presence is additional proof that we belong to God, for the “Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16). As believers, we definitely experience him in our everyday living.

Question: Is the Holy Spirit difficult for you to comprehend?

Question: Do you feel protected, strengthened, and challenged by the Holy Spirit? Share an example of each.

 

Content adapted from 77 FAQs about God and the Bible.



What is God Really Like?

God is all good, all powerful, and all holy.When we look at the world around us, we get glimpses of God’s creative nature and his incomprehensible immenseness. But God also reveals himself to us in Scripture. Through the reliable written Word of God we gain deep insights into God’s infinite characteristics, his relational heart, and his holy nature. Through Jesus, we get to see God with skin on.

Scripture tells us that God is eternal, possessing life without beginning or end (Isaiah 40:28). And God is all-powerful or omnipotent. If he wants to do something—anything—he can do it! God is also ever-present; his knowledge and power are without limit. Even better: God’s nature can be counted on to be immutable or unchanging. We can trust that he will be forever constant, firm, and secure. And because God is omniscient (Psalm 139:1), he knows everything about the past, present, and future (Isaiah 46: 9-10). That’s mind-blowing!

God is great. But he is also lovingly relational. Moses recorded in scripture that this eternal Creator is the “God who is passionate about his relationship with you” (Exodus 34:14). God created us not because he was lonely, but because he delights in relating to us; to showing us his goodness and grace via a personal relationship. God’s heart is compassionate, merciful, unfailing, faithful, caring, and just. His love is loyal and forever. The greatest expression of his love, of course, was in sending us Jesus to restore the relationship that was broken because of sin.

Where we humans fail to love perfectly, God does not. Because he is all good, all powerful, and all holy. God doesn’t just decide to be holy, he is holy. James 1:17 says, “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our father.” All beauty, joy, and contentment are because of God and come from God. To begin to understand God, stand in awe of his pure goodness. As King Solomon said, “The fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10).

Question: Can you share an example of how good has shown you his relational heart or pure goodness?

Question: How has your knowledge of who God is helped you to navigate life?

 

Content adapted from 77 FAQs about God and the Bible.



If God Caused Everything, Then Who or What Caused God?

If God Caused Everything, Then Who or What Caused God?One of the questions believers are asked is, “Who or what caused God?” The simplest answer is to reply, “If God could be caused to exist, then he would not be God!” God is eternal; he has life without beginning or end. Because God has always existed, he didn’t need a cause. This concept is hard for our finite minds to comprehend; we tend to think that everything has to have a beginning.

While our minds cannot fathom how God has always existed, this does not mean that it’s illogical to believe it to be true. We naturally sense that something outside of our universe had to cause it to come into existence. The eternal Creator God is the most reasonable explanation. The bible says that only a fool says there is no god. We are all foolish in our thinking until God opens our hearts and minds to his truths. “Have you never heard?” Isaiah asked. “Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God” (Isaiah 40:28).

Question: Do you have trouble believing that God wasn’t created by someone or thing bigger than himself? If no, why not?

Question: In a minute or so, share how you would explain your belief in God as Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.

 

Content adapted from 77 FAQs about God and the Bible.



What is the Personal Experience Argument for God’s Existence?

One way that we can know that God exists is through the personal experience we develop with him.One way that we can know that God exists is through the personal experience we develop with him. Few of us have the dramatic conversion that Paul experienced. In fact, for a while after asking Jesus to be our savior, we may feel exactly the same. We can’t, at that time, prove to anyone that God is now part of our lives. But as we yield to him and begin studying the bible and our knowledge of who he is, we are able to see how God is working to change us to be more like him.

A personal experience with God is evidence of his reality. Some people might challenge this assertion, saying that such an experience could easily be an illusion or an emotional or psychological fantasy. But all who have genuinely experienced an encounter with God know better. We know it is real, that we now belong to Christ, that we heirs with him, and that all the promises that God gave to him now belong to us, too (Galatians 3:29).

Question: How would you share your conversion story with others? How can you explain that you know that God is working in you?

Question: If you don’t feel as close to God as you would like, what are some ways that you might draw close to him?

 

Content adapted from 77 FAQs about God and the Bible.



What is the Moral Law Argument for God’s Existence?

Right and WrongEvery human culture known to man has had a moral law. We find it in the records of past cultures as well as in all present societies. These laws protect life; they govern marriage and family relationships, condemn stealing, and encourage doing good to others. Accompanying these laws, however, are people who resist the imposition of morality on their behavior. When a significant number of people gain enough power or support for their position, a significant aberration can occur, as it did in Hitler’s Germany or in the accepted practice of abortion in many countries today.

How do we explain a moral code that is so consistently present in all societies? How do we account for the innate sense of right and wrong most humans admit they feel? If we say moral intuition is a process of blind chance, then morality is a random trick of nature to get us to obey. An objective, universal, and constant standard of morality among world cultures points to the existence of a personal and moral God.

Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky said that without God we lose an objective basis by which to make moral judgments. That without a higher law above humanity, who gets to decide moral truth? True morality stems from the character and nature of God and is binding on his creation. Without God, “good” becomes a relative term that is always changing.

Question: How can you respond to the argument that there can be a standard of good and evil without God?

Question: If you and I can’t agree on what is “truth,” shall we decide with the toss of a dice?

 

Content adapted from 77 FAQs about God and the Bible.



What is the Design Argument for God’s Existence?

Intelligent DesignThe design argument is also known as the teleological argument. It is based on the premise that the universe demonstrates immense specified complexity, via an Intelligent Designer. Consider the flower beds at Disney World that clearly resemble Mickey Mouse. Certain flowers make up his eyes, others his nose, and others his mouth and renowned ears. The image exhibit a complex and specified pattern. As this specified complexity wouldn’t appear naturally in nature, it is a marker of an intelligent designer—a gardener.

Human cells also speak to intelligent design. Scientists think of cells as automated cities, as they regulate the flow of materials in perfect unison through seemingly endless conduits. The level of control in these choreographed movements is truly mind-blowing. And this is just one cell! Biologists compare these activities to machines and other feats of modern engineering. Nearly every feature of society’s advanced technology is dwarfed by the complexity and sophistication of what occurs within a cell. The DNA in one human cell holds the information equivalent of roughly 8000 books! Bill Gates likens DNA to a computer program far more advanced than any human has so far invented.

Darwinists assert that life sprung into existence after being given enough time, matter, and chance. But a single cell requires hundreds of thousands of bits of information precisely sequenced in its DNA! Those who deny an Intelligent Designer have the impossible task of explaining how life could possibly arise from an unguided, blind process. Life simply requires too much information for the explanation of random creation to hold up.

Question: When we look at the incredible complexity and design around us, we are faced with the choice of intelligent design or chance. Do you lean toward Intelligent Design or cosmic fluke—and why?

Content adapted from 77 FAQs about God and the Bible.



What is the First-Cause Argument for God’s Existence?

universeThe first-cause argument, also known as the cosmological argument, is based on a 3-pronged premise: 1) that everything that exists has a cause; 2) that the universe began to exist; so 3) therefore the universe has a cause. The basis for this argument is that something cannot spring from nothing. So the question becomes, “Who caused the cause?”

We can derive our answer from the origins of time, space, and matter. As each of these did not exist before the beginning of time, then the “cause” of the universe had to be timeless, spaceless, and immaterial. Also, this “cause” could not be physical or subject to natural law, as that would presuppose that its existence involved time, space, and matter. We are left to logically conclude that this timeless, spaceless, immaterial “cause” was God. Atheism as a plausible explanation for the origin of the universe simply doesn’t hold up.

Question: Why do some fight toe and nail for science over God?

Question: Does accepting that an awesome being created every aspect of this world give you peace or the willies?

 

Content adapted from 77 FAQs about God and the Bible.



What Kinds of Proofs Are There That God Exists?

God's creationThe majority of people in this world believe there is a God. And they cite our exquisitely crafted world as the basis for that belief. Scripture says, “Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20). Every tree, bird, babbling brook, and towering mountain proof God’s existence.

Earth is utterly amazing and fantastic. Scientists estimate there are at least 18 physical laws that work in harmony for our planet to sustain complex life. Some of these include the laws of gravity, thermodynamics, and electromagnetic forces. Consider the force that hold atoms together. Our universe if so fine-tuned that the tiny hydrogen atoms that work to convert matter must give up no more and no less than 0.6 to 0.8 percent of their mass to create energy! There are dozens of similar exacting standards that must be met. It’s impossible that this world was created by chance!

The Bible says, “He (Jesus) sustains everything by the mighty power of his command” (Hebrews 1:3). Psalm 19:1-2 states, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.” Earth is the physical proof of God’s creativity. Enjoy!

Question: What is your emotional and intellectual reaction to the statement “The world just happened”?

Question: Does believing that God is the creator of all things help you to trust that he created you for a purpose as well?

 

Content adapted from 77 FAQs about God and the Bible.



Is It Wrong to Have Doubts About God?

Doubt or faithGod wants us to place our faith in him and believe that he has our best interest at heart. He wants our faith to be assured and become deepened by our convictions. Having some uncertainties at times is understandable, as we’re human. But seeking to know why you believe what you believe can strengthen your faith.

Often, our doubts stem not from distrusting God’s power, but in God’s nature and compassion for us as individuals. Does God see you? The bible says he knows the very number of hairs on your head!

It is important to know the evidences of God’s caring heart to remove doubt. Moses recorded in scripture that God is “passionate about his relationship with you” (Exodus 34:14). Scripture also says that “love comes from God…for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). So we are assured that God exists as a loving relational being. When the storms of life threaten to stall our trust in God’s love, we are to focus on the caring nature of his heart. When we do so, we can follow Peter’s admonition to “give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

No doubt about it, life is hard. While it is in our nature to question to God’s love during moments of difficulty and crisis, we can choose to cast off fear and doubt. Cast your burdens and doubts onto Jesus, for he cares for you!

Question: Do you have more moments of trust or doubt that God loves you?

Question: How might your view of God’s care and love be skewed by the human relationships in your life?

 

Content adapted from 77 FAQs about God and the Bible.



Doesn’t Believing in God Require Faith?

Let’s first agree on what faith is. The Bible doesn’t say, “Throw your mind away and believe in someone or something blindly.” Rather, it says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). The two important words there are assurance and conviction, which stem from personal knowledge. You have faith that planes are safe, for example, because of FAA rules that keep them flying. You had faith in a parent who cared well for you. You have faith that the sun will set and rise. The Israelites put their faith in God after seeing Moses perform numerous miracles.
Our faith in Christ grows from our knowledge of him. Despite not being able to touch, hear, or see him, you can trust that he loves you and is working for your good by getting to know his character, his heart, and his desires for you. This knowledge allows you to draw close and dig deep during the times your faith is tested by the hardships of life.

Scripture tells us, “These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – and your faith is far more precious to God than pure gold” (1 Peter 1:7). How are you handling those fires?

Each test, even the ones you fail, are drawing you closer to reliance on God’s unwavering love. Your faith is allowing God to transform your life – and the lives of those watching your Christian walk.

Question: Why does the bible say it’s impossible to please God without faith? (Hebrews 11:6)

Question: What area(s) of your life are easiest and hardest, when it comes to trusting God fully?

 

Content adapted from 77 FAQs about God and the Bible.



Why Does God Seem Hidden From Us?

One of the challenges of first believing – and then trusting – in God is that he’s not a physical being. But that’s by design. The bible tells us that “God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). It also tells us that God says, “You may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). That’s because our God is holy. And we are sinners. What bridges that gap is Jesus. When we accept Jesus’s sacrifice, we can confidently approach God, knowing that he forever sees us as forgiven and without blemish.

Accepting that God loves us allows us to start on the journey of friendship with God. All that who God is remains a mystery while we are on earth. But he has given us clues. We see him in creation, in history, through his Word, at church, and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. God promises us that we can begin to know him, if we put forth the effort. “If you look for me in earnest,” he says, “you will find me when you seek me. I will be found by you” (Jeremiah 29:13-14). One day we will see God’s face. We will be bowled over by his awesome power and might. For now, take joy in the bits of himself he offers daily as you seek after him.

Question: What are the pros and cons, in your mind, of following a God who is spirit?

Question: How can you invite him into your physical world to feel closer to him?

 

Content adapted from 77 FAQs about God and the Bible.

Propaga el amor de Dios