Wednesday, December 23, 2009

'Tis the Season for Weird Sayings

This is the time of year when people begin to think about the things that are really important in life. Many people want things for Christmas, but they also want to feel that they are participating in the true spirit of the season. What this means is that people want to give to the poor, be more hospitable, and teach their kids to be more grateful. They want to express that there is something bigger than themselves this time of year. And Christians support this attitude and participate as well, thinking it to be honoring to Christ.

But there is something a bit creepy about all this. I constantly hear things on the radio and from friends that we should think more about making a difference in this world — not just now but always. Then I hear that we should give back whenever we have the opportunity, or pay it forward.

I believe these are shorthand ways of saying that it is good to do good. But I wonder if anyone spends much time really thinking about what they mean. Atheist, nominal Christians, unbelievers, believers, and everyone in-between are saying the same thing. But they can't mean the same thing, unless doing good is reduced to a subjective sentimentality, and the act itself is equated to a subjective moral imperative.

For Christians, what does it mean to do good?

It can't be to make a difference. Our very existence makes a difference. What do we mean by that? Whenever we make a good or bad choice it makes a difference. Do we mean that doing something that gets noticed is what's important? I thought that if we follow Christ we were not seeking attention or to feel significant. (The very act of choosing to follow Christ is making a huge difference.) If impact is felt, the glory goes to God. And we are significant (make a difference) even if some of us are quadriplegic or suffering brain damage and can do nothing of significance but lie there. Am I missing something here?

Also, what do we mean when we say we want to give back? I can understand to some degree if we are giving to God because of an overwhelming joy at what God has done for us. But we aren't paying God back, as if we are giving him a tip for good service. We aren't attempting to keep God on our side, and ensure his blessings either. What do we mean by give back?

Last, what do Christians mean when they say they want to pay it forward? Since when does a gift need to be paid for? It doesn't matter whether it needs to be paid to the giver, or to be paid to an intermediary. It isn't a gift anymore. What do we mean by pay? Perhaps we are trying to say that we want to pass on the good that we have received. That makes more sense, but that isn't paying anything other than attention.

What I find contradictory is an unbeliever saying these things.

When someone who doesn't believe in God says that we should make a difference by giving back, or paying it forward I wonder what they mean by make a difference. If they mean to do good, what do they mean by good? What is good except some sort of subjective standard or collective agreement. Eugenics was considered good by a number of people. Fascism was considered good by a number of people. Population reduction is considered good by a number of people. Elimination of religion is considered good by a number of people. Killing unborn children is considered good. When they want to pay if forward, what are they really doing?

So, why do Christians support these ideas? Could it be to appear good to the world? I hope not. Jesus gave Christians two criteria for doing good. Do them in secret, and do them to glorify God. Follow these and we get to the heart of the matter, which is to do the right thing for the right reason in the right way at the right time. And what makes them right is whatever Jesus says is right. And whatever Jesus says is right is true because he is the Alpha and the Omega.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Why I Believe Christianity is True And Other Ideas Are Just False

I like vanilla ice cream. My wife likes chocolate mint. My parents like Rocky Road. It's silly to insist that vanilla is right, and every other flavor is wrong. That doesn't make any sense. Flavors of ice cream are a matter of personal preference, not statements of truth or morality.

What about religion? Many people believe this is also a matter of personal preference too. So what's up with the idea that Christianity is true, and other faiths are not? Isn't that a silly statement? It depends on what I mean by "religion."

Religion for some people is a matter of selecting a set of beliefs and practices (rituals) that helps one cope with life. They believe that centering oneself around certain practices brings peace and contentment, and that's what is desirable about religion. Religion for them doesn't really need to answer the big questions of life so much as to bring comfort. And if they do attempt to answer the big questions, they do so unrealistically. For them religion doesn't interfere with real life, as much as adding value to it.

But what I mean by Christianity is not this sort of thing. When I talk about Christianity, I am talking about the very nature of reality itself. It is a construct of what is true and inescapable. In other words, Christianity applies to everyone no matter what they believe. Christianity does bring comfort, but not all the time. Christianity does give moral direction, but it doesn't offer a mental escape from consequences when we disobey.

So, why do I believe it to be true in comparison to any other religion or philosophy. Here is a general construct I follow when I consider truth claims. (Thanks to this succinct approach by Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason.)

  1. First, there is the test of consistency. Does the philosophy fit with reality? For instance, the theory of general evolution's philosophical construct posits that everything came to be as a result of unguided progressive evolutionary processes. The problem with this is that it doesn't adequately answer the big question of "how" nor does it fit the physical evidences. I am not going to deal with all the problems of this construct, but to suffice to say that Christianity's answer to this fits what we know to be true, and what makes sense: everything came from something, and information is only created by Someone rather than spontaneous processes.

  2. Second, there is the test of coherence. Does the idea itself make sense? The idea that all religions (ideas about reality) are true, can't be true because the statement is inconsistent with itself. Not only does the statement fail it's own test (it can't be true that it is false too), religions hold contradictory ideas. So logically they can't both be true. The only option is that either one is right or none are right. Christianity claims that only one way of seeing reality is objectively true.

  3. Last, is the test of authoritative support. Is the view attested by an authority. In the other two tests Christianity, Islam, and the Jewish faith can all pass the test to different degrees. But, this test requires an authority's testimony. In each faith, they share an authority of Moses. He testified that there is one true God who has created everything and has revealed his moral will. The authority of Moses is confirmed by prophetic revelation and by God's power.

    The clincher is Jesus. Here is where the major religions disagree. The argument is not with Jesus' moral teachings, but with what he said about himself. He claimed to be the very Son of God. If true, this gives him a standing of authority that supersedes Moses or any prophet. He has the authority to speak about God and reality which no other person has. The proof of his authority is what he did, his coherent teachings, his power, God's own testimony, and Jesus' resurrection. And there are many good reasons to believe these proofs are authentic, including eyewitness testimony from his enemies and early disciples.
What is central to Christianity is not the moral teachings of Jesus. What is central to Christianity is the identity of Jesus. It matters who he is. Without Jesus there is no Christianity, even with his teachings intact. Without Jesus being the true Son of God, there is no hope, no good news, and no real faith. If we do not have faith in who Jesus is, we cannot even be saved. A Christian is not someone who believes the moral teachings, does Christian rituals, or feels good about Christianity. A Christian is a person who knows Jesus is the true Son of God, trusts him with her life, and orders her life around him.

Monday, October 26, 2009

When Questions Go Bad

You've heard the saying. "There are no dumb questions. Only those that aren't asked." This motto is used as an encouragement for people to engage in a process of understanding. People need to feel that their questions are welcomed and encouraged. They shouldn't feel like they need to self-edit themselves in order not to appear dumb. "Just go ahead and ask the question. Otherwise you only have yourself to blame if you leave without the knowledge you need."

Sometimes this motto is used outside the normal circumstances of a teacher-student relationship. And it may still apply. But there is an inherent flaw, if this motto is used as a legitimate argument that there are no bad questions. Is that really true?

The reason I bring this up is that my youngest daughter asks me some very good questions sometimes. Then there are times when she asks me bad questions. I thought about this. Am I simply judging those questions bad because I don't like them, or am I picking up a general principle? After considering all sorts of questions by all sorts of people, and noticing that Jesus answered bad questions differently, I conclude that there is a general principle here. Bad questions do exist.

He's what I've discovered. Bad questions are not bad simply because they are not formed well. When that happens, questions may be communicated badly, but that doesn't make them bad. What makes questions bad is mostly the intent.

But first, let's define the purpose of questions. Previously I said the motto, "There are no dumb questions," is something that is mentioned to encourage questioning. And the reason this is important is that understanding will be enhanced when questions are asked and answered, which encourages dialog. Therefore the purpose of questions is to encourage dialog and increase understanding. Ultimately it helps to bring clarity whether there are good answers or not.

Bad questions are designed not to do this. In fact, they are formed to do just the opposite. They are designed to bring confusion and chaos. How can you tell? Well, it's all in the intent.

Here's some samples of what makes questions bad:
  1. Questions where the intent is to not comprehend the answer. People sometimes ask questions to never arrive at any understanding, because they don't want to for whatever reason.

  2. Questions which are designed to simply trap the one being asked. Sometimes people want to use trickery to get their own way. It has nothing to do with clarity, just a "gotcha" is sufficient.

  3. Questions people use to shape their public image. They don't ask to increase knowledge or to understand. They desire to appear in a certain way, and that's what motivates them.

  4. Last, questions that are only for entertainment. The questioner likes to hear herself, or wants to make people say something silly. There is no value in these questions other than amusement.

Although bad questions exist, not all questions that appear bad are really bad. Sometimes we feel trapped by a question because it is actually a good question. It may bring clarity to bad assumptions we hold. Sometimes a question is truly clever and adept at getting to the core of an issue. Sometimes questions seem silly, but if thought about, may have profound significance.

So, how can you tell? It's often revealed in how the questioner responds to your answer or when you return a question to them.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Why Living the Christian Worldview is Sometimes Difficult

Last time I discussed how the Christian worldview affects my career perspective. I concluded that living this way is not always easy.

Gray areas.

One of the reasons it is not always easy is that there are gray areas. There are things I personally don't believe are true, yet many others do believe are true and right. Also the Word of God may not specifically deal with those issues either. So, I have to make a decision based on personal conviction, rather than on whether it is a direct worldview contradiction or not.

The reason these gray areas exist is because I don't embody the truth, as much as apprehend it. I can come to the knowledge of the truth, but I cannot express it in it's totality. I can only express aspects of it and hold to what I do understand.

However, there is One through whom the Christian worldview is most sincerely represented. Jesus is the embodiment of all truth. Therefore, I choose to come to him, to follow him, to pay attention to him, and to believe him. He is the embodiment of the worldview I embrace.


Another reason living this way can be difficult is that it is often in conflict with other people's sensibilities. It is offensive to live like other people's worldviews are wrong. It seems friendlier to pretend that everybody's worldview is a personal heritage or preference rather than a comprehensive perspective on reality.

Seeing truth in this manner will cause friction. In other words, this leads to conflict. It is unavoidable. And most people want to avoid conflict — me included.


And last, I, and others like me, still have to grow in truth. Ever since I became a follow of Christ, I've adopted his perspective on reality. But, not all at once. I had to learn, develop, and grow in my faith. And to do this not only in knowledge, but also in my conviction and confidence.

And I am still maturing. This process will never end. And this process is both from God, and through personal effort. But it is well worth it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

How the Christian Worldview Affects My Profession

I find that too many people equate their beliefs with their upbringing or preferences. They tend to see their faith choices as nothing more than a desire to belong to a certain group — like Jews or Hindus — or as a personal preference like mild or spicy.

I am a graphic designer by trade and by natural ability. And I am also a Christian.

What that means is not the same as saying that I have a Christian heritage or upbringing. Rather it means that I hold that the Christian worldview is the correct worldview. In other words, it is the truth. Everything else is a lie.

Who do I think I am?

I don't mean to say that I am right and everyone else is wrong — as if I have achieved an exclusive. And I don't mean to say that what I believe is true because I believe it.

What I am saying is that I came to realize that the Christian worldview is the truth. And I've organized my life and perspective around that reality. (And to not do so would be foolish.) I cannot live an integrated life if I live in contradiction with reality.

This affects me as a designer.

So, as a graphic designer, I've organized my profession and ability around the tenets of a biblical Christian perspective.

I see my ability to design as an ability given to me by my Heavenly Father for a purpose. That purpose being two-fold. To create beauty that glorifies the Father, and to bring clarity — specifically in visual communication. I choose not to use my ability to obscure the truth, nor to gloss over error. I use it to enlighten and highlight what is good and true — even if it is to sell a product people can use.

This also influences who I choose to work for and how I work. I cannot knowingly work with someone who is trying to use my skill to defraud or to create a false impression. I also cannot lie, cheat, or steal no matter who I work for.

But this is not always an easy path for me.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Day We Will All Wake Up

I was driving this morning and passed a cool sports car that had a young man and a pretty lady by his side. That car would have been something I would've wanted in my youth. And the lady was a fringe benefit. It all reminded me of a time when I thought that stuff was important.

Every guy understood that when you had a car you had a date. And having an expensive sporty vehicle would improve the type of date you could pull.

But we also all understood that when a woman came with the car, she was not likely to become a wife. It just wasn't that serious. We knew that our value hinged on that car. It was an acceptable compromise. Or so we thought.

As I drove this morning I also remembered the time when I woke up. You know what I mean? It's when we have an epiphany of sorts. We accidentally ask ourselves a question: "Is this all there is?"

Of course that question led me to other questions like, "What do I want out of life?" or "Why am I here?" and "When I die, then what?" But the effect is the same. I begin to question my identity and the nature of reality. When we do such things we cannot look at anything or any relationship the same anymore.

Imagine a guy, sitting in that sports car with his lady, suddenly blurting out, "What's the meaning of life? Where are we headed?" I can imagine the woman saying something like, "You're not getting weird on me, are you?"

The sad thing is that we can ignore these questions all our lives. We can live our lives like phantom dreams, looking for the next pleasure or experience. We can seek comfort and security, or just importance and never consider the deeper issues. We can keep ourselves asleep. But then there comes a time when we all will wake up and realize what we've gained or lost in this life. We will be confronted with reality no matter what we believe. There is no choice in the matter.

Friday, September 04, 2009

The Twins of Choice and Rejection

Photo credit: Alvimann from
Whether we admit it or not, we cannot avoid rejection. We all experience rejection in some form. We have either rejected others, or we have been rejected. But rejection isn't always bad. In fact, it's a reality of life.

Every time a choice is made we must reject the alternatives. We choose a spouse. We reject other potential mates. We choose a lifestyle. We reject all other lifestyles. We choose to be alone. We reject company.

God is no different. Throughout the Bible God chose the line of the Messiah. And in so doing, he rejected those outside that line. He chose Noah. He rejected the rest of the world. He chose Abraham. He rejected the rest of Abraham's family. He chose Isaac. He rejected Ishmael. He chose Jacob. He rejected Esau. And on and on.

But this should not come as a surprise. Whenever we make a choice, rejection is its sister. In fact, we can't help but do this, because it is the nature of reality. More so, we can't avoid rejection anymore than we can avoid making choices. We make a choice every day we get up in the morning, take a breath of air, or eat. And because of this, we reject the alternatives — like staying in bed, holding our breath, or not eating.

However, we are in trouble when we reject these truths. When we are not deliberate in our choices, and when we are unconscious about what we reject, we fall prey to the law of unintended consequences. Therefore, if we want good in our lives, we must consciously reject the bad and accept what is good. Just like the farmer who wants wheat, he must plant kernels of wheat rather than crabgrass seeds.

What are you choosing for yourself today? And what are you rejecting? Think about it.

Why So Long?

Why was it a month since my last post? Let's put it this way. My internet connection had been down for a week and a half, I decided to change service providers, and school started. Need I say more?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


I heard about a story of a little boy who wanted to build a great sand castle. He got up very early in the morning, and begin building it. It wasn't until the afternoon that it really begin to take shape and develop into a masterpiece that no one has ever seen before.

But he didn't pay attention to the impeding weather. The sky begin to darken, and the waves of the sea begin to swell. And the rain begin to fall, and a large wave was headed his way, Eventually, knocking the structure into nothing but heaps of sand. These heaps being only a shadow of what once stood proud and beautiful.

Many people build their lives like great sandcastles. They put a lot of effort and pride into their work. They admire what they've done, not even realizing a great storm is brewing in the distance. They may even ignore the forecasts, determined to beat the odds. "The outcome will be different for me," they think.

But their end will be no different than anyone else who insists on building their castles.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Judging Judgers

The Washington Post recently did an article about a young unmarried southern Maryland couple. They have two kids from the girl's previous relationships and one from their current relationship. The article noted how this guy is one of the few who is trying to stick around and be a father to these kids.

But this couple is struggling, both financially and relationally. The girl has some psychological issues (manic-depressive) that require medication to remain stable. The guy has rotting teeth that need serious orthodontic work. He lost his job because he got mad at his boss. Now he does some part-time work to keep up. His girlfriend works full-time at a restaurant. They get subsidies from the state that help with the kids food and education. And they live in her father's house in the meantime to help keep the bills low.

However, they spend what little they get on Wii's, toys, expensive game consoles, cable, and so forth as if they were necessities.

The commentaries following the article pretty much included people's objections to the couple's lifestyle choices. However one commentator objected to the objections. This person said something like, "You people are so condescending. Yeah, (the couple) made some bad decisions, but they are young. And your judgments aren't helpful. At least you should sympathize with them."


It is true that merely making comments don't help the couple directly. But it is also true that the comment that they don't help doesn't help either. In fact, the idea that people shouldn't judge bad decision-making is strange and contradictory.

Think about it. The statement itself is judging the couple's decisions as bad. (Therefore, wouldn't it be right to help the couple by informing them as such.) Also, the commentator says that others are wrong for making judgments. In other words, the commentator is judging the comments of others.

And following, in evaluating the poor couple's decision-making, which are a series of bad judgments, the commentator is making an assessment about the quality of the couple's judgment skills. Therefore, the issue is not whether the couple made judgments, but rather that the quality of their judgments is poor (because they are unguided youth).

However, in evaluating the comments of others, this commentator is passing judgment that judgments themselves are wrong. So, the commentator shouldn't be judging other commentators! Wouldn't it make more sense to evaluate the quality of other people's judgments, rather than telling them that their comments aren't helpful (to who)? What does that have to do with anything?

What's a better approach?

It can be argued that the other commentators are wrong in their assessments. Or it can be argued that they are missing something. (And if so, please explain what that is.) And if they are condescending, it would have been more helpful if the commentator explained why his or her assessment is true and why judging the couple's decisions is not helpful. It would've been more helpful if the commentator explained how sympathy would help, who it would help, and why that it would be a better type of comment.

Unfortunately I found the person's comment even less helpful than the comments of those who evaluated the couple. Maybe some of the other commentators did it with the wrong attitude. But their comments made more sense than this person's comment.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Culturally Acceptable Christ

There are times when Christians wonder if telling people about Christ is good enough. They wonder how to make people's lives better in this world. They look at health care, financial meltdowns, and unemployment as the issues that take men away from God. And they want to solve these issues as a prelude to any conversion. I wonder sometimes if this thinking is a consequence of affluence rather than our love for Christ. It was Jesus who said that we should avoid all sorts of greed, because life doesn't consist in the abundance (or lack) of our possessions. (Luke 12:13-21)

I am not a modernist. I don't believe that knowledge is the key to life's deeper truths (and thus salvation). Nor do I believe that man has the understanding (nor ability) to create a utopian world. Whether one believes that utopia (or a better world) can be created by man's ingenuity, pragmatism, or even denial of such, I don't adhere to any of these ideas. Therefore, I am neither a modernist nor postmodernist.

As a disciple of Christ, I do believe that a better world will be created by a full realization of God's Kingdom, brought about by Christ's return. I do believe that Christian's are a witness to this, and are participants in it. I do believe that transformation is not the work of man, but of God's Holy Spirit. And I do believe that the church is God's vehicle for preserving the deeper truths, and through whom God will save the world.

Jesus died not to make us pity him, nor to admire his courage and love. He died to save us from the imminent consequences of our sin — eternal judgment from God. I am saying that the most important issue is not behavior modification, but salvation in Christ.

I sometimes get the feeling that many folks (Christians too) would be satisfied if everyone just got along a little better (sans God). However, I get the sense that God is about to defeat that thinking Himself.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do

Original photo courtesy

What do you do when you don't know what to do?

Try praying, do what you know to do, and wait. It seems to be such a lost art in our driven society. We want to work toward solutions. But as Christians we probably need to value God's role more than we tend to do.

I want to evangelize the world. But the world is too big for me. I want to live a life of holiness. But my flesh gets in the way of that plan. I want to love my neighbor as myself. But I love myself too much. I want to give, serve, understand, etc. etc.

But what I need to do is pay more attention to what God already said I need to do. I need to read His Word, pray for help, and rely on God. I need to trust Jesus and obey him as a result. Where does he want me to go and do right now? I don't always know or really need to know. I really just need to rely on him and trust him with the consequences.

I frankly don't know what else there is other than that.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Raising the Self-Esteem of Kids

Photo courtesy Mary R. Vogt at

Want to raise the level of self-esteem in your kids? Have them accomplish something.

But here's the problem. In our culture our kids tend to have it easy. They don't really have to wait for anything. They know nothing about appointment TV. They have no concept of missing a program. Not really. They live in a world of DVD videos, downloadable TV shows and music, internet entertainment, and TiVo ®.

They also have little concept of limited choices. They've grown up in a world where customization and personal preferences are the norm rather than the exception. They take cable television for granted, with the various choices in programming. Internet sites, blogs, and special interest groups that cater to any interest are now a societal norm. Fast food menus have an array of choices that were unimaginable in the 70's and early 80's.

Today's kids are growing up in a world where most of their research is done online. They don't have to begin at the library. They don't even need their home encyclopedia's. They just jump online. A vast wealth of information and knowledge is at their fingertips. They have no concept of going somewhere to get information.

And think about it. Busy signals and unanswered phone calls used to mean that you couldn't reach the person. Now, it means that something must be wrong. All they know is that most people can be reached in multiple ways. People are a text message, IM chat, cell-phone, email, or an online social network away. And many of these kids have cell-phones themselves, let alone email addresses, websites, social networking profiles, and on and on.

So what do you do with kids who have so much to choose from, so much time to spend, who are doing so much to achieve maximum fun and community? You create the situation for accomplishment. You train them to persevere through trials, and achieve an end goal. Then you reward them for their successes. But you don't reward mediocrity.

It sounds old-fashioned, but it works.

Friday, June 12, 2009

God Made Us Creative

I wonder if Jesus left a lot of decisions up to his church because he wanted us to be creative. Maybe instead of fighting over stylistic differences, perhaps we are to complement each other. I know, some of those stylistic differences have theological implications. But I believe those instances are rare.

God gave us the capacity to think, to create, and to imagine. Christians of all people should be doing this the most, and with the proper glory.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Why God Doesn't Tell You What to Do

Photo courtesy

I took my dad shopping recently. One of the items he wanted was some regular skin lotion from a particular brand. When we got into the isle where lotion was located, we found his favorite brand. But we were presented with multiple choices other than “regular” or “just plain lotion.”

There was skin lotion with aloe, vitamin E, cucumber, natural oatmeal, and on and on. But nothing that my dad could figure out. He just wanted skin lotion with nothing added. He didn't want to buy something he wasn't sure he wanted.

In our society we celebrate the ability to make choices. We think we want to be able to have anything, with the latest features and gadgets. We want our options. And we want them now. And we assume this is what we mean by the word freedom.

It is true that freedom allows us to make decisions. But it also means that we have the freedom to succeed or fail. Freedom is not a guarantee of success, nor is it an absolute.

So what does this have to do with
discerning God's will?


Let's say you are a Christian who wants to get married. But you want to find the right mate of course. (You know what I mean. The mate God has for you.) So, you look for signs of God's guidance. When you feel God is leading you to someone, you marry what you believe to be the person God wants you to have.

But then you find the person you married doesn't share your faith or values. And it's becoming a source of great conflict. And then you meet someone else. And this person is your real soul mate. Now you feel you've missed the “will of God.” So now you feel stuck because you failed to discern God's leading. Or worse, you feel God wants you to divorce and marry the other person.

Here's the problem. God's will is contained in his Word, not in our feelings. And success or failure is defined by God, not by what we perceive. Since we are responsible for our choices, we need to make a wise choice. There's no need to deviate from what God says is good and right. We just need to pay attention. Then make the best choice we can, having faith that God will be with us and guide us.

Following, we also need to define success the way God would. Not in the way we feel. When it comes to certain decisions like marriage, some of us may be better off letting a wiser older Christian pick a mate for us.


I know, we recoil at the idea of giving up any of our freedoms to choose. But it is much better than relying on feelings or impressions.

And, by the way, my dad picked out another brand of lotion that had a plain version. Problem solved.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter is Resonable to Believe

Easter was yesterday. What a celebration we had at church. It was awe-inspiring. We were reminded about the veracity of the resurrection of Christ, along with creative presentations and worship. It is wonderful to be a part of church that celebrates the arts along with strong biblical theology.

The preacher, David Frye, spoke about six reasons the evidence for the resurrection is overwhelming:
  1. There were hundreds of eyewitnesses to his fleshly resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:6; Acts 10:40-41; Luke 24:39; John 20:27)

  2. The enemies of Jesus didn't dispute his resurrection. Instead of producing the body of Christ to end all argument, they could only invent excuses. (Matthew 27:62-66; Acts 2:23-24)

  3. Jesus' brothers became believers. As family they found it hard to accept Jesus as the Messiah. It was only the resurrection that could explain their conversion. (Mark 6:3; John 7:5; 1 Corinthians 15:1-7; Acts 1:14)

  4. Numerous Jewish priests became Christians. The reason this is significant is that it would take something radical like a physical resurrection to convince these men to give up their livelihood, family, and standing in the community. (Acts 6:7)

  5. The disciples of Jesus were transformed from understandable cowards to men willing to become martyrs for Christ's sake. It is true that many people die for a lie. But no one dies for what they know to be a lie. They were so convinced that Jesus indeed rose from the dead that they all willingly suffered for this fact. And all but one were martyred, while some were martyred through excruciating torture. (Acts 4:19-20; Acts 12:1-3)

  6. The church grew rapidly in a short amount of time. When we see the effects, even today, of the expansion of the church, we must ask what was the cause and was the cause sufficient for the results. The resurrection makes the most sense, especially when you consider that many of the early followers were Jewish people and priests who became Christians — abandoning many of their Jewish practices. And conversions spread rapidly throughout the Roman world — many were formerly Jewish converts, people who believed in the God of the Jews, and people who came from a pagan background. And, I would add, the conversion of Paul, who was an enemy of this Christian movement. (Acts 2:41; Acts 4:4; Acts 6:7; Acts 9:1-19; Acts 9:31)

These may not be enough reasons (nor will there ever be enough reasons) for someone who refuses to believe the resurrection actually happened. But for any person willing to examine the facts and come to a reasonable conclusion these facts are compelling.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Unholy Agreement

The Bible teaches that there is a Lie that Satan promotes, and there is a Truth that Jesus promotes and died for. When we say we preach the gospel it isn't in a vacuum. It isn't dependent on what culture we live in either. However, we must influence culture in this manner: take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.

When the apostles preached the gospel it was bracketed within information the culture could understand. Namely that God is real (He exists), He is sovereign (owns it all, including us), and we are culpable to him. Satan says that God is not sovereign (in various forms) and we are the masters of ourselves. All over the world, not just in America, this is the tension that exists — and what the world wants us to value.

The world wants us to make an unholy covenant with it. This covenant is basically, "Don't tell me I am doing anything wrong and I won't accuse you of doing anything wrong." In other words, it's okay for us to spread peace, love, and approving messages, pray in our churches, and be friendly people as long as we keep our mouths shut about the culture. "We will do our thing, and we will leave you alone to do your thing, as long as it doesn't interfere in the affairs of real life."

A dutiful Christian is suppose to accept this covenant and have approved conversations with others about Christ to fulfill his religious duties. The Christian's message is heard as a personal preference of religion. Our hearers are free to accept or reject the religious message because it either serves a utilitarian purpose or not. If someone accepts it, it is kept on a level of personal preference, not universal truth.

Many people become Christians now to simply fulfill some personal desire. I wouldn't say it is necessarily a problem in the beginning, but sometimes people baptize their already held beliefs in the process rather than repent. Thus the statement, "Christianity is a private matter." or "Christians should not get involved in politics," is the sentiment that Christianity is a personal religious choice rather than the truth (the way things really are).

It is true that there are some Christians who believe that our involvement in politics will save America, or recapture the ideal of a Christian nation. Some see our involvement in government as a directive to be saved by our government (create Utopia on earth either through socialism or totalitarianism). Still others just want to leave the business of government to unbelievers, while they just, "Preach the gospel." (This idea about preaching the gospel isn't seen as terribly courageous in hindsight. Just see how history paints the silence of the church during American slavery or during the civil rights era a hundred years later.)

The gospel without engagement is incomplete. The world must understand that it is evil, and needs a gospel. The gospel must be taught in the context of culture. We do this in current day America by using American English rather than Latin or Greek; disobeying the worldly covenant of silence; changing unjust laws whenever we can; trusting God by not fretting over the things we cannot change; giving to the needy without force; and giving God the glory even when others refuse. And for God's sake let's not lose our saltiness!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Christians Abdicating The Culture

The University of Maryland recently decided to end prayer during commencements. At the same time they argue that showing porn is a free-speech issue.

Porn is not a free-speech issue. However, prayer is. People have the right to express their religious views without fear of reprisal. That is the original intent of the First Amendment — religious and ideological freedom. Porn, on the other hand, is not an expression of a viewpoint for the common good, but a vice like gambling or excessive drinking. These things are not for the common good. President Lincoln said, “There is no right to do wrong.” The problem here is not free speech, but that the common good is being defined by those without a moral center. It’s funny that First Amendment law currently doesn’t protect child pornography, libel, or indecency over the public airwaves.

I wonder how long Christians will allow moral law to be redefined by those who believe there is no foundation for moral law. Christians are distancing themselves from Jesus more and more so that they will not be ridiculed by the culture — an adulterous and wicked generation. They make the excuse that Christians should not be involved in political debates, discussions, or in politics at all. But what are politics except those things that are defined, by the force of law, as good or bad moral behavior?

Many Christians would rather go around telling people “Jesus loves you,” (and in some cases just that "God loves you") as the culture creates the environment to render those words meaningless. Some Christians abdicate their responsibility to engage the culture on every issue that bears upon the truth because they either are too afraid, or they don’t believe it themselves. They make themselves believe that the message of grace will penetrate the heart, even if the heart cannot understand it.

How foolish! It is true that morality, laws, and convictions about reality cannot change the heart. But moral law, if done on a solid foundation, has the power to prepare the heart for the message of grace. Why would a man be sorry for what he has done, if he knows he has done nothing wrong?

Most parents understand this principle. In order to instruct and train our children we set up rules for them to abide by. We set up consequences for our children when they transgress those rules. Most parents do this because they are trying to shape the character of their children. And Christian parents understand that character development is crucial in the ability to understand and accept the gospel of Christ. We don't lay down rules because they will cause children to love Jesus. We give our children structure to lead them to Christ. (Galatians 3:15-4:7)

Wake up Church!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Simple Truths II

I shared in a previous article how there are those moments of clarity. We sometimes call those moments epiphanies. Those times when deep truths, once hidden from us, are suddenly revealed. They can be quite simple, yet quite profound. Well, here are some more I've come to understand.

  • Our time is short. What I mean is that life goes by quicker than we sometimes realize. Wisdom is indeed found in the house of mourning. (Ecclesiastes 7:2) When my mother died a few years ago, I witnessed an end of an era. Now I watch my girls growing up and visit my high school reunion, and suddenly I realize time not only marches unapologetically on, it does so far too quickly. Time is short. Better use it wisely.

  • A man with very little, has no worries. I have a beat-up car I drive. It's fully paid for, it runs well, and I use it all the time. It gets me to work. I can pick up the kids. I can run errands. Yet, I am not worried about it getting scratched. Sometimes I worry about it being stolen, but that is less likely than a brand new car or van. Really, it holds no real concerns except upkeep.

  • Very few people consider where they are going and why. I was driving in the rain this morning and a vehicle came up behind me flashing his lights and beeping his horn as he went around me. Then he was caught behind a big truck. I then went past him. And he was angry. I wondered what the point of all that was. There was nothing gained. If anything it was just dangerous. If he had died in a fiery crash, what would he say to God? Was it really worth his life or the life of others to get where he was going faster? I doubt it.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Connecting with Girls

There is something special about the bond a father has with his daughter. I don't have anything deep to say about this except that I've noticed lately that when I spend time really listening to my daughters, instead of hearing them as annoying buzzing sounds — they use talking like it's a sporting event — I sometimes hear their hearts. And they respond to me differently after I really listen to them. It's weird, can't explain what that is. They want to be physically near me afterward and do whatever I am doing.

I suppose this reaction isn't exclusive to girls. I know that when I listen to a little boy, he wants to be near me as well, and do what I do. But there is some qualities that are different. Boys want me to be more daring and adventurous with them than girls do. Girls do want physical contact, but it is of a different nature. Again, can't explain it.

Just a thought.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Simple Truths

There are those moments of clarity. They may happen all of a sudden, after a long period of learning, or after a life-changing experience. We call those moments epiphanies. Those times when deep truths, once hidden from us, suddenly reveal themselves in such clarity, we wonder why we never saw them before. They can be quite simple, but at the same time, quite profound.

I want to list some of these I've experienced not too long ago. They are deceptively simple truths, and are easily missed in day-to-day living — and are often ignored as if we already live by them. Here's an example:

  • We can't spend what we don't have. Whether it's money, time, or relationships we cannot give or use what we don't already have in our possession. Yet, we live like this isn't true. We make promises we cannot keep. We buy things we cannot afford. We own things that own us. We give away what isn't ours to give. We want what we cannot have. And we complain that our lives are not working.

  • Our lives are not our own. Christians are more likely to agree with this statement. We sort of understand that life comes from God, and God will call everyone into account for how we use it. But at a deeper, fundamental level, this is practically true. We can't control when we will die. We can't even control that fact that we will die. We don't know what our lives mean. And when we spend our lives, we don't know what we are spending them for? We make up reasons, but they don't mean anything unless the One who owns it tells us what to do — or rather, we listen to the Owner.

  • God created beauty. What is the scientific reason for beauty, and the capacity to appreciate it? It says in Genesis 2:9 that God made trees, not only for food, but just for their beauty. Wow! God is a God of beauty. The aesthetic of God is as valuable as utilitarian creation such as for food.

  • Moses listened to his father-in-law. This may seem like a small matter, but think about it: God spoke directly to Moses, not to anyone else, and not in a way even the previous fathers experienced. And here comes Moses father-in-law, Jethro, who hadn't experienced the exodus of the Israelites and God's mighty deeds at the hands of Moses. He comes and tells Moses what to do about how to organize. And Moses listens, and sees that it is a good idea! I don't know many who would do such a thing today. I honestly mean that.
I could go on, but I'll save for another post.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Darwin Where Art Thou?

Darwin's birthday just past and there are several articles discussing the merits of his general theory of evolution. But there seems to be a lot more heat than light in these articles.

First of all, we need to be honest about our terms. There is a sort of evolution that is supported by verifiable facts. Within each species there have been various changes and adjustments observed due to environmental factors. This sort of micro-evolution is observable and repeatable. However, the real debate is not concerning small changes over time, but macro changes from one species into another. And that all variety of life emanated from a single non-living event (abiogenesis). Even Darwin doesn't know how that could have happened successfully. This is called the theory of general evolution (GE).

Following, the fact is that there are no fossil records demonstrating the formation of one species into another. It is speculated as to what happened, but speculations are not scientific facts. True, stories have a purpose in explaining an hypothesis. But stories are not evidence.

The intelligent design theory (ID) on the other hand, makes the claim that stories are not sufficient to explain the diversity and complexity of life. They make arguments for an intelligent causal agent from a biological (irreducible complexity to DNA information) and a cosmological perspective (balanced universal forces to earth's unique positioning and environment). ID accounts for the laws of thermodynamics and says we can't contradict them like GE does (e.g. order coming from disorder). The role of science is to not only search for what is true, but to allow the evidence to form reasonable conclusions. It is more reasonable to believe that a bed of flowers that spell out the words, "I love you, Melissa. Will you marry me?", was planted and arranged by someone, than to believe it happened by random chance.

Some say that science cannot speak to those conclusions. When you do so, you must evoke the existence of God. But the problem with that notion is that you are begging the question. You have stacked the deck. By eliminating with prejudice any conclusion other than natural causes, you create a blindness to evidence that contradicts naturalistic conclusions. Therefore, the freedom to follow the evidence to wherever it leads cannot be allowed to exist. This makes it impossible to consider the role of intelligence, even when it is reasonable to come to that conclusion. (For example, the flower bed with a message could not have been designed because to consider it would evoke the existence of an intelligent cause.)

In forensic science, death is either determined by natural causes, or by premeditation. In other words, does the evidence demonstrate that death occurred by natural processes or by intelligence. We trust forensic science to make that determination, therefore it is reasonable to believe that science can speak to issues of intelligent causes. Therefore, science actually can (and does) consider the question of intelligence when it comes to causes.

If science can consider our origins from a biological perspective, as Darwin believed, it is reasonable to conclude that science can consider whether our origins are from an intelligent agent or natural causes.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What's Wrong with Abortion?

There is a lot of confusion around the issue of abortion. Factually, abortion can be debated from a theological, philosophical, or political viewpoint. But what gets in the way of reasoned debate is a lot of emotion. And rightfully so. The stakes are high. The issues of life and death, freedom and rights, male and female, justice and mercy, and heaven and hell are high-stakes issues, and all surround the abortion debate. It is difficult to discuss without a lot of heat, and very little light.

Abortion is painted as a woman's right to choose. And for many people that position justifies abortion's legality. But few people ask the obvious question. Should all choices have legal protection? The issue here really isn't the ability to make a choice. The issue is what choice is being made.

Is it right to kill human beings for any reason, at any stage of development or dependency?

Biblically, it is clear how God feels about murder (the killing of an innocent human being). The reason murder is wrong is because it not only violates love, it mars and devalues the image of God. (Genesis 9:1-7) So, is killing an unborn baby murder? Well, if killing an innocent human being is murder then, yes, it is murder. Therefore, God condemns this practice.

"But what about the 'rights' of the mother?"

What rights are we referring to? Where do rights come from? Are not rights inalienably given by God Himself? If so, there is no right to murder for anybody. Women get no special "rights" to commit murder for any reason, any more than men do.

"But what about the right for a woman to do with her body as she sees fit?"

Is a baby a part of a woman's body or a separate entity that is dependent on the woman's body? If a separate entity, then the issue is one of dependency. Should we have the right to kill with impunity anyone who is dependent on others for life? What God feels about this is evident. He condemns the exploitation and denial of rights of the defenseless and weak from the strong. (Deuteronomy 10:17-18) That is at the core of his nature. Therefore, it is wrong to kill someone simply because they are dependent and need care.

"But it is also wrong to condemn certain people to poverty because of a mistake."

It is also wrong to sacrifice the innocent for the sake of prosperity. (Leviticus 18:21; Leviticus 20:1-5) Jesus said that there is more to life than the abundance of possessions. (Luke 12:15) And Scripture states that God condemns the practice of sacrificing our own children for economic reasons. At the very least committing murder for the sake of prosperity is a lack of faith, because God supplies our needs. And at worst it is putting our trust in a false god (money). (Matthew 6:24) It is better to trust God than to trust in man or money. (Isaiah 2:22; Psalm 52:7) Even when we fail, he can restore what the locusts have eaten. Can't he?

"But the unborn have less rights than the mother does."


"Everyone should stay out of other people's business."

Are not the unborn persons too? It is wrong not to speak up for the defenseless or deny the poor justice in court. (Proverbs 31:8-9; Psalm 82:2-4) So, are there certain people who deserve more rights than others? And who decides? Is that just?

"Well, unborn fetuses are not persons."

Then what are they? They are not dead. And if they are allowed to grow, they grow into male or female adults. They are not something else, like a fish or a bird. What are they? What gives them personhood, and at what stage of development do they attain personhood? Are there some adults who are less persons than others?

"What about special cases like incest, rape, or when the mother's life is threatened?"

On the one hand the innocent should not be forced to pay for the sins of the guilty. The soul who sins should die. (Ezekiel 18) Rather, the practice of mercy and forgiveness is needed for the unborn's sake.

On the other hand, when a clear decision between two lives is required — and that is extremely rare — there is no clear directive as to what to do. But, I am very cautious here, because many people claim almost anything can threaten a mother's life such as mental anguish and financial hardship — which really are not life/death issues, but rather inconveniences. (You can make the case that those inconveniences can lead to death. But so can having to pay your bills or getting fired from your job.)

God is clear about our need to love him and love one another. (Matthew 22:34-40; 1 John 4:19-21) Murder violates both commands and devalues God's image. The issue here is not our freedom to choose. The issue is obedience to God and Christ. We will all be held accountable to God one day. — whether we believe in him or not, whether we commit murder, whether we approve of those who do, or whether we seek his forgiveness and find it. For God is an impartial God. (Deuteronomy 10:17-18)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Am I Trusting The Holy Spirit?

When I watched The Biggest Loser last night, there was a contestant who really bothered me. Her name was Joelle. She was a sweet woman, but very self-deceived. She was so annoying last night that her trainer, Bob, just lost it. You see, she felt she was doing her best, when all the time she was doing much less than any other contestant. She also felt that with all her talking she was actually doing something. But all she did was talk a good game, or complain she couldn't do something.

Meanwhile her trainer, Bob, had to pay her a lot of attention. It was clear that everyone else was doing their utmost and they were pushing themselves beyond their comfort levels to comply with Bob's coaching. But this stood in stark contrast to what she was doing. Yet, she demanded so much more than anyone else. She demanded attention.

Just wait. This hits home.

I had a hard time watching her complain. Then it hit me this morning. I am not much different than Joelle. When my coach, the Holy Spirit, calls me higher and encourages me to go outside my comfort zone, do I not resist at times? Do I talk instead of listening and doing what the Word of God says? Even though Joelle had the initiative and drive to be on the show — seeing the need for help from the right sources — she still couldn't completely trust the sources she herself selected. She couldn't listen to Bob even though she knew he could help her. Do I do the same thing with the Holy Spirit?

God isn't a task-master. But God will push when necessary. God doesn't get easily angry. But it doesn't mean he doesn't get angry when I deceive myself. God is patient. But God is eager for me to grow and mature. I just need to cooperate with his process and trust him. That is what genuine faith is all about. Trusting God with it all, to the point of cooperating with everything I've got.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

I Don't Need New Year's Resolutions

I generally don't make new year's resolutions.

But I've noticed that each year carries a theme that God provides. Like 2007 was a year of major transitions. Like an exodus from old ways of doing things and thinking, to travel into new territory. In 2008 it was a year of adjustments and preparation for entering this new land. Now this year seems to be the year where we settle into new territory, which means that we may have to do a different type of work to get settled.


In 2007 my wife and I experienced the death of both of our mothers within a week or so of each other. This was a major change upon each of us in many ways. For example, the structures of our family get-togethers changed radically, and missing that important person from each of our lives has proven to be insurmountable. We also experienced some increasing problems at our church and had to make a decision we didn't want to make to leave. And my wife, who is administrator of her mother's estate had to learn quickly about what that role meant and what it would take to accomplish that role.

In this year, we knew very little about where God was taking us. But we knew we had to walk wherever he was to lead us. It was a time we needed faith, because not everyone can understand what we were experiencing. And we were forced to make decisions at a time when tough decisions ought not be made.

Wandering in the desert.

In 2008 we spent the year trying to fulfill our new roles and journeys. We decided that we needed to work intently on our thinking, habits, and in finding a new church. That was our job for the year, including fulfilling obligations to my mother-in-law's estate.

But this year was also a year where God has revealed himself to us in many ways. He provided us with mentoring materials that my wife and I have been using in our discipleship time. We have been able to teach our kids about theology with intention. God provided a buyer for our mother-in-law's home in a difficult housing market. And we are closer to settling on a new church community, that God definitely led us toward.

New horizons.

Now we stand on the cusp of a new year and we are ready to make new decisions. We are ready to act in new ways, and our thinking is continually adjusting. We are ready to embark on whatever God has for us to do. But we determined to do all things with wisdom and intention, rather than to simply find comfort and ease.

My prayer for the new year is that we will not be afraid, we will find our comfort in the Lord, and we will be able to use our gifts in service to the Lord for the right reasons.