Source: Promises Promises Promises
“. . .he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).
With the New Year upon us, people are into the resolution game. I call it a game because, for most people I know, it isn’t much more than that – is it?. Furthermore, at a glance, it appears to be a game that cannot be won. I know I have rolled those dice a few times, more often than not coming out a loser, not of weight, unfortunately, but the game. For me, it seems resolutions are made more so to be broken than achieved. According to a 2012 Time Magazine article, the 10 most commonly broken resolutions are:
Lose Weight and Get Fit
Learn Something New
Eat Healthier and Diet
Get Out of Debt and Save Money
Spend More Time with Family
Travel to New Places
Be Less Stressed
If I were to create a personal Win/Loss column for the above list (like you find in football, baseball, basketball and other such sports), I know I wouldn’t be making the playoffs; I’d most likely be at or near the bottom of my division, sitting at home with a spoon and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, Boom Chocolatta in hand watching the big game on TV.
So many times I have stepped up to that proverbial plate and swung the bat only to hear the umpire’s voice shout, “stri—ke”; 1, 2, 3, you’re out. After which I walk shamefaced back to the dugout to be consoled by my disappointed teammates having failed yet again. Now, the question that raises for me is this. If I cannot rely on myself to get things important done, to achieve goals and cross the finish line having killed my Goliaths – then who, or, what can I rely on?
I need to lose weight but cannot find within myself the ability to maintain the appropriate diet and exercise regimen necessary to accomplish the task. I need to be learning new things and find a way to avoid the road that always takes me back to my comfort zone and the familiar. I should be reading my bible, shunning the temptation to pick up John Grisham’s latest offering. I need to spend less time on the computer playing Candy Crush and more time rekindling the crush I had on my wife when we first met. I should be creating a stronger bond with my children instead of the useless bond I spend more time cultivating with my television set and attending the ball games my grandkids play in, cheering them on instead of cheering on the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis team on Criminal Minds. I need to establish priorities, stay with the program, keep focused, make better choices, persevere and maintain. On and on and on it goes, an ever-growing list of what I should do, need to do but don’t do.
I find myself to be like the apostle Paul who said, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. Oh, what a miserable person I am!” (Romans 7:15, 19, 24a NLT). Who will free me from myself, Paul asks?
I understand the old apostle was referring to the utter futility in attempting to keep the law, but don’t his words apply? Do they not fit in this ridiculous arena of human effort to make the right choices in life – on New Year’s Day or any other day? I often think of it like this; if I am the “overcomer” scripture tells me I am, the guy who is “more than a conqueror” then why do I continue chalking up losses instead of wins? Who will free me from me, I ask? “Thank God!” (Paul writes) “The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25a NLT). Only in Jesus can I accomplish what I cannot accomplish on my own.
Yes, “I (we) can do all things through Christ [through him alone] who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV); but we would do well to heed the counsel of a very wise king who once said,
“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil! Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life! (Proverbs 3:5-8 The Message).
Thanks, Solomon, sounds like good advice and a good resolution to kick off the new year with. Jesus, help me to keep it this time.
To my precious friends and those kind people who follow this blog, thanks for reading. Unfortunately, recent health issues and surgeries have kept me away from the keyboard. I hope to be writing again soon. – Pat
“This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him” (1 John 4:10 – The Message)
Back in the dark ages before marriage and the birth of my children, life pretty much went my way. Do what I want, when I want, and most of the time, how I want. With money in my pocket a smooth ride and a different girl accepting my invitation for a date every weekend, life was grand. My usual itinerary on weekends was taking my lady of choice out to eat at a nice restaurant, followed by a movie or concert, then cruising Buckner Boulevard for a few hours – gas was cheap, and girls were plentiful. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the one catching the girls; it was the car. The only thing I seemed to catch was the tab, but that was okay, I just chalked it up to the cost of playing the game.
One day a good looking young woman appearing about my age walked into the store I managed asking for an employment application. Since the weekend would be rolling around in a few days and I hadn’t scored a date yet, the application process was a mere formality required by the company. Finding a way to include my brand new 1971, canary yellow, Plymouth Road Runner (Hemi under the hood) in this impromptu interview went well. Along with a small hint about not knowing who I was going to take to the Three Dog Night/Rod Stewart concert at the Cotton Bowl, she accepted my offer and started work the next day. A few months later wedding bells rang.
Married a little over a year, it was around 10:00 in the morning when I got the call; March 17, 1975. I had a different job working for Borden’s Milk as a delivery man then, and my wife was on her way to Methodist Hospital of Dallas in labor. Not having finished the route, the company sent two men to my location, one to take my place, the other to get me to my car so I could get to the hospital. As you might suspect, I made a mad dash across town but when I arrived she was already in delivery. All I could do was drink coffee and pace the floors.
What seemed an eternity in waiting was only about an hour or so when the doctor came through the waiting room door with the news of Mandy arriving safe and sound and her mother doing well. Honestly, though, when I first saw my newborn daughter, she looked
to me like a shriveled up prune with fiery red hair. I know I will wind up in the doghouse for saying this, but truth is; I have never thought newborns are cute; and my precious, darling, lovable and cuddly, baby girl I knick named Carrot Top, well, she was a classic example why.
That March day life took on a new look. Two became three and when it did everything changed. The bedroom had a baby bed in it where once stood a chifferobe. In the closet space where my winter clothes were, frilly little dresses hung. A diaper pail had replaced the clothes hamper in the bathroom. The coffee table I propped my feet on gave way to a playpen. Big Bird showed up in my video tape library kicking out John Wayne (Clint Eastwood too), and half-dozen baby bottles preempted the spot my cans of Coca-Cola used to have in the fridge; I assure you, when a baby is born, everything changes.
It was around 4 or 5 BC in Israel, most likely Spring or Autumn actually, not December. Much was going on in the world. Had there been a New York Times landing on your doorstep, Rome would have been the headline maker and the lead story on the nightly news. Social and political unrest was at an all-time high, and with the taxation of all living souls within the Roman Empire, Tiberius Caesar’s decree that a census be taken was on everyone’s mind; a baby born in a small Judean village certainly wasn’t the coffee shop buzz around town.
Given world affairs at the time. So insignificant was the birth of Jesus that a stable became the savior’s birthplace; a feed trough (not a crib), his bed; and an otherworldly appearance by celestial beings in the night sky to prompt a few lowly shepherds to celebrate the birth with his parents. What possible difference would it make anyway? Would anything at all change?
A quick check of the historical record says, Yes! Everything would change. In but a moments time the course of human affairs took a new direction, the history of the world was overhauled, reshaped and transformed.
Transcending the way things were done in ancient times, Jesus’ concern for those who suffer paved the way for the establishment of institutions caring for lepers, which led to modern-day hospitals – A baby changes everything.
It was the early Christian church that ultimately brought an end to infanticide, which was not only legal but also applauded in Roman and Grecian culture – A baby changes everything.
The first legislation to publicly fund education in the colonies was called, “The Old Deluder Satan Act (1642)”, under the notion that God does not want any child ignorant – A baby changes everything.
Although contested by some historians, America was born in the pursuit of religious freedom and is reflected in the framing of the Constitution. Has the United States had a global impact? Is the world we live in a better place because of an American influence? Yes, absolutely. Why? A baby changes everything.
In the whole of human history no one person, place or thing has impacted the world as has Jesus Christ of Nazareth. His thumbprint is in every area of life, and his reflection seen in every act of kindness shown, every good deed performed and every positive change made – A baby changes everything.
Leo Tolstoy said, “For thirty-five years of my life I was, in the proper acceptation of the word, nihilist, a man who believed in nothing. Five years ago my faith came to me. I believed in the doctrine of Jesus Christ, and my whole life underwent a sudden transformation. Life and death ceased to be evil. Instead of despair, I tasted joy and happiness that death could not take away.” A Baby Changes EVERYTHING.
Six Surprising Ways Jesus Changed The World” Huff Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-ortberg/six-surprising-ways-
“The Impact of Christianity” Faith Facts: http://www.faithfacts.org/christ-and-the-culture/the-impact-of-christianity#education
“What If Jesus had Never Been Born” by D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe, Nelson Books (1994).
Okay, it’s confession time. I am a Facebook gamer and enjoy a little time being challenged by figuring out (at least attempting to) puzzles and games that test my mental capabilities, which I often find sadly lacking. Although I see such a past time as brain therapy, my wife sees it more like therapy for the brainless.
While playing my game of choice the other day I noticed I had received an “extra life” (those with like addictions will understand) from another player whose Facebook name is “Reasonable Doubt” – that got me to thinking. As most know, Reasonable Doubt is a legal term; a standard of proof used in criminal trials by prosecuting attorneys who must submit sufficient evidence demonstrating a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
In light of the apologetics movement (of which I a am a part) birthed by such people as Dr. William Lane Craig, who desires to equip followers of Jesus with the knowledge and skills to defend their faith by showing faith to be academically reasonable and not a mindless leap into the dark taken by ignorant people grasping for straws; that Facebook name made me take pause.
For many who deny the faith, it is not a scientific measure used to balance their reasons for rejecting the Christian message. A large number of such people simply have unanswered questions. They are perplexed by the fantastical nature of the supernatural claims faith in Jesus represent. This was brought to the forefront for me as I thought back to a message delivered by one of our pastors at church a few weeks ago concerning Jonah; The bible story of a man swallowed whole by a big fish, spending three days inside its belly then being puked out onto a beach somewhere along the Mediterranean seaboard three days away from his destination. That’s a pretty tall tale, you must admit, and a bit difficult for even a Believer to swallow (no pun intended), much more, the person looking for answers, for sensible reasons to believe.
Whether you are an apologist, a student of apologetics, or just that person who is concerned for the eternal destiny of a friend or loved one having difficulty embracing things spiritual. We should remember reasonable doubt is reasonable. Was there a time when you found yourself in a wrestling match with a couple of thousand jigsaw puzzle pieces trying to get them all together so they looked like the picture on the box? This is often the plight of the unbeliever, the person who takes the middle road of agnosticism, or, the casual atheist, if you will – the unconvinced. They are familiar with the pictures drawn in God’s word, they have heard the gospel message, but putting the pieces together so that they draw a rational conclusion can be a real challenge, especially with the influence of those who subscribe to opposing religious views and the prevalent offerings of science. Helping such people to see spiritual truth begins by validating their questions and doubts – not attacking or criticizing.
Honestly, stories such as Sarah giving birth to Isaac at 90 years of age, the nation of Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea (as depicted on the big screen by Cecil B. DeMille’s version of the Ten Commandments), water from a rock, manna from heaven, the walls of Jericho tumbling down, time standing still, a virgin bearing a child, and the dead exiting the grave alive and well all sound pretty bizarre; certainly enough to foster reasonable doubt, and a boat load of questions. Topping it off, these are but a few of the incredible stories found between the bible’s covers.
Defying natural law, the miraculous events recorded in scripture have challenged the world’s brightest minds and deepest thinkers for centuries, and there are still far more questions being asked than answers given. Do you not have a question or two you’d like to ask God if given opportunity? Most of us do.
About the Questions
Internal or external, questions are always posed to clarify a matter, to eliminate ambiguities, confirm facts, and often to remove elements of doubt. They are the means of discovery by which we solve problems and find answers – a good thing. That being said, we want to understand doubt, then, is nothing more than unanswered questions rolling around in a person’s mind, a plea for clarity, and a request for more information. This is fair, and should be treated respectfully – not as foolishness.
Many years ago I worked as a machinist for a company specializing in the production of magnets (you might be amazed at the many things magnets are used in). New on the job and inexperienced, I was having an issue with my assigned project that day and called for my supervisor’s assistance. It was a simple problem for him but major to me. Looking back to that moment, there are two things he did I have carried with me as helpmates in life. One, he did not treat me as a subordinate, making himself look superior and me foolish or ignorant, even though I was. He treated my concerns with respect, validating me as a person of intelligence and my questions justifiable. Second, he did not just spit out an answer but asked questions related to what troubled me about the task. Cleverly and systematically posed, the questions he asked led me to the answers that made perfect sense and what I needed to do plain. Ladd (my supervisor) saw what I could not see, and knew what I did not know, aware that where I was in inexperience, it was not possible that I could know.
Spiritual doubt is the outcome of questions generated as a non-believer attempts to understand things spiritual. You might call it, unfamiliar territory, an area of life he or she has little or no experience in. Much like I was early on in the machine shop.
1 Corinthians 2:14 tells us, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” This passage reminds us of the futility in attempting to preach our way into causing a change of heart with a person who has had minimal exposure to the spiritual realm, or none at all. Whereas the use of scripture is good and profitable (see 2 Timothy 3:16), as Solomon points out, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Sometimes, if not most, the answers sought will not best be served with a series of book, chapter and verse quotes from the bible. Gentle persuasion that legitimizes both the person and the concerns expressed will result in a victory for the kingdom of God where a barrage of scripture will often fail. Furthermore, the grand finale we hope to witness is not that of a fourth of July fireworks display lighting up the night sky and sending chills running down our spine, but a quiet and peace-filled moment where someone comes to that place of faith humbly concluding – Jesus Christ is Lord.
Lastly, might I suggest having a few questions of your own readied. As suggested by Gregory Koukl, in his book “Tactics”, questions are the allied forces you want to deploy when your goal is turning reasonable doubt into reasonable faith. Questions allow you to enter the combat zone without being combative. You can ask questions that allow the person with doubts to remain in the drivers seat while you steer the car (this is what my machine shop supervisor done). Questions that affirm the justifiable nature of their inquiries while leading them to think differently, on a different level or plane, one that acknowledges the legitimacy of the claims we Christians make.
Personally, I am convinced most everyone wants to believe. So many of the people standing on the outside of the stained glass windows are simply asking questions and looking for answers they hope to find, and according to 2 Timothy 4:2 we need to always be in a state of readiness to provide the answers sought – patiently and in love. For “a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants” (2 Timothy 2:24-26 NLT).
Thanks for reading – comments encouraged.
“Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics” by William Lane Craig; Crossway; 3rd edition (June 9, 2008)
“Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions” by Gregory Koukl; Zondervan, May 26, 2009
Stand to Reason: http://www.str.org/
Explore God: http://www.exploregod.com/
Reasonable Faith: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/
Reasonable Faith East Dallas https://www.facebook.com/groups/1557766204487351/1622560141341290/?notif_t=like
Apologetics: Defending the Faith
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
In John 8:12 Jesus said of himself, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Placing Genesis 1:2 alongside Jesus’ words, the contrast is obvious. “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep”. In Hebrew, the word used in Gen. 1:2 translating “darkness” (according to Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon) would be understood as “a dark place, as of Hades; an underground prison”. In Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, he addresses the verse writing, “and this was all a dark turbid chaos, as before expressed, without any light or motion, till an agitation was made by the Spirit”.
In Genesis 1:3, the agitation Gill refers to happened, God spoke and the light switch of time and space was turned on. God then created a perfect environment, a habitat for his crowning creation, you and me. Almost as quickly as light and life sprang forth, though, our first parents, Adam and Eve, rebelled against God plunging the world back into darkness, the darkness of sin. A floodgate was opened that spilled over onto the entire human race – all life was affected; no person, place or thing would escape the far-reaching consequence of that fateful moment in Eden. But God had a plan.
Looking years into the future, Isaiah said, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone” (Isaiah 9:2). For, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Some 700 years later, Jesus was born in Bethlehem’s manger, the offspring of a woman (see Genesis 3:15) who had not known a man intimately. Simeon, a man scripture tells us was righteous and devout, held the child in his arms recognizing this tiny infant to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy saying,
“. . .my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32).
Today, over 2000 years have passed since Jesus came into the world and the darkness remains, there is still much evil. It’s near impossible to watch the evening news and not be confronted with the reality that our planet is still shrouded in darkness. The far-reaching effects of sin continue to wreak global havoc. Civil unrest, war, terrorism, world hunger, poverty, sickness and disease all serve to remind us that the darkness is present. However, with as unfortunate and tragic as it may be, it is only by virtue of darkness that we comprehend the value of light. The moon and the stars are seen at night, when darkness falls, not when the sun is high in the sky. So that in the midst of a dark world we see Jesus more clearly and rest in confidence knowing the light that guided shepherds and Kings through the night will guide us as it did them.
Yes, sin continues to exist and darkness abounds on so many fronts, but God’s plan is not thwarted nor can it be. At the birth of Jesus, a glorious light pierced the darkness. At the cross, Jesus died in our place, a ransom paid on our behalf. Three days later, the brilliant and blazing light of divine love shattered the corridors of hell destroying its dark domain and freeing all who will from the heavy chains of sin that held the world fast in its paralyzing grip.
Advent serves to remind us of God breaking into the course of human history to redeem mankind through the gift of his son, the one true light who gives light to everyone (John 1:9), a light that cannot be overcome, that the deepest, darkest, darkness will never extinguish (John 1:5). So light a candle, find comfort in its warmth, and live in its light.
“For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
In a 2007 survey of more than 35,000 people, findings by the Pew Research Center found 57% of Evangelical Christians believe many religions can lead to eternal life. Now that’s disturbing but more ominous is the same survey found amongst Mainline churches, 83% agree
Having these numbers securely under your belt. It should come as no surprise when as a believer who believes Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal life you get branded. You will wear such labels as “Narrow-minded”, “Arrogant”, “Egotistical and Bigoted, naming but a few.
Admittedly, I too once looked for ways around the Christian view of there being but one way to God. I mean, if he does exist, I would reason. If it is true that he is “not wishing that any should perish” as 2 Peter 3:9 declares. Why then should it be a one-lane, one-way road that leads to Heaven? Why not carve out dozens of paths and make it easy.
Let Moses take the Jews to the Promised Land, Mohammad can lead the Muslims, Buddha covers the Buddhist, Confucius the Chinese, Pythagoras the Greeks and Jesus can take care of the Christians. Sound good? Yes, to the world who prefers subjective truth over objective truth it sounds both good and reasonable.
However, the simple reality of the matter is this. Jesus said, “ “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). You may want to make note of the word “the” – it’s the definite article here. Thus, Jesus did not say I am a way, a truth, and a life; but the way, the truth, and the life. Then taking it over the top, Jesus boldly declares that more than just being the way to heaven he says, I am the ONLY way to heaven. “No one comes to the Father except through me”.
Listen up, religion is not your ticket to eternal life, being good and charitable won’t do it, your knowledge or ancestry doesn’t reserve you a place either. Only Jesus and Jesus only will get you through the gate. He purchased the ticket for you on the Cross. Yes, Christianity is narrow, extremely narrow, but I have no regrets in traveling this road. So go ahead, call me arrogant. I don’t mind being labeled an egotistical fool, bigoted or narrow-minded either – my feelings aren’t hurt. What does hurt though is thinking that so many people I know and love might miss heaven. Please don’t do that – please. Let’s talk.