Saturday, September 26, 2015

Everyday Apologetics

I'm currently teaching a very basic introductory class on Christian apologetics at Highland Park Church. I've named the class Everyday Apologetics, since the focus is on equipping believers to engage in one-on-one defense of the faith with people they interact with everyday.

Based on the little book If You Could Ask God One Question, the class explores common questions and misunderstandings about Christian belief, and seeks to provide basic rational, logical and Biblical responses to these questions. *My friend Landon Braithwait will also be writing and teaching a few of these lessons.

You can download the student guide here. Listed below are the lessons, with links to the teaching notes for each, as well as audio.
  1. Apologetics Defined   (Notes)   (Audio)
  2. The First Question – The Existence of God   (Notes)   (Audio)
  3. The Testimony of God   (Notes)  (Audio)  (Can We Trust the NT?)
  4. The Righteousness of God   (Notes)   (Audio)
  5. The Justice of God   (Notes)   (Audio)
  6. The Redeeming Nature of God  (Notes)  (Audio)
  7. *The Lordship of Christ  (Notes)  (Audio)
  8. The Reality of Eternity  (Notes)  (Audio)
  9. The Exclusivity of Christ  (Notes)  (Audio)
  10. *The Nature of Christian Faith  (Notes)  (Audio)
  11. The Problem of Pain and Evil  (Notes)  (Audio)
  12. The Morality of God  (Notes)  (Audio)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Something I Have to Tell You

Dear Twitter followers, Facebook friends and blog readers:

Many of you know me personally, many of you only casually, and some of you only through my tweets and posts and comments. Regardless of how or if you know me, however, there’s something I need to tell you. In fact, this is something that I am compelled to tell you. I may have communicated this to you in the past, I may have implied it or even assumed you already knew it. But because I care about each one of you, I want to clearly and unambiguously tell you this now.

The truth is that you have a problem. And so do I. A huge, life threatening problem. We are all God’s enemies. That’s right, we’re at war with God, the supreme ruler of the universe. And I’m not talking about some imaginary deity that we like to make up in our own minds. I’m talking about the big ‘G’ God, the living and eternal Jehovah God who’s revealed Himself in the Bible as all powerful and all knowing. The one true God who is absolutely holy, pure and righteous. This is the God we are at war with. This is the God who created us and rightly own us and our allegiance and obedience and worship. This is the God we’ve rebelled against, whose commands we’ve ignored and willfully disobeyed. This is the God we’ve tried to replace with all kinds of other objects of worship like wealth, comfort, ourselves, even religion. Our rebellion against God is what He rightly calls sin. And He’s not pleased with our sin. He hates it.

Yes, that’s right. The God of the Bible who we rightly talk about in terms of love, hates. He hates our sin, and He hates us as sinners. He can’t do otherwise, because He’s morally perfect and can’t stand evil, and therefore to not hate sin would be to deny Himself, something He cannot do. So you see what a serious problem we have. Created by a holy God who is worthy of our worship and obedience, but rebellious against Him and His rule because we’d rather be free of Him. Rightly hated and condemned by Him for our sin. And because any sin against an infinitely righteous God is justly deserving of infinite punishment, we are in deep, eternal, trouble. He’s promised that He will judge sinful men, and will send them to an eternal punishment as an act of His perfect justice. To a place the Bible refers to as hell. Yes, hell is real, more real than anything in this present world. And unless something changes, it’s the eternal destination of each one of us. Like I said, you and I have a problem that makes even the most serious problems of our daily lives look like mere inconveniences.

Do I have your attention yet? I hope so, because if that’s where the story ended, we’d all be hopelessly pitiful beings who’d live out our existence in fear and despair, knowing what awaits us at some point in the future when God fulfills His promises to punish sinners. But that’s not the end of the story. There’s more than bad news to this truth I am compelled to tell you. There’s good news. Infinitely good news that can change fear and despair to hope, joy and true worship.

Because this holy, righteous, just and sovereign God is also perfectly loving, merciful and gracious. And as the ultimate act of mercy and grace to condemned sinners like you and me, He’s done everything needed to remove from us the condemnation we so richly deserve, and to replace that state of judgment with a position of righteousness before Him, for eternity. He’s done so by providing a substitute for that eternal punishment, Someone who could absorb the infinite hatred and anger of God against sin, and perfectly satisfy His just demands. That Someone is the Son of God Himself, Jesus Christ.

You probably all know about Jesus being killed by crucifixion on a Roman cross. But do you know why Jesus was killed? Do you know who killed Him? God killed Him. Jesus’ death on a cross was the fulfillment of God’s plan to make a way for condemned sinners to escape the wrath to come. Jesus’ crucifixion wasn’t a tragedy, it was the greatest victory of all time. It was the triumph of God’s grace and mercy over death and hell. It was the one means by which God could satisfy His justice, and yet provide a means for sinful men and women like us to be pardoned from eternal punishment for our sin, and to enter into a right relationship with Him. Something had to change. God acted to bring about that change, by sacrificing His Son Jesus and then raising Him from the dead to clearly show that the victory had been won.

That is really good news, isn’t it? The exchange of certain eternal punishment, for certain eternal relationship with God Himself. All threat of punishment for our sin taken away, forever. But…it’s only good news if it’s applied to us. God has acted to make this forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with Him available. And He’s also made it clear that He requires a response to this good news from us.

That response is faith. Believing and trusting in the person and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf. Having faith in the promises of God that He’s fulfilled through Christ, and placing our eternal trust in Him and Him alone. Recognizing that we have no ability to earn any kind of favor from God, and receiving His gracious pardon as a gift. Turning from all our sinful rebellion against God, and turning to Jesus for grace and mercy. Not trusting in ourselves, our acts of religion or rituals, our good deeds, our church membership or anything else other than the righteous life and satisfactory death of Jesus Christ. That’s the only acceptable response that God requires.

So that brings us to you and me. I can say that by God’s grace I have seen the reality of my sin and the condemnation and eternal punishment I rightly deserve. And by His grace I’ve also seen the reality of pardon from that sin and condemnation and punishment found in Jesus Christ. And I’ve responded in faith, trusting Him and nothing else for my eternity. And have experienced His love and transforming power in my life.

What about you? Have you responded in faith to God’s good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ? If you have, then I hope this note has been a reminder of the greatness of God’s gracious salvation. But if you haven’t, I urge you to consider the truths I’ve outlined here. Consider the eternal danger you’re in due to your sin. And consider the complete release from the sentence of hell that sin has earned you that’s available only through faith in Jesus. And respond by believing in His life and death for you, and receiving Him as your Savior and Lord. No one else can do that for you, it’s a response only you can exercise. And remember – by not trusting in Christ, you are choosing to reject the only means of salvation available. I urge you – choose Christ, for eternity.

I hope I’ve been clear in what I’ve communicated here, and that God will use this for you eternal good, and for His eternal glory. Thanks for taking the time to read.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Closed for Now...

So since I haven't been doing much if any posting here for a while, and since it's doubtful that anyone has noticed or missed it, and since I don't really have much to say lately, and since I have too many other places to invest my time and energy right now...I'm taking a blog break for a season. Not sure what that season is or how long it might last. So carry on bravely without me, cyberspace, and I may be back to contribute in my own little way at some point in the future. But for now...well, read the sign.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Vacation Highlights

I haven't posted here for a while due to lots of other things going on. Most notably, the past two weeks have been occupied with an epic family road trip, as I, my lovely wife, and our two teenagers traveled to northern California to spend some time with our oldest son Mike. Mike's in his second year as a pastoral intern at Meadow Valley Community Church in Quincy, up in the Sierras. It was a great trip, and after a few days of reflection, here are a few highlights.
  • Mountains - Though somewhat unintentional, our trip seemed to take on a mountain theme as we traveled through almost every range between Nebraska and northern California. That included the Badlands (OK, not really mountains, but tell that to my kids), Black Hills, Bighorns, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Sierra Nevadas, a few ranges in Utah, and the Colorado Rockies. I love mountains, and especially driving through them, so this was sweet.
  • The Numbers - We've never done a trip quite this long. The sheer numbers we racked up were impressive, according to our GPS. Like a total of 3,889 miles. Over 11 days. Covering 9 states. With 68 hours of drive time. At an average of 27.8 mpg from the Family Truckster, I mean the Taurus.
  • No Problems - Speaking of the Taurus, we had absolutely zero mechanical problems on the whole trip. I consider this a gift of God's grace. As well as getting stopped for speeding on I-80 in Nevada and not getting a ticket. Grace indeed.
  • The Sights - Our family was able to see some sights and experience some places that we'd never seen before, and hopefully begin to appreciate the diversity and grandeur of God's creation. Like the eerie landscape of the Badlands. The quiet beauty of the Black Hills. The patriotic feeling of visiting Mount Rushmore on the 4th of July. The close encounter of the third kind with Devil's Tower, and the prairie dogs there. The incredible sights and sounds and smells of Yellowstone, as well as the wildlife there. The splendor of the Grand Tetons. The desolation of the Utah salt flats. The ruggedness of the Sierra Nevadas. The amazing waters of Lake Tahoe. The high peaks and passes and deep valleys of the Rockies. And so much more.
  • Family Time - Packing the four of us in a car for 11 days could have been a real relational disaster. But again, by God's grace, we had a good time together. Especially the days we spent in Quincy with Mike as a whole family, and getting to see what his life is like there. And also spending some time getting to know Mike's girlfriend Rebekah, who came up from Redlands to meet us and who we came to love and view as part of the family.
  • The Church - While in Quincy, we got to know many of the people at MVCC. And I was blessed by their commitment to Christ, His gospel, and most visibly to each other. A small church truly being the body of Christ. We even got to witness the baptism of a young man that God had just saved out of a life of professed atheism - in a mountain stream. I'm convinced more than ever that God has our son Mike in the right place to learn and grow in being a shepherd. Thanks Terry, Curt, the Biddles, the Kroekers, and so many others who are modeling godly life and ministry for Mike.
  • The Funny Stuff - There were so many funny situations that kept coming up as we traveled. The most notable was the big red bus full of Asian tourists that stalked us for three days, across two states and multiple stops. We first encountered them at Mount Rushmore. The next day, they were at Devil's Tower when we stopped there. Later that day we stopped at a rest area on I-90 near Sheridan, Wyoming, and they pulled in as we were getting ready to leave. And the next day, as we stopped to view the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, there they were again. I think we lost them after that, but we kept on the lookout for red buses the rest of the trip.
Hopefully we also made a lot of memories as a family that will last. Thanks Lord, for being so gracious to us in this trip, and in an infinite number of ways in Christ every day.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Myth of Anonymity

Teaching at the Rescue Mission yesterday regarding each believer in Christ finding the function that God has gifted and purposed them for in the body of Christ, and then living that out. Of of the guys mentioned that he sees people who have the gift of giving, as they contribute to the mission in many ways, and very often anonymously, not wishing to gain any recognition for their service or giving. But only desiring that any and all glory be to God.

As I thought about this observation, Jesus' words in Matthew 6:1-4 came to mind. Lon was expressing just what Christ taught here in the Sermon on the Mount:

"Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you."

Jesus here commends anonymity before men for righteous deeds, so as not to be a hypocrite and seek commendation from men. In fact, He says if you receive honor from men for your good works, don't expect any reward from God, you've already had what you're going to get. But He also points out that the idea of doing any righteous work anonymously is a fallacy. While we may seek to do our deeds out of the sight of men, it's impossible to do them out of the sight of God. God is the One who "sees what is done in secret" and rewards faithfulness based on what he sees. So while we may seek to do good works anonymously, so as not to gain any honor or recognition from men, we do not, in fact cannot, do them anonymously before God. He sees every act of righteous obedience to Christ that we do, visible to men or not, and will reward His people for those acts with the words, "Well done, good and faithful slave." What a great motivation for seeking our recognition from Him then, not from others now.

But the corollary to this is that there are no anonymous sins, no unseen acts of disobedience to Christ. Just as God sees in secret our acts of obedience to His, He also sees in secret our acts of sin against Him. There's no such thing as a secret sin, when you factor God into the equation. Every thought, emotion, willful bent or act, even if never known of by another human being, is known by God. And this destroys the false idea of the victimless sin, since all sin is an affront against God, making Him the ultimate victim, the offended party. And God, who sees in secret, will righteously deal with our sin openly. What a frightening thought for those who would seek to hide their sin and think they're OK. The words of God in Numbers 32:23 were never truer: "...and be sure your sin will find you out."

But for the person who's placed their faith in Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death on the cross, what an amazing thought, that God has already dealt righteously and openly with our sin, both the obvious and the secret. He place those sins, and all others for all who will trust in Him, past, present and future, on Jesus at the cross and forever settled the issue. And in place of our sin, He credits to us who believe the perfect righteousness of Christ, a position of right standing before Him for eternity. So that even when we continue to try to keep secret anonymous sin in our hearts and minds, God knows them, will lovingly discipline us to bring us to repentance from them, and continues to apply His gracious forgiveness to us in Christ.

Amazing grace, indeed.