Talking with skeptics and atheists

(1) We all appreciate kindness and love.  “sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness” (Prov 16.21 NAS); . . . .”speaking the truth in love” (Eph 5.15 NAS). (2) A Christian’s objective in a conversation or post should not be to win the argument at all  costs but offer the gospel. Think long term. In John 3, Jesus planted good seed in Nicodemus’ heart which did not blossom until later (Jn 19.39-40);  (3) Outsiders to the faith cannot  understand it–1 Corinthians. 2.14; 1.18. If there is any openness or curiosity, show patience;  (4)  Ask questions that open up inside a person’s assumptions–prompt him to rethink his own views. Ex: “If not Judeo-Christian, what is your world view?” . . .  “Atheism has no basis for objective morality. Naturalism is admittedly amoral. Yet you speak of evil–blaming God for it. What  moral standard are you using?”   (5) Inquire as to his agenda. Why is he discussing it at all? Has he got just endless, recreational, bull session questions? Is there one burning question in his soul, keeping him from coming to Jesus?  Or is he asking a question he has asked many times before? If so, shift the focus; (6) Does he realize that every other world view beyond the Judeo-Christian world view is even less credible? Other world views have even more issues as to origin, meaning in life, morality and destiny. This includes: atheism, Hinduism, Islam and others. (7)  It takes two to argue. Avoid arguments. They tend to get worse not better. Don’t be pulled down out of the spirit and in the flesh.  Jesus said, ” . .  do not throw your pearls before swine” (Matt 7.6 NAS).  Like trying to feed a dead cat is reasoning with persistent scoffers and God mockers.  (Prov 17.12,27,28). (8) Let the Holy Spirit lead you in conversation. (8) Be gracious but open and honest.  (9) Loving Jesus had lots of enemies, many were deeply religious people. Godly Christians make lost people uncomfortable. Expect some jabs, scoffing, negativity and unnecessary words. Ask God to show you when to love and accept and when to show tough love by avoiding strife, saying “Go in peace.” (10) It is the gospel that wins people not apologetics. Don’t think you have to have answers to every possible question. Bring the conversation to the Cross and Resurrection.

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Forget Some Social Pressures, Stressers / Your Funeral Guests

Should we care what friends think if we drive an older car, wear modest clothes and love to talk about Jesus? Forget such social pressures. Remember that if it’s raining or these friends have a cold, they may skip your funeral. People don’t think nearly as much about us as we can imagine. Focus on pleasing Jesus. Be calm, wash your face, suck it up and move on. If you believe that Jesus Christ has paid off your whole sin mortgage,  thank Him! If you are trusting that His death was substitutionary and efficacious, praise Him!  If you are trusting  that all your wicked thoughts have been forgiven, tell Him.

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JAMES AND THE FAITH/WORKS QUESTION?

“As you read the epistle of James, you discover that these Jewish Christians were having some problems in their personal lives and in their church fellowship. . . . difficult testings, temptations to sin . . . catering to the rich . . being robbed by the rich . .  competing for teaching offices . .  not living what they professed to believe . . . their mouths were causing divisions among them . . . . talking but not living the truth (2.14ff) . . . .  no control of tongue (3.1ff)  ” – Warren Wiersbe Commentary on James, p. 335-336.

James deals early on with salvation  in 1.18. “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we might be, as it were, the first fruits of His creatures.”

It speaks of the New Birth here. God brought our salvation exercising His will, His plan, His intention, not man’s striving.  “It is divine. Nicodemus thought he had to reenter his mother’s womb to be born again, but he was wrong. This birth is not of the flesh: it is from above (Jn 3.1-7). It is the work of God. Just as we did not generate our own human birth, we cannot generate our own spiritual birth. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, it was God who performed the miracle.” Ibid 344.

“It is gracious. We did not earn it or deserve it; God gave us spiritual birth because of His own grace and will. ‘Which were born, not of blood [human descent], nor of the will of the flesh [human efforts]  nor of the will of man [human assistance], but of God.” (John 1.13) No one can be born again because of his relatives, his resolutions or his religion. The new birth is the work of God.” Ibid, 344-345.

Skipping to the controversial verses in James 2, he is addressing those who talk the faith but do not live it out. “What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can that faith save him? . . . and if one of you says to them, Go in peace . . . But some one may well say, You have faith and I have works, show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2.14,16,18.

James has dealt with salvation in chapter 1. He has made it clear that salvation is of God–supernatural. He is not changing his mind a few verses later. Here he is simply saying ‘walk your talk. Don’t be a hypocrite. Get involved.’ If a man takes a job at Jones Supply Company, he can walk around town claiming to be their employee. Bu if he will not report in to work is he really an employee? Likewise with the army recruit who does not report to basic training. He is AWOL, a fake. One is not saved by good works but for good works–after his redemption event. The Cross is proof that a man can not save himself. if so, Jesus died in vain–Gal 2.21.

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Which world view deals best with the problem of evil?

Hinduism (all branches) can explain evil as karma. If evil happens the person deserved it. Atheism claims we are all accidents of chance, just molecules bouncing around a meaningless, amoral universe. No evil or good exists. Islam says that Allah wills whatever happens. Only the Judeo-Christian world view can address evil and suffering more deeply.  (1) Creator God in His wisdom has not chosen to explain the reasons behind evil and suffering completely. We have some answers but not all. We must  trust God for the rest. (Rom 8.32).    (2)  Though not answering all possible questions the Bible does offer around ten causes/reasons for trials, suffering and evil. These await the diligent inquirer;  (3) The Bible has very  limited objective—to get the lost soul saved and guide him in the Christian walk.  The Bible is adequate but not exhaustive. If it answered every possible question asked, it would be have to be a giant, unwieldy ‘encyclopedia’ as large as a house. That was not God’s intention. He is looking for faith. The fallen angels in heaven had proof of God’s existence and much information. They still sinned. God wants some faithful beings to live with Him for all eternity. Praise your name Father God!  (4)  A finite man perhaps knows less than one percent of all available facts about this earth. And if there is a realm beyond this physical planet,  he knows even less about it. Our life spans are so short.  A three year old child does not understand why his parents want him to eat veggies instead of candy for supper. It is obvious to him that the candy is better—superior. Yet he is wise to obey his parents— by faith. Wise Christians have a ‘faith drawer’ to put unanswered questions in. When we get to heaven we can ask Jesus. This can teach self control and patience; -after Ravi Zacharias

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Which World View best addresses the problem of evil?

Which world view best addresses questions surrounding evil and suffering in the world? Hinduism (all branches) can explain evil as karma. If evil happens the person deserved it. Atheism claims we are all accidents of chance, just molecules bouncing around a meaningless, amoral universe. No evil or good exists. Islam says that Allah wills whatever happens. Only the Judeo-Christian world view can address evil and suffering more deeply.  (1) Creator God in His wisdom has not chosen to explain the reasons behind evil and suffering completely. We have some answers but not all. We must  trust God for the rest. (Rom 8.32).    (2)  Though not answering all possible questions the Bible does offer around ten causes/reasons for trials, suffering and evil. These await the diligent inquirer;  (3) The Bible has very  limited objective—to get the lost soul saved and guide him in the Christian walk.  The Bible is adequate but not exhaustive. If it answered every possible question asked, it would be have to be a giant, unwieldy ‘encyclopedia’ as large as a house. That was not God’s intention. He is looking for faith. The fallen angels in heaven had proof of God’s existence and much information. They still sinned. God wants some faithful beings to live with Him for all eternity. Praise your name Father God!  (4)  A finite man perhaps knows less than one percent of all available facts about this earth. And if there is a realm beyond this physical planet,  he knows even less about it. Our life spans are so short.  A three year old child does not understand why his parents want him to eat veggies instead of candy for supper. It is obvious to him that the candy is better—superior. Yet he is wise to obey his parents— by faith. Wise Christians have a ‘faith drawer’ to put unanswered questions in. When we get to heaven we can ask Jesus. This can teach self control and patience; -after Ravi Zacharias

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All atheists are not angry scoffers and God-mockers

I appreciate the gentle, thoughtful comments of doubters, skeptics and atheists. I want to interact. But can you too sense a different spirit from the God-mocker and scoffer that seems to be venting  strong emotion,  condescending, attacking personally, unreasoning? They predictably come across to me as having a critical attitude, negative, offer no joy, no  hope, no encouragement, no gracious words, no answer for sin and guilt, no peace, no changed life, no better hope for the after life. It is just  sad. Do some atheists seem angry with the one they insist does not exist? If God did not exist there would be no reason to be an atheist.

Rule #1: Don’t get Bible truth from outsiders, strange teachers. This was Eve’s mistake.  She listened to the serpent (Satan) rather than her ‘pastor,’ God. I don’t eat food off the sidewalk or accept the teachings of passers-by. There is a reason outsiders are outsiders. I have never owned a horse or been to Brazil. One would not be wise to assume I had inside knowledge of  those areas.

I care about atheists.  Some likely are hurting, bruised, bleeding, struggling. I really do care, but it’s like drilling through concrete. “Jesus, give wisdom, soften hearts.  Give me  gracious, thoughtful words.”

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Noticed these atheist attitudes?

 

Atheists Attitudes?: (1) religion turned me off, didn’t meet my needs; (2) I’m bitter, mad at God; (3) mocking at God or Christians is enjoyable; I love to ask questions that they can’t answer; (4) I don’t want to discuss religion; I go my way, God goes His; (5) I say I need more information but truthfully I’m not seeking after God; I will not submit to the truth of the Bible or wooing of Holy Spirit; (6) I prefer my beer buzz, sin or immorality to God; it[‘s a moral issue with me not intellectual. I WILL not change;

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Reconciling God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility?

 

The key to understanding these two concepts better for me at least leans on the term ‘ limited delegation of responsibility.’ We ll? The boss delegates limited responsibility to them. (1) These two concepts of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility are only in conflict if God’s sovereignty is total, 100 percent. Or if human responsibility is in name only, making it invalid. Think of a general on the battlefield. Does he make every decision or depend on his platoon, division and company commanders to fine tune his decisions and exercise initiative? The football coach calls the play but does He expect the quarterback to make the best decision on run/ pass option plays? (2) Human responsibility is limited to a context. It is never unlimited. For example, a man is not free to fly like a bird, live for 300 years, delete the law of gravity or reject Jesus Christ and go to a Bible heaven. Our human freedom is limited. (Praise God it is. I need God’s watchful eye, comfort and protection). (3) We see these two concepts side by side in Scripture operating smoothly. “for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Ptr 2.21 NAS). . . . . “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ . . .” (1 Ptr 1.2 NAS). – after Ravi Zacharias.see this operating in our daily world continually. The owner of a company is in charge—full control. But does he make every single decision in his 75 employee firm? Or do employees in finance. HR, production and sales have many decisions to make?

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Does sincerity make a philosophy real?

 

A farmer noticed a fresh grave being dug in his friend’s back yard. Saddened, he notified the neighbors and they gathered around the open grave. They sang and prayed. Then a stranger appeared, explaining that he was there to install a new septic tank. . . . . .Similarly, many in man made philosophies and man made religions are equally sincere but have the facts wrong. Each one has his own opinions but Truth is absolute, unchanging. All genuine Christians agree on the salvation essentials or they could not be saved. On the endless non-essential issues, Christians have never all agreed.

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Is deeper intimacy with God achieved by protracted singing one song? Does musical massaging of one’s feelings enhance fellowship with God?

“Worship can be feelings manufactured without thought. If you repeat a thought long enough you think you can manufacture the right thought to engender the feeling. . . .  I think we are flirting with a lot of issues that are very dangerous here.” -Ravi Zacharias.

“God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4.24).

In worship should my primary focus be on God himself, His truths, His attributes, His awesome deeds, His salvation, His marvelous provisions or on  my feelings? We can worship God when our emotions are high or when we are down. In the Psalms, David seemed to often be down when he spilled out his hurts, his guts, before God.

I would view worship options including: (1) treating singing as a Christian mantra-like atmosphere where  the same song/ word/phrase is repeated over and over. Feelings are massaged, protracted urging, pushing them. This I presume is supposed to lift the person to some advanced spiritual plane, a deeper intimacy with God?  Feelings not truth  or intellect appear to be driving  this elongated worship approach. Are massaging feelings the way to  a deeper worship experience with God?;

(2)  well known, spectator worship—mouthing words with the mind often disconnected to what one is singing. This is not difficult to spot looking around a congregation. Minds are wandering. Perhaps most of us can relate to this temptation, this tendency. I can. Worship takes concentration, effort.  Especially when we don’t feel like it. Is it disrespectful to be talking to some one while our mind is wandering?;

“Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord . . ” (Eph 5.19)

(3)  Conventional congregational worship can often be dutiful, cerebral but lacking in heart-felt zeal and compassion. True worship is talking to God—adoring, glorifying, praising, thanking, honoring, fellowshipping.

“O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with a voice of triumph” (Psalm 47.1).

(4) Joyful worship where worshipper is focused–telling God what he thinks of Him by singing rich, edifying, doctrinal truths or uplifting heart felt lyrics. Hymns, scripture choruses and songs are used to glorify God and delight man’s heart —Davidic, Psalmic singing. Hand raising,  hand clapping and shouts may be in order in some churches.

Because so many churches have flat, uninspiring worship, one hesitates to discourage any display of emotion. Yet whipping up emotions seems different to me than simple worship grounded in Spirit and in truth.

“O, come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation” (Psalm 95.1)

 

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