Saturday, September 4, 2010

One More Follow-Up

One of the many things I admire about my brother is his genuine heart for the lost. There are many Christians who have an understanding that they are supposed to be sharing the Gospel with others but fall to the temptation of finding one excuse after another of why they aren't up to the task or why someone else would be a better ambassador for Christ. Some are afraid of backlash or losing a friend. Some insist that they don't know what to say or wouldn't have the right answers to all the questions that would likely be thrown at them. Well, guess what? You probably won't have all the answers. It is likely that the person you are talking to will always have one more question than you have answers. But that shouldn't stop you from learning as much as you can and gaining a better understanding of how to approach people. My brother gets it. He cares enough about the lost to pursue knowledge and wisdom to reach them more effectively. And at the end of the day, he knows it is God that changes hearts and opens eyes. We are just called to be faithful to the task of being the messenger.

I used to have conversations with Pastor Zimmerman about witnessing. One thing he used to say was that you should learn to back someone who doesn't know Christ into an intellectual corner. You should take them to the point where the hole in their belief system is exposed and they have nothing left to stand on. After all, if Jesus Christ is truly God's plan for salvation, then every other belief system would have to be false and have some glaring inconsistency that can't stand under the light of truth. Again, this isn't ultimately about winning an intellectual argument. It's about caring for that person's heart and wanting them to see the truth. But sometimes, in order to help them see, you first have to show them why their beliefs are flawed. Now, just because you are able to do that doesn't mean that their eyes will automatically open. They may simply choose to be in denial about the fallacy of what they believe. But at least you will have raised a that might not be so easily dismissed regardless of how hard they try.

So along those lines, I am copying and pasting some thoughts my brother shared from a book called "No Doubt About It" . It offers arguments against the kind of relativist and skeptical thinking that was on display at the BBQ. I found it very worthwhile and felt it was worth sharing here:

Relativists are illogical - because they apply a standard to
everyone else that they exempt themselves from. They say there are no
absolutes...but that itself is an absolute statement.

a) Partial knowledge is still knowledge. While we don't know it all,
absolutely, it is a logical fallacy to conclude from this caution that
we cannot have any genuine, absolute knowledge at all. The remedy is
not to deny the things that we can know for sure, but to qualify our

b) We are not final reference points for truth. Events occur beyond
our conceptualizations. Like it or not, what is true or false is often
defined for us by reality. The person who denies the law of gravity
will still die if he or she jumps off a skyscraper. Reality, not our
preference, needs to be the ultimate source and authority of truth.

c) Relativism leads to the impossible attitude of skepticism.
Relativism says that everything, including contradictory statements,
can be true. Skepticism says that we cannot know anything to be true.
It turns out that skepticism is a position that nobody can hold, for it states that one cannot know anything. Does the person who makes that statement know it or not? If the skeptic thinks that skepticism is true, then it is false. The skeptic argues that we can know at least one thing, namely, that skepticism is true (that we cannot know anything for sure). If the skeptic does not claim that skepticism is
true, he or she is not saying anything meaningful.

We must distinguish here between what can be said and what can be
affirmed meaningfully. You can say that you cannot know anything, but
you cannot affirm it meaningfully. You cannot even think it: as soon
as you think it is true, it must also be false.

d) Relativism cannot be lived out. An individual will live his or her
life almost entirely on a nonrelativistic true-false basis. Either I
missed the bus, or I didn't miss the bus. Either this is Friday, or it
is not Friday. Relativism only seems to pop up at certain crucial
moments, usually in a sphere of morality or religion.

e) Of course, the best critique against a position like relativism may
be to show that there are better alternatives than to suspend
judgment. The book continues on from there.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Follow Up to 8/22 Post

I have had a couple inquiries as to what I was referencing with the verses from 2 Corinthians and my commentary that I was really feeling them after the proceedings from the night before. So, I shall explain further.

August 21st was the evening of the annual MindShare BBQ party. Almost immediately after John (who is in my Bible Study) and his wife left, the conversation turned to religion. The 3 principals of our firm - Scott, Andy and Steve - are all Jewish. My understanding from several years ago of what it meant to be Jewish included the idea that you had some sort of geneaology that took you back to Israel and that you actively practiced Judaism. I have since realized from these guys that the ancestral part of being a Jew is the primary standard whereas a strong belief and following of Judaism varies greatly. Not unlike someone who claims to be Christian simply because they grew up in a home with parents who called themselves Christian.

So these guys don't take their Judaism too seriously and that is how the conversation got started. Andy was talking to Steve about what it meant to be a good Jew while fully admitting that he wouldn't be considered a "good Jew" either. It would include things like regularly attending synagogue, following all of the customs and observances and believing and studying the Torah. Each of these guys observe some of the Jewish holidays and see the inside of a synagogue a couple times a year. Their belief regarding the validity of the Torah as God's Word varies widely. Steve took objection to the fact that someone else could judge him to be or not to be a "good Jew" based on the criteria laid out. Sound familiar? Plenty of Christians are offended that someone would call their Christianity into question just because they only believe certain parts of the Bible or rarely pray or attend church. So, I was just sitting back and listening...actually enjoying the chance to hear them share their thoughts without having to be in the middle of it.

Well, that didn't last for long. My belief in Jesus Christ is well known among the group and I am proud of that. Many years ago I sat with Scott and his wife in their home and gave a clear Gospel presentation which probably lasted 3 hours or so. Even though there was no immediate heart transformation they were interested enough to ask genuine questions. That isn't how this conversation went. In fact, it became very clear that the core of Scott and Steve's belief system is that they can't really believe anything because no one really knows. There is no absolute truth. I think we have all heard this before. It is a "belief system" that basically allows you to live your life in whatever way you want. If you say it is impossible to know whether or not God is real, then there is no higher authority to which you must submit and you become your own God by default.

So, Steve was taking exception with the idea that there should be rules he must follow to be a good Jew and brought me into the conversation by saying, "Well, Chris also believes that there are rules he must follow but they are different than yours, Andy. So, you both can't be right, which means no one really knows, so it makes no sense that I should have to live a certain way because no one can really know what that way is." At this point, I am still just listening but waiting to respond as I see Steve going down the path of relativism.

I then took the opportunity to talk about the fact that there is absolute truth and that the most rigorous intellectual conclusion is that a God and Creator exist rather than the notion that to be intellectual is to believe in nothing. I offered some ways to prove the validity of the Bible - numerous prophecies that all came true or David describing crucifixion in Psalm 22 around 1000 BC when it wouldn't even come into existence for another four centuries. I also talked about how evolution doesn't make any intellectual sense - the ideas that matter can come from nothing and that life can come from what is not alive have never been shown to be scientifically possible - regardless of how hard scientists may try. But what I quickly learned is that there would be no thought given to anything I had to say. The mantra of "we can't know anything" was such a dominant wall to Scott and Steve that everything I said was met with immediate disregard. They were even questioning that Jews were ever in Egypt and that King David actually existed, which is when I knew for sure that there was no point in going on. Hence, 2 Corinthians 4:

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."

This went on for a couple hours and left me very frustrated and discouraged. Andy, to his credit, was at least listening to what I had to say and announced to Scott and Steve more than once that I had done A LOT more studying on these topics than they had so for them to just summarily dismiss everything I said was out of line. I find that to be the most interesting part. Although both Scott and Steve can be very closed-minded and stubborn, on a variety of subjects, they are both bright individuals who usually prefer to know more about something than less. Yet, in this case, they both seem more than willing to remain ignorant on these matters, preferring to choose to know less than more. I think that once you have built the foundation of your life on a certain belief system you are very reluctant to make a change halfway through for fear of having to admit that the way you have been thinking and living all this time has been wrong. It is much easier to stay on the wrong path. That is where my sadness comes into play.

I know I don't have the power to convert anyone. But these are my friends. These are people I care about. I can't even get them to open their mind one inch to contemplate that there might be something real and tangible that they can grasp. I feel quite hopeless in being able to help divert their path from eternal destruction.

Importantly, after the conversation had subsided with Steve feeling like he had won because I was unable to offer a logical explanation of how God came to be, his wife pulled up a chair next to me. She asked me 2 questions. The first, "Do you believe that I am going to hell?" I remember Pastor Zimmerman telling me that people always wanted to make this question personal and I recalled at the time thinking, "Well, why wouldn't they?" So, I answered honestly that Jesus Christ was God's plan from the beginning to reconcile us back to Himself. There is no other way. So, if you don't place your faith in Christ, then yes, you will be eternally separated from God. Her second question was the one I wanted to hear. "So how does it make you feel that people you care about are going to hell?" I looked her in the eyes and quietly said, "It breaks my heart." I made the analogy that if Scott's pool was filled with acid and I knew it, what kind of friend would I be if I just let them all jump in thinking it was filled with water? I love each and every one of them so I have no other choice but to show my love by sharing what I believe to be true.

That was the most important point I got across that night. My desire is not to show how much I know or to have a battle of intellect or wit. It certainly isn't about feeling superior in any way (quite the opposite in fact) and it isn't about disrespecting anyone else's beliefs. My only desire is to share the Gospel with anyone and everyone, and how much more so, with those people that I call my friends. I just want them to know how much God loves them and what He has done for them and how the Scriptures attest to these truths and give us more to go on than just blind faith.

God led me to send her a message the next day, basically stating what I just wrote. She replied that she believed in God because she chose to but didn't really know God. She prays to a God because it makes her feel good. It brings her comfort. But there is no knowledge of who she is praying to. She went to church as a kid and stated that she got tired of having Jesus forced down her throat. She converted to Judaism when she got married but it's clear that she has never really affiliated herself with either being a Christian or a Jew. She did say that she would write back with questions at some point. I haven't heard from her yet but hope to soon. I do believe God was working that night. Even though my sadness remains there may be an inkling of hope here that I pray God will ignite for His glory.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Key to Healthy Christian Growth

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

You or Him?

It's been tough lately. It's one thing to feel like your life is going nowhere. It's quite another to feel like your life is going backward. Unfortunately, that is the feeling I get when finances and my professional life are heading in the wrong direction. I am prone to falling into the trap of wondering why God is allowing these struggles when I am striving to live for Him. I have written about that kind of thinking if God owes us material blessings in this life. I think God allows these difficult periods to show me where my heart has made agreements that have no basis in Scripture.'s about loving God for who He is and not what He can do for us.

My traditional way of handling challenging times is to simply put my head down and work even harder. That is still a temptation that I have. As if I can just rely on myself to get through. Oh sure, I will pray for reprieve, strength and provision but in the day-to-day grind I find it very easy to make it about me and my ability to rise above the situation. I was recently watching "Rocky Balboa" (the last installment) and Rocky's words to his son resonated with me at the time:

"Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done! Now if you know what you're worth then go out and get what you're worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain't where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain't you! You're better than that!"

Ever feel like Rocky? Where life is just reduced to seeing how much you can take and keep moving forward? I feel like that from time to time. That it's all just one big test and the winners and losers are simply separated by who throws in the towel and who doesn't. But where is God in that? I think I am tempted to put it all on my shoulders so that I can have the glory when things ultimately break my way. I won't have to credit God or anyone else for helping me through. Kinda like Lance Armstrong.

As is written in the Sacred Journey, "To do for yourself the best that you have it in you to do - to grit your teeth and clench your fists in order to survive the world at its harshest and worst - is, by that very act, to be unable to let something be done for you and in you that is more wonderful still. The trouble with steeling yourself against the harshness of reality is that the same steel that secures your life against being destroyed secures your life also against being opened up and transformed."

To grit your teeth and steel yourself against the harshness of this world is to say that your agenda and your glory is more important than that of God. Yes, we will have to work hard and struggle during this life. But to become so myopically focused on that sliver of reality is to deny who we are and what God wants to do in us and through us. You are missing what LIFE truly is about if you have reduced it to being a cruel game of seeing how much it can dish out before you break. That isn't the life Christ came to give and it isn't the life we are called to live. When you feel like you can't take anymore and keep going forward, don't focus your eyes on the problems right in front of you but rather focus your heart above where life is truly found.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners - Isaiah 61:1

9/1/10 Addendums: "I ask you not to lose heart" - Paul in Eph. 3:13, merits thinking deeply on

"Whom God would use greatly He will hurt deeply."- A.W. Tozer

Worth a Listen

What's Next for Francis Chan? A Conversation with Mark Driscoll and Joshua Harris from Ben Peays on Vimeo.