Tag Archives: Faith

Why some people aren’t Christians or ‘Preppers’

24 May

Ps 78:32  

In spite of all this, they still sinned; despite his wonders, they did not believe.

I was listening to someone explain how & why he had lost faith in the God he had enjoyed throughout his childhood.  It happened like this: he fell in love with a gal in high school who wasn’t a Christian.  That relationship led him to question what he had been taught from church and the Bible about why there are some people who aren’t Christian. The evidence he saw around him upon investigation caused him to abandon confidence in the truth of the Bible and what he had learned at church.

As he detailed the events, he offered this distinction:

  • I don’t claim to prove whether God exists or not.  I just don’t believe in God.

Hearing him draw a contrast, I began to see that though intertwined, these are indeed two different issues. (You can listen to the interview or access his written account of the unraveling of his faith at the link above.)  What struck me was the following statement:

  • “I might be wrong about God. But what I’m sure of is that my search for the truth has been genuine and my beliefs are sincere.”

Some questions for thinking logical Joes and Janes:

  1. What added value does ‘genuine’ bring to one’s search for the truth?
  2. Does it matter if beliefs are ‘sincere’?

I’m bothered by his (and many others’ I encounter) almost cavalier, yet ‘sincere’, dismissal of just not believing in God.

Is Christianity a matter of choosing to believe?  And what does it mean to ‘not believe’, or even ‘to believe’ for that matter?  And what about truth?

We have a friend who is a ‘survivalist prepper’.  You’ve heard of those folks. They stockpile vast supplies of food, weapons and other necessary goods so they can live independently for weeks and even months in various apocalyptic scenarios.  My husband and I have not taken those kind of ‘what if’ precautions, although we do have some supplies in the event of a power outage due to storms.

Our friend, who seems very rational, might accuse us of living in denial if we say, “We don’t believe in the realistic eventuality which grounds your preparation.”

How SHOULD we respond to possible mega disaster events?  Just like how we should respond to the possibility of there being a real God.

The only questions are:

  • What evidence is there for a likely event for which we should increase our preparation?
  • What evidence is there for the supernatural God as described in the Christian Bible?

And given the evidence, what is the most reasonable (reason-based) response one should make?

A more honest conclusion on the part of the man who lost his faith would be:

  • I don’t like where the evidence points, because I don’t want to deal with the God that the Bible describes.
  • And as a fully-aware, but perhaps irrational adult, I deliberately choose to put off dealing with what will happen to me when I die

Friends, I don’t know about the odds of an apocalyptic scenario happening in my lifetime.  But what I do know is that there is a preponderance of evidence to give us a high degree of certainty that the triune God of the Bible (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is who He says He is as recorded in the 66 books of the Bible.  Therefore, I assert that we can TRUST the written record.

Only fools ignore that kind of certainty.

 

Don’t weaken the anchor ropes of your faith!

21 Sep

Do you ever play out an imaginary conversation between you and someone else?  It could be with a hypothetical person or maybe with someone you know whose likely responses you think you can predict as well.

anchor

I spun one out yesterday as I read an essay meant to encourage Christians about the trustworthiness of God’s promises as recorded in the Bible.

Anyone who reads the Bible knows that it teaches that God never changes.  All his characteristics are not only inalterable, they are perfect and pure.  God’s qualities or attributes are the standard by which we created beings know what moral values look like. Which kind of values specifically?  To name a few, consider:

  • beauty
  • goodness
  • strength
  • truth
  • evil
  • mercy
  • wisdom
  • peace

The essayist whom I was reading argued for the importance of integrity and how we long for it in others.  Given our election choices this year, who isn’t interested in a candidate who will do what he or she promises!  Alas, we know that human beings will always disappoint, both others AND themselves.  Why? because created human beings have limits; we are finite and fallible!  But the God who created all things is always true to his word.

Why is this important?  Because life is filled with suffering and the promises to Christians in the Bible are hope-giving and life-sustaining.  Ken Boa, the author of what I was reading wrote, “Because it is impossible for God to lie (Hebrews 6:18; Titus 1:2), he is the ultimate and reliable source of hope…….Whatever he says he will do is as good as done, and when we hope in his promises, this hope becomes an anchor for the soul…(Hebrews 6:19)”

My imaginary conversation took flight at this point.  I have a relative who does not believe that all the Bible is true.  She picks out what seems reasonable to her.  Not a very reliable metric, wouldn’t you say?

Here goes:

Me:  We can count on God’s promises in the Bible because what he says comes to pass, whether in our lifetime or later.

She:  How can you say that?  The Bible is just primitive man’s interpretation of his world around him.  We know better these days.

Me:  Do you think that about the New Testament as well?

She:  Not as much as I do about the Old Testament.  I’m sure that parts of the New Testament are true, like Jesus’ words.

Me: Why wouldn’t you think all of it is reliable?

She:  Because the Bible was written by men prejudiced by their times and lots has been changed in all the translations since the originals.

Me:  Do you believe God is all powerful?

She:  Yes, I would say so.

Me:  Do you believe God is all good?

She:  At least MY God is!

Me:  Well then, do you think that an all-powerful and all-good God would be incapable of insuring that what he intended to be written actually got written and translated correctly?

She: (I can’t predict what her response would have been at this point)

Where would you have gone in this conversation?

Dear friends, clear thinking and logic are tools not just for political arguments or policy debates.  Our handling of the tools of rational reasoning and clear terms is vital to our very life.  For anyone to retain the gift of faith that God has granted, a Christian must think clearly.

There are many attacks on Christianity today and those who number among the Church must know what they believe and why.  And all our TRUE beliefs find their source in who God is and what kind of sovereign Creator and Sustainer He is.

If we lose our faith in who he is as recorded in his Word, the Bible, we will drift with the cultural tide and be miserable.

Truth matters…and can change your life

23 Mar

POW bracelet  When I was a junior in high school, many of us wore POW bracelets to remind ourselves of those men still held prisoner by the North Vietnamese.  I don’t know what happened to ‘my POW’ or the bracelet.  But that memory was vividly stirred when I heard someone explain how ‘news’ makes a difference.  The scenario he painted was of a wife, bereft of her POW husband, who still held on to the slim hope that he might be returned to her and their children.

One day, she picks up the phone to hear the startling news that not only is her husband alive, but he is already safely travelling home on a naval ship.  The Navy will pay for her to fly to San Diego to meet him in two weeks.

After the phone call, her circumstances have not changed, for she is still without her husband.  But the news of that future event WILL have an effect on her and the children.

What’s this example have to do with truth?  That’s easy: unless that mom trusts the veracity of the phone call, that it is NOT a hoax, then she won’t book the flight and make the arrangements to meet the ship when it docks.   Truth DOES matter.

So too does truth carry weight in a logical argument.  Recall that to have a powerful position, two conditions must be met.  Premises must be true and the way a conclusion is drawn must follow rules of logic.  An argument that abides by guidelines in how it’s formed is deemed valid.

Couple true premises with an orderly, valid proceeding from premises to conclusion, and you have a sound, or ‘unbeatable’ argument.

I saw another example of the power of true premises this morning when I was reminded of the account of Hannah, future mom of the prophet Samuel.

Mournful due to infertility and constantly belittled by ‘the other wife’ of Elkanah, Hannah refuses to eat but prays in the tabernacle during the family’s annual trek to worship at Shiloh.  Hannah receives a blessing from the priest Eli when she prays in for a son (1 Sam 1:1-18).

All she has heard is ‘news’ (Eli’s blessing) that the Lord will do for her as she requested while praying. When she arises from prayer, nothing has changed.  She is still childless, but she has heard and believed the ‘truth’ given to her by this representative of God, the priest Eli.

Here is a framework for this news and why it changed the live of our hypothetical POW’s wife and for Hannah, future mom of the renowned prophet Samuel.

P1 – I can confidently trust and act on true news of future events

P2 – My husband’s return is true news of a future event

C – Therefore, I can confidently count on my husband’s return

We can substitute the Hannah details for premise # 2

P2- My conceiving a son is true news of a future event

C – Therefore, I can confidently count on being a mom

What happens after the ‘counting on something occurring that has been foretold’?  Lives change!

  • The POW’s wife and children felt joy during the 2 weeks before Dad reached American soil.  They quickly sprang into action, prepping for Dad’s return.  Perhaps a planned spring break vacation was cancelled.
  • Hannah’s countenance immediately turned glad.  She ended her mournful fast, took food and confidently did the next step of sleeping with her husband Elkanah in order to conceive a son.

I’ll leave you with the MOST IMPORTANT news that Christians have heard:

  • Jesus, Son of God, was executed in the place of guilty sinners who are deprived of the means of coming to God and glorifying him by enjoying him (sin bars the way to commune with a holy God)
  • After dying, he was buried and came back to life 3 days later. His resurrection validated his prior public claims to BE God as well as demonstrated the truth of his announced purpose to live and die for helpless sinners. His punishment for our sins removed a holy God’s hostility toward men, opening the way to a happy father-child relationship.

Let’s put THAT news into our syllogism:

P1:  I can confidently trust and act on true news of future events

P2: Jesus’s substitutionary death for guilty sinners (as well as his substitutionary life perfectly pleasing to God and law-fulfilling) is a fact

C: Therefore, I can make decisions, both day-to-day and long term, counting on those facts.

Besides the outward impact on my life’s choices, the AFFECTIVE part is equally changed:

  • Picture the glee, delight and joy of the POW family as they make plans.  Mom is still a single parent juggling the demands of mothering, working and keeping house.  Those circumstances haven’t changed. But her whistle and glowing face point to a significant change.
  • Imagine Hannah’s attitude NOW when ‘the other wife’ with children mocks her. She still is slim and childless, but the taunting rolls off her back if she even notices it. She finds herself wanting to take in sufficient and healthy food to carry her future baby safely. Her mind is preoccupied with thoughts about the future.

And we who are Christians who trust and act on the news of what Jesus has done for us also live life differently, although we still might be suffering in today’s current circumstances.

What if we don’t EXPERIENCE joy or find ourselves meditating on meeting Jesus face to face?  What if we actually FEEL and ACT the same as our neighbor who has no certainty of this paradigm-shattering historical event?  Maybe it’s as simple as this: we haven’t been convinced what eyewitness testimony (the Gospel accounts in the New Testament) describes is true.

Remember, faith (or certainty about an unseen but true event) grows stronger by hearing reports again of what Jesus has done.

Truth DOES and should make a difference in our lives.

Romans 10:17 – So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.

 

The logic of assurance of faith

9 Mar

If you are a Christian, do you struggle with knowing for sure that all the promises of Christ are actually for you?  That you will be eternally with God when you die?  That you won’t have to face judgment, followed by sentencing for your crimes against the Creator and Sustainer God of the universe?

Assurance of salvation

There’s actually a logical way, I think, to know for sure whether you are IN Christ and under no condemnation from God the Father or excluded from Christ’s saving work on your behalf.

As I was thinking about this topic the other morning (prompted by reading from Puritan William Gurnall’s work on the armor of God) I mused about the state of our spiritual health before my husband and I actually became Christians.

Until the age of 22, we had NO doubt that we were Christian.  The topic never came up.  We were baptized, confirmed members of the Episcopal Church.  That denomination’s current (or at least de facto) doctrine teaches that all those who are baptized are in fact Christians. End of discussion. Period.

But once we heard the ‘bad news’ of our natural state (“all have sinned and fall short of God’s standard….and deserve death” – combo of Romans 3:23 and Romans 6:23), we grasped with haste the ‘good news’ of Jesus’ atonement and fulfilling of the Law on behalf of those who will receive it by faith.

That’s when occasional doubts about our actual salvation began to jab at our assurance of pardon and peace. Those fears bothered us! The very fact of our DIS-stress over our eternal future is likely a healthy clue and evidence to the saving faith we actually possess.

But over the years, I’ve come to see how clear thinking and a logical hypothetical true statement can bolster my confidence that what Jesus has done actually DOES apply to me.

Ephesians 2:8 teaches Christians that only by a GIFT have we been saved from God’s rightful wrath. (For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God)

Gift of faith

By a gift, not by baptism, or confirmation or any work done by a religious person or us!

When I start to second-guess myself, I am tempted to imagine or hypothesize….

  • What if I believe this fact (that I’ve received the Gift) TODAY, but tomorrow I DON’T believe?  How do I know that I TRULY believe?  Maybe I’m fooling myself?

But with the temptation, the Holy Spirit reminds me of  Gospel logic so I can plug that hole in the dike holding back false fears and guarding that precious gift faith.

Here’s my pre-supposition based on Paul’s teaching in Acts:

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” Acts 16:31

The Bible defines this kind of faith or  ‘belief’ as relying on/counting on/ trusting in.

Premise 1: Either I am relying on my own merit and works to be righteous enough to please God OR I’m relying on Jesus’ work for me to please God

Premise 2: I’m not relying on myself to please God

Conclusion: Therefore, I’m relying on Jesus’ work offered to me to please God

It’s as simple as that.  I have to keep asking myself this fundamental question:

  • Maria, who are you trusting in, you or Jesus.

That’s usually enough to quiet the doubts.  What about you?

 

 

 

 

 

Logic tools employed in real life

10 Feb

Fresh insights and knowledge for the grabbing!

Pick ax

The laws of logic direct our thinking and warn us of pitfalls to faulty reasoning.

But the ASSUMPTION is that one is willing actually to think. And that takes effort.

Reading a passage in the New Testament reminded me of the exhortation Paul gives to ‘think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.  2 Timothy 2:7

The tricky verse that challenged me to apply some careful reasoning finds itself in the middle of a passage from John’s letter, 1 John 5: 1-5. It says:

  1. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. 5. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Whew! There is a lot in those 5 verses but I want to linger and look at verse 3 (in red). Let’s park a while.

Parking

It pays to spend time looking at the words and actually SEEING what they communicate. Firstly I noticed,

  • God’s love = either the love that COMES from God (that He gives) or the love that is part of His nature, that is what I would call ‘God-like love’

Then I asked myself,

  • Which comes first – this love FROM/OF God or that we keep His commandments?

To answer that I went back and started with verse 1. Restating or distilling John’s thoughts, I jotted down some premises,

P1 – All people who believe that Jesus is the Christ are people who have been born of God. (also called ‘children of God’ in verse 2)

P2 – All people who love the Father are people who love the children of God.

P3 – All those who love the children of God are people who love God and obey (also phrased as ‘keep’) his commandments.

P4 – All love for/of/from God is the obeying God’s commands

P5 – No commands of God are burdensome (heavy or grievous in the Greek)

P6 – All people who have been born of God are people who overcome the world

(overcome in Greek = to prevail, get the victory, conquer)

P7 – All world-overcoming victory is our faith

(victory in Greek = means of success, of prevailing)

P8 – All people who believe that Jesus is the Son of God are people who overcome the world

Looking at P6 and P8 and relying on the Transitive Property of Equality whereby:

If A = B and B = C, then A = C

I think I can safely equate: All people who have been born of God with

All people who believe that Jesus is Son of God

And also with the first part of P1: All those who believe that Jesus is the Christ

 Going back over these verses, I got stuck on this question:

What causes us to love the Father?

It seems that the Apostle John ASSUMES that all those who believe that Jesus is the Christ/Jesus is the Son of God are ABLE to love both the Father AND other children of God.

What could be underlying that assumption? Looking down at P7, which states that faith is the key to overcome the world, it seems that when one is born of God, one is equipped with faith. Where do I get that?

Here’s P1 again:

P1 – All people who believe that Jesus is the Christ are people who have been born of God.

Look at the verbs I’ve underlined. The tenses are different. It’s clear that ‘being born of God’ comes first. And those who are born of God now can believe, that is they ‘have faith’.

And this ‘faith’ enables them to prevail against the world.

What goes along with ‘having faith’ then seems to imply one can obey or keep God’s commands, to include the VERY IMPORTANT directive to love others in the same family of God. And loving one’s siblings in God’s family = loving God.

**

Okay, so maybe I lost you in all that. But here is what I, Maria, gain from thinking through and wrestling with these verses in an orderly fashion, applying logical clear thinking:

Jesus said that the most important commands were

  1. Love God
  2. Love Others

Knowing me by nature, I can’t ‘gin’ up that kind of love on my own, based on my human nature.

What is reassuring is that knowing that I DO in fact believe that Jesus is God’s son guarantees that I have been born of God and that I am now equipped (it was a gift) with powerful faith that allows me to prevail over the lure of the world which preaches messages like:

  • You only live once, so carpe diem!
  • Complete your bucket list.
  • Pursue your passion
  • You deserve it

And instead of putting MY interests first, with the God’s gifts of strength and desire, I can love others, starting with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Without the faith that came as a gift, then I am sucked into that worldly, self-centered rat race.

I find this VERY good news.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God gave you a brain, so use it!

12 Aug

Confession:  I find it challenging to exercise patience with Christians who don’t know why they believe something.  Unable to articulate reasons, they feel put on the spot.  Their reaction is predictable – they tend to retreat behind a weak excuse: “I just have faith!”

One doesn’t have to study deeply in the Bible to notice that not only Jesus himself but many of the inspired writers used logical argumentation and evidence to support their claims.

Paul, the New Testament apostle who encountered and was transformed by the resurrected Jesus, was skilled in good debate.  A clear argument to showcase why God expects us to be rational comes from Paul’s instruction to the Christians of Corinth. They were plagued with some incertitude and fears, which came from the ambient Greek philosophy of the times that devalued the body.  These sincere but baby Christians were beginning themselves to doubt the possibility of resurrection. Paul took on their argument with full-square directness and articulated the consequences of their fear:

1 Corinthians 15:16  For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.

It’s easy to take Paul’s argument and render it into logical form.  If we just address his first thought, we arrive at this syllogism:

Premise 1: No human beings are raised from the dead

Premise 2: Christ was a human being

Conclusion:  Therefore, Christ was not raised from the dead

In his letter to them, Paul has set up the Corinthians intentionally so that they can NOT argue in this manner.  The first fifteen verses of Chapter 15 of his letter have already laid out the case for the historicity of the resurrection.  In fact, Paul’s strongest card is the fact that more than 500 people saw the newly risen Jesus during the 40 days between the resurrection and His ascension. So even though the syllogism above is in a valid form, as we see here below,

No M is P

All S is M

Therefore, No S is P

..the argument STILL fails the ‘soundness’ test.  Remember that all we have to do is show that one premise is false and the argument comes apart.  Since Jesus was fully human AND fully God, we have to accept Premise 2 as true.  We then turn to Premise 1, which states that No human beings are raised from the dead. Not so!

resurrected Jesus

The Bible recounts at least 5 or 6 people raised from the dead.  See link here for explanation of each

Therefore, by virtue of discrediting the truth of Premise # 2, the entire argument falls apart. And an argument, however valid it might be, is not sound if it is not true.  But a valid, true argument is airtight, hence unbeatable.

Do you see how logic is useful?  Being a thinking, rational Christian is NOT a contradiction in terms.  God is Himself a reason-based rational being.  Yes, He is far more multi-dimensional than us, to include being supernatural and immaterial. But we are made in His image.  Should we not expect Him to endow us with some measure of logical thinking?

Logical gal – new insight into Bible verse via French translation and a hypothetical syllogisme

1 Jul

Grace was given to you, regarding Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him. Phil 1:29

Caught off guard, I reread this morning’s devotional in the French (from a French Bible meditation-a-day calendar by La Bonne Semence – Website is here).  Why had I never seen that before?

Paul was explaining that faith to believe Jesus is a gift just like the power to endure suffering is a gift.

Two gifts; same grace; 2 different purposes:

  1. Power to believe Jesus is God
  2. Power to go through suffering

Grace

Doing a little digging, I discovered why I had never before ‘seen’ the connection to grace, to a gift from God.  Many of the English translations say something like the ESV – For to you it has been granted…...

My mind had just skipped over those words and lingered on my discomfort with the linkage between believing and suffering. I confess an unhealthy FEAR of future suffering.  So I have both pondered and shuddered at the latter portion of that statement.

Applying some clear thinking it was fairly easy to draw out some principles from this now illumined verse:

  • Both true belief and the power to endure suffering are possible only with God
  • By definition grace is a gift
  • God grants grace as a gift to Christians
  • Without supernatural grace, we cannot see or rely on the Biblical Jesus
  • Without supernatural grace, we cannot make it through suffering the way God has intended it

These inferences immediately eased my unholy fears.  Here’s how I applied them to all the ‘what-ifs’ that swirl around in my head more times than I’d like to admit.

When I imagine a scenario, like a fatal car accident affecting a family member, I realize my lack of control. And there is nowhere to go with the fear. So it hovers. Blocks sleep at night and robs me of peace during the day.

Fear - stories

What I now see, thanks to God using this French translation (and the Greek supports it!), is that the imagined fears all take place outside of any grace that God provides.  The suffering I’m picturing is set against the backdrop of ME and my capabilities.  Of course, when I look at me, I am discouraged.   But Christians aren’t meant to live relying on their puny resources. Christians, once God re-births them, get a spiritual DNA.  (think: new supernatural power)

  • Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.        2 Cor 5:17

As my cousin Terry counsels, ‘Don’t step out of your circle of Grace.’  She’s talking about ‘daily bread’.  God gives us what we need AS we need it. That’s what He promises.  He doesn’t provide the ‘feeling’ of grace in the present for a potential future situation.

Bottom line, logically-speaking?   It’s STUPID to meditate on possible suffering.

So what will I do when another IRRATIONAL fear pops unbidden into my mind?  Remind myself of truth, that God has promised future grace when I need it.  For now, I will live in the present moment, relying on these facts that:

  • just as it takes a gift or grace to receive faith and believe
  • so, too, it takes a gift or grace to receive power and suffer in the manner He has planned

Here’s the if-then version of that truth:

  • Premise 1 – If God has given me faith to believe that Jesus is who He says He is, then God will give me power and grace for suffering as it comes.
  • Premise 2 – God HAS given me faith, right now, to believe and rely on Him
  • Conclusion – Therefore, He will most assuredly give me grace and power for suffering when it occurs.

Question: Where have clear thinking and logic helped you mine truth from the Bible?