Darryl's thoughts on the Christian Faith, Facts, and World Events
In my last post, www.internationalfishers.com/blog/build-the-wall, I wrote that most Christians are standing on the sidelines when it came to the Great Commission. According to Barna research group, only 17% of churchgoers have even heard of the Great Commission and knows what it means. Fifty-one percent have not even heard of the Great Commission. In this post, I will discuss some of the reasons why so few churchgoers understand, much less are actively engaged in, the Great Commission.
1. Christians are not being equipped for the work of ministry.
"For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ," Ephesians 4:12
In too many churches, many people attend church to be "fed"=encouraged, helped, inspired, comforted, and/or entertained. As a result many people who attend churches are merely consumers. They contribute nothing beyond possibly contributing some finances (like tipping an entertainer). These people do not encourage, help, inspire, or comfort others. Church leaders who minister to these people have to be careful that they do not become performers/entertainers. Instead, according to Ephesians 4:12, church leaders should be coaches. For more on this see www.internationalfishers.com/blog/church-services-should-be-a-lot-like-locker-roomsbut-without-the-bad-smell.
2. Christians mistakenly see the Great Commission as for other countries only.
"And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I amwith you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen." Matthew 28: 18-20. Whenever the Great Commission is (too rarely) mentioned, it is often accompanied by flags and maps of other countries. As a result, people see the Great Commission as irrelevant or foreign. Perhaps we should also hang up (at least in our minds) a tablecloth from our kitchen table and a map of our own neighborhood too because the Great Commission's "all nations" or "all the world" begins with those around our kitchen table, our neighborhood, schools, and workplaces and then extends to the ends of the earth as well. There is no option given in Scripture to either reach your local community or the ends of the earth (as far as you can reach). The requirement to go to "all nations" means both here and there. Traditional missionaries go, adapt to, and minister to places where others cannot go. They are your representatives. For more on this see www.internationalfishers.com/eternal-impact/i-went-so-that-you-could-stay-you-stay-so-that-i-can-go .
3. Christians mistakenly see the Great Commission as an optional/extra credit assignment. This is result of a combination of #1 and #2 above. Christians often think that the Great Commission is only the responsibility of the missionaries and perhaps the pastors and mission agencies. They fail realize that just as without fuel pilots are only pedestrians, missionaries cannot go to the ends of the earth and make disciples cross-culturally without sufficient financial, prayer, spiritual, emotional, and practical partnership/support before they go, during their mission terms, and during their times in their home countries. Returning missionaries also need partnership too so that they can re-integrate into the church and "regular" life smoothly. For more on the hearts and ministries of those who stay behind please visit www.internationalfishers.com/eternal-impact/we-stayed-so-that-others-could-go-a-missionarys-tribute-to-those-who-stay-behind .
The truth is that the Great Commission is a commandment for every Christian whether they are vocational Christian workers or not. Every Christian is called to be a missionary to their own family, friends, school, workplace, and community. Every Christian is in some way, called to be involved in world missions whether as a missionary or as senders (financially, prayerfully, emotionally, and/or practically). Missionaries are not "holy homeless" or "Bible beggars". Instead, they (we) are Great Commission Business Partners with you. We go so that you can stay. When we can no longer be missionaries, God may call you to switch places with us on the front lines of the mission field.
Build the Wall In Front of Your House: A Biblical Guide to Problem Solving
As a missionary in Cambodia since 2000, walls have been a part of my daily life for many years. When I first moved to Cambodia, I shared a mission-team house with other missionaries which was surrounded by a wall. When the 8-foot tall concrete and steel spike wall was no longer sufficient to prevent spiderman-like burglars from coming in to the property two nights in a row, the landlord added another 18 inches of coiled razor wire on top of that. My churches, Bible schools, and son's Christian school have all been surrounded by walls, gates, and guards. In developing countries, walls are not for decorative purposes but for defensive purposes. Israel at the time of Nehemiah was a developing country at the time and so the wall around Jerusalem necessary for the common defense.
I was reminded of how Nehemiah reorganized the people of Jerusalem to rebuild certain sections of the wall. I was also reminded of the phrase, "In front of their houses."
Nehemiah 3:23, "Next to them, Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs in front of their own house. Next to them, Azariah son of Maaseiah, the son of Ananiah, made repairs beside his own house."
Problems Are Often Too Big For Us To Solve Alone.
Americans, like myself, are usually programmed by our culture to be individualists. Therefore, we usually to try to solve all of our problems by ourselves and we expect others to do the same. This is a great tactic when the problems are small, because we can solve them quickly and individually. However when problems are too big for to solve individually, we often end up being frustrated with ourselves or others for being unable to acheive the impossible. The result is paralysis.
Other cultures are much more community-oriented. Therefore, they usually try to find community-based solutions to problems. This process is slower and can be less efficient than individualism when dealing with smaller or urgent problems but it really shines when dealing with large and long term problems. Maybe this is why the "Great Wall" was built in China.
I believe that the Biblical model is somewhere in the middle between Individualism and Community-Orientation and so it can have the best of both and avoids the weakenesses of both too.
When Problems Are Too Big To Solve Individually, Work Together As Group.
Some problems, like rebuilding a city wall, is too big for the individual to ever complete in a timely manner. Therefore, a group is needed.
Even If We Can't Solve The Whole Problem Alone, We Should Each Do Our Part, No Matter How Small.
The fear of being overwhelmed by the needs or the size of the problem often paralyzes us into doing nothing. For example, when we see a homeless person, we usually avoid eye contact because we know that we cannot solve ALL of their problems by ourselves. However, if we have the ability to help them either temporarily or permanently resolve ONE of their problems (even a cup of water), then I believe that we should do what we can to help, no matter how small.
Once I was walking down the street in downtown Los Angeles. I met a homeless man and started talking to him. I tried to witness to him, but he said, "Unless God gives me food right now, I won't believe!" Within, seconds, a man walking down the street past us put a sandwich into the homeless man's hands. Within a minute after that, a car pulled up to the curb, honked and a woman held out a bottle of water for the homeless man to take. Convicted and amazed, I took the man to McDonald, bought him lunch, and witnessed to him. When I left, the homeless man, was still homeless, but because that man and woman obeyed the guidance of the Holy Spirit at that exact moment (I don't know their spiritual backgrounds but they did the exact right thing in that momemt) the homeless man's problems were partially solved. 1. He got lunch. 2. He got dinner. 3. Most importantly, He had an opportunity to hear the Gospel.
Now, I am a missionary, unfortunately many people regard my family and I as, "Holy Homeless," because we live on donations. People get nervous, awkward, and distant when we mention our financial needs. The truth is that we are really Great Commission representatives. We go to the mission field in other's places, so that other Christians can stay behind and be senders.
Many Christians also wrongly think that the Great Commission is an optional extra credit project--it isn't. Instead the Great Commission is required of all Christians. "Go into all the world," starts by spreading the Gospel across your own kitchen table to your family, across the street to your neighborhood, across the city, nation, and world. Missionaries go to the ends of the earth so that you don't have to. When I can no longer be a missionary to Cambodia, God may call you to replace me as a missionary. Then I will be the sender for you.
The Great Commission (in the missionary sense) is the main defense (a wall if you will) against the localized extinction of Christianity in areas where persecution is strongest. Unless Christianity keeps growing, it will eventually be crushed by persecution at least in certain locations.
The Great Commission, as a problem/challenge/wall that needs to be rebuilt most Christians stay on the sidelines because they know that the needs are so great that they are overwhelming. However, the truth is that the needs are so great and overwhelming because most Christians are still on the sidelines! Instead of a few Christians doing and sacrificing too much, it would be much better, more enjoyable, and more sustainable if all Christians each did and sacrificed a little.
Here are a few real-life examples. You don't need to sacrifice your home to become a powerful Great Commission Wall Builder. Instead, you could just host some missionaries for a few days when they are on home-assignment. The costs for you will be minimal and the missionaries will save hundreds of dollars in motel fees (and missionaries usually have some interesting/funny stories so count it as entertainment). You don't have to give up your extra car to be an important part of the Great Commission. Instead, you could loan it to missionaries on home assignment for a few days. This will save missionaries hundreds of dollars in car rental or ride-sharing expenses. Even though missionaries need to raise thousands of dollars monthly in order to stay on the field and engage in meaningful ministries, (cheerfully given, sustainable, faithful, regular etc.) monthly donations from $10 to $50 (maybe cut back on the Starbucks and cable TV) are what they (we) need more than huge one-time donations (we welcome those too but we cannot really make plans).
The Great Commission, Homelessness, and other problems are too big for us to solve as individuals. However, if we work together as the Body of Christ and each one is faithful to our own responsibilities, many problems can be resolved or at least minimized. If you see a need, don't be afraid to do what you can and give what you have. Trust that God will supply the rest either through other people or if necessary, He can even rain manna from heaven. But it is more likely to be a sandwich and a bottle of water from strangers.
Matthew 25: 35-36,
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’" Each of these things listed is reasonably inexpensive. The homeless and missionaries both need everything listed here.
I also recommend that you read my other blog article, "What is in Your Hand?" www.internationalfishers.com/blog/what-is-in-your-hand
Exodus 4:1-4 New Century Version (NCV)Proof for Moses4 Then Moses answered, “What if the people of Israel do not believe me or listen to me? What if they say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’?”
2 The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?”
Moses answered, “It is my walking stick.”
3 The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.”
So Moses threw it on the ground, and it became a snake. Moses ran from the snake, 4 but the Lord said to him, “Reach out and grab the snake by its tail.” When Moses reached out and took hold of the snake, it again became a stick in his hand.
What is in your hand?
Is it a computer, device, or a phone? Are you using it for God's best purposes?
What else is in your hand? What do you own? What do you control? What areas of life do you have influence? Are you a leader?
Are you using everything you are, own, control, influence, and lead for God's best purposes?
These are the questions I am beginning to ask myself. What is in my hand? Am I using those things for God's best purposes?
Notice that God did not give Moses a new, extra, spare, modified, or upgraded staff. Instead, God took the same old staff that Moses had been using for years and used it in a miraculous way. God may not give us more or new resources, but He will use the common things that we already have in a amazing ways, if we are willing to throw them on the ground when God calls us to.
Throwing them on the ground means that we relinquish our own control over them and allow God to do whatever He wants to with them. The results may even be scary at times. Moses ran from the snake.
I have come to believe that one of the biggest hinderances for us (and others through us) experiencing all that God has for us all is that we look at the problems and they look too big when compared to our limited resources. We know that we and our resources cannot solve the problem or meet the need. Moses knew that his staff was nothing compared to Pharaoh's army. So, instead of doing everything we CAN with what we already HAVE, we end up doing NOTHING. Often, when we do nothing, others follow our lead and do NOTHING as well. The end result is that NOTHING gets done, no problems get solved (not even small ones which you (I) could have solved), and no one gets helped. If we live like this when we are strong, what kind of help can we expect when we are weak?
"The one who moves mountains begins by carrying away many small stones." Confucius
There are times when God wants us to speak to the mountains (problems/challenges) and they will move.
Matthew 17:20 New Century Version (NCV)
20 Jesus answered, “Because your faith is too small. I tell you the truth, if your faith is as big as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. All things will be possible for you.
But many times, God wants us to use the staff and other tools that He has already given us to take small steps. Also remember that God often does not expect us to solve big problems all alone. If we are Christians, then we are part of the Body of Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:12 New Century Version (NCV) The Body of Christ Works Together
12 A person’s body is one thing, but it has many parts. Though there are many parts to a body, all those parts make only one body. Christ is like that also.
Each Christian should think of ourselves as a single cell in a much larger body. If each one of us is willing to use what God has placed in our hands to the maximum God can use that power and multiply it miraculously.
On the other hand, we can say, I only have this old stick. God can't use it for anything. I am not going to do anything with it. I will just hold on to it. Of course, this attitude is the same attitude that the one who buried the talent had in Matthew 24:14-30. This passage should serve as a challenge and a warning to us.
What is in your hand?
My friend, a pastor in Cambodia from the Philippines, posted the following on Facebook. Rather than answer in a comment, I am answering the objections/questions/misconceptions that the late Rachel Evans raised in a blog post, which I will share with my friend.
When I write Christian I mean genuine, born again (John 3:7), sheep (Matthew 25) Christians. I do not mean cultural Christians etc.
1. Christians can vote Democrat: I personally have voted Democrat, especially in local elections. However, Christians don't usually prefer the Democrat Party because they do not make us feel welcome. The DNC pro-abortion position is a turn-off, and recently, the DNC has not be a strong advocate for religious freedom.
2. Christians can believe in micro-evolution but macro-evolution undermines Scripture: I personally believe that God created males and females of many kinds of animals. For example, from the male and female "dog-kind" we get everything from wolves to poodles. Genesis teaches that humans, animals and plants will reproduce, "after their own kind." Darwin's finches with big and small beaks, are all examples of reproducing after their own kind also known as "micro-evolution." Macro-evolution (aka evolution) means the change from one kind (a rose) into another kind (a cat) or a cat to a spider. I reject macro-evolution.
3. Christians can have same sex attraction: Currently in Cambodia there are support groups for Christians who have unwanted same-sex attraction. Romans 1 and other Scriptures indicate that homosexual activities themselves are prohibited as sins in the same way that adultery, fornication, and lust are prohibited for heterosexuals.
4. Christians should promote religious freedom for all religions: However, tolerance means tolerance, it does not mean agreement, approval, or applause. I support religious freedom for all religions. I also support the religious freedom to evangelize, convert, debate, and leave, one religion for another. As a Christian, I want others to become Christians as well. Everything must be done peacefully and lovingly.
5. Christians should have questions or doubts about the Bible: As an apologist, my entire ministry since 2000 has been to answer my own questions (doubts) and the questions of others about the Bible.
6. Christians can support equal rights and working conditions for women.
7. Christians can drink and smoke, but it isn't always the best thing they could be doing with their money, time, health, and reputation: 1 Corinthians 10:23 "“We are allowed to do all things,” but not all things are good for us to do. “We are allowed to do all things,” but not all things help others grow stronger."
8. Christians can read the New York Times: They should just be Acts 17 Bereans about everything they read, watch, or hear from any secular or religious source.
9. Christians can support equal application of human rights for LGBTQ+ people: They can do this without approving of, agreeing with, or applauding actions which they sincerely believe violate Scripture. Of course LGBTQ+ people also should support religious freedom.
10. Mature, faithful, solid Christians including pastors and missionaries, can experience depression or any other mental/physical illness/disorder/trauma: 2 Corinthians 12:9, "But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you. When you are weak, my power is made perfect in you.” So I am very happy to brag about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can live in me."
If you have any additional questions please comment below or e-mail email@example.com.
The above video about Pol Pot reminded me of three verses.
1. James 4:2 "You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God."
Pol Pot, an atheist, convinced some Cambodians that they were victims of other Cambodians and that they should covet their wealth and social class. When the "victims" gained power, they felt justified in victimizing those that they believed were their oppressors. In the end, everyone in Cambodia became poor and fearful that others would attack them. Before the Khmer Rouge's rule from 1975-1979, Cambodia rivaled Singapore, it still has not recovered completely as of 2019.
2. Acts 17:26-27, "From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us."
Many people mistakenly believe that this world is all that there is and so they will do anything (no matter how evil) to obtain wealth, luxuries, and a high social status. But, the truth is that this life is only a test to determine where we will spend our eternal life (either in heaven or hell). Even though we may not feel comfortable in our earthly circumstances, we need to understand that God placed us in those circumstances so that we, "would seek him..." It is good to do our best to improve our own (and other's) economic, social, and even political circumstances. But, these are only temporary gains when compared to eternity.
3. Mark 8:36, "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?"
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-8).
What is sin?
"Sin is lawlessness, breaking the law of God. Sin consists of not only missing the mark, but hitting the wrong thing. All of us have sinned." www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_560.cfm
As modern cultures have turned away from the knowledge of and respect for God and the Bible, the concepts of love and sin have become distorted as well. In this distorted view the only way a person can be considered "loving" is to applaud popular sins. Of course, it is still acceptable to condemn unpopular sins...until they become popular again. In this post, I will refrain from giving examples of popular and unpopular sins because many people have become so emotionally attached to certain sins that they will not listen to any negative comments related to their pet sins but they will also heap condemnation on the sins of others. Also, the popular sins of today may fade out of popularity to be replaced by new popular sins in a future generation. Just think about the popular sins of past centuries, which we now condemn. Someday, future generations will condemn us as well. But, it is likely that they too will have their own popular/pet sins as well, which they will excuse.
We cannot allow our current culture to determine what is right and wrong, merely because of what is popular. Human sacrifice, genocide, and slavery have all been considered, "good" and "popular" at various times. Instead, we must firmly anchor ourselves in the Truth of God's Word to determine what is right and wrong. Cultural norms are constantly changing but the Bible does not change because God does not change.
Here are some Bible verses on this topic:
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Hebrews 13:8
"God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?" Numbers 23:19
"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever" Isaiah 40:8
"Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens." Psalms 119:89
If I Love Myself, I Will Not Excuse My Own Sins.
We are commanded to love God and our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). If we love ourselves, we will see the value that God has given us with His image and Christ's blood. Therefore, we will want to avoid or stop doing any activity that will cause harm to our lives. Sin is anything which violates God's original design for our lives. For example, if you own a car, you have the freedom to do anything you want with your car, even if it is destructive. You can put oil in the gas tank and gasoline in the radiator if you want but it will damage the car because it violates the manufacturer's original design. Likewise, with our lives and bodies, which God has given us, we have freedom to sin. However, we do not have the freedom from the consequences of our actions: our cars and lives will be severely damaged or destroyed. This is why I do my best to take good care of my car, by following the manufactures instructions and design so that I will not have to pay for expensive, unnecessary repairs, due to my own foolish choices. Likewise, I also do my best to avoid damaging my life by following God, the Creator's original design for my life. Just as cars come with an instruction book or owner's manual, which helps us to avoid damaging our cars unnecessarily, God has also provided us with an instruction book for our lives, the Bible.
If I Love My Neighbors As Myself, I Will Not Applaud Their Sins.
If I saw my neighbors putting oil in the gasoline tanks and gasoline in the radiators of their cars, if I loved them, I would not applaud their destructive actions. If my enemies were doing something bad to their cars, I might be tempted to either applaud their mistakes or keep quiet, but this would not be the loving thing to do. Instead, a loving neighbor, would warn them of the dangers of their actions, point out the proper instructions in the instruction book, and help them reverse their mistakes before any further damage can be done to their cars. Likewise, if we see our neighbors sinning, we should, if we truly love them, gently and respectfully warn them of the dangers, show them the proper way to live according to the Bible, and help them make the necessary changes to their lives in order to avoid any further consequences.
We also need to remember that the Bible calls us first to correct sins in our own lives before trying to correct others. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." (Matthew 7:3-5)
We've all seen the organizational chart that is shaped like a pyramid. The leaders are at the top and the followers are at the bottom. In those diagrams it seems like the followers (or employees, or church members) exist to serve the interests of the leader. While this may be true for secular corporations, I am not so sure that it is a good model for Christian churches and organizations. I know, that we often hear people say, "we should run the church like a business." While this statement may be well-intentioned in terms of promoting efficiency and the wise use of resources, I am not sure that secular corporate culture should be allowed to overtake Christian culture, especially in light of Matthew 20:25-28. In corporate-churches etc. there is a tendency for leaders to, "lord it over" the followers instead of acting as shepherds who, lay down their lives for the sheep (John 10:15)
Instead, I like to think of Christian leadership, whether it be in a family, a local church, or an organization as a tree, instead of a pyramid. Every healthy tree must have roots that grow as deeply as possible into the soil. In this case the soil represents God's will and God's Word. For this reason, Christian leaders must prioritize spiritual and personal maturity so that they will be rooted deeply enough to keep their organizations well anchored when the storms come and the strong winds blow.
In addition, this model also reminds me of the importance of leaders to not only grow deeply into the soil themselves but to pass on as much of the experience and wisdom which they have gained from God to their followers to help them to grow as well. There is a synergy of growth in trees between the nutrients which come from the soil via the roots (leaders) and from the sunlight in the leaves in a process called photosynthesis. Just as you cannot have a healthy tree without roots, you also cannot have a healthy tree without other parts like leaves and branches. In this model both the most mature Christian leaders and then newest believers are all valuable parts of the tree which must work together in order for the tree to grow deeper into the soil and higher.
In the pyramid model, the goal is to make that one single pyramid bigger and bigger. However, in the tree model, the goal for Christian families, churches, and organizations is not just to make one tree bigger but for the tree to produce seeds, which in turn, can become more and more trees which will eventually lead to forests. In a Christian family, one goal should be to evangelize your children and equip your children so that they will be prepared to evangelize and train your grandchildren and others around them for generations to come. In a church, one goal should be to plant other churches in the neighborhood and to promote mission work around the world. In this way, the forests will grow everywhere.
Sports Teams Do Not Stay In Their Locker Rooms. They Get Equipped, Get Instructed, and Get Inspired In Them Before Heading To The Field. For Churches, The Real "Game" Is Not Inside The Church Building But In The World Outside.
The good is the enemy of the best, as the saying goes. People often go to church for ,"good" reasons but in doing so they miss out on the best reasons. Some examples of, "good" reasons to attend church are: to learn more about the Bible, to grow in your faith, or to be encouraged to overcome sin etc.. However if these are the only reason why we go to church services then something very important is missing.
Let's take a look at Ephesians 4:11-16 (Emphasis Mine) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
One of the best reasons to have and attend church services is, "to equip his people for works of service."
Are you getting equipped for works of service at your church? I hope so. If not, it could be because the people in your church see the church leaders mentioned in Ephesians 4:11 as the players or performers and the church people as audience or fans. Instead, this passage shows us that the pastor and other church leaders should be more like coaches, trainers, and even medics. Obviously all of the coaching staff for any sports team should be good players in their own lives but their main responsibility as coaches is to equip the players to go out on the playing field and win the game.
What is your playing field as a Christian? Your family members who are unsaved need to hear the gospel in a clear and convincing manner. They are more likely to listen to you than your pastor. Other family members who are new Christians need to be encouraged and equipped as well. They also are more likely to listen to you than your pastor. The same is true for your classmates, coworkers, community members, nation, and beyond. A well equipped Christian has a very broad field that extends well beyond the walls of the church building, if your church even has a building.
Of course it is nice to have a beautiful and comfortable locker room, but it is not necessary for victory on the playing field. What really matters is that the players in the locker room are well equipped, trained, and motivated so that they can play their best on the playing field. Likewise, it is nice to have a stylish church building, but it is not essential for success. What really matters is the relationships among the people of the church, both the leaders and the regular members, who encourage, equip, train, challenge, and encourage each other so that we all become effective ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) to a lost world around us.
With this model, church growth becomes unlimited, because the pastors and church leaders no longer have to do all the work of ministry because the church members are already doing it. As the church members, including the pastors and leaders, actively evangelize and disciple those around them in their daily lives in their families, schools, workplaces, and communities, then the church will grow as those new believers are brought into the church to also be equipped as ambassadors for Christ to their own families and communities, and so on.
This model also switches churches from inward-focused to outward-focused and this will also help shift resources into areas where they are most needed. For example, if the main priority, is equipping the saints for the work of ministry, then the funds will probably be spent toward that end instead of just for decorating the, "locker room."
Obviously this is just one piece of many pieces of the puzzle, but if we keep this passage from Ephesians 4 in mind, it will help us to come away from church services better prepared to meet our week.
Many people around the world believe that Jesus Christ was a great teacher and this is true. However, many people do not know that Jesus Christ claimed to be much more than just a normal man. Jesus Christ claimed to be God.
Christians believe that Jesus Christ is 100% human and 100% God. There is a lot of evidence that Jesus Christ lived as a man in history. There is also a lot of evidence both from inside the Bible and in non-Christian history that Jesus really was crucified, buried, and rose from the dead, just as the Bible says.
Despite this evidence, some people still have doubts and questions about whether or not Jesus Christ really claimed to be God. Let’s take a look at this evidence which comes from Jesus own words and the words of his disciples in the New Testament of the Bible.
When Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, the Jewish Leaders got angry with him. John 5:16-18 says, “So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”
In Exodus 3:13-14 God told Moses that his name was, “I AM”. “Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
In John 8:58-59 we read, “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.”
In John 10:29-33 Jesus said, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” From this passage, it is clear that the Jews of Jesus’ time understood that he was clearly claiming to be God in human flesh.
For further evidence you may want to read Mark 14:61-65 in which Jesus referenced Daniel 7:13-14 and Psalms 110. Jesus also forgave sins in Luke 5:20.
Finally, after resurrecting from the dead, Jesus Christ met his disciple Thomas who was full of doubts, in John 20:28-29 we read, “Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” In the Jewish culture of that time it would have been considered a serious sin and crime for Thomas to call Jesus God unless it was true. Jesus did not reject Thomas’ claim but instead accepted it.
From these passages and many others, we can be confident that Jesus Christ truthfully claimed to be God, because He is God.
A couple of years ago, I had a major case or writer's block, especially in Apologetics. My problem was that I had pretty much spent my time as a Christian Apologist/Missionary answering every objection to the truth of Christianity that I had ever heard of or could even imagine. Eventually, I ran out of unanswered doubts and questions. I had read so many apologetics books and watched so many apologetics videos that they all started to sound the same.
Then, I stumbled across some Atheist vs. Christian or Creationist vs. Evolutionist etc. debate groups on Facebook. Because I do not enjoy debate I started off by asking some hypothetical questions like, "If there is no god, karma, or government, would murder still be wrong?" Then I collected (copy/paste into a separate file) the atheists' answers to my questions for future reference. At other times I would make a comment on an atheist's post and wait for one or multiple atheists to angrily respond. The most effective thing I have found is to play dumb and ask questions of specific atheists and let them reveal the dark side of their worldview. For example see this article: www.internationalfishers.com/blog/atheist-would-rescue-a-monkey-over-a-human-in-a-wheelchair .
Here are a couple of lessons I have learned that help me to get the most help from interacting with atheists online:
1. 1 Peter 3:15 a Great Guide: "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer (answer=apologia=defense) to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect," Basically this passage reminds me to gently and respectfully present the evidence for the truth of Gospel and everything it is based on such as the existence of God, creation, and the scripture. Sometimes it is also necessary to defend God's attributes and character.
Within a few rounds of gentle and respectful Apologetics, I have even had a few Atheists thank me for being, different from other Christians that they have encountered. Atheists often use profanity and insults to intimidate or bait Christians into getting angry and irrational. Relax and enjoy the experience because, "Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world."
2. Express Concern For Their Souls But Don't Expect to Win Them to Christ (But You Might Plant a Seed). Usually Atheists come at me with an attitude of anger and condescension. So, we have to remind ourselves that Matthew 7:6 probably applies. "“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." Obviously, if you are gentle and respectful, you will not call them dogs or pigs. Just remember that you are mainly there to collect their arguments in order to create apologetics vaccines for later. In a way, it is like how venomous snakes are milked in order to create anti-venom.
I have also noticed that among the atheists who I was able to deflate their anger and condescension, by being reasonable, firm, gentle, and respectful that as soon as their anger was defanged that they had no interest in continuing to communicate with me because without their anger to shield them, they actually might be open to the Gospel, so instinctually they hide from the truth. Romans 1: 18, mentions people who, "suppress the truth." This verse definitely applies to the atheists that I have encountered. I can only pray and trust that I was able to plant a seed of Truth in their hearts and minds.
So, if there is little hope of evangelizing the atheists on Facebook debate groups themselves, then why should we even bother?
1. We are commanded to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to everyone.
2. We can collect the latest arguments and develop Apologetics vaccines long before they become popular, entrenched, and published in books and other media.
3. We can help other Christians to become more confident in attempting to use apologetics to evangelize atheists that they know in real life.
A final note: When reporting the arguments of the atheists that you encounter online, I think it is a good idea not to identify them by their full name. I usually prefer to refer to them as "atheist A" etc. or first name only (I try to keep that information on file in case I am challenged). This is because I to not want my readers to see their arguments as only reflecting negatively on themselves as individuals but on atheism as a whole. By keeping them anonymous, there is no way that the original source can rebut my arguments or retract their statements. I believe this method could also be useful in rapidly developing Christian Apologetics materials related to cults etc..
One of the reasons why people have difficulty in believing in Jesus as their Savior is because of His Virgin Birth. Here are some ideas that may help to answer their doubts and questions.
1. The Virgin Birth is Biblical: In Genesis 3:15, God told the serpent (Satan), "And I will put enmity
between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
In Matthew 1:18-21 we read, "This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit."
In Matthew 1:24-25 we also read, "When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus."
2. The Virgin Birth is Not Impossible...For God: Luke 1:34-38 explains this: “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her." Some critics for the Bible say that Jesus was an unwanted pregnancy but the words of Mary both in this passage and in other places show that Mary consented to be part of God's plan regarding Jesus' birth.
The connection between Creation and the Virgin Birth is very strong. Those who reject one, usually reject the the other as well. In Genesis 1 God created everything that exists by speaking for example, Genesis 1:3 says, "And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light." We now know that in human beings the mother supplies 23 chromosomes and the father supplies 23 chromosomes in order to produce a child. If God created light, the planets, the sun, moon, and living things with a word, in Genesis 1, why would it be too difficult for him to create the equivalent of 23 sinless chromosomes for Jesus' Virgin Birth in Luke 1?
3. The Virgin Birth is Necessary For Salvation: All regular humans have sin. Romans 3:23 makes this clear. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." As a result of our sin, we deserve death and an eternity in hell. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23). So, the only way for us to be saved is for a sinless Savior to pay for our sins.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
Because Jesus Christ is the only one who was sinless, then, our salvation can only come through Him. Acts 4:11-12 says, "Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
The Chosu nation was a Korean kingdom that existed between 1392 and 1897. It was isolated from Europeans, and therefore probably had little or no contact with Christianity or Judaism. In 1653, a group of sailors from the Netherlands were sailing to Japan, when they were shipwrecked on Jeju Island, off the coast of South Korea. Thirty-six Dutch sailors survived the sinking of their ship, and were taken as prisoners from the Island of Jeju to the capital city of Seoul, South Korea. They spent 12 years in Korea, during which time they learned the Korean language.
In 1666, eight of the surviving prisoners were able to escape to Japan. One of those survivors, named Hendrik Hamel, spent a year in Nagasaki, Japan writing about his experiences in Korea. In a book, later translated into English and titled “Hamel’s Journal,” he wrote about the beliefs of the Confucian monks. He wrote, “Many monks believe that long ago all people spoke the same language, but when people built a tower in order to climb into heaven the whole world changed.”
How did the Confucian monks come to this belief about a tower and one language for all people? It is unlikely that they ever encountered a Christian, Jewish person, or the Bible at all. It could be that this belief is a coincidence, but if we compare it to the Biblical account of the Tower of Babel, it seems very unlikely that this happened by chance.
Genesis 11:1-9 says, “Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.”
Now, let’s compare the beliefs of the Korean Monks to this passage in Genesis. The book of Genesis was written in the vicinity of the nation of Israel between 1450 and 1410 BC. The Korean Monks held their belief about one language and the tower in 1660. This means that these accounts are separated by more than 3,100 years and 8,065 kilometers.
According to the Korean Monks:
According to Genesis 11.
This comparison is just one evidence that the Tower of Babel really existed in history, just as the Bible teaches.
Here is another evidence to consider, the fact that there are more than 6,500 spoken languages in the world today. Some languages have gone extinct in the past. Non-Christian scientists have confirmed that all male humans living to day are the descendants of one man, called Y-Chromosomal Adam. They have also concluded that all humans both male and female are descendants of one female, called Mitochondrial Eve. Even though the scientists have not yet confirmed that Y-Chromosomal Adam and Mitochondrial-Eve married have children together, their findings help to confirm, rather than deny the Biblical history of Adam and Eve. The Bible teaches that almost all of Adam and Eve’s descendants were killed during the global flood of Noah recorded in Genesis chapters 6-8. Only 8 people survived that flood: Noah and his wife. Noah’s 3 sons and their 3 wives. The account of the Tower of Babel gives a logical explanation for why there are more than 6,500 languages in the world today.
Many people who reject the Tower of Babel as a myth don’t recognize the fact that if humans were not created but only evolved from primates, that humans would have all spoke one language at least at the beginning of the human species. But they also have difficulty coming up with an explanation for why the languages separated into 6,500 different languages that results in most humans in the world not being able to communicate with each other at all. Language barriers make it more difficult for people to trade with each other and also language barriers make it more likely that wars between different languages will occur. So, there really isn’t a strong reason for so many languages to exist at all, according to the theory of evolution.
God separated the languages at the Tower of Babel because the people did not want to honor and obey God. According to Genesis 11:4 the people wanted to “make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” This was in direct disobedience to God’s command in Genesis 1:28 “God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”
God also separated the languages to prevent all the people from becoming completely evil as they had become before the Flood of Noah. We can read about this wickedness of all the people in Genesis 6:5-8. Remember that the whole human race probably spoke one language before the flood too. Genesis 6:5-8 says, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” God separated the languages to avoid either having to destroy humans again for their complete sinfulness or allowing humans to become so evil and technologically advanced that we humans would destroy ourselves. Sometimes we think that high technology will save humanity, and some of it like medicines and better farming equipment is very good. However as helpful technology increases, harmful technology in the form of powerful weapons also increases as well. Because of the Tower of Babel, the growth of technology was slowed so that it has taken thousands of years for extremely destructive weapons to be made.
There is also other physical evidence for the Tower of Babel that has also recently been discovered by non-Christian researchers. A tablet from 600 BC was discovered in Babylon, Iraq 100 years ago. Experts could not read it until recently. Dr. Andrew George of the University of London was able to translate it recently and discovered that the writing on the tablet was about the construction of a tower that was identical to the Tower of Babel in Genesis. Bodie Hodge, a researcher with the Christian ministry called Answers in Genesis also agrees that the tablet is talking about the Tower of Babel in Genesis.
Some may ask, if the Tower of Babel was real, why haven’t archaeologists found it yet? Here are some possible explanations.
The Tower of Babel shows us that God separated the languages to prevent human sin and self-destruction. However the story does not end there. Sin may have separated the languages and people groups but God sent his one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to save us from our sins and to bring us back together in love and unity.
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
In Mark 16:15 Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”
One day, those of us who have received the gospel and put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will get to be part of this wonderful experience in Heaven. Revelation 7:9-10 says, “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
Because of Jesus Christ, sin will no longer separates us into different languages and we can also have peace and unity with God. This is good news.
The following is an conversation I had on Facebook with an atheist:
Opening Post: To the left is religion. To the right is science.
Atheist: Anthropocentrism among homosapiens is akin to egocentrism in individuals. They both result in unhappiness and poor psychological health.
Darryl: You have a unique perspective. I am interested in seeing how it applies to situational ethics. For example, imagine if two creatures were trapped on a railroad track and a train is coming so you can only rescue one from certain death. One is a wheelchair bound, mostly paralyzed human who can barely speak and can’t do sign language. The other one, in cage, is a the most intelligent and capable chimpanzee ever discovered. Scientists have invented $10million into training the Chimp to do sign language and other things. You are completely free from legal and social constraints. Which one would you rescue and why?
Atheist: Probably the chimp- I do not romanticize human life so much.
Darryl: The description of the human I gave was based on Stephen Hawking. I would always choose the human life over any non-human life because I believe that humans have the image of God. By rescuing Stephen Hawking, I would be acting in the best interest of science and religion at the same time. It doesn’t matter if it was Stephen Hawking or not, all humans have great value and potential. So I would be fine either way. I actually don’t see a conflict between scientific data and religious data, only the interpretations are in conflict.
Why I Do Not Believe in the Mischaracterized Version of God (Which Most Atheists Reject)...But, I Do Believe in the God of the Bible.
Answers to Objections: Does God Exist? Are Miracles Possible? Is God a Murderer?
Atheists, people who deny the existence of god or any spiritual dimension at all, often claim to be experts at science, which is debatable. However, it is clear that most atheists, even those who claim to have been Christian do not have an accurate understanding of theology, especially the attributes of the God of the Bible. Therefore, I have noticed from observing atheists' arguments against the existence of any god on several Facebook groups, that even though they usually think that they arguing against the existence of the God of Bible that they are not in fact arguing against an accurate representation of the God of Bible. It seems that they misrepresent the God of the Bible and then argue against the misrepresented view of God which they themselves created. This is know as the straw man fallacy.
On the other hand, I co-authored a book, entitled Christianity: Reasons for Faith (the only general apologetics book ever written in the Cambodian language) with a medical doctor/missionary who also earned a Bachelor’s in Biblical Studies and Theology. Currently, my friend is a professor at the University of Cincinnati Medical School. I also helped found a Christian school with another medical doctor/missionary who also earned graduate degrees in theology and served as the director of a Bible school in Cambodia for many years. Both of these men were both experts in science and theology and so they were committed believers and effective missionaries.
The “god” which the atheists argue against is infinitely smaller, weaker, less intelligent, and is never given the benefit of the doubt on any question of goodness or character. They spend a lot of time lambasting God’s “cruelty” in the Flood and the Canaanites. They automatically deny the possibility of miracles because miracles, according to them, violate the laws of physics. Of course when Christians point out, that if there are “laws” of physics that there must be a “lawmaker.” they usually get angry. We also need to point out that scientists only discovered the laws of physics, they did not establish them.
Let’s take a look at the main attributes of God which Christian theologians have known about for more than a thousand years from intensive Biblical study. Heres is an adaptation of a summary by the Christian Research Institute.
Objection #1: There is no direct scientific evidence that God exists.
Answer: God is entirely distinct from the universe as carpenters are distinct from the houses which they build. God has no body or parts, and is immaterial, being a simple and infinite being of spirit. Therefore, there is no scientific instrument that could detect such a being. For example, if you only have a radio with an AM receiver which has a range of 100 kilometers, could you deny the existence of AM radio stations on the other side of the planet? Could you deny the existence of FM radio stations, television stations, or WIFI signals?
Objection #2: Miracles are not possible.
If the God described in the Bible exists, (see Objection #1 above) then God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, eternal, the creator of all that exists, and more. The biggest reason why secularists and atheists deny the possibility of miracles is because miracles supposedly “break” the laws of physics and nature. However, we need to remember that scientists do not set the laws of physics and nature, they only discover them. God, the creator, is the one who set or made the laws of physics and nature and He exists both, outside of, and superior to them. Just as human governments set laws such as speed limits and traffic laws and then exempt their police officers from obeying those very same laws, God and anyone He designates can be exempted from the laws of physics and nature according to God’s will.
Objection #3: God is a murderer.
To answer this objection, we need to first define the term, “murder.” According to www.oxforddictionaries.com murder is, “The unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another.” 1. God is not a human. 2 Jesus Christ, during his time on earth in human flesh never murdered anyone. 3. God, as the morally perfect creator, is the one who created all of the moral laws, which humans, His creations, live by. There are many governments around the world, which have laws against murder and also have laws requiring that criminals who are convicted of crimes, such as murder, receive the death penalty.
The moral gap between humans and God is much greater than the gap between humans and their government. The gap is even greater than the gap between a baker and a loaf of bread. In the case of God commanding the Israelites to kill the Canaanites and other groups in battles (Deuteronomy 20:17), let’s imagine the following scenario in a bakery: A baker, bakes a baguette (Israelites) and a croissant (Canaanites etc.). The baguette is good quality. The croissant is bad quality. The baker uses the baguette (Israelites) to sweep the croissant (Canaanites) into the trash can. In this case the killing of the Canaanites was not “unlawful” because God, the creator, has the right to set all laws and to punish (or dispose of) those creatures who disobey His laws. We may not like the fact that God is of unequalled power, but in the words of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, “He isn’t a tame lion (Aslan=God). …But He is good.”
Project Veritas Style Apologetics: Atheist on Facebook Excuses Parents Who Murder or Sell Their Children to Pay Debts!
"There’s no such thing as an atheist charity organisation. It’s a ridiculous concept, if you think about it: what commonality do we have to build a charity around? I’ve said it dozens of times before but Atheism is nothing more than the absence of belief in god(s)." Alex Denethorn
"My recent Facebook dialogue with an atheist reveals that the callous situational-ethics and pragmatic-morality which led to the Killing Fields of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia and other regimes that either practiced or continue to practice State Atheism still exists in the hearts and minds of some (not all) atheists in 2018." Darryl Record November 6, 2018
According to Wikipedia: "State atheism is the incorporation of positive atheism or non-theism into political regimes, particularly associated with Soviet systems. In contrast, a secular state purports to be officially neutral in matters of religion, supporting neither religion nor irreligion. State atheism may refer to a government's anti-clericalism, which opposes religious institutional power and influence in all aspects of public and political life, including the involvement of religion in the everyday life of the citizen." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_atheism
I want to be absolutely clear that not all or even most atheists have a similar callous situational-ethics and pragmatic-morality to the Khmer Rouge. For example, YouTube philosopher Stefan Molyneux is an atheist. His ethics and morality are not extremely different from those held by many Christians. Even he, an atheist, opposes state atheism. Here are a couple of his videos on this topic (may contain strong language, viewer discretion advised). "Why I Was Wrong About Atheism" youtu.be/vqQdc0mX1_c "The Politics of Atheism" youtu.be/mxWufzMAgxc
Atheists routinely highlight terrible actions committed by people directly or indirectly associated with Christianity, regardless of the fact that the perpetrators of these atrocities' beliefs and actions were contrary to the clear teachings of Scripture, such as "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13) and "love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31) and many other relevant passages.
Here is a challenge which I received from one atheist of Facebook named Patrick (not the same atheist as the one referred to in the title of this article." Patrick wrote, "Hitler and Stalin - two men - both born to Christian parents in a Christian village, in a Christian nation, who had Christian soldiers kill millions of people. You are here spreading the lie that it is Atheism that spreads evil and murder. Why do you spread this lie? Because you are too much of a coward to admit that it is religion - Christian religion - that produces the most murderous populations this planet has ever known?"
I gave a "defense" of Christianity with "gentleness and respect" but Patrick made an excuse and refused to read it. So, I will give a condensed response to his challenges here.
1. Was Hitler a Christian? Some atheists claim that Hitler considered himself "a devout Catholic." This may or may not be true. 1. As Hitler's actions have become known, the Catholic Church has completely disavowed him as a member and rejected his actions. 2. The Catholic Church has not made any statues etc. in his honor. 3. Hitler's possible association with the Catholic Church, even if confirmed it still would not prove Hitler was genuinely, a "devout Catholic". Attending a Catholic Church but not living according to its doctrines, requirements, and practices would not make Adolf Hitler a "devout Catholic" anymore than walking through a forest would make him into a tree. 4. Even though Hitler's association with the Roman Catholic Church might reflect badly on the Roman Catholic Church as a single branch or christendom, it would not reflect on other branches of Christianity which have been independent, separated, and many times opposed to the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church for hundreds of years. (See Diagram Below)
Sometimes atheists attempt to use the Crusades and Inquisition to discredit Christianity as a whole, even when speaking to Protestants, Anglicans, or Anabaptists. If they had studied the history of Christianity, they would have known that the Crusades were the sole responsibility of the Roman Catholic Church and the Anabaptists, Protestants, and Anglicans were the main targets of the Roman Catholic Church's Inquisitions. www.britannica.com/topic/inquisition
Even the Roman Catholic Church has since recognized that the Inquisition is not consistent with the teachings of Scripture and they have rejected it. I personally reject all attempts to convert people to Christianity through any means stronger than love and gentle persuasion. I reject all forms of coercion, pressure, or intimidation based on Scripture. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast." If salvation is a gift, it must not be forced upon anyone. For more information I wrote this blog post a few years ago. www.internationalfishers.com/blog/were-the-nazis-christian
2. Was Stalin a Christian? Patrick also misunderstands the basic teachings of the Bible concerning salvation. I don't know if Stalin had Christian parents or not, but even if Stalin's parents were genuine Christians themselves, it would not make Stalin a Christian automatically. Every child in Sunday School memorizes John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." "Whoever believes," means that your parents cannot believe for you, you must believe on your own, in order to be saved and be counted as a genuine Christian.
Matthew 7:15-20 says, "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." What was Joseph Stalin's fruit? According to Dr. D. James Kennedy's book, What if Jesus Had Never Been Born? , "Stalin slaughtered more than Forty Million People" (page 234) www.amazon.com/What-Jesus-Never-Been-Born-ebook/dp/B000SFOUV2 Hitler also exterminated 6 million Jews and millions of others (page 230). Even Wikipedia confirms that Stalin was indeed an atheist. "Teachers complained that he declared himself an atheist, chatted in class and refused to doff his hat to monks." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Stalin#Childhood_to_young_adulthood:_1878–1899
3. Does Christianity Produce the "Most Murderous Populations This World Has Ever Known?" I wish Patrick would read D. James Kennedy's book, listed above, in which he shows how Christianity has been instrumental in making the world a better place in the following ways: 1. Hospitals, which essentially began during the Middle Ages. 2. Universities, which also began during the Middle Ages...most of the world's greatest universities were started by Christians for Christian purposes. 3. Literacy and education for the masses.. 4. Capitalism and free-enterprise. 5. Representative government, particularly...in the American experiment. 6. The separation of political powers. 7. Civil liberties. 8. The abolition of slavery. 9. Modern science. 10. The discovery of the New World by Columbus. 11. The elevation of women. 12. Benevolence and charity; the good Samaritan ethic. 12. Higher standards of justice. 13. The elevation of the common person. 14. The condemnation of sexual immorality. 15. High regard for human life. 16. The civilizing of many primitive cultures. 17. The codifying and setting to writing of many of the world's languages (for the purposes of Bible translation, missionary schools, and evangelism). 18. Greater development of art and music. 19. Countless lives transformed from liabilities into assets to society because of the Gospel. 20. The eternal salvation of countless souls. (What if Jesus Had Never Been Born? pages 3-4).
Christians have done a lot to make the world a better place, especially compared to Atheists. Just compare these two lists of Christian Charities en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Christian_charities and Atheist Charities
www.quora.com/What-are-some-atheists-charity-organizations According to Alex Denethorn, "There’s no such thing as an atheist charity organisation. It’s a ridiculous concept, if you think about it: what commonality do we have to build a charity around? I’ve said it dozens of times before but Atheism is nothing more than the absence of belief in god(s)."
4. Where the Khmer Rouge Christian or Were They Atheist? Patrick conveniently forgot to mention the Khmer Rouge. It is pretty difficult to make the claim that they were Christians. They did not have Christian parents or go to church.
It is clear that the Khmer Rouge were atheist. 1. They are listed in Wikipedia in the article on State Atheism.
"The Khmer Rouge actively persecuted Buddhists during their reign from 1975 to 1979. Buddhist institutions and temples were destroyed and Buddhist monks and teachers were killed in large numbers. A third of the nation's monasteries were destroyed along with numerous holy texts and items of high artistic quality. 25,000 Buddhist monks were massacred by the regime, which was officially an atheist state. The persecution was undertaken because Pol Pot believed that Buddhism was "a decadent affectation". He sought to eliminate Buddhism's 1,500-year-old mark on Cambodia."
Religion was also banned, and the repression of adherents of Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism was extensive. And according to Ben Kiernan, the "fiercest extermination campaign was directed against the ethnic Cham Muslim minority". en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_atheism#Cambodia_under_the_Khmer_Rouge
2. My long time friend, mentor, and former mission organization colleague, Pastor Sok, a Khmer Rouge survivor wrote the following. "(sic) The Khmer Rouge were atheists they destroy the temples, church building and they are not allow to practice any religion at all during they were in power. There were killing everywhere in the country. It was just some places more or less. So, the practice of communists and the atheists the same toward religions and what had happened in Cambodia from 1975-1979 was true. I was 1.8 million people died. Because they said that there is no God and no religion. They were the atheists."
Pastor Sok, was beaten by the Khmer Rouge for many hours, but miraculously they did not execute him as they usually did to others. Later, he escaped through the jungles with his pregnant wife to a refugee camp in Thailand. At the camp, they accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior. One day, Pastor Sok met one of the former Khmer Rouge soldiers who had beaten him in Cambodia. The man was afraid that Sok would seek revenge. Pastor Sok told him, "I am a Christian now. I forgive you because Jesus Christ has forgiven me." The Khmer Rouge soldier replied, "I am a Christian now too."
Pastor Sok went on to pastor Cambodian churches in Cambodia before returning to Cambodia as a missionary. He (and his beloved late wife) have planted several churches and founded Tahas Bible Institute in Kampong Chhnang. Tahas is unique in that the schedule is designed to make it possible for pastors and church leaders who serve churches, especially in rural areas, and who must support themselves with other jobs, especially rice farming, can come to study in modules while continuing their regular ministries and employment. The schedule is actually designed so as not to interfere with the rice planting and harvesting seasons! www.tahas.org
My Shocking Facebook Dialogue With An Atheist About Morality:
The conversation began with an atheist posting an offensive meme (pictured below) which read:
"Meet Abraham...The father of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam...Because a person who is willing to murder their child because a voice told them to is someone the whole world should admire and follow."
It was a quiet Saturday afternoon and I was scrolling through Facebook on my phone, when I came across the meme. No one else had commented or rebutted it yet so I felt like I should say something. When I was studying for my Master's in Christian Apologetics at Biola University, I remembered a lecture by Greg Koukl, a Christian Apologist www.str.org/training/speakers/greg-koukl , in which he described what he called the "Colombo Method." Basically you: 1. Play dumb. 2. Ask questions. 3. See what useful information you learn which can be used to help the person you are talking to come closer to the truth (and perhaps others).
Here is my conversation with minimal edits. I added some emphasis and shortened some irrelevant parts:
Darryl: "Just curious...If there is no god or karma, why would murder be wrong? Let's assume that Abraham, if he existed, lived in a place without any government or laws. I'm not trying to pick a fight here. I'm just interested in hearing different perspectives on this question."
Atheist: "What's wrong in throwing away all you've invested into raising your own child? And if he were in an anarchy, his action would've weakened his family's ability to resist its neighbours' desire for his land. And he would be hard-pressed to find any allies, because would anyone care to ally with someone who disregarded human life like that?"
Darryl: "Your answer about not throwing away a child that you have invested in seems a bit too pragmatic for me. ...(In some countries) when parents get too deeply in debt, they sell their own young children as prostitutes and child laborers to pay off the debt. They also abandon their children and have been known to kill their children if they don't fear the consequences. I know that people in developed countries always assume that people are naturally good at heart, but this does not match my real life observation. At least some of the evil acts are restrained by a fear of bad luck, evil spirits, bad karma etc."
Atheist: "Unfortunately, pragmatism is one way to cope. Selling a child will at least recover some of the investment, since there's no sense to sacrifice it for the whims of a deity.
Abandoning children is a shame, but where's the point in keeping them and watching them starve? :-|
As for killing them, that's why most countries have laws against murder. But if the community is really that poor that there's nothing that could be done about it, i won't add to the parents' regrets and guilt...
Naturally good at heart?! Not really, kids tend to be quite selfish, and they need to be taught the value of sharing. Actually, that's arguably a better answer against evil acts: education, not fear of some juju, even if that juju is a god.
Darryl: "But Abraham did not murder his son. An angel stopped him. It was a one time test. Since then human sacrifice has been uniformly rejected in the Judaism and Christian traditions. Murder has also been rejected. Capital punishment required two or three witnesses. Another aspect of the Bible that people also misunderstand is that just because a Bible character does something does not necessarily mean that God commanded or approved of it. David committed adultery and murder but those were sins. As far as selling your children to pay a debt I cannot accept that as moral. A loving parent will not put their children at risk but will take the risk and punishment for not repaying the debt themselves. Even if they could not feed the child, the child should eat before they do. They also should find some good family to adopt the child. Child prostitutes can become infected with HIV. It is just a slow murder."
Q: Why Aren’t People Interested in Doctrine?
A: Because sermons are boring. Here’s why they are boring and what can be done to make them interesting.
The problem that Paul Washer mentions is even worse now (they are not so interested in songs or T-shirts anymore). I have been thinking about the cause and cure of the problem of people not being interested in Christian doctrines. The short answer is that even though I am an absolute enthusiast for the Bible and Christian doctrine, I must admit that even I find most sermons BORING! Before you get offended, please read the entire post. My entire ministry as an apologist is devoted to helping people listen to their pastor’s sermons and to apply the truth’s from the Bible. “Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27: 17)
I also have preached and taught Christian Apologetics in the USA (in English and Spanish) in Cambodia (in English with translation and in Cambodian), in Japan (with translation) and in Thailand (in English). So, having been on both sides of the pulpit and lecturer's desk since 1999, when I preached my first funeral with one day notice, allow me to share my potentially unique perspective.
It is important that we define the term “doctrine” from Scripture. “For when for the time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that uses milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrew 5:12-14)
Christian doctrine is like a top quality beef steak. However, just as steak needs to be skillfully seasoned, grilled, and plated by a chef, pastors also need to take care to teach doctrine in a way that is understandable, accurate, and transformational. I am not a chef, but I am an expert eater. I also worked for a short time in catering. I am not a pastor, but I have heard thousands of sermons in my lifetime. Here are some tips from my perspective as a missionary, Bible school teacher, English teacher, and Christian Apologist, which I believe will help pastors preach and church members study and learn more effectively.
1. Don’t overcook the meat. The vast majority of doctrinally based sermons I have heard are “overcooked.” A good doctrinal sermon will be as “rare” as possible. It should be red or pink with the sacrificial, loving, blood of Jesus Christ. It should also be as “juicy” as possible with the guidance of, the attributes of, and the work of the Holy Spirit. To do this, it is important to teach what the Bible says (with accurate historical context and accurate interpretation of the text based on the original languages). It is also essential to let the Bible speak for itself instead of being processed through the words and ideas of your favorite theologian. If you mention more famous theologians' names than Jesus Christ in the pews I will feel like you are serving me ground beef instead of steak.
If your sermon does not inspire (not shame or pressure) people to worship, evangelize, serve and repent, you may not be serving beef steak at all, you may be serving pork or chicken. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
2. Don’t forget the seasoning. Another problem is that many doctrinal sermons are not applicable to people’s lives. Skilled chefs know how to season steaks so that we can fully appreciate the natural flavors of the meat. Likewise, pastors should season their doctrinal sermons with evidence (apologetics) which helps the people of the church to become increasingly confident that the Word of God is true. If they trust the Bible, they are more likely to apply its teachings. I do not blame the pastors for this weakness, instead, I place most of the responsibility on the curriculum Bible schools and seminaries. Most Seminary and Bible school students spend at least 95% of their time answering the question, “What does the Bible say?”. However, little or no emphasis is placed on answering the question, “Why is the Bible true?” I am pleased that this trend is beginning to change. I teach Apologetics at a Bible school and a seminary in Cambodia.
Once in ministry, pastors are often too busy to do independent research into the question, “Why is the Bible true?” Because it wasn’t emphasized in seminary or Bible school, most pastors assume that it must not be important to answer this question. However, the members of their church who must interact with non-Christian (anti-Christian) people and challenges in their workplaces, schools, media, and social networks, will not be interested in the answer to the question, “What does the Bible say?” until they are confident that the Bible is True.
The entire truth of Christian doctrine and the Gospel of Jesus Christ depend on the truth of 1 Corinthians 15: 14 & 20-22 say, “and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain….But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” Notice how the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and Adam are both mentioned as true historical events. Therefore if your doctrinal sermon does not directly or indirectly lend support to the conclusion that the resurrection is not a historical event, then you need to be careful to listen to this warning, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:3-5)
3. Keep the main course the main course. There are two levels of doctrines: 1. Primary (salvation) doctrines are doctrines which one must believe in order to be truly saved. For example, if you don’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, you are not a genuine Christian. 2. Secondary (sanctification) doctrines are doctrines which are important for sanctification and a victorious Christian life but if you are wrong about these doctrines you are still saved. Differences between Christian denominations usually fall into this category. Sadly, most sermons emphasize #2 doctrines over #1 doctrines. As a result they often fail to preserve Christian unity for which Jesus Christ prayed before his crucifixion. “I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” (John 17:23)
Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormons wrote this, “My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others.”
Even though different denominations have legitimate differences on secondary doctrines, they all agree about the primary doctrines. It is sad that Joseph Smith did not hear the same Gospel of Jesus Christ from all three churches. Pastors, you never know whether or not some other person with the leadership skills of Joseph Smith will hear your sermon whether in your church or on the Internet. Please make sure they hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ instead of only hearing you criticize other Christians.
How to answer the question, “Why is the Bible True?” 1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer (apologia=defense=reason) to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”
Here are some questions you can ask yourself (or you can ask your pastor).
1. What is the evidence that God exists?
2. What is the evidence that Biblical Creation is true and evolution is false?
3. What is the evidence that the Bible is true and is the inerrant inspired word of God?
4. What is the evidence that Jesus Christ really lived, was crucified, and rose again?
5. Why is Jesus Christ the only way to be saved?
If you are in the US, I would recommend these easy to read and understand books by Lee Strobel, an atheist journalist who became a Christian.
The Case for the Creator www.amazon.com/Case-Creator-Journalist-Investigates-Scientific/dp/B00HRF0HXG/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1539922123&sr=1-3&keywords=case+for+the+creator
The Case for Christ www.amazon.com/Case-Christ-Journalists-Personal-Investigation/dp/0310339308
If you are in Cambodia, you can order Christianity: Reasons for Faith by Darryl Record and Dr. Doug Collins (English and Khmer $6.00 from Fount of Wisdom Publishing House) www.fountofwisdomph.com/product/reasons-for-faith/
4. The Top Chefs Put More Effort Into Training Amateur Chefs Than Into Feeding Professional Eaters! Just as physical obesity is a problem when countries become wealthier (I know...I have looked in the mirror. ;-)), in countries which are blessed with religious freedom, large churches, and a wealth of Christian materials (books, websites, and other media), there can be a problem which I will call, "secondary-doctrinal-obesity" or "head-knowledge obesity." In other words, people learn a lot about what the Bible says, (this is good, especially if they also know, why the Bible is true) but if they don't apply, use, or share what they have used to bless, encourage, evangelize, and disciple others outside of the church services and building, they can become "head-knowledge obese." Before I suggest a cure for this "obesity" let's take a look at a couple of key Scriptures. 1. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, " For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast." 2. James 2:15-17 (I recommend that you read James 2:14-22) says, "Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." So we can see from these two passages that works or actions do not save us, only God's grace does that. However, if we are truly saved, that will cause us to apply our faith into meaningful actions.
I was inspired to update this blog post by a conversation I had with an 18 year old Cambodian man who is overseeing a cell group of 50 people, with the help of 4 assistant leaders. He said, "I want to lead leaders not followers." It reminded me of a passage in Ephesians 4:11-13 which says, "So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."
I have heard many pastors preach on this passage, but most of them spend 90% of their time trying to explain and apply the various roles mentioned in verse 11 to the local church. One day, I looked down at the next verse and I was struck by, "to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." Too many church people become "obese" because they are fans of the pastoral team and not players. To many pastors think of themselves as players or performers when instead they should be coaches! If pastors and other church leaders mentioned in verse 11 see themselves as coaches, then they will Equip HIS people for works of service. Once they do that, then Sunday sermons are not longer the, "main game of the week." Instead sermons are supposed to be the pre-game training for the church members who are players (amateur chefs) and not spectators (professional eaters). The pastoral team (coaching staff) then equips the players to go out and bless, encourage, evangelize, and disciple others outside of the church services and buildings in their own families, neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces and then invite those people to come to the main church services/sermons/coaching sessions to become equipped for works of service themselves. This will lead to unlimited growth, because it does not solely depend on the pastor and church leaders.
I hope this article was encouraging and challenging. I encourage you to eat a steak. If you can't cook it well you have my blessing to go to a nice restaurant and buy one.
God Gives Value to Life
When we look at nature; the stars, the moon, the sun, the earth, the ocean, plants, animals, we often think, “Where did all of this come from?” Is everything just the result of an accidental combination of atoms? Or, is there a designer and creator who made the universe? These are some of the most important questions of life. They are important to our future as humans and they are also important to Christians.
If everything happened by chance, then humans and animals would have the same value. When people believe that everything happened by chance and that humans have no greater value than animals, the result is that human life loses its value. One famous philosopher who holds this view argues that killing of animals for meat is wrong but that killing one-month-old babies for the parents’ convenience is not wrong. When people follow this idea
to its logical conclusion, the results are frightening. Animals are treated like humans and humans end up acting like animals. People end up spending thousands of dollars to take their pets to the veterinarian but do not care about children who are starving around the world.
Atheism, the belief that there is no God, has no standards of right and wrong that apply to all people at all times. Humans and animals would have the same value and could be killed at the convenience of those who have power. Without God, there would be no one to give humans rights that cannot be taken away. When governments believe in Atheism, they tend to think of themselves as gods with unlimited power over their citizens.
When governments take this philosophy and turn it into law, the result is mass killings of their own citizens. If one studies the history of the 20th century, one will find a pattern of genocide in many nations. If we add all of the killings of innocent citizens by their own governments together we get a number around 127 million people. These are not deaths from wars with outside nations but these are systematic killings of private citizens by their own government.
Governments are supposed to protect their citizens and the governments that have a basic belief in God, religion, and morality above themselves, generally try to protect their own citizens. However, the governments that do not believe in God, see themselves as the predators and their citizens as their prey.
An example of one of these governments that applied the philosophy of Atheism is the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot. Saloth Sar learned this philosophy as a young man. Later, as the prime minister of Cambodia from 1976-1979 he was free to act on it. Without God to give human life value, millions of Cambodians were killed for the political convenience of the Khmer Rouge. The Angka, Pol Pot’s organization took the place of God in that it controlled all of people’s lives and could kill at will. S-21 (Toul Sleng) and The Killing Fields (Choeung Ek) are visible reminders of what happens when atheism becomes the law of the land.
In his book entitled Tortured For Christ, Richard Wurmbrand who wrote this:
The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe when man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil. There is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil which is in man. The….torturers often said, “There is not God, no Hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.’ I have heard one torturer even say, ‘I thank God, in whom I don’t believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart.’ He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture inflicted on prisoners.
On the other hand, if God created the universe, especially if it is the God of the Christian Bible, things are completely different. We have just talked about how that without a God who created the universe, there is no objective morality, humans have no special value, and the governments can give and deny human rights such as life and freedom at their convenience. However, if God created the universe, then God alone has the right to determine right and wrong for all people in all nations in all centuries.
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
In this passage, we read that God made humans in the “likeness and image of God.” This means that human life has some special value over the animals. God also placed humans in a place of authority to use and manage the earth and all of the living things in it. As humans, it is our responsibility to be good managers of the earth.
In Genesis 1:28-29 God gave humans the right to eat plants such as fruits and vegetables. Later, after sin came into the world and the great flood, God gave humans permission to eat meat in Genesis 8:3-7. From the beginning, God prohibited the murder of humans.
If God exists, humans have value and rights that God gave them even before any governments existed. Therefore, humans have rights and value that no government can take away. The Bible encourages people to obey their governments but governments must also obey God and respect the rights that he has given to all humans.
Now, let’s think about how important it is for God to exist and to have created the universe to the Christian religion. John 3:16 is the most famous verse in the Bible. It says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in himshould not perish, but have everlasting life. ” If God does not exist and did not create the earth including humans, Christianity could not be true. In this verse God loved the world and gave Jesus. If there is no God, there is no one to give Jesus. Therefore, there is no one to save people who believe. People may believe in Jesus, but if there is no God, they have no one to believe in that will save them. Without God’s creation of the universe, Christianity is like a building without a foundation. It will not stand. The good news is that there is strong evidence that supports the belief that God created the universe.
There are 206 pieces in the LEGO set in the video above. An intelligent person can follow the directions to correctly build the set in a few minutes. Even though there are only 206 pieces, it is impossible for the recycling truck to be assembled by chance. For example by shaking the box.
The human body contains 37,200,000,000,000 cells. Psalms 139:13 says, "You made all the delicate inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb." God is the intelligent designer of all living things including humans. Just as it would be impossible for the simplest LEGO toy by chance it is also impossible for the simplest living thing to form by chance as well.
Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Let’s take a look at the facts that most Biblical Scholars agree about.
Theory #1: The disciples stole Jesus’ body while the guards were asleep. This is the original conspiracy theory of the Jewish leaders in the Bible. The theory accepts the fact of the crucifixion and the empty tomb but there are some problems with it. First of all, it is unlikely that the disciples could have stolen Jesus body even if they wanted to. Jesus tomb was guarded by up to 16 Roman soldiers. If they fell asleep, the penalty was death. Second of all, it this theory does not explain the appearances of Jesus after his death. There is no way that the disciples could convince anyone that Jesus was alive with a dead corpse. This theory also does not explain the fact that skeptics such as James, the brother of Jesus or Saul a persecutor of Christians could be converted.
Theory #2: Someone else died on the cross instead of Jesus. Many Muslims believe that it was Judas and not Jesus who died on the cross. There are many problems with this theory because it does not account for any of the established facts. First of all, Jesus performed the miracle of healing the priest’s servant’s ear after Peter cut it off. Judas could not have performed a miracle under the circumstances. Jesus was well known and his arrest, trial, and crucifixion all took place in front of people who knew him well and knew what he looked like including the disciples, priests, soldiers, and even his own mother Mary. Jesus spoke to his mother from the cross just before he died. So, there is no way that Judas could have died in Jesus’ place. This theory also fails to account for the empty tomb, the appearances of Jesus to his followers which included allowing Thomas to touch his wounds. This theory also fails to explain the transformation of skeptics such as James and Saul.
Theory #3: Jesus body was buried in a shallow grave and his body was eaten by wild dogs. This recent theory also has some serious problems with it. It has been popularized by the media so it must be answered. This theory does not account for the empty tomb and the guards it also does not account for the appearances or the transformation of skeptics.
Theory #4: Jesus’ appearances were hallucinations. This theory does not account for the empty tomb. 1 Corinthians 15 says that Jesus appeared to 500 people at one time. It is impossible for 500 people to have the same hallucination. The hallucination theory also fails to account for the empty tomb.
Theory #5 Jesus did not really die on the cross. This theory claims that Jesus somehow survived the cross but this is impossible. Medical doctors have examined what happened to Jesus and have concluded that no one could survive the severe beating that Jesus endured, and being hung on the cross, being speared through the lung and heart. Even if Jesus survived all this, how could he survive being trapped in the tomb for three days with no food, water, or medical care? How could he have escaped from the tomb and the guards? Even if Jesus survived, he would not be in good enough condition to appear to his followers and convince them that he rose from the dead miraculously.
When we look at the strength of the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the weakness of the alternative theories, it becomes clear that Jesus Christ really rose from the dead, just as the New Testament of the Bible. He is risen! He is risen indeed!
One way we can confirm that the Bible is reliable is through archaeology. Archaeology, “the study of human history through the excavation of sites and the analysis of artifacts and other physical remains.” Psalms 85:11 says, “truth springs up from the earth.” When we study the archaeological evidences for the Bible we can see that the discoveries of archaeology confirm the Bible’s truth. Let’s take a look at just a few of many archaeological discoveries that confirm the Bible.
In the last 200 years, archaeologists have confirmed many of the small historical details in the Bible such as the names of rulers, cities, place, etc. Many times, the Bible’s accuracy has been challenged by critics but later, archaeological discoveries have confirmed the Bible’s accuracy and the challenges were overcome. Here are a few examples.
Since 1964, when excavation began in Syria of an ancient kingdom that was destroyed in 2250 B.C. 17,000 Ebla Tablets have been discovered. These clay tablets have disproven many of the arguments against the Old Testament. Critics claimed that writing did not exist at the time of Moses and so the early Old Testament books were nothing more than oral traditions passed down over generations and could not be trustworthy. The Ebla tablets show that a thousand years before Moses, laws, customs, and events were recorded in writing in the same area of the world where the Old Testament was written.
Critics also assumed that the cities of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar mentioned in Genesis 14 never really existed. The Ebla tablets confirm that they were real cities.
The Old Testament also has lots of text about the Kingdom of Assyria that conquered Israel around 722 B.C. For years, many critics claimed that there was no such kingdom. However, in 1843, Paul Emile Botta discovered an artifact with details of Sargon the Second, who was the king of Assyria mentioned in Isaiah 20:1.
Critics also mistakenly assumed that the Hittites, mentioned many times in the Bible, including Joshua 1:4 never existed. Recently, hundreds of artifacts overlapping 1,200 years of Hittite civilization have been discovered. The critics were wrong again.
In Joshua 6:20, the Bible reports that the walls of Jericho fell, the Israelites charged straight in. When archaeologists excavated the city, they discovered that the walls of Jericho really fell down. They fell outwardly and flat, forming a ramp that an army could have used to invade the city.
In Joshua 24:32, Joseph was buried in Shechem, Palestine. According to the Bible, Joseph was an Israelite who was sold as a slave to Egypt. He became an important ruler in Egypt. When the Israelites left Egypt they took the body of Joseph with them and buried the body in Shechem. According to John Elder, “For centuries there was a tomb at Shechem reverenced as the tomb of Joseph. A few years ago, the tomb was opened. It was found to contain a body mummified according to the Egyptian custom, and in the tomb among other things was a sword of the kind worn by Egyptian officials.”
Critics once doubted they accuracy of the Book of Daniel in part because there was no evidence confirming the Bible’s report that “Belshazzar” was king of Babylon. Later research showed, however that the reigning king, Nabonidus, appointed Belshazzar as co-regent while he was away.
Sir William Ramsay, a skeptical archaeologist in the 1800s, believed the Book of Acts in the New Testament was written at a much later date by someone other than Luke. However as the result of his archaeological research, he changed his mind and became convinced that Luke really wrote the book of Acts at the earlier time. He came to regard Luke as the, “greatest of historians.” If Luke was so accurate about his historical accounts, his accounts of miracles and Christ’s resurrection are likely to be historically accurate as well.
The same scientific and archaeological research that confirms the Bible, discredits the accuracy of the sacred books of other religions such as the Book of Mormon of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The founder, Joseph Smith, claimed that the Book of Mormon was the true history of the Americas. However, the artifacts, cities, people, places, or events mentioned in the book of Mormon have never been found. DNA research has disproven the Book of Mormon’s claim that the native peoples of the Americas came from Israel. “Nothing which demonstrates the Book of Mormon is anything other than a myth or invention has ever been found.”
On the other hand, the great archaeologist William F. Albright, stated, “archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of Old Testament tradition.” Dr. Scott McRay, author of Archaeology and the New Testament, was asked, “Does archaeology affirm or undermine the New Testament when it checks out the details in those accounts?” Dr. McRay answered, “There’s no question that the credibility of the New Testament is enhanced, just as the credibility of any document is enhanced when you excavate and find that the author was accurate in talking about a particular place or event.
These are just a few of many examples of discoveries that confirm the historical accuracy of the Bible. Unlike the sacred books of other religions which either cannot be tested with archaeology or are discredited by archaeological discoveries, the more we research this topic, the stronger our faith becomes. If the Bible is accurate about the people, places, and events of ancient history we can trust that it is accurate about its teachings and miracles as well.
Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Let’s take a look at the facts that most Biblical Scholars agree about.
The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ explains these four facts better than any alternative theory. Let’s take a look at some of the other theories.
Theory #1 the disciples stole Jesus’ body. This is the original conspiracy theory found. The theory accepts the fact of the crucifixion and the empty tomb but there are some problems with it. First of all, it is unlikely that the disciples could have stolen Jesus body even if they wanted to. Jesus tomb was guarded by up to 16 Roman soldiers. If they fell asleep the penalty was death. Second of all, it this theory does not explain the appearances of Jesus after his death. There is no way that the disciples could convince anyone that Jesus was alive with a dead corpse. This theory also does not explain the fact that skeptics such as James, the brother of Jesus or Saul a persecutor of Christians could be converted.
Theory #2 Someone else died on the cross besides Jesus. Many Muslims believe that it was Judas not Jesus who died on the cross. There are many problems with this theory because it does not account for any of the established facts. First of all, Jesus performed the miracle of healing the priest’s servant’s ear after Peter cut it off. Judas could not have performed a miracle under the circumstances. Jesus was well known and his arrest, trial, and crucifixion all took place in front of people who knew him well and knew what he looked like including the disciples, priests, soldiers, and even his own mother Mary. Jesus spoke to his mother from the cross just before he died. So, there is no way that Judas could have died in Jesus’ place. This theory also fails to account for the empty tomb, the appearances of Jesus to his followers which included allowing Thomas to touch his wounds. This theory also fails to explain the transformation of skeptics such as James and Saul.
Theory #3 Jesus body was buried in a shallow grave and his body was eaten by wild dogs. This recent theory also has some serious problems with it. It has been popularized by the media so it must be answered. This theory does not account for the empty tomb and the guards it also does not account for the appearances or the transformation of skeptics.
Theory #4. Jesus’ appearances were hallucinations. This theory does not account for the empty tomb. 1 Corinthians 15 says that Jesus appeared to 500 people at one time. It is impossible for 500 people to have the same hallucination. The hallucination theory also fails to account for the empty tomb.
Theory #5 Jesus did not really die on the cross. This theory claims that Jesus somehow survived the cross but this is impossible. Medical doctors have examined what happened to Jesus and have concluded that no one could survive the severe beating that Jesus endured, and being hung on the cross, being speared through the lung and heart. Even if Jesus survived all this, how could he survive being trapped in the tomb for three days with no food, water, or medical care? How could he have escaped from the tomb and the guards? Even if Jesus survived, he would not be in good enough condition to appear to his followers and convince them that he rose from the dead miraculously.
When we look at the strength of the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the weakness of the alternative theories, it becomes clear that Jesus Christ really rose from the dead, just as the New Testament of the Bible. He is risen! He is risen indeed!
There are 130 million different books in the world today. How can we be sure that the Bible is the only book that is the Word of God?
First of all, the Bible claims to be the Word of God. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training and training righteousness.”
Most other books do not claim to come from God, so we can eliminate them from consideration.
Second, the Bible has 66 books written down by 40 different authors over 1,500 years. It was even written in three different languages and yet it has one unified message. Skeptics have looked for contradictions but they have not found any. Some of these skeptics have come to believe that the Bible is God’s Word while searching for contradictions.
On the other hand, the sacred books of other religions are based on the teachings and writings of only one man who had a vision or spiritual experience. Which is more reliable, the testimony of only one man or 40 independent witnesses who experienced God in the same way?
Third, there are around 2,000 prophecies in the Bible. No other religious book compares to the number and accuracy of the prophecies in the Bible. For example, in Islam, there were no prophecies about Mohammad’s future birth, nor did Mohammed ever prophesy of a future event. On the other hand there are around 191 prophecies and references in the Old Testament that were fulfilled in the life of Jesus.
When we compare the Bible to the 130 million other books in the world the Bible is the only book that can be the Word of God.
We have all experienced seasons of suffering and trials. During those times God may seem far away. Even Jesus Christ cried out, "My God why have you forsaken me," from the cross. (Mark 15:34). Hebrews 4:15 says,
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin."
I hope you will find this interview with Joni Erikson Tada to be an encouragement to embrace God's grace in the midst of your own suffering and trials. Jesus is the best only answer to our pain whether it be physical or emotional or both.
““You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone,you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.” (Matthew 5:22 NLT)
“Anyone who hates another brother or sister[ is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them.” (1 John 3:15 NLT)
When I was a child, we used to repeat this common phrase, “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Later, I realized that, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will break my heart.” Now, I understand that, “sticks and stones may break people’s bones but words may dehumanize them so much that they may kill themselves and/or others.”
When I was in junior high school, I took a hunter safety class with my mother so that I could get a hunting permit (I grew up in Missouri it's my culture). That class taught me that we could not “win the game” by shooting the animal that we were hunting for unless we were absolutely certain that the bullet from our gun would not hurt anyone or damage any property. This lesson taught me that firearms are a great responsibility. If I fire a gun, I am responsible for that bullet until it stops moving. If anyone is killed or anything is damaged along the path of that bullet (or its ricochet), I am guilty. Likewise, according to the Bible, if I speak a hateful word, I will be guilty, before God (even if my nation’s laws allow it) for the damage and death my word causes to anyone who hears it. If the word is recorded, written, and broadcast via radio, television, books, magazines, newspapers, or the Internet, I will be guilty (before God) for the damage and death it causes to anyone who hears or reads it. "God please forgive me for all the hateful words I have spoken and written, please stop them from continuing to hurt others, and heal those who have been wounded. Amen."
The same sense of responsibility also carries over to controlling our anger and our tongues. We cannot, “win the argument,” with curses, lies, slander, defamation, or other ad hominem attacks any more than we can win the argument with a gun. If people cannot trust themselves or be trusted to handle a firearm responsibly, they should not have a firearm. We can debate gun control laws but we cannot change this fact. It is impossible for humans to outlaw or confiscate the minds of those who hate, the tongues of people who say hateful things, or the fingers of those who write them, without causing more evil than we are trying to stop or prevent.
“The first to speak in court sounds right—until the cross-examination begins. Flipping a coin can end arguments; it settles disputes between powerful opponents. An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars. Wise words satisfy like a good meal; the right words bring satisfaction. The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” (Proverbs 18:17-21)
For many years I have wondered why anger, name calling, curses, hatred and lust (Matthew 5:27) are taken more seriously in the New Testament than in the Old Testament. I am coming to understand that the common ingredient behind these “zero tolerance” prohibitions is this--dehumanization. Calling people and groups by insulting labels fuses their identity to their humanity and then rejects both their identity and humanity at the same time. Just as emotionally it would be easier for me to kill a mosquito than to kill the family pet, it is much emotionally much easier for genocidal regimes to get their soldiers to kill those who have been dehumanized than it would be to kill someone who they view as a human. Activists who want to prevent cruelty to animals always humanize the animals through “personification.” Genocidal people like Hitler and Pol Pot, always dehumanize people before they can insight others to exterminate them. On the other hand, the Anti-Defamation League exists to prevent the dehumanization of Jews (and others) that led to the first holocaust and could lead to future genocides.
Before we can really understand dehumanization we need to make sure we know what the Bible says about the true identity of humans. As we apply these truths, we can re-humanize everyone, even our fiercest enemies.
1. Humans all have the image of God and this gives us a uniquely high value that cannot be taken away.
“Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” (Genesis 1:26-28)
2. God has a special plan and purpose for every person.
“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!” (Psalm 139:13-18)
3. God loves each person who has ever lived whether they love him or not.
“For God loved the world so much that: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)
“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18)
“Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself. ”Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.” (Romans 13:8-10)
(see also) http://www.gty.org/blog/B110706/does-god-love-his-enemies
4. Because Jesus loves us, we should and can love others.
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” (John 13:34)
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)
5. Therefore, I can and must love my enemies.
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (Arabic: أبو بكر البغدادي; born Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badri) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Bakr_al-Baghdadi the leader of ISIS is my enemy because he chose to be my enemy not because I chose to be his enemy. But if I think Biblically, I can love him.
Biblical love re-humanizes Mr. Ibrahim, it does not mean that I approve of his actions or that he is in anyway freed from God’s justice or human legal justice. We can apply Biblical love and re-humanize murderers but this does not free them from the legal or spiritual consequences of their crimes. Also by God’s grace I can forgive Mr. Ibrahim. “Father forgive” Mr. Ibrahim “for he does not know what he is doing.” (Luke 23:34) This frees me from the poison of his actions and places him into God’s hands, the ultimate source of love and justice.
"Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good." (Romans 12:19-21)
Hate rejects these truths in our own lives. Curses causes others to reject these truths in their lives. This leads to dehumanization which leads to death.
Christians in the United States are Not Immune to Being Dehumanized
As a Christian Apologist, I have a duty to defend Christ, Christianity, and Christians from dehumanizing insults that could prepare the way for religious oppression and violence. However, while I can defend Christ and Christianity from dehumanization based on the Word of God, it will be difficult for me to effectively defend Christians from dehumanization if we ourselves are dehumanizing others with our own hateful words. We do not have to approve of or applaud the sins of others, but we must repent from following the sinful pattern of dehumanizing others.
“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” (Luke 6: 31)
"Mugshot of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, 2004" by U.S Army - http://www.scribd.com/doc/256164952/Baghdadi-Detainee-File. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mugshot_of_Abu_Bakr_al-Baghdadi,_2004.jpg#/media/File:Mugshot_of_Abu_Bakr_al-Baghdadi,_2004.jpg
How to Deal with Divisive People
It seems that every day, we must try our best to overcome divisions in our families, friends, churches, communities, nations, and world. Biblically the source of divisions are our own sins and of course Satan loves to plant the seeds of divisions.
It is very important define what a divisive person is and IS NOT.
Here is my definition of a divisive person: A divisive person intentionally, actively, and repeatedly rubs raw the resentments of people within a community, fans the latent hostilities of many people, searchs out controversy and issues rather than avoiding them, and stirs up dissatisfaction and discontent.
Divisive people are defined in the Bible.
So how can can we effectively deal with people who act as divisive people? It is important to remember that divisive people are just ordinary people like you and I who sometimes act in a divisive manner. We too can be divisive people, if we aren’t careful. Even the people who act in a divisive manner can stop at any time through repentance.
1. Do not get angry. Divisive people are like arsonists. Arsonists hate flame-proof materials and wet matches. Divisive people are happiest when people, especially their opponents get angry. Because, when we get angry, we unintentionally spread the seeds of division to others. The world says, “fight fire with fire.” This is a really bad tactic. If an arsonist breaks into your home and sets your curtains on fire, should you defeat him by setting your sofa on fire? No, you would use a fire extinguisher or water to put out the flame before it can spread. Even though the actions of the divisive person are designed to make us feel angry, the Bible says,
We cannot let ourselves be controlled by insults. Just remember that many years ago, people called guys who spent all of their time thinking about computers and software "nerds" and "computer geeks." Now, we call those same guys BILLIONAIRES. Imagine if Bill Gates thought this, "People are calling me a "nerd" so I'm going to stop learning about computers, instead, I'm going to try to be a professional football player, those guys are cool."
A Christian Apologist, Author, Missionary, Husband, and Father. Darryl has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University (CA), an MA in TESOL from Azusa Pacific University (CA), and a BA in Political Science from Truman State University (MO).