Darryl's thoughts on the Christian Faith, Facts, and World Events
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.”
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).