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Posts tagged ‘Existence of God’

How to Share the Gospel With an Atheist.


Anger atheist

(Stock Free Images)

Last week I sat next to James on a flight from St. Louis to Denver. As we talked, the subject turned to spirituality and religion.

I confessed that I was a preacher, and he confessed he was an atheist. What unfolded on the rest of the flight was a deep, thought-provocative, laughter-laced gospel conversation.

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of engaging many atheists like James in various settings. I’ve discovered five helpful tips when sharing the gospel with someone who claims to not believe in God.

1. Don’t be shocked, and do ask tons of questions. Some atheists like to shock Christians with the fact that they don’t believe in God. This brand of atheist pulls the pin on the “There is no God”grenade and drops it in the middle of the conversation, expecting Christians to run for cover.

Don’t be phased. As a matter of fact, start asking questions about their atheism. Find out what they mean by atheism (some are agnostics but call themselves atheists). Ask questions about their background. Were they raised in church? Do they have any Christian friends? Where were they educated about atheism?

And remember that, as you ask questions, your goal is not to trap them but to understand them. Find out areas where you agree. Just like Paul found common ground with the Athenians when he discovered an altar to the “Unknown God,” we can find common ground in a mutual rejection of legalistic religion, a passion for science and reason and, usually, an overall positive view of the historic Jesus.

Although James spoke somewhat negatively of religion, he spoke well of Jesus. While he didn’t view Jesus as the Son of God, he did perceive him as an enlightened soul. At the minimum, that was something I could build on in making my own case for Christ.

2. Listen deeply for the real “why.” Often atheists have a reason (other than “reason”) for becoming atheists. Listen for it. Sometimes it’s anger over losing a loved one. Other times it’s that they were hurt by the church in some way. But often there’s a “why” behind the lie they are embracing.

In John 4, Jesus masterfully attacked the why behind the lie the woman at the well was embracing. She was not an atheist but a hedonist who thought that satisfaction could be found if she finally found the right guy. But Jesus offers her living water to satisfy her deepest needs and, finally, her thirst was fully quenched.

James shared with me about his upbringing in England and his regular attendance at the Church of England. He told me about how his wife had left him and how he could only see his kids every other weekend. James shared how he reads at least a book a week and how he loses himself in novels.

As he shared, I couldn’t quite nail down why he was an atheist, but I could sense that he was a lonely man. My heart went out to him, and I think he could sense my sympathy.

3. Connect relationally. Atheists are real people with real feelings. They laugh, cry, talk and connect like anyone else. I think that too many times, Christians treat atheists as objects and not people.

James and I joked together as we sparred each other. I listened to him, and he listened to me. Bottom line is that I like James. He is an interesting guy with an interesting story.

We should heed Paul’s reminder to Timothy about how to deal with those who disagree with us theologically:

“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:23-26, NIV).

4. Assume that, down deep inside, they do believe in God. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who genuinely rejects the existence of God. Sure, I’ve met many who have claimed God’s existence to be a lie, but I’m convinced that, down deep inside, they really do believe there’s a God.

Why do I believe that? Because Scripture makes it clear in Romans 1:18-21 that there are no real atheists:

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

They may try to suppress their belief in God, but sooner or later in the discussion, atheists say something like, “Well, if God is so good, then why does He allow … ?” This is the point in the conversation where they have “forgotten” their atheism and revealed some of their challenges with not the reality of God but the nature of God.

When you assume that an atheist does really believe in the existence of God, it gives you the freedom not to have to prove God’s existence but to share God’s story. You can be sure that, down deep inside, the gospel is churning in the soul of the atheist.

5. Frame the gospel as a love story (that just happens to be true). When I shared the gospel with James, I wasn’t trying to prove God’s existence. I was simply sharing the story of God’s love. I said something like, “James, at the core of Christianity is a love story. Jesus put it this way: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but has everlasting life.’”

I could tell James was intrigued by this view. He listened respectfully and asked thoughtful questions.

Yes, I dipped into some apologetics at this point (C.S. Lewis’ Lord, lunatic or liar argument, teleological argument, etc.), but only after I had framed the gospel as a love story. In the words of my friend Bill Jack, too many times too many Christians use apologetics as a sledgehammer instead of a crowbar to pry open closed minds. As a result, the conversation turns argumentative instead of respectful.

James and I had a respectful conversation where I heard him and he heard the Good News of Jesus. My job is not to lead him to Jesus but to “set forth the truth plainly” and let the Spirit of God take it from there.

James didn’t say the sinner’s prayer when the plane pulled up to the gate after landing. But I believe that somewhere between Denver and St. Louis, the Spirit of God nudged him closer to Jesus. It is my prayer that, in God’s perfect time, he will cross the line of faith and receive Jesus as his Savior.

Let’s love the atheists we encounter as we humbly and gently introduce them to the God who loves them even more.

Written by Greg Stier

Greg Stier is a husband, a father, a preacher, an author, a twitchy revolutionary and a fanatic for Jesus. He’s the president of Dare 2 Share Ministries which has led thousands of students to Jesus and equipped thousands more to reach their world with the gospel. He blogs at GregStier.org.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

Why Do Atheists Get So Angry When Christians Talk About Their Unbelief?.


angry man
Why are so many atheists so angry? (Stock.xchng)

Atheists don’t believe God exists, so why do they get so angry when Christians call them out for it? In myWatchman on the Wall column earlier this week, I wrote about how the atheist agenda wants you to turn your back on Christ.

As of Friday morning, there were 1,158 comments on the article. I am not sure I’ve ever seen so many comments on a story on CharismaNews.com. The atheists swarmed all over the article because Hemant Mehta, who refers to himself as “the friendly atheist” made some not-so-friendly remarks about me in his Patheos column, “Christian Publication Warns of ‘Atheist Agenda’: They Want You to Lose Your Faith!” But Mehta was pretty friendly compared to the folks who read his article and commented on mine.

After a long diatribe against me and my article, a CharismaNews.com commenter named “David The Sandman,” concluded his spew by saying, “When your church pews are, like the ones in my country, gathering dust and mostly empty you know who to really blame—intolerant and deceptive fools like yourself who clung on to those privileges and bigotries and needlessly slagged off any who didn’t want to adhere to your own narrow definitions of faith. Lying for Jesus is lying all the same. Shame on you.”

Another commenter, Stephen Leavy, wrote, “Christianity: Because you were so bad you made god kill himself.” And “OhioAtheist” quoted the Bible and told me I had no right to speak, according to 1 Timothy 2:12. Meanwhile, an anonymous commenter suggested, “If you can sit down and tell a four year old that they will go to hell if they don’t follow your religion, you aren’t fit to have children.” And Mario Rodgers opined, “I would laugh if you stupid f***wits weren’t so sad in trotting out the same stupid tired arguments about what’s ‘an abomination’ in the sight of your stupid puny god. I can not get a person to turn his back on his faith.” Another guy who calls himself the “Cranky Humanist” told me I just don’t get it on my Twitter account.

I’ll stop there, but it doesn’t get any friendlier. So why are some atheists so angry? I’m hardly the fist one to ask that question. In a video, our friendly atheist Mehta tackles the question “Why are atheists so angry?,” asking, “Why do we get so worked up about something that we don’t even believe exists?” He admits there are angry atheists and acknowledges that it doesn’t seem to make any sense that atheists would get so worked up about something they don’t believe in. Then the friendly atheist offers the reasoning behind so many “ticked off” atheists:

“But you try living in a country where just about every elected official believes in God and then believes that God and their faith should be the basis of policy making. You would get upset too. Or if you had to say prayers in school or recite the Pledge of Allegiance, saying, ‘We’re a nation under God,’ or you saw religion everywhere you went in city council meetings, in your family, at every event you attended—then, yeah, you might get a little upset that all this delusion that’s all around you. And it’s not just someone’s private beliefs. It’s something they want you to be a part of as well. You might get a little ticked off as well.”

Mehta also mentions the many abuses in the name of religion and went on to say a few other things that weren’t so friendly toward Christians. He’s right about that part.

The bottom line, and any Christians reading this should feel free to correct me if I am wrong, is this: Christians want atheists to be “part of” our faith because we don’t want them to spend an eternity in hell. It’s called love. And true Christians are sharing their faith for the right reasons. I can’t speak for all Christians, but I don’t think born-again believers are inherently better, nicer or more trustworthy than atheists, as Mehta suggests is the Christian mindset in his video. All humans have the same carnal nature, and I know plenty of Christians who have poor attitudes. I don’t defend poor attitudes or poor character, and I don’t think Christians should shove their beliefs down anyone’s throat. But friendliness alone won’t take you any place you want to go when you die.

Atheism is rooted in an antichrist spirit that has made man his own God. Atheists have separated themselves from God in this life, yet He still blesses them with an opportunity to repent every day. In the next life—eternal life—atheists won’t be so brazen about insisting God doesn’t exist because they will bow their knee to Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:10; Rom. 14:11) before spending forever apart from His presence in the lake of fire. Calling Christians nasty names and insulting God isn’t going to change that or stop Christians from sharing their faith.

I would challenge every atheist who is reading this article to truly seek God with an open mind. I guarantee if you open your heart, ask Him to reveal Himself to you, and seek Him sincerely, you will find Him.

JENNIFER LECLAIRE

Jennifer LeClaire is news editor at Charisma. She is also the author of several books, including The Spiritual Warrior’s Guide to Defeating Jezebel. You can email Jennifer at jennifer.leclaire@charismamedia.com or visit her website here. You can also join Jennifer on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

The Contemporary Gospel of Me.


Dr. Michael Brown
Dr. Michael Brown

The biblical gospel starts with God and tells me what I can do to please Him. The contemporary gospel—which is really no gospel at all—starts with me and tells me what God can do to please me.

It is this fundamental difference that lies at the root of so much theological error in the church, and it is this mindset that defines our American society today. “It’s all about me!”

A 16-year-old man attending a gay pride event at Duke University in Durham, N.C., expressed this as clearly as anyone I have ever heard, explaining how he lost his faith: “I lost my religion a while ago when I was 13, because one day I was thinking about the universe and … I can’t do what I want. Why—you know—if I want to sleep with two girls, why can’t I do that? … Why can’t I do what I want?”

To paraphrase his thought process, which was unusually candid, “If there is a Creator to whom I am accountable, and if He has standards and rules, then I can’t do whatever I want to do; therefore, God can’t exist, because that would ruin my party.” (To watch the eye-opening, six-minute video, click here.)

How remarkable. Apparently it didn’t occur to him that this could just be wishful thinking on his part, nor did it appear to dawn on him that denying the existence of God doesn’t negate the existence of God, nor did he seem to consider that there might be a good reason for God’s standards and rules.

His reasoning was quite simple—and in keeping with this generation’s mindset: Since life is all about me, and since I want to do things that this alleged God doesn’t want me to do, He’s obviously not there. Otherwise He’d be stealing my fun.

As for morality, right and wrong are defined by what I feel in my own heart, not by any external or absolute standard.

And so, when this young man was asked about homosexuality (and whether it’s compatible with the Christian faith), he answered, “I mean, homosexuality … love is love, man. You can’t separate two souls that love each other.”

But of course! And there’s that phrase again—“Love is love”—which is as ubiquitous as it is empty. And it has become this generation’s anthem for doing whatever their heart tells them to do. Why must love be attached to moral standard?

In keeping with this mindset, when the young man was asked this follow-up question, “Potentially three [people in love]?” he replied, “Yeah, to each his own.”

Yes, “to each his own”—or in the language of the book of Judges, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 21:25, NKJV). Why? Because “there was no king in Israel.”

This means that there was no absolute law, no accountability and no authoritative ruler. Spiritually speaking, it means that God was not recognized as the King of Israel and so the people were free to follow their own hearts. (Unfortunately, the pope’s most recent comments to an Italian atheist play right into this mindset: “Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.”)

That’s why Judges is one of the darkest books of the Bible, filled with individual sin and social anarchy. But this is what happens when we follow our own hearts. As Jeremiah proclaimed, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9).

That’s why Paul described our life in the flesh before we were saved as “carrying out the desires of the body and the mind” (Eph. 2:3, ESV).

And that’s why we were all under God’s judgment, a subject that is almost taboo in modern gospel circles today. After all, if we tell people they are guilty sinners deserving God’s wrath, they will get turned off and not listen to our message. In fact, if we preach about God’s judgment before declaring His love, the so-called “spiritual but not religious crowd” will tell us that we are preaching death, not life.

So what do many contemporary believers do today? We preach a candy-coated gospel, watering down sin, eliminating God’s holiness and making the death of Jesus absolutely meaningless. After all, if we are not deserving of death and judgment, why did Jesus have to hang on the cross? Why should He die for our sins if we don’t have to?

So, we make excuses for God’s standards, explaining to the sinner how happy he’ll be if he’ll just be nice enough to ask Jesus into his heart, as if Jesus is standing out in the rain, cold and wet and rejected, hoping and wishing someone would just open the door and let Him in. That is the contemporary gospel.

There’s no fear of the Lord, no warning of judgment and no denouncing of sin—just a better life for me if I will simply believe. And that’s one reason our society is on the verge of moral collapse. It’s time to get back to the gospel of Jesus!

Without a doubt, there is abundant, wonderful, glorious life in Him, but it comes as we turn from sin, deny ourselves and discover the joy of living to please Him, not to gratify ourselves.

It is then that we really live, since it’s all about Him.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

Michael Brown is author of The Real Kosher Jesus and host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network. He is also president of FIRE School of Ministry and director of the Coalition of Conscience. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or at@drmichaellbrown on Twitter.

Head First – Faith.


Ryan Duncan

What does it mean to take a “leap of faith”? The expression has classically been used to describe a Christian’s belief in God and the confidence in what they cannot see. But is that explanation really good enough? Does it truly capture the fear, the uncertainty, the agonizing conflict of thoughts and emotions a person experiences in their quest to know God? To those on the outside, it would seem even Christians don’t understand the popular term.

For Fr. Stephen Freeman though, understanding a “leap of faith” is quite simple. Freeman recalls the first time he used the diving board while in swim class. He was eight years old, and as he stood on the edge of the high dive, his fear of the leap conflicted greatly with the encouragement of his swim coach. Freeman stated that he was not sure what eventually convinced him to make the jump, but the eons he experienced on that board were no different than his journey to discover Christ. In arecent blog post, Freeman writes,

I have had mid-air collisions with the existence of God, His goodness, His kindness, His caring presence, the Church, Tradition, Scripture, forgiveness, and faith itself (to mention only a few). And with every encounter, though preceded by grace, there is some moment of the leap. The leap itself is, for me, sheer terror. I dread the existence of God at least as much as I dreaded the surface of the water itself. It may sound strange to dread the existence of God, except when you consider that His existence means the possible return to the diving board on a regular basis. Practice has never made it any easier.              

Faith asks a great deal of the believer. Like a diving board, it sometimes leads us to the edge of insanity and asks us to take one more step. It is also why many choose not to pursue God, since they refuse to believe in something they see as absent. To the secular world, faith and ignorance can often go hand in hand. However, blogger Jennifer Maggio asserts that this is not true.

Maggio writes,

The very foundation of Christianity is faith. It takes great faith to believe God, that we’ve never seen, sent his son, Jesus, to die on a cross for us. Our faith is what gives us the assurance that even though we cannot physically see God, he is with us. Our faith gives us the strength to push through the difficult times when it seems that everything on earth is caving down around us.

For my part, I am reminded of an old song I used to listen to when I was in high school. The title of the song was “Dive” by Steven Curtis Chapman, and though it’s fallen out of popularity over the years, the message in the music has stayed timeless. Chapman paints God as a mighty river, and we can either take a risk and dive in or retreat to safety. The song’s chorus pretty much says it all,

I’m diving in
I’m going deep
In over my head I wanna be
Caught in the rush
Lost in the flow
In over my head I wanna go
The River’s deep
The River’s wide
The River’s water is alive
So sink or swim
I’m diving in.

*Ryan Duncan is the culture editor for Crosswalk.com

Why Is Prayer at School So Threatening to Atheists?.


See You At the Pole
An atheist group is objecting to See You at the Pole, when millions of students across the globe will join together before the school day begins to pray.

There is an event happening at schools all across the country later this month that, according to the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), people need to be warned about. FFRF admonishes that the event is an “ostentatious display of piety at school.” It “breeds divisiveness and bullying” and can even “build walls between public school students who would otherwise get along.”

What is this “spontaneous eruption of religiosity” that FFRF finds so threatening to students at public schools? Prayer—or more specifically, the annual See You at the Pole event.

On Wednesday, millions of students across the globe will participate in See You at the Pole by joining together before the beginning of the school day to pray for their friends, families, teachers, school and nations. Gathered around the flagpoles of their elementary, middle and high schools, they will cry out to God for forgiveness, favor and protection for the coming year.

Yet there are many people and groups, like FFRF, that find the peaceful prayers of this gathering of Christian students to be threatening. No one is being forced to participate in the event, nor is it interfering with class time. So what is the threat?

The theme of this year’s See You at the Pole is #IFTHEN. It comes from 2 Chronicles 7:14, which is summarized as, “If we pray, seek, turn; then God hears, forgives, heals.”

To FFRF and groups like it, the threat of prayer at school is the “then.” The threat is that when students pray, then God responds. If prayer didn’t work, then a group of students gathering around a flagpole early in the morning to talk to God would pose no threat. If prayer didn’t work, then FFRF would not find it “unfortunate” that students are encouraged to “reach out to [their] classmates who do not know God’s love and forgiveness.”

But if prayer really works, then that group of students calling out to God around the flagpole becomes a threat to those who deny God’s existence or His sovereignty over this world. If prayer really works, then it is a threat to those who would seek to corrupt a generation of students into embracing a godless worldview. If prayer really works, then students might turn to God and come to know His love and forgiveness.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

MATTHEW SHARP

Matthew Sharp is legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom.

How to Live With Your Mistakes.


sad woman
(http://www.stockfreeimages.com)
Last week I made a mistake. It was a serious mistake that couldn’t be covered up, but not quite so bad of a mistake that there wasn’t a fix. In other words, I couldn’t make it so people wouldn’t see. I had to admit my mistake.
I’ve been noticing an unfortunate trend in my response to stress—especially the stress of making mistakes (i.e., being human): I freak out. I anticipate disaster, devastation and doom (the “three Ds”). I’m working to change this and have progressed to the point that I can now see, like through binoculars, that God might be up to something.
My new perspective started about 12 years ago. I lost my temper at my family. Then, feeling truly awful, I crawled in the bath (the only place to be alone in a house with four small kids) and sobbed my heart out to God, asking forgiveness as the “three D” waves hit me from every side.
Then God spoke. He said simply, “Do you think I didn’t plan for that outburst?”
I am not a rager—in fact, in moments of true anger, I tend to say those pieces of truth people don’t like to hear so we keep to ourselves. But I felt so bad for hurting the people in my family that it took God’s intervention for me to realize He really is at work, even in our mistakes, errors and moments of extreme humanity.
When you are submitted to Him, bowed at the throne room of heaven, then even your mistakes are being used for His glory.
This means that instead of anticipating the “three Ds,” we can truly take our humanity to God and anticipate new opportunities, fresh perspectives and peace. Not to be too sci-fi, but this adds a fourth dimension—the spirit realm—which means our “three Ds” can become fourth-dimension (4-D) encounters.
Do the 3-D waves hit you from time to time? What do you do to see God’s perspective and anticipate 4-D opportunities?.
Source: CHARISMA MAGAZINE/ SpiritLed Woman.
Kim Martinez is a regular contributor to Ministry Today magazine’s blog. She is a writer, speaker and ministry coach. You can hear more from her at deepimprints.com.

Hypergrace Movement Leaves Follower Questioning God’s Existence.


anguish
How can a movement of grace leave you in anguish? (Naypong)

“Have I crossed the unforgiveable line? Is there still hope for me?” A man named Roy recently asked me those questions in a private message via myFacebook page.

I get hundreds of messages every week from people looking for prophetic words, wise counsel or just a little encouragement as they walk by faith one day at a time. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to respond to everyone, but this struggling soul’s message so struck my heart that I immediately sought the Lord for help to answer Roy’s absolute anguish. Here’s the body of his entire message to me:

“I’m in desperate need of advice. I recently disassociated with the hypergrace movement and it has left me in a spiritual struggle, from anxiety and depression to straight up confusion and other mental symptoms. Unbelief has eroded me pretty well. I have questioned my salvation and even God’s existence and I can barely even read the Word without being critical and doubtful. Have I crossed the unforgivable line? Is there still hope for me? This has been going on about 4 months. I feel as if my heart has hardened. I really want my sincerity for God and spiritual things to return! Thanks for any help.”

What a heartbreaking testimony! You can hear the desperation. You can see the struggle. I understand all too well how disassociating with a movement the Holy Spirit shows you is riddled with errors and extremes can cause a faith crisis. I’ve been there with the extreme apostolic movement that values building one’s own personal kingdom before family—and ultimately even God. For a deeper discussion of what the hypergrace movement is, click here.

Breaking Away From Deception

When I broke away from that movement, I struggled with confusion over whether or not I made the right choice—even though a cloud of seasoned ministers showed me Scripture that clearly exposed the extreme errors. It took me more than a year to shake that dust off my feet, and it was, indeed, a spiritual struggle. I know others who escaped that same extreme apostolic movement who wound up depressed and with other mental symptoms like the ones Roy described. That’s because the enemy is angry that you’ve stopped buying into his deception, and he wants to torment you (John 10:10).

When you turn your back on deception, you often turn your back on friends who are flowing in that same deception—or, I should rightly say, they often turn their back on you. It can be a painful process to remove the tentacles of error from your soul, especially if you’ve believed the error for a long while. We tend to read the Bible through the lens of the camp we call home, whether that’s apostolic,propheticspiritual warfare, word of faith or some other doctrine. Roy was reading the Word with ahypergrace filter, and once he saw the error, it caused a crisis of faith in the Word.

Once error is exposed, it can be difficult to believe anything you read because you lose confidence in your ability to rightly divide the Word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). After all, you were deceived once, right? That’s the way I thought, and I thank God that I had mature saints around me to help me wade through that recovery stage quickly. Others I know are still struggling with the aftermath of believing lies. Like Roy said, he can “barely even read the Word without being critical and doubtful.”

The Rotten Fruit of Hypergrace

How can a movement based on grace leave one in such a spiritual struggle, from anxiety and depression to straight-up confusion and other mental symptoms? How can it drive unbelief into your soul? How can it cause you to question your salvation and even God’s existence? How can it lead you to question if you’ve crossed the unforgivable line or if there’s still hope for you? Again, it’s the enemy tormenting you because you discovered the truth. The Holy Spirit doesn’t talk to you in those terms (John 14:26). If you were in error for leaving a movement, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t reveal it by flooding you with condemnation, confusion, unbelief and the like. Here’s some of what I told Roy:

“Rest assured that you have not crossed any line or committed any unpardonable sin by disassociating with the hypergrace movement. I believe the issue is that you have seen the light of truth and the enemy is tormenting you because you have broken free from the deception you were under. He wants to steal, kill and destroy your faith and paralyze you. … You need to shore up your foundations in the faith. You are very brave and you do have faith; evidenced by your willingness to follow the Holy Spirit out of deception. You can get your footing back. Surround yourself with books, and solid teaching. Get back to basics and you’ll walk completely free of this torment. I am praying for you.”

Maybe you can relate to Roy’s struggle—or maybe you can’t. I hope you can’t. But if you can, I praythat you’ll take the advice I offered him for yourself. And if you are currently part of the hypergracemovement, extreme apostolic movement or some other movement on the fringes of Christianity that clouds Scripture with personal experiences and full-blown error, I pray that the Holy Spirit will open the eyes of your heart, break in with light and set you free. In fact, I encourage you to pray for God to break any deception off your mind even if you think you’ve got it all right. None of us have it all right, and little errors can lead to big deceptions—and even heresy. Amen.

Source: CHARISMA MAGAZINE.

JENNIFER LECLAIRE

Jennifer LeClaire is news editor at Charisma. She is also the author of several books, including The Spiritual Warrior’s Guide to Defeating Jezebel. You can email Jennifer at jennifer.leclaire@charismamedia.com or visit her website hereYou can also join Jennifer on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

God Is Not Threatened by Your Honest Questions.


Dr. Michael Brown
Dr. Michael Brown

There’s a reason we have books like Job and Ecclesiastes in the Bible.

God is not threatened by our honest questions, especially when it is our faith in His goodness that causes us to ask those questions. In fact, if the questions come from a sincere heart, He welcomes them.

After all, if you don’t believe God exists, you won’t have questions about why He allows so much suffering and pain. In the mind of an atheist, God is not even there, and so He can’t be responsible for either good or evil.

Of course, suffering and pain are still a massive problem for an atheist. They’re just not an overtly theological problem.

But if you believe God exists and understand Him to be all-good, all-powerful and all-knowing, then it’s very possible (or even probable) that you will have some serious and difficult faith questions at some point (or points) during your walk with Him.

Do you think He is insensitive to your faith struggles? Do you think He scorns you for daring to question Him out of a broken heart? Doesn’t the Word tell us that “He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Ps. 103:14)?

It is true that many Christian leaders seem threatened by difficult questions. Perhaps they don’t know how to answer them. Perhaps they are insecure in their own faith. Perhaps they perceive such questions to be dangerous. Perhaps they take your honest questions to be a direct challenge to their authority. (I encourage every pastor and leader reading this article to minister out of a place of deep security in God and your calling. It will avoid a lot of casualties among your people, not to mention avoiding many unnecessary splits.)

To be totally candid with you, I virtually never go through faith struggles—meaning, struggles about God’s existence or goodness or questions about the truth of the gospel—but my wife, Nancy, came to faith as a hardcore atheist in 1974 (we were both 19 when we met, shortly before she became a believer), and she has sensitized me to the agonizing faith struggles that some people endure. (Of course, I go through my share of intense spiritual attacks, just not these kinds of attacks.)

As a Jewish believer in Jesus-Yeshua, I have been challenged by every imaginable Jewish objection from every conceivable angle, ultimately writing more than 1,500 pages of answers to Jewish objections to Jesus. I have certainly felt the depth and force of these objections!

But it is my studied opinion that unless we feel the weight of the objections that people are raising—be they the objections of atheists or liberal Christians or Muslims or religious Jews or Mormons—we cannot answer them adequately.

That’s why to this day, I mainly read the arguments of those I differ with as opposed to reading rebuttals to their arguments. In other words, as I’m presently working on a book entitled Can You Be Gay and Christian? I’m primarily reading the writings of those who claim to be “gay Christians,” wanting to understand their stories, wanting to see how they read the Word, wanting to see God and the church through their eyes before responding.

It is a painful process, but in the end it’s worth it, producing deeper insights, more relevant answers and greater compassion.

This was also the pattern for my college and university studies, as I was saved in 1971 at the age of 16 but never thought about going to Bible college or seminary. That meant that in all my years of higher education, from bachelor’s to master’s to Ph.D., I never had a fellow believer as a professor. Not a single class. Not a single lecture.

Some of my professors were quite aggressive in their unbelief, but ultimately, listening to their attacks on the Scriptures (or on my beliefs in particular) forced me to dig deeper into the Word, into the biblical languages, into the relevant literature. And ultimately, all this served to strengthen my faith, since I was determined to follow the truth wherever it led, being confident that the God who saved me could withstand the closest scrutiny.

Now, asking honest questions during times of struggle and pain is not the same as grumbling or complaining, something for which our Father has little or no tolerance (remember the children of Israel in the wilderness!). And it is true that without faith, we cannot please God (Heb. 11:6).

But often our heartfelt questions are an expression of faith, not unbelief, and while God may not give us the answer we seek, He will always give us Himself.

This week, on July 10, we launch our new TV broadcast on the NRB TV networkAnswering Your Toughest Questions, beginning with a 32-week series on answering Jewish objections to Jesus. After that, we plan to tackle some of your most difficult, pressing faith questions.

Feel free to post them in the comments section here or to send them to my website—tough questions about the Bible, about God, about faith, about other religions, about life—and in the months ahead, we hope to answer many of these questions on the broadcast. (Don’t forget that you can always call myradio show with any question on Fridays.)

I rest secure in Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “For we cannot do anything against the truth, but for the truth” (2 Cor. 13:8), always remembering that our Rock is eternally unshakable (Deut. 32:4; 33:27).

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

MICHAEL BROWN

Michael Brown is author of The Real Kosher Jesus and host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network. He is also president of FIRE School of Ministry and director of the Coalition of Conscience. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.

In Light of Newtown Massacre, Resist the Devil, Not God.


joseph-mattera-2One of the most difficult things a pastor has to do when a tragedy occurs is to try to find the words to comfort a grieving family and explain how God can allow such a horrible thing to take place. While I do not purport to have all the answers for such situations—sometimes it’s best just to be there for grieving families andoffer prayer for them rather then give explanations—these instances do highlight the existence of evil in the world.

On the day of the shooting in Newtown, Conn., I was shocked to hear both a prominent television news anchor and the governor of Connecticut use the word evil several times when referring to the heinous act of the shooter. Where doe evil comes from?

Jesus said that the thief (Satan) comes only to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). He also called him a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). Rather than cause me to doubt the existence or goodness of God (like Satan wants), heinous acts like this should remind us that there is a real devil in the world who revels in destroying human life while seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).

Philosophically, the existence of evil is one of the proofs of God’s existence, because without belief in a gracious God there would be no standard for right and wrong. For example, if the universe wasn’t created by God but was the result of a random natural process and human life evolved from “matter in motion,” then there would be no rational basis for distinguishing between good and evil, and between right and wrong, since a transcendent standard to ground human ethics would be lacking. If God did not exist and living things are the result of natural processes, then it would be just as wrong to kill a water bug or a cow, as it is to kill a human.

The godless humanists have tried to ply away moral absolutes from the conscience of our nation to justify their lifestyle choices, but when push comes to shove, moral relativism gets jettisoned quickly whenever evil raises its ugly head.

If there are no moral absolutes, then there is no such thing as right and wrong or good and evil, and the Newtown tragedy is defined relative to the pain or circumstances surrounding the psyche of the shooter rather than as an evil act. I doubt any of the Connecticut parents of slain children would say there is no such thing as evil. Every unfortunate person scorched by the indifferent, insidious action of a murderer or rapist knows firsthand that evil exists.

Rather than cast doubt on the existence and or goodness of God, it should cause society to pray, repent and bring God back into every facet of our society. We should rather submit to God and resist the devil (James 4:7), not resist God and open a door to the devil by taking faith out of the public square and policy.

We need not only to pray for the families in grief, but we also need to pray that during this time, the reality and love of God will permeate our whole nation.

Written by Bishop Joseph Mattera

Joseph Mattera has been in full-time ministry since 1980 and is currently the presiding bishop of Christ Covenant Coalition and Overseeing Bishop of Resurrection Church in New York, a multiethnic congregation of 40 nationalities that has successfully developed numerous leaders and holistic ministry in the New York region and beyond. Click here to visit his website.

On Christ the Solid Rock.


“…he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon on rock.” (v5b)

We all look for it. We all refuse to live without it. We all think we’ve found it, but it can only really be found one place. What is it that I’m talking about? Well, here it is; every human being is on a search somehow someway to find that solid rock on which to stand. That one thing that they can bank on. That one thing that will keep them upright when the storms of life are raging. That one thing that will remain firm for the duration. That one thing that will give them security when nothing else does. That one thing that will give them that deep and abiding inner sense of well-being that every rational human being desires. That one thing that gives you the courage to face what you otherwise wouldn’t want to face. That one thing that you can rely on. That one thing that will keep you safe. Everyone is searching for that solid rock.

No human being enjoys feeling that they’re living in the sinking sand of unpredictability, disappointment, and danger, with no rock to reach for and stand on. In fact, this quest, this desire for surety which is with us everyday, points us again and again to the reality of God‘s existence and our identity as his creatures, his image bearers. We aren’t hardwired to live by instinct. Like God, we’re in possession of thoughts, desires, and emotions. Like God, we’re beings of vision and purpose. Like God, we’re spiritual beings. As people made in his likeness, we long for our hearts to be satisfied and our minds at rest. We think, analyze, and wonder. We toss our lives over and over again in our hearts, trying our best to make sense of the mystery of our own story and recognizing the scary reality that there’s little that we’re actually in charge of. In our honest moments, we know that we couldn’t have written ourselves into the situations, locations, and relationships that make up our daily lives. We couldn’t have written the story of even one day. Yet, we long for our lives to make sense. We long to have meaning and purpose, and we long to have lasting stability.

The problem is, that the longer we live, the more we know that there’s little around us in this fallen world that’s truly stable. I have a wonderful marriage to a lady who in many ways is my hero, but our marriage is still marred by our sin and this reality still introduces pain and unpredictability into a relationship we’ve been working on for 37 years! You may think your job is a source of stability, but a bit of a turn in the global economy could have you out on the street in a relatively short period of time. It may seem that your material possessions are permanent, but every physical thing that exists is in a state of decay and even in their greatest longevity they don’t have the ability to quiet your heart.

So here’s the dilemma of your humanity. You’re clearly not in control of the details or destiny of your life, yet as a rational, purposeful, emotional being, you cry for a deep and abiding sense of well-being. In your quest, what you’re actually discovering is that you were hardwired to be connected to Another. You weren’t hardwired to walk the pathway of life all by yourself. You weren’t hardwired to be independently okay. You weren’t hardwired to produce in yourself a system of experiences, relationships, and conclusions that would give you rest. You were designed to only find your “solid rock” in a dependent, loving worshipful relationship with Another. In this way, every human being is on a quest for God; the problem is we don’t know that, and in our quest for stability, we attempt to stand on an endless catalog of God-replacements that end up sinking with us.

In fact, our inability to find security for ourselves is so profound that we’d never find the One who is to be our Rock on our own, no he must find us. The language of Psalm 27 is quite precise here, “he will…set me high upon a rock.” It doesn’t say, “I will find the rock and I will climb up on it.”

Here’s the hope for every weary traveler whose feet are tired of the slippery instability of mud of a fallen world. Your weariness is a signpost. It’s meant to cause you to cry out for help. It’s meant to cause you to quit looking for your stability horizontally and begin to cry out for it vertically. It’s meant to put an end to your belief that situations, people, locations, possessions, positions, or answers will satisfy the longing of your heart. Your weariness is meant to drive you to God. He’s the Rock for which you’re longing. He’s the one who alone is able to give to you the sense that all is well. And as you abandon your hope in the mirage rocks of this fallen world, and begin to hunger for the True Rock, he’ll reach out and place you on solid ground.

There is a Rock to be found. There is an inner rest to be experienced that’s deeper than conceptual understanding, human love, personal success, and the accumulation of possessions. There is a rock that will give you rest even when all of those things have been taken away. That rock is Christ and you were hardwired to find what you are seeking in him. In his grace, he won’t play hide and seek with you. In your weakness and weariness, cry out to him. He will find you and he will be your Rock.

“On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”

By Paul Tripp

“This article is a resource of Paul Tripp Ministries. For more information visit http://www.paultripp.com”

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