The Problem with Intellectual Arguments for Jesus

I’m a member of the Why Would Anyone Follow Jesus? launch team. Nothin’ special other than me preordering the book by Ray Comfort and then asking to join. 🙂

As part of it it, I get access through NetGallery to a pre-release version. Great stuff already, and this really jumped out at me:

Book quote

Here’s the problem with addressing the human intellect. If somebody is talked  into faith through and intellectual argument, all it will take is a better intellectual argument to talk them out of their faith.

I think it important to state that Comfort is not making an argument against providing intellectual reasons to believe (he was doing that very thing prior to the quote I provided). Instead, he is pointing out that intellectual arguments have their limits:

However, when the new birth comes to an unbeliever, the moment someone truly believes, they are transformed into a new person (see 2 Cor 5:17).

And Ray elaborates more from there.

I believe the book is due to be released on March 8. You should preorder it too. 🙂

(Cross-posted on my Nibbles Nija blog.)

Are Generational Curses “Like Father, Like Son”?

BibleI’m reading through the Bible again this year, and am in Genesis. Previously, I’ve seen Abraham, to protect himself, pretend his wife is his sister. (Clearly, “courting” back then could involve murdering your competition, the existing husband.) You can find those instances in Genesis 12:14-20 and Genesis 20.

This morning (and I was a day behind), Abraham’s son Isaac did the same:

When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.”

(That is Genesis 26:7 in the New International Version, but you should read Genesis 26:1-11 for a fuller picture.)

So, we seem to see the expression, “like father, like son,” in action (and not in a positive way).

It made me wonder, could that be an example of “generational curses” in Scripture? For instance:

And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7, emphasis mine).

I would consider Exodus 34:7 a “hard verse.” I recommend you read all of Ezekiel 18, but a smaller selection from it shows I have good reason to have difficulty:

“Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live.  The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them (Exodus 18:19-20).

The whole idea my children would be punished for my sins goes against any normal sense of fairness.

Unless, generational curses are essentially statements of fact.

Arguments about nature versus nurture aside, there is no question we pick up behaviors from our parents (or others who bring us up). Sometimes they are good. Sometimes…not so good. That “inheritance” can go on for generations, even more than three or four.

Considering his laudable faith in God (and what our Lord did to prove it was deserved), I found Abraham’s cowardly lying disappointing. Sadly, it appears that he handed that horrible character flaw to Jacob, who seems to have turned it up a couple notches. (That’s probably a subject for another post.)

What do you think? Are generational curses, at some level, just statements of fact?

More importantly, what generational curses do you and I exhibit thanks to our ancestors? When are we going to break them?

(Cross-posted on my Nibbles Ninja blog.)

Do Embellished Rules Encourage Sin?

Bible with candleOkay, first a disclaimer: the Bible is not exhaustive, so you have to be careful about making an argument from silence.

Having said that, please consider how the prohibition against eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is given in Genesis 2:15-17 (NIV):

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

Now, let’s take a look at how Eve recounts it:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die’” (Genesis 3:1-3).

Notice the difference?

Now, perhaps our Lord, another time not recorded in Scripture, said that Adam and Eve couldn’t even touch the “fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden,” but…on the surface…it appears the prohibition got embellished.

And we know where it goes from there. (Short version: Not well.)

When I read those verses morning, it made me think how some recent edicts/laws/etc. are clearly overboard. Could it be that when that happens, it encourages us to act lawlessly, even breaking the “reasonable” rules embedded in (or associated with) them? That it causes us to dismiss the logical with the illogical? Dismiss the reasonable with the unreasonable?

Just a thought, and definitely not making excuses for Eve’s (or anyone else’s) sin. However, something our “rulers” might want to consider.

P.S. It’s not too late if you want to join me in reading through the entire Bible this year. If you are interested, please click here.

(Cross-posted on my Nibbles.Ninja blog.)

New Year’s Resolutions (2022)

Was 2021 a hard year for you? I suspect for most, even if it wasn’t “hard,” it at least had a downward slope. Thus, why I like this humorous graphic from Clipart.com:

2022 pushing away 2021

🙂

Personally, other than the sense of malaise that COVID-19, politics, and the economy provided, I cannot complain. I remained employed in a job I love (great company, great boss, and a great team), my first grandchild arrived, my family is healthy…

And I could go on. Thank you Lord for all my blessings.

It doesn’t mean 2021 didn’t have its challenges. I tore the patella tendon off my left kneecap and am still far from 100% after surgery. Work was overwhelming for a couple months (or more). My youngest son was in the hospital for a few days thanks to myocarditis from his second Pfizer shot.

Not to mention, I type this recovering from mouth surgery that was required so I can keep my front teeth. Let’s just say the prescribed mush diet, especially over the holiday period, is less than appealing. 🙂

Knowing that God’s blessings (both temporal and eternal) far outweigh these hiccups (and the sense of malaise), sadly, doesn’t mean I don’t get depressed or negative. I do, but one might argue I essentially cry over spilt milk.

Which is why my #1 resolution for 2022 is…

Be more positive.

Why should I? Not only do I think it’ll have other benefits, but ’cause the Bible advices it. For instance…

Philippians 4:4 (New International Version):

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Now, I’m not talking about thoughtless or senseless forced emotion. The Bible isn’t like some positive-thinking self-help book. As Ecclesiastes 3:1 notes:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

Which means:

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15).

I am not going to tell someone who is facing great loss to “think on the bright side,” and I will allow myself the honesty of my true feelings. However, I will choose the overall atmosphere of my emotions, and in 2022…

I will be more positive.

Will you join me?

(One request though…please click through the verse links above and read them in context. There is so much wisdom and beauty surrounding them, it almost feels wrong quoting such small snippets.)

Now…a more complete list of my resolutions for 2022:

  1. Be more positive
  2. Be more spiritual (prayer, eyes on Jesus, etc.)
  3. Family (being 2,000 miles away from most of them, I’ll need God’s wisdom on what this means)
  4. Read through the Bible (please visit here if you want to join me)
  5. Be deliberate, but don’t worry if I cannot get everything done
  6. Learn to play the keyboard (and make music with controllers and DAWs)
  7. Listen; really listen
  8. Read more and write more
  9. Take more photos and record more videos
  10. Love more

What do you think? What’s on your list?

Whatever yours is, and no matter how 2021 was for you, Happy New Year and I hope that 2022 is your best year ever!

Happy New Year 2022!

(Cross-posted on my Nibbles.Ninja blog.)

Why Jesus?

Why Jesus?

Less than Half

News came out this week that, per Gallup, fewer than half of Americans belong to a congregation (and that's not just counting Christian churches).

Only 47% do.

Now, it can be claimed that one can be "spiritual" without being "religious" and "spiritual" and/or "religious" without attending church.

However, I would argue that those claiming that are at best mistaken, more likely rationalizing to excuse their choice and, at worst actively leading people into sin.

But, that's not the purpose of this sermon…and I am not claiming that somehow we who do attend are better people; we all have the same disease, just different symptoms.

Instead, can we just agree that that is an extremely concerning statistic? That, out of love for our fellow U.S. humans we should hope to reverse the trend?

Why?

A natural question would be, "Why has congregational membership declined?" and, together, we probably could come up with a pretty comprehensive, accurate list.

I would suggest that, in the end, it's because we love our sin…and all the other factors are just making it easier for us to embrace our fallen natures and not feel like we have to change but, again…

That's not the purpose of this sermon.

Instead, let's chat a bit about one factor in the falling away of Americans…the reality that people don't think they need Jesus.

And, together…let's try to answer the question…

Why Jesus?

Continue reading Why Jesus?

Collateral Damage

Black and white cross with sunPunishing the Class

I’m going to assume two things of everyone here.

First, that during school you were (or are) perfect angels. Never the troublemakers. Always the innocent, well-behaved bystanders.

Second, that you’ll relate to this experience…

You are just there, doing what the teacher wants, as white as snow…but the other kids in class are talking, horsing around, and otherwise not lending to a conducive learning experience.

And then… Continue reading Collateral Damage

Be Like Daniel

Bible with candleBe Like Daniel

Daniel Duda

We didn’t have church last weekend, because I was in Redlands, California visiting a non-profit I volunteer for. It was a recording weekend for them, and the speaker/facilitator was Daniel Duda. Now, even though this sermon is titled “Be Like Daniel” and I think Daniel Duda would generally be a good person to emulate… Continue reading Be Like Daniel

Short and Sweet

Black and white cross with sunPower of Three

I’ve mentioned before that if you are doing a presentation, there is a power of three. For instance, on a page supporting a given idea, only have three bullets. Not two, not five, but three.

This sermon is titled “Short and Sweet.” you might say three concise bullets are exactly that, “short and sweet.”

We humans like the number three…and recognizing that today, we are going to use “the power of three” to answer the simple question, “What must I do to be saved?”

To begin doing that, let’s look at biblical reference one of three:

5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:5-13).

Who will be saved?

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord…” Continue reading Short and Sweet

The Price of Fame

Megachurches

Has anyone else here attended a megachurch? Wikipedia says…

A megachurch is defined by the Hartford Institute as any Protestant Christian church having 2,000 or more people in average weekend attendance.[1][2][3][4] The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term, first documented in 1984, as a church with an unusually large membership, especially one preaching a conservative or evangelical form of Christianity and also offering a variety of educational and social activities.1

Based on that, anybody here attended a megachurch? Or perhaps, as I like calling smaller churches using their handbook, megachurch wannabes?

Earlier this month I ran into a tweet that, based on the event it linked to, had this image:

Speaking to a large crowd
Image from Eventbrite

What do you think it is?

With the crowd and the lights, you might think it was a rock concert…but with what appears to be balding white guy in a collared shirt…it makes sense that, instead, it is someone preaching.

This was the description of the event from Eventbrite:

This conference will help you grow as a communicator and enable you to better lead from the pulpit. You will learn from world-renowned preachers who know how to translate theology into captivating and engaging sermons

You’ll also learn more about Rick Blackwood’s platform Leading from the Pulpit and learn about the M.A. in Ministry Leadership in partnership with Wheaton College.

Lunch provided by Chick-fil-A

You will receive a free copy of Rick Blackwood’s book The Power of Multisensory Preaching and Teaching.2

That had you at “lunch provided by Chick-fil-A” too, eh? 🙂 Continue reading The Price of Fame

Don’t Judge Mephibosheth Too Quickly

Justice with scalesDon’t Judge Mephibosheth Too Quickly

Pronouncing Names

Am I the only person, when they run into a hard name in the Bible, basically reads past it?

And there are a lot of names like that in Scripture, eh? 🙂

However, before we try to pronounce the name of the main biblical character in today’s message, let’s go with an easier one.

Jonathan.

Who is Jonathan? Continue reading Don’t Judge Mephibosheth Too Quickly

Very Bad Grapes

If there is one thing I should hate my wife for, it’s training my youngest to like food channels. For instance, when you are in a hotel (like we are right now), who would put on the Food Network (or whatever other horrible one this one is)?!

Woman buying grapesEither way, there is a program on that had a section where they go over things people do and rate them as not really bad, pretty bad, or very bad (or something like that). The first case they came up with was eating grapes while shopping.

Of the four hosts/guests, three seemed to immediately go with “not really bad.” One even admitted to doing it recently, eating 10 grapes while strolling around the grocery store.

I am a Christian. They may be. How do you think I rate it?

Well, the final host spoke up and said she rated it “pretty bad.”

Phew! Some sanity!

Except she went on to say it was “pretty bad” because of all the pesticides/etc. use on them.

Egad folks! IT IS VERY BAD BECAUSE IT IS STEALING!

Now, you may happen to shop at a store where they have pre-weighed bags that you’ll pay the same for even if you munch away half of the grapes. Until you actually pay for them, it’s still stealing.

Simple advice from the Bible: Don’t steal.

(And by “advice” I mean “command.”)

A Tale of Two Watches

Gold watch with penMy Samsung Galaxy Watch

Okay, I’ll admit it. I like to have the latest and greatest toys when it comes to technology. Latest smartphone. Latest tablet.

Latest watch.

And, sure enough, I am wearing the Galaxy Watch…Samsung’s latest wearable offering if you don’t count the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active. (But, I am not sure Active is actually available yet…and, regardless, I think it is a lower cost alternative to the Galaxy Watch.) This, my friends, is the best of the best when it comes to Samsung watches!

However, as much as I appreciate my Galaxy Watch, do you think I’ll be still wearing it in two years? Five? Ten?

Two? Maybe. Five-plus? Not a chance.

Let’s compare that my Casio G-Shock MT-G solar watch that sets itself by the atomic clock here in Colorado. Unless it actually dies, do you think I’ll be wearing that in two years? Five? Ten?

Well, considering it is at least a decade old…I’d say there is a good chance I will. It’s not that it’s fancy or can do amazing things like make a phone call, keep track of my GPS coordinates, or measure my heart rate, but you know what it can do?

It can tell the time. Accurately. Without me worrying about connecting it to my phone, making sure I charge it regularly, and so on. It just always works.

New Covenant

In general, I would argue, most “new” stuff, like my Galaxy Watch, is transient. It’s not worth keeping long tem. It’s not something that will be handed down from generation to generation. Continue reading A Tale of Two Watches

Want to Be a Spy?

Abstract spy in hatBad Spies

This is going to be a short sermon with one basic point…so let’s jump right into Scripture, specifically Numbers 13:1-3:

13 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel. From each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a chief among them.” 3 So Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran, according to the command of the LORD, all of them men who were heads of the people of Israel.

And Moses did exactly as commanded, sending 12 spies to Canaan. Do you remember how that worked out? Just in case you don’t, let’s go a bit further in Numbers:

25 At the end of forty days they returned from spying out the land. 26 And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the people of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh. They brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb. The Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country. And the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan.”

30 But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” 31 Then the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are.” 32 So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. 33 And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them” (Numbers 13:25-33).

I titled this talk, “Want to Be a Spy?”

After that, how would you answer? Continue reading Want to Be a Spy?

Everything Old Is New Again

Bible with candleOld Testament or New Testament

Let’s pretend that right now I said, “Instead of a sermon, we are going to read the Bible for an hour.”

Would you want to spend that hour reading the Old Testament or the New Testament? [Wait for answers. ]

Why? [Wait for answers.]

I think in a crowd of 100 Christians, 90+ would choose the New Testament…and that’s not necessarily bad.

The bridge to cross for the New Testament is shorter. Much of what it contains is less difficult to read. It is easier to understand. It begins with us hearing about Jesus, the most awesome topic.

However, the Old Testament/New Testament preference can also be because the Old Testament seems archaic in its teachings. If people do certain bad things, we are supposed to stone them. We know more about how the tabernacle and the temple were supposed to be built (and outfitted) than is meaningful to us under the New Covenant. It can seem like a totally different moral world.

What was important theologically back then isn’t the same as what is important in the church age.

Or is it?

Reading through the Bible this year has included Leviticus 19, and the topic for this sermon, “Everything Old Is New Again,” hit me after digesting verses 17 and 18:

17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

Those words are in a book that has all kinds of stuff that fit my Old Testament/New Testament contrast. Yet, right in the middle of it, we hear enjoinments that sound very New Testament-ish. Let’s review them…

You Shall Not Hate Your Brother in Your Heart Continue reading Everything Old Is New Again