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.)

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.”)

Should Christians…?

Okay. Please set aside your political leanings. Pretend you have no clue about what these folks are potesting:

Marriott protest in OaklandIf you are a Christian, should you have been part of this protest? Why or why not?

Now, let’s just stipulate that it is for a genuinely good cause. To support the downtrodden. To right a major wrong.

If you are a Christian, should you have been part of this protest? Why or why not?

Should Christians protest in this manner early in the morning until late at night (e.g. 10:30)?

Final note…this was more reserved than other parts (e.g. what was going on after 9PM one of the nights).

Should Christians…?

Cannot Be a Believer Litmus Test

From a post on my personal Facebook account:

Facebook postThis article is especially troubling for two reasons. First, it implicitly establishes a religious test for a government appointment, which is unconstitutional. Second, Russell Vought is unable to flat-out say that you are lost without Jesus (although, in fairness to him, he does mention, multiple times, the centrality of Christ to salvation).

It is pretty much taken as fact that now that faith equals blind faith. That if you don’t believe in scientism and materialism…and instead have a worldview that includes the supernatural…the reason and logic portions of your brain are either shut-off or so heavily degraded that you cannot be trusted to lead in the public realm. Yet, given throughout history, scientists and other great thinkers frequently (most often?) have believed in something beyond that which we can taste, smell, touch, hear, or see…that which we can measure…it proves faith does _not_ equate to illogic and/or unreason. If anything, belief in a God of order (versus randomness)…and a Being who reveals Himself…aided in scientific discovery by adding confidence that the Lord’s ways in the physical realm could also be discovered, converted into scientific theories and laws, and be used as a foundation for more discoveries, theories and laws.

Faith is _not_ equivalent to blind faith. Even in our little church here in Strasburg we stress individual research and reason. The great principles of science are a boon to theology, and theology is not hampered by the philosophical (not scientific) rule that the supernatural is off-limits. We can truly allow the evidence to lead us where it may…instead of setting arbitrary boundaries that hamper truth, not aid it.

Finally, nobody but God knows the eternal salvation of any individual. I have often said we’ll be surprised by who we see in heaven…and who we don’t. But logic and reason also say that, for instance, Islam and Christianity cannot both be right (although they can both be wrong). If Christianity is right, everything that points people away from its God…whether it be Islam, Buddhism, scientism, or <fill in the blank here>…is an impediment to everlasting salvation. Does that mean every atheist or Hindu or Muslim is damned? No. However, it would be quite unloving (and unreasoned and illogical) of me not to tell non-Christians the path they are on leads to eternal death, not eternal life.

However, as Vought tries to point out during his testimony, that does not mean that on this side of eternity I will treat anyone differently based on what path, as horrible as it may be, they have chosen. We are all afflicted with the same disease (sin)…and we are all navigating this troubled, chaotic world together.

God is love. He has so much more to do to my heart to make my love even 1% of His, but I do love you regardless of your faith.

And don’t let anyone fool you…we all have faith in something.

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/448393/watch-bernie-sanders-unconstitutionally-impose-religious-test-public-office

Thoughts? Please comment below…

“On Atheism” from a Non-Believer

Although I prefer a less caustic tone, this article about atheism, written by a non-believer is worth a read:

“On Atheism”

This part is especially interesting:

Atheists will argue that atheism is the opposite of religious belief, but that’s what is called a gratuitous assertion. The atheist believes there is no superior being. They have no proof of this as there can be no proof. In that regard, atheism is illogical as it is something that can never be proved. Christianity, in contrast, can be proved. Christ could show up and confirm the tenets of the faith. The same is true of Islam or Judaism. In other words, even though there is no proof now, there could be proof. That’s not possible with atheism.

I do disagree with this earlier thought though:

The believer is willing to accept, without evidence, the truth of some statement, while the skeptic is unwilling to accept statements without proof.

Emphasis mine.

That is blind faith, not faith. There are probably plenty of “blind faith” believers, but Christianity is not devoid of evidence. It is just not convincing for everyone. Additonally, I am definitely a skeptic…including of much of what Christians often believe…and am convinced that is what the Bible teaches us to be (e.g. see Acts 17:11)…not to mention what a God who gave us brains expects.

Happy New Year (2017)

2017 in blocksI suspect I was not the only one to start off 2017 staying up way too late, but after about six hours of sleep I began the new year in one of the best ways possible.

Reading Scripture.

Many of us at the Strasburg Church of Christ are taking the blessed trek through all 66 books together in 2017, and today’s reading was Genesis 1-3. Because the kids will be joining us on this journey, I am at least beginning it in the version they are using, the New Revised Standard Version. I am glad I did, because in the first chapter of the Bible there was a very cool pairing that happened frequently.

“God said” and “And that’s exactly what happened.”

If there is one thing that history has proven, it is that when God says that He is going to do something, or that something is going to happen…well…

That’s exactly what is going to happen.

My prayer for you is that you will have faith in the One who is so reliable, even when what He promised was at such great cost to Himself.

That is, when He said He would provide a Savior and sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross so we could spend eternity with Him.

Happy New Year everyone! Grace, peace, and love to you all.

2017 New Year's clock

Who Is Your Father?

Justice with scalesThe Internet provides many blessing, but it also comes with destructive curses. One of its banes is the ease by which it allows damning accusations to proliferate. Most common today are charges of “isms” and their equivalents, e.g. racism, sexism, and nativism. I’d like to propose some understandings when it comes to accusations in general, but especially on social media. They are an attempt to combine logical and biblical principles.

The burden of proof is on the accuser

Whether you are the first one making an accusation or just passing it along (with or without commentary), the burden of proof is on you. “Innocent until proven guilty” is important because, otherwise, our government could arrest anyone they wanted, charge them with a crime, and then say, “Prove you didn’t do it.”

We would consider that tyrannical and backward if our government did it. It is equally tyrannical and backward for you to do it. Continue reading Who Is Your Father?

Acting Like Romans

Roman soldierI ran into a really interesting article tonight thanks to Instapundit about “How Roman Central Planners Destroyed Their Economy.” Although not all enacted by today’s progressives in the United States (yet)…it does seem like Romans created a progressive’s playbook. (Just read the article…think Venezuala…you’ll understand.) Strangling, escalating, damaging control of people and markets.

What got me really thinking, however, was when I recognized the most intrusive emporer’s name because of another reason. He is the same one known for the most extreme persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire:

The Diocletianic Persecution (or Great Persecution) was the last and most severe persecution of Christians in the Roman empire.[1] In 303, the Emperors Diocletian, Maximian, Galerius and Constantius issued a series of edicts rescinding the legal rights of Christians and demanding that they comply with traditional Roman religious practices.

I couldn’t help but wonder, does this anecdotally show a correlation between the progressive affinity for totalitarianism and their persecution of Christians? They’ll tell you how every part of your life is to be lived and will not allow you to worship any other God than theirs. (For instance, it would not be far-fetched to compare “demanding that they comply with traditional Roman religious practices” and basically banning businesses that won’t bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.) As Dennis Prager says, leftism is a religion.

Either way, random Friday night thought…

Failure to Communicate

Video snapshotWeeks ago I heard Guns N’ Roses’ “Civil War” again, which starts off with this famous quote from Cool Hand Luke:

What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it. I don’t like it any more than you men.

[youtube=https://youtu.be/452XjnaHr1A&rel=0&w=512]

In this Hollywood case, it is a tyranical, evil prison warden who is saying it to rationalize mistreating a prisoner (played by Paul Newman). However, I cannot help but think that, replacing an evil man with a good God, it can be used to illustrate some biblical truth.

  1. Between God and man, there is a failure to communicate
  2. The issue is on man’s side, not God’s, because…
  3. Some men you just can’t reach
  4. God ultimately gives men what they want
  5. God takes no pleasure in given men what they deserve

(Of course, in this case I am using “man” and “men” in its traditional form, representing humans regardless of gender.)

With the first one, I hope I don’t have to prove it. From the moment Eve first trusted the devil more than our Lord, that failure to communicate has been pretty obvious. As for the problem being on our side (versus God’s), here is an interesting example from just before the first Christian martyr, Stephen, gets stoned:

You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you (Acts 7:51, English Standard Version).

Throughout history, it hasn’t been for a lack of effort on our Lord’s part that men haven’t heard…it’s because we resist. Today, we have even less excuse, because the Ultimate form of communication came:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world (Hebrews 1:1-2).

Yet, there is still a failure to communicate. Continue reading Failure to Communicate

Rainbows and Skittles

Rainbow in HonoluluWork has brought me to Honolulu multiple times this year, and I type this in a Hawaii Prince Hotel room.

You feel horrible for me, don’t you? 🙂

One thing I love about Hawaii is how often I see rainbows (thanks to sporadic rain showers). The photo in the top left of this article is from this morning, taken as I walked back from a quick swim at the Ala Moana Beach Park. Last week I posted the image directly below on Facebook and kidded that “driving to work in Hawaii is always rainbows and Skittles!”:

Rainbow on the way to work in Honolulu

And, as luck would have it, yesterday I could confirm the same going the other direction with, “It’s all rainbows and Skittles in Hawaii on the drive home too!”:

Rainbow in Honolulu during the drive home

But, none of the pictures I’ve shared so far were the first rainbow that stood out during my Hawaii visits in 2016. Instead, going to the local Costco to get a Hawaiian shirt (on the advice of locals), this greeted me in its parking lot:

Rainbow seen from Costco parking lot

Amazing, eh?!

“Always rainbows and skittles” probably seems a little childish or naive, but it hit me this morning that life is full of rainbows, if only we keep our eyes open for them. To and from work I can focus on the horrible traffic lights and people driving erratically, or…

Ditto with life. With 24 hour cable news, social media, and other forms of information overload we can be engulfed by negative news and miss the fact that no matter how dark the world is…

God’s rainbows break through.

Yes, I am being euphemistic here. 🙂

We’ve done a lot to darken the world, but evil never completely overcomes good. For me, the most sure rainbows are children. Their laughs are infective and their smiles are balm for my soul. However, life’s rainbows aren’t just children, and if I were to start listing all of them this post would become ridiculously long.

Stop staring at the ground in front of you or at the troubles around you and always watch for rainbows. When you see one, be sure to tell someone else! I did that this morning with an older couple and you should have seen the smiles on their face when they stopped, looked behind, and saw it.

Smiles that were another rainbow for me.

P.S. The Lord has also blessed me by having a home where rainbows frequent the horizon:

Rainbow seen from backyard