Can God Make A Rock He Cannot Lift?

There is an old philosophical question that asks, "Can God make a rock He cannot lift?"

If God can create a rock he cannot lift, then He is not all powerful.  And if He is not all powerful, then He isn't God, and therefore, God does not exist, or at least, God is not truly all powerful.

At least, that's how this riddle goes. It's known as the "omnipotence paradox."

And, lest you think this problem is something that atheists have constructed in order to take cheap shots at Christianity, you would be wrong.  It was a problem that some medieval monks and priests toyed around with.  Over the centuries, great philosophers and theologians, like the legendary Thomas Aquinas, Rene Descartes, and C.S. Lewis have attempted to solve this problem.

There are a lot of varied answers to this problem.  Some attack the question itself, saying the question is illogical, and is like asking if a two-sided triangle can exist.  Others treat the question as being less hostile, and end up saying that our minds have to understand that God being all powerful doesn't mean that God can truly do everything that is theorized in some abstract questions.  Rather, God simply has the ability to do everything that needs to get done. So, God is all powerful they say, but in some limited sense of the idea.

It occurred to me as I mulled over this problem recently, that God long ago solved the omnipotence paradox, long before the question was ever asked by all the great thinkers of the past centuries.  He did this in the person of Jesus Christ.

As a Christian, I believe that God came to this world in the person of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ was not merely a man, but He is "God made flesh."  And in the incarnation of God as a man, Jesus Christ lived in this world, subject to all its forces, and the limits placed on His humanity. Yes, He is fully God, but fully man at the same time.

Even though Jesus did amazing things like walk on water, heal the sick, and raise the dead, He was ultimately limited by His humanity.  Everything you and I are limited to in our humanity, He was also limited by.  And, anything supernatural that Jesus Christ did, was as a man empowered by the same Holy Spirit that had empowered prior prophets like Moses, or Elijah.

In the person of Jesus Christ, God was limited and weak.  So much so, that the world and people He created eventually took hold of their Creator, stripped Him naked, and crucified their God on a tree.

So, to answer the age old question, can God make a rock He cannot lift?

The real answer to this question gets answered every Easter, as we tell the story of the Passion.  In it we learn of Jesus Christ, the crucified God.  It is the story of the God who created a rock that He could not lift.  It is the story of the God who was crushed by the world He created.


When Jesus Fails You

Palm Sunday is the celebration of Jesus's "triumphal entry" into Jerusalem.  The crowds had come to celebrate the one they believed to be the Messiah.  He had done so much for the people, and demonstrated amazing ability and power in the process.  He had healed the sick, fed a vast multitude with nothing more than a few fish and a couple loaves of bread, and most recently, He had even raised the dead.

It's on the heels of such good news that Jesus rode into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover festival.  A festival in which the Jewish people remembered when God, through the prophet Moses, "with a mighty hand and outstretched arm," supernaturally delivered His people from 400 years of slavery in Egypt.  As Jesus entered Jerusalem to the shouts of hosanna ("God save!") there can be no doubt that the eyes on many were on Him, as they looked for history to perhaps repeat itself through the likes of Jesus of Nazareth, whom they hoped would be yet another deliverer, and another Moses.  They hoped that like Moses, Jesus would rise up and overthrow the Romans, who had long since conquered the land they lived in, and liberate the brutally oppressed Jewish people.

Yet, Jesus did none of these things.

Instead of confronting the Romans and liberating Jerusalem, Jesus did the opposite thing, and confronted the religious leaders in the temple, denouncing them as hypocrites, and publicly damning them all to hell.  Instead of uniting the people around the temple in a rebellion against Rome, Jesus caused a violent scene in the temple that interrupted the flow of regular worship activity.  Jesus eventually left the city and the temple, weeping and with anger, prophesied of a time to come in which the Romans would dismantle Jerusalem and the temple brick by brick, until nothing was left.  And before the week was even over, Jesus was publicly crucified by the very enemy that so many thought He would liberate the Jewish people from.

In the eyes of many, Jesus had failed them.  He did not live up to the expectation and hype,  and He did not turn out to be what they had hoped for.  Even the Scriptures reinforced their disappointment.

And so history has ways of repeating itself today. Live your life long enough as a Christian, and you'll find out the painful truth that there are times when Jesus fails you.

There will be times when things you pray for never materialize.

There will be times when hopes and dreams are shattered.

There will be times when callings are frustrated, and visions die.

There will be times when your enemies and circumstances triumph over you.

There will be times when bills go unpaid.

There will be time when spouses leave.

There will be times when sickness ravages you and those you love.

There will be times where you think that God is a liar.

It is no wonder that Judas betrayed Jesus for something more tangible, like thirty pieces of silver.  It is no wonder Peter thrice denied ever knowing Jesus.  It is no wonder that all had forsaken Him.

The weight of the cross was simply too much for them all.  And so often today, it is just too much for us.  A crucified Messiah?  What's that?  Messiahs don't get crucified, Messiahs always win.

And so they stumbled over the offense of the cross, even as we do today.

We do a disservice to the body of Christ when we always end church services on a high note, and treat Jesus as the solution to all of our problems.  Such a thing is akin to a false prophecy, of which no amount of positive thinking will overcome.  Such is the selling of a faith that does not exist, and has no grounds or basis in reality.  Such is a hallow triumphalism and hosanna chorus that cannot be sustained for more than the day Jesus enters Jerusalem.

It is a faith that will be destroyed before the week is out.

Such a thing as they hoped for is the teaching of  the faith in a Messiah that exists without crosses.  It's the very thing the Jews were looking for, but never got.  But, a crucified Messiah is the thing as Christians that we must come to know and experience for ourselves.  "Knowing Jesus Christ and Him crucified" is much more than just a history lesson or theory of atonement that we must give a mental nod to.  Knowing Jesus Christ and Him crucified is a history lesson that must bear repeating, and be something that we actually experience in our own lives, even as those who shouted hosannas had to experience it in theirs.

There will be times when Jesus fails us, because we believe in a crucified Messiah.


Reasons Why I Never Leave A Church

Have you ever felt tempted to leave a church?  I know I sure have.

My guess is that there are probably pretty good chances that you've been part of a church where you and/or your family were personally hurt by somebody else in the congregation, perhaps even by one of the pastors.  Or, you've been part of a church where there were numerous practical and theological "problems" that abounded. Or, maybe you've even been part of a church that has rejected you in some way from ministering, and where you feel that your gifts and talents aren't being put to good use, and that you were stifled in some way.  Maybe you've even felt that you just aren't getting fed.

And, for all these reasons and more, people leave churches that they've been in someway committed to every single day.

I can personally relate.  Having been a part of several different churches since I became a Christian, and having been involved in just about every ministry of the church at some point in time, I've pretty much seen and experienced it all.  Heck, Lord only knows that I've even been the source of some sour problems within a church.

God help us all!

Yet, with all the things I've seen and experienced over the years, I personally feel like I've never experienced any legitimate reason for leaving a church.  That's not to say I've never left a church and moved on to somewhere else.  I certainly have.  And I don't deny, there may be some very legitimate reasons why one should leave a church.

But, personally speaking, when I left a church and went somewhere else, I never left for any of the reasons people typically give for leaving a church.  Anytime I have moved onto another church, it was for one reason, and one reason alone:  I felt my time there was simply done, and that the Lord needed me to be somewhere else for another season in my life.

Have I been abused by leaders in the church?  Yes, absolutely.  Have I been part of churches whose theology was a little bit off, and that I disagreed with some of the things said from the pulpit, or by other ministers in the church?  Yes, absolutely.  Have I been part of churches that, for one reason or another, didn't allow me to minister in some official capacity?  Yes, I'm experiencing that even now at my current church!

But, are these valid reasons in which to leave a church?

Absolutely not.

When I read the pages of the New Testament, I can't help but notice that life in the early church wasn't without some serious problems.  While we have this tendency to read the New Testament with rose-colored glasses, and to see it as something glorious, the truth of the matter is that life in the New Testament church was fret with all sorts of awful problems.  Most of the New Testament was written in response to the ever present problems and challenges that congregations were facing.

For example, in Corinth, the church had deep sexual problems.  One guy was sleeping with his step mother.  Other men appear to have been visiting idolatrous temple prostitutes.  Marriages were in disarray.  Church services were full of mass chaos, and people were fighting for prominent ministry positions.  The poor were being neglected.  Church members were getting drunk at the church pot-luck.   There were a lot of cliques, and factions were threatening to destroy the unity of church.  The church even came under the sway of some so-called "Super Apostles," that showed up out of nowhere and threatened to lead the church into heresy.

Needless to say, there were some serious problems at the Church of Corinth.  And we've not even talked about other churches, like in Galatia, where some members of the church were insisting that converts to Christianity needed to get circumcised.

I'm sorry, and I don't say this to be crass, but when was the last time you went to a church that was overly interested in whether or not your penis had a foreskin or not?  I venture to say, while I've seen some awful junk in the church over the years, and I am guessing you have too, none of us have probably ever been to a church that cared about how your boxers were filled out.

Yet for all this hostility and all these problems, I've yet to find a single verse of Scripture in which the apostles ever instructed other Christians to leave the church they were a part of.  

At best, the apostles instructed Christians to avoid interacting and having fellowship with people who were particularly egregious in their theology and lifestyles.  But even in all that, they never, ever suggested that somebody actually leave their church.

Instead, the apostles called upon each church to work together to resolve the difficulties they were having.  They encouraged those in the church to love one another, forgive one another, and to strive to maintain the unity of the Spirit, at all costs.

Of course, these things aren't just difficult to do, they are hard things to do!  It's hard to press on when you see things that grieve you.  It's hard to press on when you or your family get insulted or hurt in the process.  It is hard to deal with all of these things that often make the church anything but the source of joy that we feel it ought to be.

But such is ultimately the cross we are called to pickup and endure.  But in embracing the cross, we open up ourselves to the opportunity to be transformed into the person that God wants us to ultimately be.  And I don't think we can become that, unless we embrace the church, with all her faults, and with all her problems.  As the late Art Katz used to say, before the church can be a source of life to us, it must become a place of death.  The cross always precedes the resurrection in the ways of God.

If you feel tempted to leave your church right now, I would encourage you to stay a little bit longer.  Endure yet another season of whatever trials you feel you are going through.  Wait on God, and see what He is yet up to in your very midst.  You may only be three days away from a resurrection event.


The Proverbs 31 Husband

Proverbs 31 is a popular passage of Scripture that has been a favorite of women's ministries for a very long time. One famous women's ministry, Proverbs 31 Ministries headed by Lysa TerKeurst, has centered their ministry around this passage of Scripture. These women's ministries often focus on encouraging women to be like the strong, virtuous, and godly woman that is outlined in this passage of Scripture.

And that's all fine and good. We need that sorta stuff.

But, recently re-reading Proverbs 31, something caught my attention. Far from being a passage that is designed to encourage women on their character development, I have seen Proverbs 31 in a new light. Proverbs 31 is not about women encouraging women to live up to their potential so they can snag themselves a great Christian husband. Rather, Proverbs 31 is actually about encouraging men to not only seek out a virtuous woman as a wife, but is also instruction on how a husband should actually properly relate to his wife, and how he can help his wife in becoming the woman that God has called her to be.

And perhaps the word "encourage" is too weak of a word. It would be better to describe Proverbs 31 as a passage of Scripture that encourages men to "sing the praises" of their wives so loudly, that it actually transforms and liberates them into stepping into the full potential of their womanhood.

How do I arrive at such an interpretation?

Well, it's really very simple. We have to look at Proverbs 31 "in context." In very simple terms, this often means we look at what comes before the passage we are reading, then we look at the passage, and then we look at what follows immediately after it. It's kinda like a sandwich. You have a layer of bread, followed by some meat, and then another layer of bread. Let's look at Proverbs 31:10-31 (NASB):

10 An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.

11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain. 12 She does him good and not evil All the days of her life. 13 She looks for wool and flax And works with her hands in delight. 14 She is like merchant ships; She brings her food from afar. 15 She rises also while it is still night And gives food to her household And portions to her maidens. 16 She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard. 17 She girds herself with strength And makes her arms strong. 18 She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night. 19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hands grasp the spindle. 20 She extends her hand to the poor, And she stretches out her hands to the needy. 21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household, For all her household are clothed with scarlet. 22 She makes coverings for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them, And supplies belts to the tradesmen. 25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future. 26 She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 27 She looks well to the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness.

28 Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her, saying: 29 "Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all." 30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. 31 Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates.

If you notice, this passage begins and ends with words of praise. In verse 10 it starts with a man who has the ability to open up the eyes and lips of his heart to see and express what a precious treasure his wife is to him. Excellence is on his mind, and he sees his wife as being more precious than jewels. And the song he sings over his wife comes full circle in verses 28-31, with even his children joining in on singing the chorus of praise that flows from the lips of their father.

Such gives me the impression that the excellent woman described in between these two parts of the passage, isn't merely a woman who has earned the praise and adoration of her husband and children, because of the excellencies of all her virtues, and all the awesomeness she represents. Rather, as outstanding as this woman might be in her own right, the Proverbs 31 woman is a woman who is set free to flourish and blossom into everything that God has called her to be, due to the loving and nourishing praise that she began to receive long ago from her husband, and is a song that her children have learned to sing from him.

Singing the praises of mom has become their favorite family song. And this song that her husband and children sing have magnified the beauty of their mother. This song has become the wind beneath her wings, and has given her the ability to fly all the higher in life. Mom has been able to step up her game all the more because of the song they sing for her at home.

Looking at this passage of Scripture, I can't help but think of how this song written by this woman's husband and children has been something that pays dividends back into their lives. The family prospers because she prospers. And she prospers because they lift her up with their words.

The Proverbs 31 woman is as awesome as she is, because she has a Proverbs 31 husband. She has a man who can see her worth, and sing her praises. And the praises he gives concerning his wife help her to draw out the best in her, and to tap into her untapped potential. The best of her and her ability to be the blessing she is to her household, all starts with the generous praise heaped onto her by her husband.

Without these loving words, as awesome as she might be in her own right, this woman would be held back from being all that God called her to be. As Proverbs says elsewhere, "life and death are in the power of the tongue." If so, one might be so bold as to say that the Proverbs 31 woman can only exist if her husband sings her existence into being.

Who can find an excellent wife? The man that has eyes to see her, and to sing her into being through the power of his praise.

Praise your wife. Tell her how beautiful she is to you. Tell her how much she means to you. Tell you how much you cherish her. Build up your wife. Strengthen her. Empower her. Help her become what God would have her to become.

Stop looking for the Proverbs 31 wife. Create her.


21 Things the New Testament Church Never Had

If you were to read the pages of the New Testament, you might be tempted to read our contemporary and modern day church practices back into its pages. But, did you know that most of the things that compose that which we associate today with the church are completely foreign to the New Testament?  So foreign are our concepts of church to the pages of the New Testament, if you were to transport the apostles to the present day, somebody would have to explain to them some of the most basic things that you and I take for granted today.

21 Things The New Testament Church Never Had:
  1. Church Buildings
  2. Denominational Organizations
  3. Statements of Faith
  4. The Pope (or any other hierarchical figures)
  5. Seminaries and Bible Colleges
  6. Senior Pastors
  7. Vision Statements
  8. Youth Pastors
  9. Worship Services
  10. Sunday School
  11. Praise and Worship Teams/Worship Leaders
  12. Pulpits
  13. Pews
  14. Ushers
  15. Staff
  16. Volunteers
  17. Orders of Service
  18. Liturgical Church Calendars (I.e. Christmas and Easter)
  19. Altar Calls
  20. Communion Cups and Wafers
  21. Offering Plates
Such begs the question. If Jesus and the apostles did not teach us about such stuff, should we continue to center our life as the church around these contemporary things? At some point, should we consider discarding some, if not all the items on this list? And if we keep them, on what grounds do we justify their continued presence in the life of the church today?


America will attack Israel

During the presidency of Barack Obama, the relationship between America and Israel has shown some signs of being strained.

Many progressive minded individuals have very strong negative feelings towards the nation of Israel, and what they perceive as crimes against the Palestinian people.  Many believe that Israel has adopted an apartheid type of policy against the Palestinians, and that their recently re-elected prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is something of a war criminal.  For political purposes, president Obama continues to call the nation of Israel our closest ally and friend.  But it is evident to all "that loving feeling" between the United States and Israel isn't what it once was.

There has been a definite shift in tone and rhetoric.

Historically, the political strength in the relationship between Israel and America has, in part, been fueled by the Evangelical Christian makeup of America.  Many hold to a popular "end-times" theology that sees it as necessary that we as a nation "Stand with Israel!"  However, as the power and influence of Evangelicals in the political arena continues to fade in this country, and as it continues to become increasingly progressive, we are seeing fewer people make the call to stand with Israel.

Indeed, there is the sense in which Israel is looked at as less of a friend, and almost an enemy.  One might be so bold as to say that Israel is currently America's "frenemy."  

The deterioration of this relationship between America and Israel should not come as a shock to us.  It is something that has ultimately been foretold in the Scriptures themselves.

Indeed, I would be so bold as to prophetically say that the day is coming in which America will not only permanently break its relationship with the nation of Israel, but that one day America will engage in an armed military conflict against Israel.

The prophetic witness of the Scriptures ultimately bears this out, and is part of God's larger plan to ultimately redeem the nation of Israel.  The Old Testament prophet, Zechariah declared:

"Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around; and when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah. It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it."  (Zechariah 12:2-3; NASB)
"For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city" (Zechariah 14:2; NASB)

If we read these texts carefully, and in their larger historical, literary, grammatical context, we will discover that the prophet Zechariah is speaking to the nation of Israel, who has just returned back from its Babylonian exile, and has resettled into the land.  It has begun to rebuild itself politically and spiritually.

To the dismay of prophets such as Zechariah, the terrible judgments that Israel had gone through at the hands of the Babylonians was ultimately insufficient.  They did not truly purge the nation of Israel from her sins as was hoped.  Spiritually, the nation still showed signs of corruption, and so long as the nation showed such signs of spiritual corruption, they would continue to be vulnerable politically, and would continue to be subject to further judgments from God at the hands of the nations.

Looking into the distant future, Zechariah prophetically saw that Israel was still spiritually corrupt, and that the nation would continue to experience the same fate that it has continually experienced since it was founded.  Indeed, Zechariah saw a time in the future where all of these things would reach a feverish boiling point, and an apocalyptic scenario would ultimately unfold in the chronicles of human history.

One day, Zechariah says, as part of God's ultimate plans to redeem the Jewish people, events will transpire that will cause Jerusalem to become "a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around," and Jerusalem will become a "heavy stone for all the peoples" and that "all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it."  He says "all nations will be gathered against Jerusalem to battle."

And by "all nations" that means "all nations."  Such is inclusive of America.

America will eventually join the rest of the world, yes, even the radical Islamic world, in an attack against Jerusalem.  And such will ultimately come out of a sense of inevitability.  We will feel like we have no other choice but to lead an attack on Jerusalem.  The force of it will be like gravity, and like an apple clipped from a tree, we will have no choice but to fall.

It will be argued in those days that Israel has finally crossed the line.  There will be a "last straw" type of scenario that will provoke the nations to genuinely feel it must attack Jerusalem for the common good of humanity.  As a nation, we will feel that we must, and that such a war is ultimately morally justified and necessary.

Of course, in the present, we haven't quite reached the point of no return.  But the strain we are beginning to see in the relationship between the United States and Israel is ultimately a manifestation of prophecy simply coming to pass.  While our national relationship will have moments of improvement, we are ultimately on a downward trajectory that will result in war.

Jerusalem is becoming a cup of reeling.  It is becoming a heavy stone that pulls on us all.

None will be exempt.


Why Jesus Is Still Relevant In the 21st Century

It's been 2,000 years since Jesus Christ last walked the Earth.  

As a result, many find Him and His teachings completely irrelevant for the 21st century.  "The Bible is a good book" they say, "but it can't really speak to our lives today.  It's full of old ideas that need to give way to modern times."

Sound familiar?

Perhaps the critics are right.  Perhaps the Bible is out-dated.  Once upon a time, it may have served a useful purpose.  Though full of fanciful stories and superstitions, it provided a simple ethic and moral framework that generally gave ancient man a sense of right and wrong.  While we might not like much of what is in the Bible, we recognize that it has been, generally speaking, a useful tool that has helped shape the Western world today.

Unfortunately, I can't buy into such a limited and narrow perspective.

So, why does Jesus Christ still matter?

I believe that Jesus Christ and the Bible are still relevant for today for one very simple reason:  They are relevant for today, because Jesus Christ is still alive today!

The only question is then, do you believe that Jesus Christ is still alive and well?

If you do, then that changes everything.

If Jesus Christ was really crucified, buried, and resurrected, and still remains alive after 2,000 years, then of course He still matters, because He is still alive.  If Jesus Christ was really resurrected, then we should find such a claim absolutely astonishing, and that should change our lives.  Nobody else in the history of the world has ever done that.  Therefore, it seems only logical that we should strongly consider taking the advice of a guy who managed not only to come back to life after being brutally murdered, but has managed to stay alive for a few thousand years since then.  And best of all, Jesus Christ shows no signs of every dying again.

Apparently, Jesus knows a thing or two about living life, and living it well.

However, if Jesus Christ is still dead, or never even existed, then His teachings are as relevant as any other character from the chronicles of history.  That is to say... not very relevant.

As for me, I believe that Jesus Christ was crucified, died, and was brought back to life.  As a result, I want to know everything He taught, and I want to apply it to my life.  I want to live as He lived before He was killed, and I want to live life like Jesus Christ has every moment since He came back to life.

But why do I believe that Jesus Christ is alive today?  Because I read such in the Bible?  That would be circular reasoning, and an illogical fallacy.  That's like reading a book, and believing everything in the book is true because the book says its true.

And I admit, some good Christian friends of mine try to employ such reasoning.  God forgive them, they mean well...

But the truth of the matter is, I believe that Jesus Christ is alive today entirely apart from the Bible.  This is a claim that Christians have been making for over 2,000 years, and is a claim that has existed long before the writings of the Bible were completed, and bound together in an organized volume.  It is a news story that men have been sharing ever since they first saw that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, and it is a news story that continues to be told even down this day.

While the Bible affirms my belief that Jesus Christ is alive, it is not the reason I believe He is alive.

I believe that Jesus Christ is alive simply because one day as I sat in a church service, I heard somebody share the good news about Jesus Christ overcoming the grave.  And in that moment in time, I felt like Jesus Christ was alive, as He became alive to me.  It's as if I encountered Him myself, and from that day forward, I continue to experience His ongoing presence in my life every day.

And ever since that moment in time, when I heard the good news about Jesus Christ proclaimed, I've come to realize that I live in a world where Jesus Christ is alive too.  And out of an awareness of Jesus Christ still being alive, I try to live according to His teachings, and to the degree I can, I share those teachings with others.  I want them to be able to truly live too.

As a result of Jesus Christ being alive today, I turn to the Bible as the definitive depository and source of all His teachings.  

Why?  Because of all the lofty claims that can be made about the Bible?  No.  As great as many of those claims are (which I believe to be true), that's not why I read the Bible.

Rather, I read the Bible, because in getting to know Jesus Christ for myself, and having a personal relationship with Him, I feel like the Bible is the place He wants me to go to learn more about Him, and the way I ought to live my life.  As a result, I turn to the Bible, and I find its teachings just as relevant for today as they were 2,000 years ago.

And if you believe that Jesus Christ is still alive today, then you ought to find His teachings relevant too.  The only question remains, do you ultimately believe that Jesus Christ is really alive?  Or do you think He is dead?


Reasons Why I Don't Believe In God

I don't believe in God because of philosophical speculation.

I don't believe in God because of scientific evidence.

I don't believe in God because of historical proof of Biblical events.

I don't believe in God because I've done a comparative study of all the worlds major religions and made a determination that one of them is most likely right.

Indeed, philosophical speculation about the existence of God turns up to be a vain excercise of the mind, that while healthy, is like trying to get somewhere while running on a treadmill. 

Scientific evidence is entirely lacking, as God cannot be observed under a microscope.  

The historicity of many major events in the Bible can easily be doubted, and the archaeological evidence thus far is bit underwhelming.

And comparing all the major world religions and making a determination as to which is best, is the equivalent of choosing Pepsi over Coke.

And yet in spite of saying all the aforementioned things that give me little to no reason to believe in God, I still find myself entirely convinced that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that He was bodily raised from the dead, three days after having been crucified under Pontius Pilate.

Why do I believe this?

Because years ago, as I was a teenager sitting in a church, I heard the Gospel message preached for the first time, and suddenly, it felt like Jesus Christ was real to me.  And from that moment in time, through all my struggles over the things of the faith, I've continued to sense the reality of Him in my every day life.  There hasn't been a day since then that has gone by where I wasn't aware that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that He is alive and well.

I believe Jesus Christ is alive, because I believe it pleased Himself to reveal Himself alive in me (Galatians 1:15-16). Nothing more, and nothing less.

While I believe all the aforementioned disciplines of study yield some very interesting results and some insights into things about God, they aren't enough to compel me to be a Christian.  At the end of the day, I am a Christian because I believe God Himself made me one.  And truth be told, you nor anybody else in the universe has ever become one except God made you a Christian too.

This is my apologetic.  It should become yours too.


I Vow To Be Wealthy

For centuries, monks, nuns, and priests have taken numerous vows:  Vows of celibacy, vows of silence, and even vows of poverty.

Of course, the irony in taking a vow of poverty is that most of those that have taken that vow tend to live fairly well.  Granted, they seldom ever end up breaking their vows and become affluent aristocrats.  But they never really have to worry about the traditional things associated with poverty, such as having a roof over their head, clothes on their back, or food in their stomach (unlike people who are actually poor).  For the church essentially guarantees these basic necessities to them... and then some.

In reality, those who take a vow of poverty simply end up forfeiting the right to claim private property for themselves. It's not really a vow to live in poverty per say (though it is called such). Rather it is simply a vow to embrace a communal lifestyle where all resources are shared, and nobody claims ownership over anything. Everything is simply owned in common with everybody else who has taken the same vow.  As one nun says, "It's a vow of poverty, not a vow of destitution."

Many of us probably find the idea of a vow of poverty to be rather strange.  Not only because it involves something as archaic sounding as a "vow," but because it willing embraces and celebrates poverty, which is so contrary to our American way of life.

Indeed, one might say that as Americans we have gone to the opposite extreme, and have made a "vow to be wealthy."

...We vow to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps.
...We vow to dream big.
...We vow to climb the corporate ladder.
...We vow to buy the latest and greatest stuff.
...We vow to work hard, but play harder.
...We vow to give our kids the things we never had.
...We vow to live the American dream.

As Christians, we don't need to take vows of poverty and live a monastic lifestyle.  It's even questionable if such a thing is Biblical.  But in not taking a vow of poverty, we need to fight against taking a silent vow, whereby we mentally assent to a vow to be wealthy.  Such, whether we want to admit it or not, is what most of us have embraced.

Let's break that vow today.

Instead of being a people who vow to be wealthy, we need to be a people who "vow" to work hard, make the most of what we have and the opportunities before us, to live simply and modestly, and to generously share with those who are in need.  Such is something all Christians are called to do.  It is not simply the calling of monks, nuns, and priests.  It is the calling of all the saints.


What Ten Million Shovels can teach us about Money

Let me ask you a simple question:  If I gave you ten million shovels, would that fundamentally change your life?

Probably not.

Indeed, if I offered to give you ten million shovels, you would probably decline the offer.  Even though you know that over time, you could probably sell most of those shovels and make a handsome profit, you probably wouldn't jump at the chance to start a business with the sole purpose of selling shovels.  Indeed, you would probably look at a warehouse full of shovels and just kinda shrug it off, and move on with your life. You wouldn't want the bother. You'd let the next guy in line have them.

Let me ask you another question:  If I gave you ten million dollars, would that fundamentally change your life?

"Absolutely!" you say.

It has been commonly taught over the years that money is a neutral thing. It's completely amoral. It's neither good nor bad in and of itself.  Dave Ramsey and a lot of pastors teach this.  Money is a mere tool, and could be likened to a shovel.  With a shovel, you could plant a beautiful garden.  Or, if you are a mobster, you can use a shovel to bury the body of somebody like Jimmy Hoffa.  Either way, the shovel is neither good nor bad, it's what you do with it that matters.


Yet I can't help but wonder, if money is so neutral as people usually say it is, then why is it that money has the ability to fundamentally change our lives in a way that shovels never can?

Ten million dollars has the power to change your life in the way ten million shovels never could.... unless you are Jimmy Hoffa.

Indeed, money changes people.

And if money can change people, then I think it is a bit dangerous for us to ever call money a neutral thing, and liken it unto a mere tool.  Indeed, I worry that those who say money is a neutral thing have already come under its spell, and aren't properly prepared for the responsibility of handling it.

People marry for money.  People divorce over money.  People fight for money.  People work hard for money.  People kill for money.  People risk their lives for money.  People worry about money.  People lose their souls over money.

If money's involvement in my life has the ability to possibly damn my soul, then maybe money isn't so neutral after all.  Maybe it is more than a mere tool.  


Remembering the Poor as the Heart of Ministry

"They only asked us to remember the poor--the very thing I also was eager to do." ~ Galatians 2:10 (NASB)
I find this verse very curious. In the midst of much traveling, saving souls, and theologizing, the apostle Paul takes a moment to recall a time in his ministry when the apostle Peter asked of him "only" one thing, and that one thing was to "remember the poor."

Which makes me to wonder, how often do I remember the poor? And am I as "eager" as the apostle Paul was to remember those living in poverty?

Honestly, I don't think I remember the poor as often as I should. I know in my life, I'm doing pretty well. My wife and I live in a uber middle-to-upper-middle crust part of town. On either side of our neighborhood are some shopping centers featuring high end restaurants, grocery stores, and retail outlets.  We have two Target stores within a mile of our home!  These insulate us into a really nice cultural bubble, as we seldom need to go anywhere outside these two shopping centers to find most of what we need for our daily lives.

Don't get me wrong, my wife and I aren't exactly rolling in dough. But we do make out a pretty comfortable life as two young professionals, who have firmly planted our feet in the middle of suburbia.  Like most of our neighbors, we have a mortgage, car payments, and a little bit of credit card debt.  We have some savings, and some money tied up for retirement.  We give to charity.  And we manage to scrape away a few bucks for date nights, and the occasional trip to the mountains or the beach.

Poor people are very difficult to find in my part of town, as the size of the homes and the property tax values virtually guarantees you won't run into very many "undesirables."  If I wanted to go to a part of town where most of the people living there meets the Federal government's definition of poverty, I would probably have to drive about 20-30 minutes to find such a place.

And so an old saying becomes a prophecy fulfilled: "out of sight, out of mind."

In order for me to remember the poor, I have to make a concerted effort to find somebody that is poor.  I'm simply unlikely to run into somebody who is poor in my daily life and interactions with others.

And I am willing to bet that the chances are, if you are reading this short blog post, then there is a pretty good chance you are like me.  You too are rather insulated from the poor, and they are not a regular part of your life.  Therefore, as you go about your day, you think very little about the poor.

I am also willing to bet that like me, most of the people who you attend church with are in the exact same scenario.  In contrast to the churches the apostles planted, which were made up of mostly poor individuals, our churches are often composed primarily of other affluent people, just like you and me.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with this per say.  Jesus died for rich people too.

But as a result of the high affluency rate in the population of our churches, whatever we do in the name of "outreach" to the poor often becomes nothing more than a "special project" that our church engages in.  It involves us loading a bunch of white rich people into a van to take a trip across town to the "other side of the tracks."  It's nothing more than a side project we do on the weekends, and a line item on our church budget.  Our main focus in ministry is back in the comforts of our home church, on Sunday morning, where hardly a poor person is to be found.

Yet for the apostles Paul and Peter, ministering to the poor was at the very heart of their ministry.  Indeed, they saw ministering to the poor at the very heart of the Gospel itself.  Ministering to the poor wasn't simply a side project that they tacked onto an otherwise busy church schedule.  They saw ministry to the poor as central to their calling as apostles.

I believe I am in the process of discovering this truth in my life.  It is my hope that this short blog entry will help you begin the journey of discovering it in your life as well.  For I feel in my heart of hearts that we miss the opportunity to remember the poor, and in doing so, we fail to become true ministers of Jesus Christ.,

May we remember the poor in all that we do.  And may remembering the poor become something that gets ingrained into the heart of our everyday church ministry, experience, and life.