Confident Faith - July 2016

The first dictum of war is to "Know your enemy." On the issue of the war on radical Islam and terrorism, you will NOT get smarter listening to media's talking heads or listening to politicians. Don't know about you, but as a Christian, I'm in this to WIN and by winning I mean 1) protect lives from internal attacks like San Bernardino and Orlando and 2) save souls. If you want to get involved, a good start is to read three books that will give you a 1000% better understanding of the profound differences between a typical American and Muslim family and between Christianity and Islam.

#1. "Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity" by Nabeel Qureshi. Nabeel was raised in a devout Muslim family in America. This is the inside story of how he was raised, became an Islamic apologist, and had an easy time confusing Christians until God made a Christian apologist his best friend. He learned that Christianity had the evidential goods and Islam didn't. After he was convinced he needed to accept Jesus, it still took him a long time to do so (and this is an important part of the "differences"), but he eventually did and became a Christian apologist now as part of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM).

#2. "Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward" by Nabeel Qureshi. Nabeel wrote this book after the recent terrorist attacks in France and San Bernardino. He goes into more details of Islamic history and maps a Christian response to Islam and terrorism. Read this and get a better understanding of the rise of “peaceful” Islam and the radicalization process.

#3. "Grand Central Question: Answering the Critical Concerns of the Major Worldviews" by Abdu Murray. Abdu Murray was raised Muslim in Dearborn, Michigan. Like Nabeel, he also became a Muslim apologist likewise finding Christians easy pickings as few understood what they believed or why. He was eventually saved and wrote this book comparing Christianity with three different worldviews - humanism, pantheism, and theism. The section on theism focuses on Islam. One of the most important parts of this section is his presentation of an argument showing that Jesus is actually "greater" than the Islamic understanding of Allah. You have heard the terrorist cry "Allahu Akbar" translated as "God (Allah) is great" but that is not precise and misses the substance. It is better translated "God is greatER." Abdu makes the case that if Muslims are committed to worshipping the greatEST God, then they should be worshipping Jesus! Abdu is also on staff with RZIM.

These books are in the church library. Reading them will give you a greater understanding and confidence in your own Christianity.

Harold

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Confident Faith - June 2016

One of my favorite Christian Apologists is John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford. Google “John Lennox” and watch/listen to some of his presentations. You will be amazed at his clarity and wit.

Here are excerpts from his book "Gunning for God, Why the New Atheists are Missing the Target" (in the church library).

One attempt they [atheists} have made to get their message across is by advertising it on the sides of buses. For a time, bendy buses became the medium that carried the atheist message. They charged around the UK’s major cities bringing the remarkably underwhelming missive: “There’s probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Apart from the advertisement for a well-known beer, there are probably very few advertisements containing the word “probably”. After all, can one imagine being caught by advertisements like: “This medicine has probably no serious side effects...; this bank will probably not collapse...; this plane will probably get you to your destination”? (p. 10)

Come to think of it, the a priori probability of Richard Dawkins’ existence is very low. His existence, like that of the rest of us, is improbable. In spite of that, lo and behold, Richard Dawkins, you and I, are all actual. The message on the bus is beside the point. The real question is not, “How probable is God?” but rather, “Is there evidence that God is actual?” (p. 11).

But the atheists’ poster campaign did not end here. In 2009 Richard Dawkins and the British Humanist Association commissioned posters depicting two very happy looking children with the legend: “Please don’t label me. Let me grow up and choose for myself.” However, in an exquisitely ironical contradiction of their first poster campaign’s claim, that atheism was the prerequisite for joy, it turned out that the grinning children, selected by the atheists to embody their vision of childlike happiness, were children from a devout Christian family. As the father of the children commented, it was quite a compliment that the atheists judged these particular children to be happy and free, without knowing about their family background. (p. 12).

Indeed, if I were impelled to come up with a bus slogan, it might go something like this: “There is good evidence for the existence of God. Therefore trust him and experience real joy.” Of course, I am aware that God might be a potential source of worry for atheists. After all, as Lucretius noted centuries ago, if God exists, atheists will meet him one day. (pp. 12-13).

Harold

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Confident Faith - May 2016

Trinity -- Problem or Solution?

In the beginning there was NOTHING! Everything had to be created, but not Love -- a Love so pure and so far beyond our comprehension that finds its fullest earthly expression in a cross... and a Bride (church).

"In our experience of love, it is frequently, if not always, tied up in the fulfillment of our own needs. A man falls in love with a woman in large part because he wants something from her (and she reciprocates for much the same reason). But love also carries with it a desire to give what is good to the beloved, and it is this desire to bless that defines God's love. A moment's reflection will show that an entirely self-contained person who has no desire to bless someone else may be perfect in some respects but certainly does not display perfect love. But God's nature is not simply to possess his attributes to himself, but to pour out His attributes in love for the blessing of others. The nature of God as a union of three persons allows this perfect love to exist between Father, Son and Spirit as each blesses the other, so God does not need the creation in order to have something to love. However, it gives God great joy to extend His love beyond the Trinity to others, for which purpose He created the universe. Thus God was not motivated by need in creating the universe, but by an abundant love. Clearly there is nothing incongruous about a perfect being, whose nature is exactly what it should be, acting in complete accord with that nature by doing that which brings Him joy." (attributed to Rabert Wagenet)*

"For God to have no lack in relationship, to have no lack of love or the expression of it, He must exist, from eternity, as a being in community. Historically, critics have seen the Trinity as a "problem" to solve -- its mystery so difficult to grasp that some have lebeled it incoherent. May I suggest, however, that the Trinity is not a problem, but a solution? If we strive to believe in a God who is perfect, who lacks nothing, and needs no one to be who He is, we must look to the Trinity. The Trinity explains how God can love and not lack, how He can relate and not depend on others to relate. The Trinity solves the mystery of how to understand God's greatness."*

In John 17, Jesus prays several times "that they may be one, just as We are one." (v22) If we know Jesus as the Son of God, we are invited as His bride into a unity of purpose and mutual Love as that of the Trinity. Dwell in that thought! Taste it! Feast on it!

Father, open our minds and hearts to live out this kind of Love with a bold confidence.

*Quotes from "Grand Central Question: Answering the Critical Concerns of the Major Worldviews" by Abdu H. Murray (in the church library).

Harold

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Confident Faith - April 2016

Easter Question: Truth or Faith - Which Comes First?

Think on these two questions before reading further: As a Christian, which comes first - truth or faith? Does it matter?

STOP! THINK!

Here's a clue (written in Cajun Code so you're not tempted to not do the above reading and thinking): Alwas tro de cau ova de fense sum hay if she's a boo!

Faith is an active trust in something you have a good reason to believe is true - that "something" for Christians is Jesus, the Son of God. As the scriptures make very plain, our Christian faith is rooted in truth - that "God is" (He exists) from Heb 11:6 and that Jesus REALLY rose from the dead else your faith is worhless from 1 Cor 15:14. Those truths must exist for faith to be real. Truth comes first.

There are some truths that are only revealed through the Holy Spirit dwelling within each Christian, so don't be surprised when a lost friend cannot "see" all the truth you see. But they are not without access to enough truth to point them to seek God. Psalm 19:1 says "The heavens declare the Glory of God." Romans 1:18-19 says that God has revealed His attributes to men in such a way for them to know Him and yet they deliberately reject Him. There is sufficient truth available to all for God to hold everyone accountable for their individual choice.

Christians should be the ultimate truth seekers, unafraid to go wherever the truth leads. But one word of caution: we know Satan can pose as an angel of light so we must realize we can be misled. Check with Christians you know to be wise in the Lord before you jump off the barn roof with your sheet parachute following some prodding of new spiritual insight (fortunately, I didn't break anything in my jump from the barn).

If asked why I'm a Christian, I say that I am a Christian because I believe Christianity is True; it's the best explanation for the way the world really is - it is True Truth. I can be confident in my faith because I know the Author of Truth.

[For the few who couldn't decipher the clue: which side of the fence you throw the hay from depends on whether that cow is REALLY a bull or not! Get that truth wrong and the only faith that will help you depends on whether you can outrun the bull and clear the fence in one leap (another truth proposition).]

Harold

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Confident Faith - February 2016

Paul's Confidence in the Gospel

15- So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16- For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” Romans 1:15–17 (NASB95)

We've all heard "For I am not ashamed of the gospel" and may even have used it ourselves ... but what does it really mean? What idea was Paul trying to communicate?

Though the most literal translation from the Greek is "For I am not ashamed", the intent is better caught when phrased in the positive - "I have complete confidence in", or "I am proud of", or "I trust completely in", or "I rest my whole weight on", or "I lean against completely." [Newman, B. M., & Nida, E. A. (1973). A handbook on Paul’s letter to the Romans (p. 19). New York: United Bible Societies]

"For I have complete confidence in the Gospel." This is not about shame as one might suppose but Paul actually expressing his absolute confidence in the Gospel - the message about Jesus, God in the flesh, who died for our sins that we may have forgiveness and restoration.

The Gospel is God's awesome power for salvation. It's all His doing and none of our own. How much power can you add to God's power to cause your salvation? Nada. Zip. Zilch. Our salvation and our faith rest completely in His power. Only the mighty power of God can crack the hardest substance in the universe - a stone cold heart like mine, like yours!

Paul is also saying that the way God puts men right with Himself ("the righteousness of God") starts with faith and ends with faith ("faith to faith") whether Jew to Gentile or Old Testament to New. There is only one object of true faith - God - progressively revealed as "faithfulness" to Israel in the Old Testament (there's no word in Hebrew for "faith") starting with Abraham to completion in Jesus and the Gospel of the New Testament.

So, this is really about the fact that we can and should be confident that our faith rooted in the Gospel message, the very Power of God, is True, always was, and always will be True. And that confidence should overflow in confident action as it did with Paul.

Harold

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