Confident Faith - December 2015

Doubt – Part 3.

Doubt is serious. Doubt is the greatest common reason given in surveys of former Christian youth who later left the church. They were discouraged from expressing their doubts in their church and youth group, or they encountered people incapable of helping them.

Steve Jobs, Apple Computer magnate, grew up a Christian. He died a Zen Buddhist.

At thirteen, his world was rocked by a 1968 Life magazine cover showing two starving children in Biafra. Steve asked his pastor, “If I raise my finger does God know which one before I raise it?” “Yes, God knows everything,” said the pastor. “Did God know what was going to happen to those children?” asked Steve. All the pastor said was, “I know you don’t understand, but yes, God knows about that.” No answer. No apologetic. No sympathy. No reason. No “Let’s talk about this.” Jobs left the church and never returned.

Is this a hard question? Yes, but it is answerable. Steve Jobs deserved an answer. He got none.

It’s not just our clergy or Sunday School leaders who need to be equipped to answer such questions but every parent and every single member. Every church needs to clearly proclaim an open door policy for doubts to be expressed and dealt with.

Doubts confronted properly lead to a stronger more confident faith. Doubts suppressed extinguish faith.

(Steve Jobs story from Doubting Toward Faith, The Journey to Confident Christianity, by Bobby Conway, pp 49-50)

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Confident Faith - January 2016

“Peace on Earth”

Oh, how often we take beautiful God-filled words and mistake and tarnish them to the ordinary. Many secularists will exchange Christmas cards carrying the phrase "Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men" - the Christmas angelic proclamation to the shepherds. It should be enough of a clue that if secularists would use the word "peace" then something of the meaning God intended is probably missing, yet, could there still be a hint or clue there?

Most people think of peace as the lack of war or a serene state of mind, yet this “peace” seems to have ever eluded us. We’re all painfully aware there IS a problem, but we differ on precisely where the real problem resides.

The unbelieving world sees the problem as a correctable, superficial human problem (obviously, with other people) that will yield to liberal doses of education, law, enforced political correctness, and "I'm OK, You're OK" psychotherapy. But God has defined the problem as a hereditary illness and brokenness within – a rebellion against God that we have all willfully joined. We’ve estranged ourselves from home, and, like the prodigal son in a far country, we all long for home and the missing relationship. Even when we don't know where home is, we simply know there ought to be a warm and welcoming home – somewhere.

The external wars and conflicts are just extensions of the sickness and longings from within. For those willing to admit the true source of the problem - me - God sent a Son, born in a humble manger, to make the only way to restore the wholeness, the Peace, between the Father and us, His children.

And so the angels proclaimed at the birth of Jesus, "Wholeness and restored relationship with the Father is available to all who will acknowledge the Giver and accept the Gift." Now, there can be Peace even when there is no peace. In fact, without this internal "Peace on Earth", there is no hope of external "peace on earth" at all.

Savor the full beauty and wonder of that night long ago. Enter into the Glorious picture of when our Peace came. Share that Peace.


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Confident Faith - November 2015

Doubt – Part 2 – Did “Doubting” Thomas Get a Bad Rap? (John 20:19-31)

Thomas walked three years with Jesus and the other apostles. He witnessed miracles and the revelation of Jesus, Son of God. Yet, for all this he couldn’t accept the incredible claim that Jesus was alive! (v25)

Jesus had the opportunity to show Thomas’ doubt was wrong by simply not appearing to him, but Jesus appeared to Thomas and satisfied his doubt. Then, Thomas made one of the most profound Christological declarations, “My LORD and My God” - and this from the lips of a former “doubter.” (v26-29)

Jesus in verse 29 is not rebuking Thomas but is stating that the physical appearance of Jesus was not the evidence by which the Gospel would be spread to future believers. It would move forward by believing the testimony of witnesses changed by the wooing and indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. However, the first witnesses, the apostles and disciples, were rooted in firsthand evidence of Jesus, Son of God, in that they had seen and touched Him (1 John 1:1). Jesus pronounced an added benediction to those who would believe without physical sight (v29).

Did “doubting” Thomas get a bad rap? Yes, I think he did. We might all learn from the way he handled his doubt. He was open about his doubt; he didn’t hide it. He sought the answer in the right place – the “church” of his moment – the other apostles.

Likewise, don’t hide your doubt; let it be known. Seek answers from God and from leaders in your church body. Never tell or imply that people should stay silent about their doubts or that there is something bad about having doubts.

Confession: I’m a Thomas. At 22, my doubt in the reality of God was overcome in a time of crisis – first by someone giving a testimony, then by my earnest cry, “God, if you’re real, show me!” And He did! The evidence He provided, however, was not physical; it was supernatural.

Doubt is God’s invitation to a deeper and more confident relationship with Him.


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Confident Faith - October 2015

Doubt – Part 1.

Everyone of faith has doubts. The very nature of faith - trusting in the unseen - entails doubt. If you have doubts about faith, you are in good company. John the Baptist saw the dove descending on Jesus and heard the proclamation, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Mt 3:17) and yet later doubted that Jesus was the promised one (Mt 11:3).

The real question is not whether you will have doubts, but what you do with your doubts.

An atheist in his early years, the great Christian apologist, C.S.Lewis, said there were times as an atheist that the existence of God looked very probable. That’s atheistic doubt but notice there is a God-purpose in the doubt. Romans 1:18-21 tells us that God has made Himself plainly obvious, and that men suppress the truth of His existence. When men try to forcibly hold down (suppress) that truth, God is still going to ooze out! That is the nature of God - to reveal, woo, and draw men to Himself.

Even for Christians, there is a God-purpose to be gained THROUGH our doubts. We are not meant to suppress or wallow in our doubts but to work through them with God and others. Doubt may be God’s invitation for you to draw closer to Him – to a deeper, more personal, and more confident walk.

Having doubts is NOT sin, but clenching your teeth and gritting your way through (suppressing) doubt is the same as the atheist ignoring the Lord’s call. You would be surprised at the resources available to help you work through and grow through your doubts. See the staff or me and we can point you in the right direction.

To be continued – did the apostle Thomas get a bad rap as “doubting” Thomas (John 20:24-31)?


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Confident Faith - September 2015

Confident Christianity

Being a westerner, I didn't realize how little I knew about the cultural differences between Christianity and Islam until I read "Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus" (available in the church library). This ought to be required reading by every Christian and government official!

As a very young boy in a devout American Islamic family, Nabeel memorized long passages from his holy book in Arabic though he did not understand Arabic. It was more important to memorize and recite in the original language than to understand what you were reciting!

Through inquiry and debate with knowledgeable Christian apologist friends, Nabeel came to understand the overwhelming nature of the evidence for Christianity compared to Islam. He saw Christianity was true and Islam, false. We might think "Truth wins," and that he would accept and move out in what he believed to be true. No. His culture valued faithfulness to the family and culture above truth! His was a long struggle to publicly accept Christianity at the cost of shaming his family and Islamic friends. That’s another radical difference in our cultures.

Think of those raised in Islamic states where questioning the Quran and Muhammad leads to death – where faithfulness to what you are told is true Islamic doctrine is the same as allegiance to your country.

Muslims should have Christian friends praying for, befriending, and showing them the truth. The Good News is True. Nabeel found the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Part of the answer to radical Islam is to reach Muslims with the Real Isa (Jesus) talked about so often in their Quran (5 times more often than their prophet).

This book is an easy and captivating read. You'll see the differences are even more radical than you ever dreamed. Then, you’ll be much better equipped to be part of the solution.

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