CT Highlights for April 2015

CT April 2015

CT stands for Christianity Today magazine. I try to read it cover-to-cover each month. Though my views bend more toward the conservative end of the spectrum than its editors, I find it keeps me in touch with the state of the faith in many ways. Seems to me a pastor should make it his business to stay informed this way to some degree. For that, I am grateful for the publicati0n.

Here at the ten most interesting things to come out of the current edition, at least from my perspective.

  1. Kevin DeYoung has written a new book published by CrosswayWhat Does the Bible Really Teach About Homosexuality (p. 1). I suspect this resource will help a lot of us better navigate the cultural waters of this challenging issue from a biblical perspective.isis
  2. The Bible Society of Egypt transformed the ISS propaganda video’s “two rows by the seas” (beheading of 21 Coptic Christians) into its largest outreach in 130 years. In 1.65 million tracts on God’s promise of blessing amid suffering, it asked: “Who fears the other? The row in orange, watching paradise open? Or the row in black, with minds evil and broken”, (p. 15)?
  3. Last year, 2.6 million Twitter users shared Bible verses 43 million times. The number one tweeter (including retweets)? Desiring God’s John Piper–105,836. The number one verse tweeted? Philippians 4:13 (p. 16).lecrae
  4. Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae won four top spots in gospel categories last year, including No. 1 gospel artist of the year (p. 17).
  5. When five Christian pastors in Laos prayed for a sick woman who later died, a Laotian provincial court imprisoned and fined them for being “illegal doctors” (p. 17).
  6. Nearly one year after Jews for Jesus launched one of its most successful and controversial evangelism campaigns, more than 1.3 milli0n people worldwide have watched That Jew Died for You. The three-minute YouTube video depicts Jesus carrying the cross to a gas chamber (p. 19).
  7. Today, an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 Ukrainian Jews worship Jesus as Messiah. This makes Ukraine, a nation of 45 million, the region’s fulcrum of the Messianic Jewish movement (p. 20). (By comparison, Ukraine has about 1.7 million evangelical Christians and more than 23 million Orthodox Christians, who constitute about half the country’s population.)
  8. A new breed of apologists defend the faith now and they are female (see image above). CT calls them “the unexpected defenders.” I was familiar with Nancy Pearcey, but not Holly Ordway, Mary Jo Sharp, Kristen Davis, Melissa Cain Travis, and Amy Orr Ewing. Empathetic AND rationalistic apologetics. Excellent! Ladies, check it out (p. 35ff).
  9. In England, 38 percent of youth now say they don’t believe in God (p. 46).
  10. Up to 1 in 3 Swedes claim atheism, and only 18 percent say ‘I believe there is a God’ (p. 65).

My gift to those who may not have the bandwidth or inclination to read CT but can still profit from the highlights.

Two Most Important Lessons

I love the interviews each month near the end of every Tabletalk magazine.

This month features a conversation with apologist Ravi Zacharias, president of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, an organization with offices in Canada, India, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates,and the United States. He is internationally known as a Christian apologist and has addressed thousands of people worldwide, including students and professors from numerous colleges and universities. Dr. Zacharias is the host of a weekly radio program, Let My People Think, and serves as senior research fellow at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University. Among his many books are Can Man Live Without God?, Deliver Us from Evil, Walking From East to West, and Why Jesus?: Rediscovering His Truth in an Age of Mass Marketed Spirituality.

When someone asks a person with that kind of track record in fruitfulness to name the two most important lessons he has learned in a lifetime of ministry, I get interested real fast in the answer.

Here’s what he said:

The hardest lessons I’ve learned are, one, how important it is to have the right people around you, and two, to learn to face criticism and opposition (oftentimes from those who should be more understanding) without allowing it to sidetrack you from your closeness to the Lord and His call. When you’re doing very little, nobody will bother you. But when you are making an impact, the Enemy of our souls finds ready emissaries to take aim at you. It goes with the calling. Keep close to the Lord and don’t let the critics dent your calling that a gracious and sovereign God has shaped.

Good counsel on both counts. The rest of the article is worth reading as well. You can access it here.

Why I'm No Huckster, Charlatan, or Fraud

Tomorrow is Easter.

I will preach on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead for the umpteenth time. I am getting up there in years and I have been a follower of Jesus of Nazareth since 1972 and a minister of the gospel most of the years since then.

My text for tomorrow’s message entitled Life’s Ultimate What If is 1 Cor. 15:12-20.  I will ask the question of questions that many have asked throughout the centuries: What if there is no resurrection of the body? What if this life is all there is?

Apparently some of the believers in the Corinthian church bought into the dualism Greek mindset of the day that denied the resurrection of the body.

In the text, as I shall attempt to show tomorrow, Paul proceeds to dismantle that erroneous strain of thinking by showing the logical consequences, devastating in every way, that follow from a denial of the reality of the resurrection of the dead.

One of those, according to v. 15, is that preachers like me who preach the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead end up misrepresenting God because of their testimony that Christ Himself has been raised from the dead.

This is no small concern. Nothing in me at all wants to be guilty of complicity in foisting upon humanity the cruelest hoax of all time if in fact Jesus has NOT been raised from the dead.

No worries. I am not alarmed. I am completely confident that rather than being a huckster, charlatan, or fraud, or any other word you can think of to describe somebody who takes people for a colossally deceptive ride down a bogus philosophical trail, I believe that I could hardly stand on firmer ground in terms of my confidence that Jesus Christ has indeed been raised from the dead and that, as such, He demands and rightly deserves my and your utmost devotion and the total dedication of my/our being every day until I/we cease to exist on this earth.

I say that because of three strains of evidence for the resurrection that I find ultimately compelling – documentary, well-established, and circumstantial.

My thanks to Douglas Groothuis in his substantive, award-winning tome Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith for this summary.

First, as for the documentary or minimal facts recorded in the gospels that are broadly agreed on by New Testament scholars of all stripes (Groothius’ exact words), there are four.

  1. Death by crucifixion – a well-established fact of history.
  2. Burial in a known tomb – that of Joseph of Arimathea (Matt. 27:57-61 et al).
  3. The empty tomb – discovered as such by several women (not considered in that day the most credible of witnesses mind you – an argument for the authenticity of the gospel records).
  4. The postmortem appearances of Jesus – twelve separate ones over a forty-day period according to the New Testament.The preponderance of eye-witness accounts of the resurrected Christ, including that of the Apostle Paul, cause Groothius to conclude This is either one of the greatest bluffs in the history of religion or a confident assertion of substantiated fact (p. 549).

Impressive enough standing alone is the documentary evidence. Groothius goes on to cite other well-established evidence in favor of the resurrection.

  1. The transformation of the disciples – from cowardice, despair and confusion to confident proclamation of the gospel and the willingness to suffer persecution, hardship and even martyrdom for the sake of Jesus and His gospel.
  2. The early worship of Jesus as divine – by monotheistic Jews no less who would not likely ever do such a thing apart from something so spectacular as Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

Finally, there is the circumstantial evidence.

  1. The practice of the early church in observing baptism, the Lord’s Supper and Sunday worship – all clearly tied in symbolism and motivation to the reality of the resurrection.
  2. Spiritual experiences in history and today – the fact that millions of Christ’s followers around the globe for the last two thousand years have testified to the reality of their risen Savior’s claims lends credibility to the reality of the resurrection (p. 554).

And I am one of them.

That I have the opportunity tomorrow to preach the gospel and proclaim the good news that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead is based upon evidence of the best and all kinds.

I will peddle no deception;  I will preach the truth, so help me God.

He is risen. He is risen indeed!

So Many Questions

Tomorrow, Lord willing, we begin our follow up to the Two Ways To Live evangelism training during our 9:30 equipping hour for adults and highschoolers with another combination video/discussion curriculum called So Many Questions.

You needn’t have participated in the last seven weeks of training in order to take advantage of and profit by this follow up emphasis on apologetics – defending the faith.

Matthias Media posts this description of the course content on their website:

When was the last time you were asked one of these questions?

» How do I know God exists in the first place?
» Did Jesus really come back from the dead?
» Hasn’t science disproved Christianity?
» You can’t trust what the Bible says—it’s been changed too much over the years!
» No-one can claim to have ‘the truth’—everyone’s opinion is valid.
» Wasn’t Jesus just another great religious teacher?
» Discussing religion just divides people and causes problems!
» If the Bible is so clear, why can’t Christians agree on what it says?
» Why is the Bible anti-gay?
» If God is good, why is there so much suffering in the world?
» Can’t we just be good enough to please God?
» Christians are just a bunch of hypocrites!
» Do you have to go to church to be a Christian?

Find out how to answer these common questions.

In a series of short sessions, So Many Questions will take you through each question, helping you to work out what to say, and providing an ‘expert’ answer from which to learn. You’ll also learn the basic principles behind all these answers.

Tomorrow we will lay some ground work before getting into the specific questions. We will talk about why it is important to be prepared to answer such questions, how to listen in such situations, and how to answer effectively.

Hope to see you in the auditorium at the SDA at 9:30 AM sharp!

A Run Through the Bible in 14 Chapters

That’s how D. A. Carson characterizes his latest book, The God Who Is There, Baker, 2010, 233 pages. He subtitled it: Finding Your Place in God’s Story.

He wrote it principally for the rising number of people in our postmodern world today who really do not know how the Bible works at all. It’s a primer on redemption’s story, Genesis through Revelation, from creation, to the fall, to the cross, to consummation.

The table of contents reads this way:

  1. The God Who Made Everything
  2. The God Who Does Not Wipe Out Rebels
  3. The God Who Writes His Own Agreements
  4. The God Who Legislates
  5. The God Who Reigns
  6. The God Who Is Unfathomably Wise
  7. The God Who Becomes a Human Being
  8. The God Who Grants New Birth
  9. The God Who Loves
  10. The God Who Dies—and Lives Again
  11. The God Who Declares the Guilty Just
  12. The God Who Gathers and Transforms His People
  13. The God Who Is Very Angry
  14. The God Who Triumphs

So far I have read chapters one, ten, and fourteen. This is typically readable Carson at his apologetic best. In fact the obvious place to begin in terms of the utility of this resource is as an evangelistic tool. This looks like a great book to give someone with whom you wish to dialogue about Christianity.

But at the same time it serves as another helpful tool in terms of equipping the believer with numerous insights in how to share Christ with people in our postmodern context. For example, his treatment of Genesis 1 & 2 and science in chapter one offers four points in the debate that will come in very handy when sharing with someone hung up on the questions related to the age of the earth and naturalist presuppositions.

While this book differs greatly from Tim Keller’s Reason for God in its approach, it does serve similar purposes but with more of the meta-narrative of Scripture in mind (hence the subtitle). This makes it more readable and useful to the average individual.

David J. Jackman, former president of Proclamation Trust, London, England, offered this endorsement:

This may well prove to be one of the finest and most influential books D. A. Carson has written. A comprehensive apologia for the Christian faith, it is rooted in engaging exposition of major biblical texts, tracing the chronological story of God’s gospel grace with rich theological insight. Skillfully related to the objections and issues raised by twenty-first-century culture, it will inspire and equip any Christian who desires to communicate Christ more effectively and can confidently be given to any inquirer seeking to discover the heart of biblical faith. It is the best book of its kind I have read in many years.

I managed to pick up twenty copies for our resource table for the incredibly low cost of $6. They will be available at church starting tomorrow. I’m thinking about reading this through with Nancy as a family devotions book to help equip us both better for mission.

Get your copy and read along with us!

Ligonier National Conference Begins Today!

Tough Questions Christians Face.

That’s the theme for this year’s Ligonier National Conference beginning today here in Orlando and running through Saturday morning.

Here is the promo paragraph from the Ligonier website for the conference:

Christ has redeemed us to be a light that directs others to Him. Fulfilling this call requires us to be able to deal with the most difficult questions asked about the Christian faith. If we are unprepared for the darkness around us, it will be harder to counter it with the truth of God’s Word. Join us as we look at some of the toughest questions Christians face. Our goal is to equip you to answer questions that all Christians and non-Christians find perplexing.

Did you know that Ligonier is live streaming video of every session on line?

You can view any talk you wish by clicking on here.

Tough Questions Christians Face

That’s the title of this year’s Ligonier Ministries National Conference, June 17-19, at the Orlando World Center Marriott Resort and Convention Center in Orlando.

Below is the promo video from their website.

Their aim in this conference is to help us learn to apply eternal truth to difficult challenges. This from their website:

Christ has redeemed us to be a light that directs others to Him. Fulfilling this call requires us to be able to deal with the most difficult questions asked about the Christian faith. If we are unprepared for the darkness around us, it will be harder to counter it with the truth of God’s Word. Join us as we look at some of the toughest questions Christians face. Our goal is to equip you to answer questions that all Christians and non-Christians find perplexing.

Early bird registration for $129 CLOSES this Friday, April 2. After that it jumps to $149.

Register for the conference here.

I urge you strongly to consider taking advantage of this resource that inhabits our own backyard here in Orlando. It hardly gets more convenient than this. You won’t regret the investment.