Thirst For God

More of us need to respond like Dan in his blog Apprentice2Jesus 

Just like a deer that craves streams of water,
my whole being craves you, God.
My whole being thirsts for God, for the living God.
When will I come and see God’s face?
(Psalm 42:1-2, CEB)

A.W. Tozer’s great book, The Pursuit of God, was one of the first Christian classics I was introduced to in college. The past few weeks I have been on a quest. I want my tastes changed for the Kingdom of God. I want to THIRST again.

The whole transaction of religious conversion has been made mechanical and spiritless. Faith may now be exercised without a jar to the moral life and without embarrassment to the Adamic ego. Christ may be ‘received’ without creating any special love for Him in the soul of the receiver. A man is ‘saved,’ but he is not hungry nor thirsty after God. In fact, he is specifically taught to be satisfied and is encouraged to be content with little.

I can understand being content with “little” in this world. This world just can’t satisfy. But to be content with “little” from God is just crazy. Yet, that has been my life. I need a new thirst.

Some of you have been anointed by the Holy One

I have to admit that sometimes one needs to re-read Alan Knox’s adaption of scripture to what we actually live and practice to get his pint. This one is no exception. Thinking through its implications and how we come together as a church family and community should give us at least a good “Hmmm!?”

But some of you have been anointed by the Holy One, and some of you all have knowledge. (1 John 2:20 re-mix)

A Review of Think Christianly

from the Apologetics Guy blog

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a book review and I wanted to quickly share a few thoughts about a great new book I was given on engaging our culture as a Christian ambassador. It’s calledThink Christianly: Looking at the Intersection of Faith and Culture by Jonathan Morrow.

The first thing I noticed was the Foreword, written by Darrel Bock–an author I recently discovered through my readings on the Historical Jesus. And he makes an important point with the very first sentence:

“Think Christiany is not about withdrawing into the Christian ghetto and escaping from the world around us; it’s about discipleship—becoming the very persons God has called us to be and engaging in the mission that he has called us to share with him.”

If we’re going to engage well, we’ve first got to get the culture and then we’ve got to get how to impact it for the cause of Christ. This book is a totally accessible primer in doing just that, moving our thinking from isolation to integration.

Think Christianly has Three Parts

The book includes articles and interviews with some of today’s leading apologists, including William Lane Craig, Craig Hazen, Scott Rae and others. It’s organized into three major parts:

Part One talks about how pop culture teaches people and shapes our worldviews. This section challenges us to engage rather than hide, to be Christ’s ambassadors wherever we are.

Part Two is called “preparing to engage,” including practical advice from Paul Copan, Scott Klusendorf, Sean McDowell and others.

Part Three is an excellent overview of key areas where Christians need to be trained for intellgent dialogue—including issues in science, sex and justice. Some of my favorite chapters include interviews with my former professors:

  • Truth, Tolerance and Relativism and an interview with Craig Hazen
  • Taking the Bible Seriously and an interview William Lane Craig
  • Bioethics in the Twenty-First Century and an interview Scott Rae

Think Christianly isn’t just a bunch of good ideas. It’s very practical. While I was reading this book, a Christian asked me about how to talk to her Muslim friend who rejects the Bible. I had just read Alan Shlemon’s advice and found it immediately sharable:

“My approach hinges on a little known fact. Though Muslims believe the Bible is corrupted, the Qur’an actually teaches that it is true and reliable (104).”

I really appreicate the Web sites, DVDs and books listed at the end of each section. I’ve discovered some good stuff in there I had never seen before.

Jonathan concludes with a section called “Imagine if.” Here, he communicates the vision for breaking down the stereotype of the church being intolerant, unintelligent and out of touch. What if the church became the place where people turned for real answers to life’s toughest questions? This book will inspire you to train our brothers and sisters to Think Christianly and equip them to engage the culture.

Live a normal Christian life?

by Francis Schaeffer

You ask if anyone with such a sick history as yourself can live a normal Christian life. One would have to say, “What is the normal Christian life?”

None of us are normal, even after we are Christians-if we mean by that being perfect.

What is possible, however, is for us to live in the fullness of life in the circle of who we are, constantly pressing on the border lines to try to take further steps. This is not done in our own strength, but looking to the Lord moment by moment as well as day by day.

Letters of Francis A. Schaeffer: Spiritual Reality in the Personal Christian Life

Why Apologetics Matters to Every Believer and Every Church

by Lenny Esposito

“Apologetics? What are you apologizing for?”
“Is that a class that husbands are supposed to take?”
“What is that?”These are questions I hear frequently whenever I mention the study of apologetics. It probably comes as no surprise the word “apologetics” is foreign to most people, even who are a part of the Christian church. Evangelicals, who define themselves by their passion to follow Jesus’ command to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations”(Matt. 28:17) will usually look quizzically at me whenever I begin discussing the need for apologetics, even though apologetics is an essential part of making disciples. Why would this be?[MP3 | RSS | iTunes]
One of the problems is simply that the church doesn’t talk a lot about it. Apologetics is generally understood to be a specialty discipline– specifically engaging in defending the faith against skeptics, alternate religions, cults, and contrary worldviews. As such, many pastors feel that it can only play a very limited role in ministering to the needs of their congregation. How does apologetics help the man trying to feed his family after losing his job or the newly widowed woman?I’ve said before that in many churches, a person telling his or her pastor of their desire to start an apologetics ministry results in an experience similar to a young man telling his Jewish mother he wants to be a proctologist. “Well, I glad you’re going to be a doctor,” she would say, “But why did you have to choose that!” Pastors are happy to have people desiring to get into ministry opportunities, but they simply aren’t sure where apologetics fits in their church. However, many times both church leadership and laity fail to understand the more holistic aspects of providing a strong apologetics ministry to the local congregation. In this article, I’d like to highlight two benefits of an apologetics ministry that applies directly to every member of the church, benefits that you may not have considered before.

A Biblical instruction to provide answers

Every apologist has his or her favorite passages in the Bible that command the believer to practice apologetics. Many point to 1 Peter 3:15 or 2 Corinthians 10:5-6, but a passage that I’ve found inspiring isProverbs 22:17-21. There, as Solomon is addressing his son he writes:

Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise,
And apply your mind to my knowledge;
For it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
That they may be ready on your lips.
So that your trust may be in the LORD,
I have taught you today, even you.
Have I not written to you excellent things
Of counsels and knowledge,
To make you know the certainty of the words of truth
That you may correctly answer him who sent you?

Just as Solomon was instructing his son, I believe our Father in Heaven is instructing us to apply our minds to His knowledge. He has written excellent things to us in His word, and we should be diligent to seek them out. Also, one of the outcomes of applying your mind to the wisdom and knowledge of God is found in verse 19: “so that your trust may be in the Lord.”

Apologetics guards believers against heresies

The word apologetics literally means providing reasons and evidence for the Christian faith. Part of this means defending the Christian faith from imposters or detractors, but it also means protecting those in the church from the wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. One can define apologetics as theology properly applied and there is no greater need to apply theology properly than with new believers. The Burned-Over district is a good example.

Historian John Martin notes that in what was then a formidable frontier, the area of upper western New York in the early 1820s was attracting people coming from the more established eastern seaboard cities. New immigrant populations also flooded the area seeking land and jobs. Many preachers would travel throughout the area holding tent revival meetings, the most prominent of which was Charles Finney. Finney called many to repentance, but as church congregations continued to grow and revivals spread, these were accompanied by the establishment of such unorthodox beliefs systems as the Mormons, the Spiritists, and the Millerites who spawned both the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Seventh Day Adventists. Martin writes, “The traditional theology of Christianity was not of great interest to these seekers for answers, and they were susceptible to explanations which moved beyond the traditional Biblical basis of the various Christian faiths.”[i] Without a proper grounding for what orthodox Christian beliefs were and why the church held those beliefs, aberrant beliefs were able to grow and flourish, leading to lost souls not only in that generation, but for generations to come.

Apologetics, though, encompasses the study of theology, especially as it relates to orthodoxy. If we are to defend our beliefs with reason and evidence, then it follows we need to know just what we believe and the reasons why we hold to those beliefs. Just as many of the modern cults we see today got their start from a lack of theological training, controversial teachings are even now creeping into the evangelical church. The Barna organization reports that although four out of five people classify themselves as Christian, “most people say Satan does not exist, that the Holy Spirit is merely a symbol, that eternal peace with God can be earned through good works, and that truth can only be understood through the lens of reason and experience.”[ii] Clearly, the church is being infected with faulty beliefs today, and apologetics is one discipline that will help stem that tide.

Apologetics protects the Christian in times of crisis

In verse 19 of Proverbs 22, Solomon says that one of the benefits of studying apologetics is that “your trust will be in the Lord.” Apologetics is for the edification of every believer, regardless of one’s education, and this is nowhere more apparent than when Christians faces crises. It’s easy to hold to your beliefs when times are good. But when the storms of life present themselves—the loss of a job, the death of a spouse, the diagnosis of cancer—doubts inevitably arise. In those moments when you are praying and praying and it feels like your prayers are doing nothing more than bouncing off the ceiling, it’s natural to question your faith. “Is this real?” “Does God exist?” ‘How do I really know any of this is true?” are common questions people ask when facing difficult trials. However, this is exactly the wrong time to ask such questions! A person in this state is understandably highly emotional; he isn’t thinking clearly, given that worry, fear, and many other facets are tampering with his reasoning skills. He is at a terrible disadvantage to try and reason properly, especially about the biggest questions of life! It’s no wonder that James Spiegel shows many atheists have had severe traumatic experiences in their pasts. [iii]

This is why apologetics can be ministerial to the Christian in times of trial. I know in my own life I’ve dealt with some very difficult situations, including my wife facing a life-threatening condition. At those times, when I was praying and wondering why God would allow such things, I could hear the question of “Is God real? Is He really listening to you or are you just believing all this because you want to believe it?” creeping into my head. But I immediately remembered my apologetics training and said to myself “I don’t have to wonder about that. I know God exists; I know that Jesus really rose from the dead. I’ve already worked through those issues and I’m convinced of them. I may not know why God is doing this in our lives, but I can’t doubt that God exists. That question has been answered.” Apologetics was able to keep my trust I the Lord, even during the hard times. It is one reason why everyone needs to have an answer for their hope: everyone will face trials.

In his commentary on Proverbs 22, Matthew Henry writes:

“The excellent things which God has written to us are not like the commands which the master gives his servant, which are all intended for the benefit of the master, but like those which the master gives his scholar, which are are intended for the benefit of the scholar. These things must be kept by us, for they are written to us”

We should strive to seek out these excellent things written for our learning and edification. Apologetics is a great way to do this. Although such study may seem difficult, it is necessary. Church leaders need to encourage apologetics to become more effective in their evangelism, but also to become more effective in their discipleship programs and more effective in their ministry to those in crisis. Believers should pursue a foundation in apologetics for personal edification, for assurance of belief, and to protect against the attacks of Satan through faulty doctrine or through doubt.

Lastly, everyone should be able to rightly handle the words of truth so that, as verse 21 states “you may correctly answer him who sent you”. This verse isn’t saying that we must answer the unbeliever, but “him who sent you.” If we as Christians receive our calling from God, then it is the Lord who sends us and to the Lord we are accountable. So will you be able to answer Him correctly?

[i] Martin, John H. “Saints, Sinners and Reformers: The Burned-Over District Re-Visited” The Crooked Lake Review Issue No. 137. 2005 Accessed online at 3/17/2012
[ii] “Barna Identifies Seven Paradoxes Regarding America’s Faith” The Barna Group, at 12/17/2002 Accessed 3/17/2012
[iii] See James S. Spiegel The Making of an Atheist:How Immorality Leads to Unbelief
(Chicago: Moody Pub. 2010) 64-67

I’m Done With Living Like a Christian

Here is a challenging post By Kurt Willems

Something happened last week.  I went on a retreat with an amazing spiritual director / teacher named Jan Johnson.  By the end of our time together I realized that I’m done with living like a Christian.

  • I’m done serving the poor.
  • I’m done going the extra mile.
  • I’m done being a husband who strives to love his wife as Christ loves the church.
  • I’m done visiting the sick.
  • I’m done opening up my life to Christian community.
  • I’m done loving my neighbor.
  • I’m done living with integrity.
  • I’m done loving my enemies.
  • I’m done giving finances to global causes.
  • I’m done opposing violence.
  • I’m done speaking out against hatred.
  • I’m done standing up for the marginalized.
  • I’m D-O-N-E done…

This past week made me realize that doing all these things won’t change the world.  That’s because the world can’t be changed unless God changes me.

For the past several years, ups and downs defined my spiritual life.  Moments in the journey were some of the most intimate encounters with Jesus that I’ve known. Real (nearly tangible) experiences, that can’t be explained by anything but the power of the Holy Spirit, took place. Other moments, when I showed love to a neighbor, prayed for an enemy, served the poor… these were times when Jesus was right there with me.

Then there were the times when I got stuck trying to live like Jesus.  In the Christian world we call these “good works” or “ethics.”  I made my aim “doing” rather than “being.” By “doing” I believed that my “being” would be consumed by an experience of the life of God.  Unfortunately, the God encounters often fade when all my time is spent “doing” or theorizing about such “doing.”

For me, it’s time to stop doing.  It’s time to simply be done.  Done “doing” becausethe Holy Spirit invites us to stop and to “be.”

  • To be the kind of person who serves the poor.
  • Be the kind of person who goes the extra mile.
  • Be the kind of person who is an awesome self-giving husband.
  • Be the kind of person who visits the sick.
  • Be the kind of person who opens my life up to Christian community.
  • Be the kind of person who loves my neighbor.
  • Be the kind of person who chooses integrity.
  • Be the kind of person who loves enemies.
  • Be the kind of person who gives generously to global causes.
  • Be the kind of person who responds to evil with creative nonviolence.
  • Be the kind of person who not only speaks out against hatred, but who suffers for the sake of the hated.
  • Be the kind of person who stands in the margins with those who’ve been placed there by society (and even the church).
  • I want to BE, and in the process, become a different kind of follower of Jesus.

Why the distinction?  It’s easy to follow the Sermon on the Mount and other ethical teachings of Jesus and to miss the Christ who taught such things.Dallas Willard puts it this way:

Jesus never expected us simply to turn the other cheek, go the second mile, bless those who persecute us, give unto them that ask, and so forth.  These responses, generally and rightly understood to be characteristic of Chrsitlikeness, were put forth by him as illustrative of what might be expected of a new kind of person – one who intelligently and steadfastly seeks, above all else, to live within the rule of God and be possessed by the kind of righteousness that God himself has, as Matthew 6:33 portrays.  Instead, Jesus did invite people to follow him into that sort of life from which behavior such as loving one’s enemies will seem like the only sensible and happy thing to do.  For a person living that life, the hard thing to do would be to hate the enemy, to turn the supplicant away, or to curse the curser…  True Christlikeness, true companionship with Christ, comes at the point where it is hard not to respond as he would.[1]

So, yes, I’m done with living like a Christian.  I’m trading that in for living in a deeper relationship with Christ.  I want to know Jesus.  I want to hear Jesus.  I want to be empowered by Jesus.  Not simply in theory as I do the good things that he calls us to do, but as the natural outflow of intimacy with God.  The former way “gets the job done.”  The latter way changes the world.

For me, this means a new-found intentionality of placing myself in a position to hear from the Spirit.  Spiritual practices like – solitude, Sabbath, lectio divina, silence, confession, prayer, and practicing the presence of God – these neglected areas of my life have led to a Christianity defined by “doing” rather than “being.”

My prayer for us is that our intimate relationships with Christ would make it impossible to not respond with the ethics marked out by the Kingdom of God.  Not out of effort to do good things, but out of our efforts to know Jesus Christ through an awareness of the presence of God’s Spirit.  When this becomes normative, we won’t be able to help it… we will just start looking like Jesus.

Apologetics – necessary for discipleship training?

In light of 1 Peter 3.15, and Jude 2 are we fooling ourselves when we say we are making disciples, but do not provide basic apologetic training?

The biblical evidence is clear: All Christians are to be trained in apologetics, which is an integral part of discipleship.

~ Apologetics for a New Generation, Sean McDowell, p.16

God Speaks Through Creation

Lee Strobel speaking on

God Speaks Through Creation

The mind is the soul’s primary vehicle for making contact with God

The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind…. Despite dynamic success at a popular level, modern American evangelicals have failed notably in sustaining serious intellectual life.

J. P. Moreland;Dallas Willard. Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (p. 41). Kindle Edition.

According to the Bible, developing a Christian mind is part of the very essence of discipleship unto the Lord Jesus.

J. P. Moreland;Dallas Willard. Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (p. 43). Kindle Edition.

Arguably, the most important text he ever penned about spiritual transformation is Romans 12:1-2. In this wise and tender admonition, the devotional master, Paul, puts his finger on the very essence of how we grow to become like Jesus: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,” he tells us, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

“Renewing” is anakainosis in the Greek, and its meaning is fairly straightforward: making something new. Later in this chapter we will appreciate how appropriate this term is for describing what happens to the mind when it incorporates new thoughts and beliefs. “Mind” is noun and means “the intellect, reason, or the faculty of understanding.”

We are so familiar with this verse that some of its oddness or peculiarity is lost on us. But to see how truly peculiar this teaching is, think of what Paul could have said but did not. He could have said, “Be transformed by developing close feelings toward God,” or “by exercising your will in obeying biblical commands,” or “by intensifying your desire for the right things,” or “by fellowship and worship,” and so on. Obviously, all are important parts of the Christian life. Yet Paul chose to mention none of them in his most important precis of the spiritual life. Why

J. P. Moreland;Dallas Willard. Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (p. 65). Kindle Edition.

According to Paul, the key to change is the formation of a new perspective, the development of fresh insights about our lives and the world around us, the gathering of the knowledge and skill required to know what to do and how to do it. And this is where the mind comes in. Truth,

J. P. Moreland;Dallas Willard. Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (p. 66). Kindle Edition.

The mind is the soul’s primary vehicle for making contact with God, and it plays a fundamental role in the process of human maturation and change, including spiritual transformation. In thought, the mind’s structure conforms to the order of the object of thought. Since this is so, and since truth dwells in the mind, truth itself is powerful and rationality is valuable as a means of obtaining truth and avoiding error. Therefore, God desires a life of intellectual growth and study for His children.

J. P. Moreland;Dallas Willard. Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (p. 67). Kindle Edition.

The purpose of life is to bring honor to God, to know, love, and obey Him

For Christians, the intellectual life of cultivating the mind and valuing rationality makes sense and receives its proper motivation and balance when seen as part of an overall view of what life is all about.

The purpose of life is to bring honor to God, to know, love, and obey Him, to become like Him, and to live for His purposes in this world as I prepare to live in the next one. A life that is intentionally lived for this purpose will be characterized by certain attitudes and actions.

For one thing, if I am to progress in this sort of life, I must regularly live for a larger whole. I must live for the kingdom of God and be involved aggressively in the war between that kingdom and the kingdom of darkness.

Further, while self-interest and personal joy are important components of Christian motivation, they are not adequate in and of themselves to carry the weight of a skillful Christian life. I must also seek to live for others. Among other things, this means that I need to discover my vocation, my overall calling in life, composed of my talents, spiritual gifts, historical circumstances, and so forth. And I should passionately seek to occupy my vocational place for the good of believers and unbelievers alike. This would be my understanding of the good life.

Make no mistake about it. Such a life is not easy. It involves discipline, hard work, suffering, patience, and endurance in forming habits conducive to and characteristic of this kind of life. It requires taking a long-haul view of life and learning to defer gratification if required of me in my sojourn. And I must develop intellectual and moral virtues and habits before I can become fully skilled at living this way.

Unfortunately, the intellectual life, the life of intentional, habitual cultivation of my mind under Christ’s lordship, can be valued and entered into only as a part of the overall approach to life just described, and this approach runs contrary to the conditions that define our modem lifestyles. Many people today, including many Christians, simply do not read or think deeply at all. And when believers do read, they tend to browse self-help books or other literature that is not intellectually engaging. I once wrote a piece for what is most likely the top Christian periodical of the last thirty years, and I was warned to keep my prose to about an eighth-grade level.

J. P. Moreland;Dallas Willard. Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (pp. 86-87). Kindle Edition.