How Should We Engage in Spiritual Warfare? podcast

“An understanding of spiritual warfare helps us to be able to engage the culture because it keeps us focused on who the real enemy is.”

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Faith does not preclude intellect

~ Stephen Bedard

Our local newspaper is nice enough to publish a faith column by local clergy. I thought I would share one that I recently wrote for the newspaper. I think it is amazing that they will let me share in this way. 

Famous atheist Richard Dawkins once said: “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”

The meaning behind these words is clear. you can either be reasonable and rational or you can have faith. It cannot be both.

But Richard Dawkins is wrong.

This is not an attack on atheists. I am a former atheist, although my atheism manifested differently. I thought religious people were wrong but I never thought they were stupid or irrational.

Unfortunately, Dawkins’s criticisms of religion do have a kernel of truth. There are some, and here I can only speak of my own Christian tradition, who fear reason and education. I remember when I enrolled in seminary (schools that train students to be pastors), there were jokes that I was really going to cemetery. It was a place where faith goes to die.

However, both atheists like Dawkins and fearful Christians are wrong when they claim that faith is to be divorced from the mind. Christianity (as well as many other religions) have long traditions of an intellectual faith.

A large number of the most influential philosophers and scientists of the past had a strong faith. Some of the most prestigious universities in the world were started from a religious impulse.

For those who fear that intellectual life destroys faith, that fear is unfounded.

Our family is full of love, but that is not purely emotional experience. I observe the interactions that I have with my wife and children and I follow the evidence. We love each other.

The same is true of my relationship with God.

Reflections on the origin of the universe and life on Earth played a major role in my abandoning of atheism. In my mind, I was following the evidence, not choosing a world view in spite of the evidence. But that did not lead to a dry intellectualism.

I choose to love God with my mind and heart.

It is true that thinking and evaluating evidence can affect faith. As I have studied and reflected, my faith has changed significantly over the years. Although it was stressful at the time, it was a positive experience.

The turning point for me was coming to the conclusion that all truth is God’s truth. If something is true, it is part of the way God has created things and so it is good. There is no need to stubbornly hold onto old ideas if they are wrong.

St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033—1109) had as his motto: “faith seeking understanding.”

That saying rings true to me. Faith does not require that we understand everything before believing, but it should push us to understand more and more the object of our faith.

My word to critical atheists such as Dawkins is that people of faith do not have to be irrational or unreasonable. My word to fearful religious people is that people of faith do not have to be irrational or unreasonable.

All people, those of every or no religion, should follow the evidence where it leads and interpret it the best we can. I hope that we can all agree that the truth should be our ultimate goal.

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How Joy Is A Source of Strength

The joy of the Lord is a source of strength, but it’s so much more.

Joy is a Gift

If you are grieving or going through a difficult time right now, it’s hard to have joy, but the joy of the Lord is a great source of strength, but it’s also a gift from God. Human joy can’t take us very far. It disappears in the dark shadows of our trials and tribulations, but the joy which God gives is permanent and is as eternal as the life God has given us through Christ. Prior to Jesus going to the cross and returning to the Father, He told His disciples, “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24). Notice that they must have had some joy in order for it to be full, so even though the disciples were troubled about Jesus leaving them, He said, “you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22). The Lord has “spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). The psalmist understood that joy did not from a human source, but from God, writing, “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound”(Psalm 4:7). What God puts there, stays there, so first of all, joy is a gift from God.

Read more: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2019/06/05/how-joy-is-a-source-of-strength/

How To Develop Godly Patience

 

Sometimes, patience is the last thing you have in this fast-paced, frantic world, so here’s how you can remain patient when everyone else seems to be losing theirs.

What is Patience?

The dictionary defines patience as: the ability or capacity to remain patient; the state of endurance under difficult circumstances; and/or persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting upon it. That sounds a lot like Job. In the context of being persecuted for being Christ’s witness, Jesus said, “Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt 5:29). This doesn’t mean we don’t lock our doors at night or don’t take precautions, but we do not respond in kind. This was not talking about physical violence but about being insulted for His name’s sake. We are to turn the other cheek in the sense of not retaliating when we are insulted for our faith. That is the context of verses 38-42 because Jesus went on to say that “if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” Clearly this is a command to go the extra mile for someone and not give “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Matt 5:38). A person who is being persecuted for living a godly life shouldn’t be surprised by persecution (1 Pet 4:12-19; 1 John 3:13)…the surprise would be that a professing Christian is never persecuted for their faith.

Read more: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2019/05/20/how-to-develop-godly-patience/

7 Evidences We Might Be Stuck In The Christian Bubble

It’s a problem for many of us. In fact, I contend that for most of us, the longer we’re in church and the higher we go up the Christian ladder, the more likely it is that we’re stuck in the Christian bubble. Beginning with me, we need to recognize some of the signs that we’ve insulated ourselves from a world we’re called to reach:

  1. Most of our prayers are about Christians, not non-believers. For some of us, all of our prayers are focused on brothers and sisters in Christ. And, even as we pray for those believers, we focus more on their physical needs than their spiritual needs. I fear we simply don’t think much about others and their walk with God.
  2. We can’t name five non-believers with whom we have a genuine relationship. I don’t mean superficial friendships; rather, I’m talking about real relationships built on God’s love that compels us to tell others about Jesus. The number “5” is arbitrary, of course, but I trust you get my point.
  3. We try our best to avoid any interaction with the world. I realize that’s almost impossible to do, and I grant there are good reasons not to put ourselves under ungodly influences—but some of us work so hard to escape non-believers that we offer no threat to the Enemy.

Read more: http://chucklawless.com/2019/07/7-evidences-you-might-be-stuck-in-the-christian-bubble/

Dark Days of Depression

‘Some say that you’re a Christian, so you shouldn’t feel depressed. But I guess, they haven’t read the Psalms in depth’

Nizam Speaks

“The LORD heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds” (Psalm 147:3, NLT)

Nizam is a friend of mine. He has a firm and deep Christian faith, and is an inspirational spoken word artist.  I have shared one of his modern poetry performances before on here.

Nizam also suffers from depression.

This week is Mental Health Awareness week (see the UK’s Mind Charity). Suicide remains the leading cause of death in men under fifty.

Nizam has bravely decided to share a video which expresses how he felt in the middle of a significant period of clinical depression.

This video is raw. It is emotional. It will help you understand how depression feels.

It will also highlight some of the misconceptions many Christians have, and the way a depressed person can feel about well meaning but ultimately unhelpful comments.

Make no mistake, a Christian can get depressed.

Read more: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/adrianwarnock/2019/05/dark-days-of-depression/

“Honoring the Son”: An Entree Work

~ Larry Hurtado

As I’m often asked for a short introduction to the line that I take in discussing earliest Jesus-devotion (some finding the 600+ pp. Lord Jesus Christ a bit too much to take in), I think that now I would recommend my little volume that appeared last year:  Honoring the Son:  Jesus in Earliest Christian Devotional Practice (Lexham Press, 2018).

Here are the main points that I lay out in the small book:

  1. In the ancient Roman world, worship was the key expression of what we call “religion,” not doctrines or confessional formulas.
  2. The key distinguishing feature of Roman-era Judaism in the larger religious environment was its exclusivity of worship, and an accompanying refusal to worship any deities other than the God of Israel.
  3. This exclusivity extended also to a refusal to worship any of the adjutants of the biblical God, such as angels, messiahs, etc.
  4. In light of these things the emergent place of Jesus in earliest Christian worship and devotional practice along with God in a “dyadic” devotional pattern was highly noteworthy, even more remarkable than the familiar christological titles and confessional formulas.
  5. The place of Jesus in earliest Christian devotion can be described in specific actions that allow us to consider any putative parallels, and so to note and confirm any innovation in comparison with the wider Jewish context in which Jesus-devotion initially appeared.

I note that the book can be had in traditional soft-cover paper format and also in e-book form.