Book Review: Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Second Edition) by Douglas Groothuis

A Look at God’s Existence: Evidence We Want vs Evidence We Should Expect

Discipleship of the mind

Our thought life is critical to our discipleship. Here we discuss some of the issues about what the Bible says about thinking and the importance of renewing our minds.

40 Questions About the Historical Jesus – book


40 Questions About the Historical Jesus (40 Questions Series) by C. Marvin Pate,

2015, 395pp.

Over the last twenty years I have read a slew of books on The Historical Jesus. I was already familiar with Pate’s book Communities of the Last Days: The Dead Sea Scrolls, the New Testament & the Story of Israel. It has been a nice addition to my collection of books on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Anyways, given that the publisher has provided a series with 40 questions about a specific topic, Pate covers plenty of ground with his book 40 Questions About the Historical Jesus. Part One is a section on Background Questions about the “Historical” Jesus. For over 100 years, there has been a quest to identify the historical Jesus and differentiate between the Jesus of history and the Jesus of faith

The First Quest Period (1778-1906) operated on the assumption that the historical Jesus is not one and the same with the portrait found in the four Gospels. This was first championed by H. Samuel Reimarus in his article, written anonymously, “On the Aim of Jesus and His Disciples.” For Reimarus, the real Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher whose expectation of the soon arrival of the kingdom of God met with stunning disappointment. Christianity would have died were it not for Jesus’ disciples, who falsely claimed that Jesus arose and preached his future return and establishment of the kingdom of God. Reimarus’ study initiated the first quest for the historical Jesus, a search that spawned the writings of hundreds of books in an attempt to recover the sayings and miracles of the authentic Jesus. A traditional response consisted of conservative accounts of the life of Jesus such as J. J. Hess’ three volumes on The History of the Three Last Years of the Life of Jesus (1768–72). However, this quest also was marked by some who saw the life of Jesus from a liberal, or anti-supernatural, perspective. This was espoused  by Friedrich Schleiermacher, David Friedrich Strauss,  and J. E. Renan,  to name a few. -pg. 40-41.

Also, during the 1920s, Rudolf Bultmann’s form-critical program attempted to fill the void created by the demise of the first quest for the historical Jesus. Form criticism was pioneered by F. L. Schmidt, Martin Dibelius, and Rudolph Bultmann. Schmidt’s The Framework of the Historical Jesus (1919) claimed that the framework of the gospel stories was created by the evangelists for their own purposes and was historically invalid. Martin Dibelius’ From Tradition to Gospel (1934)- pg. 43.

In what is called “The Second Quest Period” (1953-Late 1960’s), It is generally agreed that Ernst Käsemann’s celebrated paper delivered at a Marburg reunion of Bultmann’s former students in 1953, “The Problem of the Historical Jesus,” initiated the second, or new, quest for the historical Jesus. In that paper, Käsemann challenged Bultmann’s radical divide between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith, arguing that the early church held the two together—the exalted and humiliated Lord. To do otherwise was to invite the label of Docetism (the heresy that said that Jesus was divine but not human)- pg. 43.

In  the “Third Quest Period”  (1970 and on), biblical scholars have embarked on what  has been characterized as “the Jewish reclamation of Jesus.” Rather than saying Jesus broke away from Judaism and started Christianity, Jewish scholars studying the New Testament have sought to re-incorporate Jesus within the fold of Judaism. In this study, scholars have placed a great deal of emphasis on the social world of first-century Palestine. The scholars of the Third Quest have rejected the idea that the Jesus of the New Testament was influenced by Hellenic Savior Cults. Since Ben F. Meyer’s insightful study, The Aims of Jesus (1979), a third type of study of the historical Jesus has emerged, that of rooting Jesus in the Jewish culture of his day. Meyer has been followed by both Christian scholars, e.g., E. P. Sanders (Jesus and Judaism, 1985),9 G. Theissen (The Shadow of the Galilean, 1983), James Charlesworth (Jesus Within Judaism, 1988),  and especially N. T. Wright (Jesus and the People of God, 1992 and Jesus and the Victory of God, 1996),  and John P. Meier (A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus; Mentor, Message and Miracles; Companions and Competitor), as well as Jewish scholars like Geza Vermes, whose Jesus the Jew (1973) and Jesus and the World.-pg. 50.

The Jewish reclamation of Jesus is also a response to The Jesus Seminar. Among the seventy scholars and laypersons that have comprised the Seminar (some are deceased now),  are Robert W. Funk  (co-chair), John Dominic Crossan (co-chair), and Marcus Borg (Oregon State   University). For most of those in the Seminar, there is a dichotomy between the “Jesus of history” and the “Christ of faith.” The “Christ of faith” is seen as a figure of the early church who was elevated to a divine status by the use of early Christian creeds and through the mythological embellishment accounts of the Gospels that were written later.

Pate also mentions that there have been been different views on Jesus. Some have viewed him as an apocalyptic preacher, Gnostic teacher, or Cynic sage. Pate thinks the evidence demonstrates that Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher. However, Jesus is the Messiah who announced the dawning of the kingdom of God in his life and ministry—a kingdom that will be fully unveiled at his parousia- pg. 66-67.

Pate’s next section is about the sources we have for Jesus. He discusses the oral tradition (my favorite chapter), the Old Testament expectations for a coming Messiah, the canonical Gospels, sources outside the New Testament, the Apocrypha and Gnostic Gospels, archaeology, and what I can tell us about Jesus,  Paul as a source for Jesus, etc. I should note that in the chapter on oral tradition, Pate mentions the work of Richard Bauckham and others who have shown the failings of the form criticism model espoused by Rudolph Bultmann and others.  He notes that “the Jesus of history and Christ of faith—are one and the same; this owing to the reliability of the oral tradition that informs our canonical text.”- pg. 111.

The remaining sections/chapters are about the historical life of Jesus. The reader gets to learn about the birth of Jesus, the family of Jesus, the miracles of Jesus, the actual teachings of Jesus, his temptations, transfiguration, his cleansing of the Temple, death, and resurrection, ascension, His message about his return, etc. Pate also gives the reader a snapshot of the Four Gospels by discussing the “main message” of each one.

A book on 40 questions means each chapter is short. But despite the length of the chapters, I think Pate gives the reader some fine starting points to chew on. There are also reflection questions at the end of each chapter. In the end, I would call this book a “comprehensive” treatment on the topic. While this is an excellent starting point for anyone new to the topic, it is also a wonderful resource for those who are looking to add to their collection on the topic.

Reviewing the Resurrection Creed in 1 Cor 15:3-8

by chab123

As historians evaluate the sources available for the resurrection of Jesus, a critical question is the dating of the sources. In relation to early testimony, historian David Hacket Fisher says, “An historian must not merely provide good relevant evidence but the best relevant evidence. And the best relevant evidence, all things being equal, is evidence which is most nearly immediate to the event itself.” (1) One key in examining the early sources for the life of Christ is to take into account the Jewish culture in which they were birthed. As Paul Barnett notes, “The milieu of early Christianity in which Paul’s letters and the Gospels were written was ‘rabbinic.’” (2)

Given the emphasis on education in the synagogue, the home, and the elementary school, it is not surprising that it was possible for the Jewish people to recount large quantities of material that was even far greater than the Gospels themselves.

Jesus was a called a “Rabbi” (Matt. 8:19; 9:11; 12:38; Mk. 4:38; 5:35; 9:17; 10:17, 20; 12:14, 19, 32; Lk. 19:39; Jn. 1:38; 3:2), which means “master” or “teacher.” There are several terms that can be seen that as part of the rabbinic terminology of that day. His disciples had “come” to him, “followed after” him, “learned from” him, “taken his yoke upon” them (Mt. 11:28-30; Mk 1). (3)

Therefore, it appears that the Gospel was first spread in the form of oral creeds and hymns (Luke 24:34; Acts 2:22-24, 30-32; 3:13-15; 4:10-12; 5:29-32; 10:39-41; 13:37-39; Rom. 1:3-4; 4:25; 10:9; 1 Cor. 11:23ff.;15:3-8; Phil. 26-11; 1 Tim.2:6; 3:16; 6:13; 2 Tim. 2:8;1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 4:2).

There was tremendous care in ‘delivering’ the traditions that had been received. Jesus’ use of parallelism, rhythm and rhyme, alliterations, and assonance enabled Jesus’ words not only ‘memorizable’ but easy to preserve. (4) Even Paul, a very competent rabbi was trained at the rabbinic academy called the House of Hillel by ‘Gamaliel,’ a key rabbinic leader and member of the Sanhedrin. It can be observed that the New Testament authors employ oral tradition terminology such as “delivering,” “receiving,” “passing on” “learning,” “guarding,” the traditional teaching. Just look at the following passages:

Romans 16: 17: “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.”

1 Corinthians 11:23: “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread.”

Philippians 4:9: “The things you have learned and received and heardand seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

2 Thessalonians 2:15: “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.”

1 Corinthians 15: 3-7: The Earliest Account

Paul applies this terminology in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-7 which is one of the earliest records for the historical content of the Gospel – the death and resurrection of Jesus. The late Orthodox Jewish scholar Pinchas Lapide was so impressed by the creed of 1 Cor. 15, that he concluded that this “formula of faith may be considered as a statement of eyewitnesses.” (5)

Paul’s usage of the rabbinic terminology “passed on” and “received” is seen in the creed of 1 Cor. 15:3-8:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

Rainer Riesner says the following about the creed:To the troubled church of Corinth, Paul, around 54 CE, wrote: I would remind you, brothers [including sisters], of the gospel [euangelion] that I proclaimed to you, which you received [parelabete], in which you also stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold to the wording [tini logō] in which I proclaimed it to you. . . . For I handed down [paredōka] to you under the first things what also I have received [parelabon]. (1 Cor. 15:1–3) Then the apostle cites a series of statements, a technique he knew from his rabbinical training, indicating certain traditions about Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection appearances (1 Cor. 15:3–7). There are some important things to be noted. Paul could call a summary of the last part of Jesus’s life euangelion. The apostle reminds the Corinthians that at the foundation of the community (around 50 CE), he taught them some Jesus traditions as part of “the first things.” This is confirmed by 1 Corinthians 11:23–24: “I received [parelabon] from the Lord what I also handed down [paredōka] to you”; then Paul cites the eucharistic words of Jesus in a form independent from, but very near to, the Lukan version (Luke 22:19–20). The formulation “from the Lord” (apo tou kyriou) points back to Jesus as the originator of the tradition (1 Cor. 11:23). Paul is silent concerning those functioning as intermediaries from whom he received the eucharistic words; but 1 Corinthians 15:5–7 shows that the Jesus tradition was connected with known persons such as Peter, James, and the Twelve. Obviously it was not an anonymous tradition. The nearest philological parallel to the Greek words paralambanō (to receive) and paradidōmi (to hand down) are the Hebrew technical terms qibbel and masar, denoting a cultivated oral tradition (m. Abot 1:1). This is in agreement with Paul’s insistence on the “wording” (1 Cor. 15:2) of the catechetical formula in 1 Corinthians 15:3–5. In addition, the strong verbal agreements between the Pauline and the Lukan forms of the eucharistic words point to a cultivated tradition. (6)

There is an interesting parallel to Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 15:3-8 in the works of Josephus. Josephus says the following about the Pharisees.

“I want to explain here that the Pharisees passed on to the people certain ordinances from a succession of fathers, which are not written down in the law of Moses. For this reason the party of the Sadducees dismisses these ordinances, averaging that one need only recognize the written ordinances, whereas those from the tradition of the fathers need not be observed.” (7)

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If it is so obvious that Jesus is the Messiah, why didn’t the disciples understand it?


Over the years, I have been asked if the messianic prophecies are so clear about the coming of Jesus, why didn’t the disciples understand His mission? This question can be dealt with in a number of ways.

First, we must understand the different messianic expectations at the time of Jesus. As I have  said before, there wasn’t one dominant messianic expectation at the time of Jesus

Secondly, we need to understand the various ways the New Testament authors interpret the Jewish Scriptures. 

Third, we need to possibly consider the words of Michael Heiser here. He says:

“Have you ever wondered how it was that the disciples never seemed to get the things that Jesus told them about himself? Think about it. When Jesus told them that it was time for him to go to Jerusalem and die, it angered and scared them (Matt. 17:22-23; Mark 9:30-32). No one replied, “That’s right—I read that in the Scriptures.” Peter even rebuked Jesus for saying such a thing (Matt. 16:21-23). The truth is that the disciples had little sense of what was going on. Even after the resurrection their minds had to be supernaturally enabled to get the message (Luke 24:44-45). We shouldn’t be too hard on the disciples. They weren’t dumb. Their ignorance was the result of God’s deliberate plan to conceal messianic prophecy. Paul talked about the need for that when writing to the Corinthians: But we speak the hidden wisdom of God in a mystery, which God predestined before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew. For if they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Cor. 2:7-8) Had Satan and the other powers of darkness known that instigating people to kill the messiah was precisely what God had designed to accomplish their own doom, they never would have done it. The gospels are clear that Satan and demons knew the prophesied son of David had come (Matt. 8:28-29; Luke 4:31-35). The Old Testament was clear that would happen at some point. But what it concealed was the plan of redemption.

Let’s take Isaiah 53 as an example. It’s clear that God’s servant would suffer for sins—but the Hebrew word translated “messiah” (mashiach) never occurs in the passage. It occurs only once in all of Isaiah—and then it is used of Cyrus, a pagan king. The word never occurs in Jeremiah or Ezekiel, and is only found once in the Minor Prophets (Hab. 3:13) where it speaks of the nation. The occurrences in the Psalms refer to Israel’s king. Only a handful of them are quoted by New Testament authors of the messianic king—but their application only became clear after the fact of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Even the label “son of God” isn’t helpful since Israel is called God’s son in Exod. 4:22-23, and kings like David got that title, too. As shocking as it sounds, there isn’t a single verse in the Old Testament that refers to a suffering messiah (mashiach) who would be God incarnate, die, and rise again. That’s deliberate. What we do get in the Old Testament are all the pieces of that profile scattered in dozens, even hundreds of places. The portrait could only be discerned after the fact. The plan of salvation was a cosmic chess game that had to be won. The rest of prophecy figures to work out the same way—fulfilments hidden in plain sight.” – Michael Heiser, The 60 Second Scholar: 100 Insights That Illumine the Bible

Feel free to check out our post called Are There Over 300 Messianic Prophecies?

Also, see Heiser’s clip here: How Biblical Prophecy is Unclear and Why- Michael S. Heiser

A Closer Look at the “Son of Man” Saying of Jesus

“Son of man” (Greek hious tou anthrōpou), appears eighty-five times in the New Testament, eighty-one of those on the lips of Jesus, is an idiom—“a group of words in a fixed order that have a particular meaning that is different from the meanings of each word on its own.” (1)

The expression is employed to Jesus’ earthly ministry (Mk. 2:10,28; 10:45; Matt. 13:37). Second, the expression  was used to describe the suffering,  death and resurrection of Jesus (Mk. 8:31;9:31;10:33). Thirdly, the Son of Man has a future function as an eschatological judge (Matt. 25:31-36; Mark 14:60-65).  Jesus spoke of this function in the following texts:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations , and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father , inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels….’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life (Matt. 25: 31-36).

You, who have persevered with me in my tribulations, when the Son of Man  sits upon his glorious throne will also sit upon thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (cf. Matt. 19: 28; Luke 22: 28-30).

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This is not love

2 John

This letter is from John, the elder.
I am writing to the chosen lady and to her children, whom I love in the truth – as does everyone else who knows the truth – because the truth lives in us and will be with us forever.
Grace, mercy, and peace, which come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ – the Son of the Father – will continue to be with us who live in truth and love.
How happy I was to meet some of your children and find them living according to the truth, just as the Father commanded.
I am writing to remind you, dear friends, that we should love one another. This is not a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning. Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.
I say this because many deceivers have gone out into the world. They deny that Jesus Christ came in a real body. Such a person is a deceiver and an antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked so hard to achieve. Be diligent so that you receive your full reward. Anyone who wanders away from this teaching has no relationship with God. But anyone who remains in the teaching of Christ has a relationship with both the Father and the Son.
If anyone comes to your meeting and does not teach the truth about Christ, don’t invite that person into your home or give any kind of encouragement. Anyone who encourages such people becomes a partner in their evil work.
I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to do it with paper and ink. For I hope to visit you soon and talk with you face to face. Then our joy will be complete.
Greetings from the children of your sister, chosen by God.

3 John

This letter is from John, the elder.
I am writing to Gaius, my dear friend, whom I love in the truth.
Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit. Some of the traveling teachers recently returned and made me very happy by telling me about your faithfulness and that you are living according to the truth. I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.
Dear friend, you are being faithful to God when you care for the traveling teachers who pass through, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church here of your loving friendship. Please continue providing for such teachers in a manner that pleases God. For they are traveling for the Lord, and they accept nothing from people who are not believers. So we ourselves should support them so that we can be their partners as they teach the truth.
I wrote to the church about this, but Diotrephes, who loves to be the leader, refuses to have anything to do with us. When I come, I will report some of the things he is doing and the evil accusations he is making against us. Not only does he refuse to welcome the traveling teachers, he also tells others not to help them. And when they do help, he puts them out of the church.
Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God’s children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God.
Everyone speaks highly of Demetrius, as does the truth itself. We ourselves can say the same for him, and you know we speak the truth.
I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to write it with pen and ink. For I hope to see you soon, and then we will talk face to face.
Peace be with you.
Your friends here send you their greetings. Please give my personal greetings to each of our friends there.


This letter is from Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.
I am writing to all who have been called by God the Father, who loves you and keeps you safe in the care of Jesus Christ.
May God give you more and more mercy, peace, and love.
Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people. I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
So I want to remind you, though you already know these things, that Jesus first rescued the nation of Israel from Egypt, but later he destroyed those who did not remain faithful. And I remind you of the angels who did not stay within the limits of authority God gave them but left the place where they belonged. God has kept them securely chained in prisons of darkness, waiting for the great day of judgment. And don’t forget Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring towns, which were filled with immorality and every kind of sexual perversion. Those cities were destroyed by fire and serve as a warning of the eternal fire of God’s judgment.
In the same way, these people—who claim authority from their dreams—live immoral lives, defy authority, and scoff at supernatural beings. But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels, did not dare accuse the devil of blasphemy, but simply said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (This took place when Michael was arguing with the devil about Moses’ body.) But these people scoff at things they do not understand. Like unthinking animals, they do whatever their instincts tell them, and so they bring about their own destruction. What sorrow awaits them! For they follow in the footsteps of Cain, who killed his brother. Like Balaam, they deceive people for money. And like Korah, they perish in their rebellion.
When these people eat with you in your fellowship meals commemorating the Lord’s love, they are like dangerous reefs that can shipwreck you. They are like shameless shepherds who care only for themselves. They are like clouds blowing over the land without giving any rain. They are like trees in autumn that are doubly dead, for they bear no fruit and have been pulled up by the roots. They are like wild waves of the sea, churning up the foam of their shameful deeds. They are like wandering stars, doomed forever to blackest darkness.
Enoch, who lived in the seventh generation after Adam, prophesied about these people. He said, “Listen! The Lord is coming with countless thousands of his holy ones to execute judgment on the people of the world. He will convict every person of all the ungodly things they have done and for all the insults that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
These people are grumblers and complainers, living only to satisfy their desires. They brag loudly about themselves, and they flatter others to get what they want.
But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ predicted. They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them. But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.
And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering.
Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.
Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.

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Little Drummer Boy

by The River Walk

The First Christmas Day on a hill near Bethlehem

I was asleep when it started. This is only my second year of being old enough to join the men when we move the sheep further out of town during the colder months. For about eight months of the year, it is really hot and dry. Those months, we need to have easy access to the well in Bethlehem, at least for part of the day. Once it starts getting wet and colder, we can range further away from town. In those months, there are more seasonal springs and streams for the sheep. Until last year, when the men went further out, I stayed at home with my mom, aunts, and grandpa Phineas.

This year, I am old enough to go out with them, but I can’t seem to stay awake the whole night like they do. My dad, Melki, and my uncles seem to only need one or two hours of sleep each night. So, when the first angel showed up, I was lost in the world of dreams. The older men were all still up talking religion and politics deep into the night. Wherever their conversation took them, it must have come to a sudden stop when that angel appeared. I mean, it isn’t every day when one of heaven’s warriors shows up on the scene and says he has an announcement just for us. Maybe the kings and the rabbis get treatment like that. OK, probably not this current king. But who ever heard of a bunch of shepherds getting such a visit?

When the rest of the angels showed up, I wasn’t sleeping no more. I went straight from laying on my back to jumping to my feet, then falling on my face quicker than your heart can beat twice. Who can sleep when a hundred billion angels light up the sky and shout out their celebration like an eruption of thunder? The whole earth shook as they shouted out together: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, and goodwill for all men.” I can’t describe what those angels looked like. I only saw them for the briefest of moments before I had fallen to my face in fear and awe. I used my blanket as my tallit, my prayer shawl, and I held my eyes shut tight with my forehead against the ground. Even still, there was a radiance everywhere as if I were facing the noonday sun. And the sound… imagine the man with the deepest and richest voice you have ever heard crying out at the top of his voice in excitement. Now imagine duplicating that shout more times than there are numbers to count. Each one of those voices is shouting out the exact same thing in perfect unison. I will never again use the word awesome for anything else. People use the word awesome for everything. But this was really, really awesome. Nothing can come close to the holy terror I felt at that moment.

Then, just as suddenly as the angels had appeared, they were gone. Normally there is a sound to the night. A hillside might seem peaceful, but with a dozen or so men and a few hundred sheep, it isn’t silent. There is often rain pattering or wind blowing. The sheep are never all asleep at once, and if any of the alpha rams are moving about, you can hear their ringing bells. There are always two or three men awake at every watch of the night. If I were to wake up, I can for certain hear their quiet conversation. It is peaceful, but never is it truly silent. In those few seconds that seemed to stretch into eternity after those angels left, it was truly, fully silent. Not an animal moved, and even the wind was still. The only thing I could hear was my own breath and the speedy thumping of my racing heart. The time seemed much longer, but it was probably only a minute or less before I heard the rustling of the first shepherd getting up off his knees and face. Then I could hear another doing the same. Finally, I dared to peek my own head out of the blanket I was hiding under. Just like that, the silence ended as everybody started talking at once. Everybody was for going down into town at once to see this baby the angels were celebrating. Leaving everything behind, we were all halfway down the hill before we realized all the sheep were faithfully following behind us. Some cruel soul said we should assign a guard to stay with the sheep. Of course, Daniel and I got stuck with the job. Daniel is two and a half years older than I am. There is no one else even close to being as young. Of course, not one of the adults was willing to wait.


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“If the Gospel is True, Why Don’t We See More Transformation in the Lives of Christians?”

by chab123

Do you ever ask yourself the following questions: “If the Gospel is true and I have come into a relationship with God, why do I still struggle with the same sins?” or, “Why do I struggle with the same attitudes and addictions?” I have asked myself this question and many people have asked me about it as well.


In all the evangelism that I have done, I have noticed that I come across plenty of people who profess to be Christians but are not going forward in their faith. If I meet an individual who says they are a professed Believer, I always ask them where they are in the discipleship process. Many times when I ask, “Are you becoming a disciple?” I usually get the response, “What’s a disciple?”

Many are oblivious to the importance of discipleship. Therefore, I find myself exhorting hundreds of people to get rooted in congregational/community life—get back to the basics (e.g., read the Bible, prayer). I always give these individuals contact information of local churches that they can attend. It saddens me to see what is happening in the transition from the point when someone makes a professed/salvation decision for Jesus and the overall discipleship/commitment aspect to our faith.

The Hebrew word for disciple is “talmid.” A talmid is a student of one of the sages of Israel. A disciple is a learner, or pupil. When we decide to repent and turn to our Lord for the forgiveness of sins, we have to realize we are now on a new journey. The Gospel is a message for the here and now and not just the future. We have to learn how to live out our faith in the world around us. A disciple (in the New Testament sense) is someone who is striving (by God’s grace) to be consistent follower of Jesus. The goal of the Christian is to imitate our Master.

Discipleship is not getting any easier in the world we live in. In an overly sensate culture, people need to be constantly stimulated and have a hard time focusing on something such as discipleship. And in a world that wants instant results, self- sacrifice is a tough sell. Part of the problem is that churches preach a Gospel that promises that Jesus will fix all our problems.  Discipleship is a life-long process. Who are you discipling? And who is discipling you?

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