Archive for the ‘Jesus’ category

Thoughts on Jesus and Miracles

November 20, 2017

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Moderns have issues with miracles, but ancients did not. Many ancient histories reference miracles, and we do not discount them as histories for that fact. The miraculous element of the accounts of Jesus, however, are a basis on which many contemporary thinkers reject the claims of Jesus and claims about Jesus a priori.

Miracles are consistent with and flow from the nature and character of who Jesus claimed to be and who his followers claimed he was. If Jesus was God in the flesh, miracles are to be expected. The apostle John says that Jesus was the Word; he was with God in the beginning; He was God; and all things that were made were made through Jesus, the Word. (John 1:1-3) If the universe was made by and through Jesus, miracles are no big deal, and the resurrection is more than just possible.

This was thrust of the Gospels. The authority of Jesus resonated in his message and was attested by the miracles. Many moderns reject the message largely on the basis of the miracle claims because miracles are not allowed in a naturalistic worldview that dominates academia today. We can’t accurately judge what Jesus said, though, without being willing to suspend that disbelief, even if only to reach some understanding.

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Prayer That Is Not Over Matched by Every Buzzing Fly

November 14, 2017

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John Newton, who wrote Amazing Grace, said this about prayer in a letter to a friend:

Our ability to pray is so weak that, if we are sitting in a room trying to pray, we are over matched by the buzzing of a fly.

Tim Keller says that prayer is hard for us for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that we have “distance” from God is the due to the fact that we live in a physical world, while God does not. We are absorbed by the physicality of the world in such a way that is hard for us to contact to a non-physical God. What, then, is prayer that we can engage in it, engage God and overcome the obstacles that get in the way?

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Accepting God’s Invitation: The Narrow Door

November 13, 2017

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In previous articles I have explored the idea that God Does Not Send People to Hell and that God’s Invitation is made to everyone to open the door at which He knocks. Not everyone, however, will enter in. God gives us a real choice, and our fate rests on that choice.

God desires that we all enter in, but whether we do enter in is up to us. We can chose to reject the invitation, or simply fail to respond, and God will let us go. That is because God is love, and love does not coerce.

God’s invitation is compared to the parable told by Jesus of the great banquet. In that parable, a man sent out invitations, but the people he invited were too busy to come. So he sent invitations out to the people in the streets and alleys and country roads and filled up the banquet table with all who were willing to come.

This may seem on the surface like universalism, but it isn’t. Anyone familiar with the Bible knows that there is more to it than that. The door to which we are invited to enter in is a narrow one.

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The Significance of the Resurrection

October 24, 2017

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I have written about the central importance of the resurrection of Jesus many times, but I come back to it again. Nothing could be more important. Of this Paul, was crystal clear in his writing.

If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain;

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins;

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are evolved people most to be pitied;

If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die”;

What you sow does not come to life until you die.

These are all statements made by Paul in his first letter to the people in Corinth.[1] These statements underscore and highlight the importance of the resurrection in Christian thought.

Jesus is the center of the Christian faith, and the gospel is at the center of Christianity and the resurrection is at the center of the Gospel. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, everything falls apart. The claims of Christianity are bankrupt because they rise or fall on this one point.

If Jesus was raised from the dead, Jesus is who he said he was and no other event in human history is more significant; no  religion or philosophy lays a claim to hope in the present and the future like words of Jesus. Jesus truly is the “light of men”[2] and the “bread of life”[3].

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Faith Requires a Personal Encounter

October 16, 2017

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This is a prologue to a previously published piece, Room for Doubters & Skeptics. In that original piece, I explored the fact that Jesus invited, embraced and nurtured doubters and skeptics, even in his inner circle of followers. We see this in the accounts of Nathanael (also known as Bartholomew) and Thomas (who we call “Doubting Thomas).

We meet Nathanael early on when Philip introduces him to Jesus. Nathanael was skeptical. Thomas we get to know in more detail in the middle of his time with Jesus and at the end. Even at the end of his time with Jesus, Thomas still doubted.

The stories of these two men leave us with a few important takeaways. First, honest doubt was no issue for Jesus, and should be no issue for us. This was the point of the initial piece that to which I linked above. In this piece we will see the importance of asking the critical questions and being genuinely interested in the answers. There are answers, but, more importantly, the answers lie in more than bare facts and reason; genuine faith requires a personal encounter.

Whether God exists is the most important question we can ask. Whether God exists, or not, is (or should be) the foundation for everything we do and everything we think about the world. On this point, we are either hot or cold. Lukewarm is the same as being cold because it means we haven’t’ cared or been thoughtful enough to be interested in the question.

There is no such thing as a follower of God who doesn’t seek him. There is a difference between intellectual ascent and faith (commitment) to God. Someone famously said that even Satan believes in God. Nathanael and Thomas provide us an example of the importance of persistence in getting answers to the questions that arise from our doubt and skepticism.

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Room for Doubters & Skeptics

October 16, 2017

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Jesus formed an inner circle of people who were called apostles, and that group included doubters. Yes, Jesus invited doubters and included them in His inner circle. Two of those people were Thomas and Bartholomew (also known as Nathaniel).

Nathaniel doubted right off the bat, but we don’t really read about the doubt of Thomas until much later in the story. Twice, in fact, we read of the doubt or negativity of Thomas that he still had even after eating, traveling, and doing life with Jesus.

The story of these guys reveals that God invites and embraces people who doubt. There is nothing wrong with doubt. Honest doubt is always better than false faith. We should never trade our integrity for something that isn’t genuine. It’s better to have no hope than a false hope.

I recently wrote about a statement made about Stephen Hawking: “A great scientist, even like Stephen Hawking, if he had to admit a creator, it would be unavoidable, he would have to seek him because he is a great scientist.” I don’t know if that statement is really true. I’m not sure if Stephen Hawking would really seek God if he thought God existed, but a person should seek God if God exists. There could be no greater or more important finding than that!

Ultimate truth for beings like us, however, is always accompanied by doubt. We are finite. We don’t know what we don’t know. We don’t know everything, and we never will. Yet, we seek for something solid, something we can trust and something in which we can put our faith. We all do that, even atheists, even if all we trust is science (and the human intellectual capacity to understand it).

For these reasons, the stories of Nathanial and Thomas are so significant.

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We Know God by Looking at Jesus

October 2, 2017

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I listened to a Tim Keller sermon about John 1 in which he focused on the revelation that the Word was in the beginning; the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and God’s Word became flesh and dwelt among us. You can follow the link in the last sentence to read a summary of the beginning of the message.

Keller says:

“Jesus is the supreme revelation. If we are to know God, neither rationalism nor mysticism will suffice. For God chose to make Himself known finally and ultimately in a real historical human being.”

Keller doesn’t break that statement down, but he provides an illustration of how rationalism is insufficient to know God. I will summarize Keller’s illustration and provide one of my own for why mysticism can’t be relied upon for knowing God. Neither are sufficient, alone, to enable us to know God, and the reason why is that God revealed Himself in the person of Jesus.

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