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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Does Christianity Stand on Faith or Evidence?

By Dan Delzell, Christian Post, Oct. 23, 2011

I had an interesting e-mail exchange with an agnostic this week. He wrote: “If there were good evidence to corroborate the Bible, would you need faith? Correct me if I am mistaken, but faith lies at the core of the Christian worldview, not reliance on evidence.”

That is an excellent question and one that I suspect lies at the heart of why many agnostics and atheists have yet to seriously evaluate Christianity. If they only knew that the core of the Christian worldview is actually evidence rather than faith, many of them might finally look at the evidence with an open mind. It is only after one is presented solid evidence that he is invited to place his faith in the facts of the Gospel. Christian faith stands on something permanent and proven.

I am talking about mathematical and statistical evidence that any jury would hear about if the Bible was put on trial. The Bible can be judged as being either miraculous or man-made.

There are over 300 Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The statistical probability that Jesus of Nazareth could have fulfilled even 8 such prophecies would be 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000.It is impossible that the Bible did not come from God. No scheme of man could have pulled it off over those many centuries. In order to reject the Bible, a person must have a strong predisposition against it from the outset. Otherwise, the evidence makes it a “slam-dunk case.”

To tell you the truth, I don’t think it takes very much faith to believe that “all Scripture is God-breathed.” (2 Timothy 3:16) How much faith does it take a jury to come back with a verdict in the midst of overwhelming evidence? What if a jury had 300 pieces of evidence that all pointed to the same person the way 300 biblical prophecies all point to Christ?

Skeptics will say, “You are using the Bible to validate the Bible.” True. But we are really dealing with 66 books written over hundreds of years. There is no dispute among scholars regarding the historical accuracy of the Bible. William Albright was a biblical and archeological scholar who mastered more than 26 ancient and modern languages. Albright wrote, “The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical schools of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, certain phrases of which still appear periodically, has been progressively discredited. Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history.”

I love the way Charlie Campbell lays out 10 solid reasons to completely trust the Bible. He goes into detail on each one, but here are the basic categories:

1. Fulfilled Prophecy

2. Archaeological Verification

3. The Bible’s Internal Consistency

4. External Verification

5. The Bible’s Amazing Scientific Accuracy and Foresight

6. The Manuscript Evidence

7. The Bible’s Forthrightness about Its Author’s and Hero’s Failures

8. The Willingness of Jesus’ Disciples to Suffer

9. The Bible’s Transforming Power for Good

10. The Testimony of Jesus, the Son of God

Christianity stands on facts. It stands on evidence. Christianity is entered into through faith. It is not a blind faith. It is faith in the facts. It is faith in something concrete. Christianity builds on past events and believes for the future fulfillment of all of God’s prophecies and promises. Without the Bible, we would only have mystical experiences to rely upon. How trustworthy would that be?

You will never find evidence like what we have in the Bible. Try to find one “holy” book of any other religion that has even ONE fulfilled prophecy. Where is the mathematical evidence in any of those religions? Where is the statistical and mathematical certainty to stand on when stepping out in faith for future events and for the eternal well-being of your immortal soul?

The order is for Christianity is: (1) Evidence; (2) Faith; and then (3) Assurance. Christianity stands upon evidence. It is personally received through faith that Jesus died for your sins on the cross. It brings comforting assurance to those who have stepped out in faith to trust Christ. You will never have the true assurance of salvation until you take a step of faith based on the evidence. Some non-Christians have a false sense of assurance without Christ, but in the end it tragically disappoints. Their assurance is not based on solid evidence, but only faith in someone or something other than the Jesus of the Bible.

God made you as a rational human being. God has given us rational reasons to know that He is trustworthy. Just look out into the universe. It is rational to believe that only God could have created such majesty. “The heavens declare the glory of God.” (Psalm 19:1) Are you listening to His voice in the heavens? Are you evaluating the evidence reasonably?

There was a once a man whose religion stood on faith rather than tons of evidence. His name was Abraham. The Bible tells us, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (James 2:23) What history did Abraham really have to go on before he was asked to trust God? What prophecies had been fulfilled? What evidence did he have to stand on? Very little compared to what you and I have been given over the past 6000 years of biblical history. Abraham was a man of tremendous faith.

If Abraham could believe God with little history to go on, you can certainly do it once you have studied the evidence for the Bible with your rational mind. God can be trusted. He always comes through and does what He says He will do.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Don't Worry About Anything!

By Dennis Edwards

I was thinking and praying about what I should share during a meeting that was coming up at which I needed to give a talk. I had talked to my son and he had suggested that I tell a story. He said, 

“Dad, everyone likes stories.” 

So here goes my story for you.

I remember the other night when I was not able to sleep because of the worries I had. I was going to bed. It had been my birthday. Someone had made a cake for me and my family had sung Happy Birthday. We had had a nice meal and fellowship together and yet, when I lay down to sleep, I was feeling worried about certain situations in my family, our finances, the future, my children, etc. Why do I not have that peace that passes all understanding which it speaks of in His word? 

I picked up my Bible to try to find the passage in the New Testament with those words. I flipped through the four small epistles of Paul, where I thought I should find it, but did not. As I lay my head back down on the pillow, the voice of conscience, God’s voice, said to me; 

“You need to commit all those things to me in prayer.” 

And so I did. I prayed with all my heart and threw my worries and concerned unto the Lord’s shoulders.

As soon as I had finished praying, His peace came upon me and I was able to rest in peace. The Lord had showed me the importance of bringing everything before Him in desperate prayer.

In the morning I used Google search and found the passage in Philippians: 

“Be careful for nothing,” or in other words, do not worry about anything, “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus our Lord.”1 

In order to find that peace that passes understanding, we need to bring all our requests to God in prayer. 
And in the next verse it says: 

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, and whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things.” 

In other words, keep your mind on the positive. Keep fighting the good fight of faith in your mind, “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”2

Well, I had done that the other night and it had worked. I had prayed and had poured out my heart to the Lord. But why was I back in the same place again a few days later? Why was I having anxious thoughts again?

In the Psalms we read something similar. 


“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?”3 

“Disquieted” means to be uneasy or anxious.The psalmist is expressing the same  idea. "Why am I worried?"

That's when the Lord brought to my mind, the penultimate verse in Hebrews 11, the faith chapter, which talks of all the great heroes of faith in the Old Testament. It says, 

"And these all having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise.”4 

They did not receive the promise. Many of them went to their death for their faith and God did not save them. Sr. Thomas More, for example, would not confirm and sign the oath saying that he agreed that King Henry the 8th was legal head of the Church of England. He refused to sign because of conscience to God, and God did not save him. He lost his head.

Nevertheless, how was he able to have such conviction even in the face death? How was he able to place his head on the block and lift up his arms as a sign to the ax man to chop off his head? Well, we need to look back to the beginning of that passage in Hebrews to find the answer. We find, 

“Wherefore seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”5 

They had to keep looking unto Jesus. We need to keep looking unto Jesus.

How many times do you read in the Bible about crying unto the Lord with all our hearts? In the Psalm it says, 

“As the hart pants after the water brook, so pants my soul after thee oh God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God.”6
And it continues with, 

“When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me.”7 

Are you pouring out your soul to God? In Jeremiah we find,

“You shall seek me and find me when you shall search for me with all your heart.”8 

Jesus said, 

"Seek and ye shall find,”9 

and that those who 

“hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be filled.”10 

Are we really seeking the Lord with all our hearts? Or are we letting the cares and the riches of this life choke out our time with God so that we become unfruitful for His kingdom?11

In the book of Samuel, we see Hannah, the wife of Elkanah weeping bitterly before the Lord in the temple for a son, as she was barren. It says, 

"And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore.”12 

Eli, the high priest, sees her and thinking she is drunk, rebukes her. She responds, 

“No, my Lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord.”13 

He tells her, 

“Go in peace and the God of Israel grant you your petition.” “So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad.”14 

 And so she returned with her husband to their home and the Bible says,

“And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her.”15

How many of us are pouring out our hearts to the Lord in desperate prayer? Let us just look at some of the Psalms. How many times do they speak of crying out to the Lord in prayer, seeking the Lord, calling upon the Lord? We will go through a few of them for you to meditate upon.

I sought the Lord and he heard me and delivered me from all my fears. This poor man cried and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.”16

“In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God. He heard my voice… and my cry came before him, even into his ears.”17

“I called unto the Lord in my distress: the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place.”18

“I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications. Because he has inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell got hold of me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord. I beseech you, deliver my soul.”19

“In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me.”20

“Unto you lift I up mine eyes, O you that dwells in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us.”21

“Out of the depths have I cried unto you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice: let your eyes be attentive to the voice of my supplications.”22

“As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me. Evening and morning and at noon will I pray and cry aloud and he shall hear my voice.”23

I guess there must be something about crying out loud in an audible voice.

“Hear my cry, O God, attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto you, when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”24

“O God, you are my God; early will I seek you: my soul thirsts for you, my flesh longs for you in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; … Because your loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise you. Thus will I bless you while I live: I will lift up my hands in your name. …When I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the middle of the night. Because you have been my help, therefore in the shadow of your wings will I rejoice. My soul follows hard after you.”25

How many of us are following hard after the Lord, with all are heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind? For the Lord has said,

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope in the end.”26

So remember when you are cast down and disquieted within you the words of the psalmist,

"Put your hope in God: for you will yet praise him for the help of his countenance, and your God.”27

We are going to close with a thought from James and then with a prayer. James tells us,

“Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, pray one for another that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”28

Let us pray and commit our problems, our worries, our finances, our families and our future into the Lord’s hands. He has promised to keep us, to be with us and give us that peace that passes all understanding, so that we can walk in faith without fear, without doubt and without worry. In Jesus name we pray!

Notes:

1 Philippians 4:6-7
2 Philippians 4:8
3 Psalm 42:11
4 Hebrews 11:39
5 Hebrews 12:1,2
6 Psalm 42:1,2
7 Psalm 42:4
8 Jeremiah 29:13
9 Matthew 7:7
10 Matthew 5:6
11 Matthew 13:22
12 1 Samuel 1:10
13 1 Samuel 1:15
14 1 Samuel 1:17,18
15 1 Samuel 1:19
16 Psalm 34:4,6
17 Psalm 18:6
18 Psalm 118:5
19 Psalm 116:1-4
20 Psalm 120:1
21 Psalm 123:1-2
22 Psalm 130: 1-2
23 Psalm 55: 16-17
24 Psalm 61:1-2
25 Psalm 63:1,3,4,6,7,8a.
26 Jeremiah 29:11
27 Psalm 42:11b
28 James 5:13-16

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Finding Strength and Help in Difficult Times

by Dennis Edwards

Eight years ago my twenty-seven year old son died suddenly from a swimming accident. At midnight the 17th of March, Saint Patrick’s Day, I received a call from my son’s roommate. My son had gone missing and his clothing had been found on a nearby beach. 

My first reaction was to get down on my knees and cry out to the Lord in prayer. As I did, much to my surprise, I had a vision of my son entering into Heaven to the joy of my parents and other departed loved ones. I immediately knew he would not be found alive. Five days later his body washed ashore and was found by some German tourists. 

What helped me through those difficult days? What was the healing balm that enable me to continue on? Of course, having a relationship with the Lord and being able to hear His still small voice in prayer was a great help and stabilizing affect at that time. The words of encouragement that others had received in prayer for me were also very strengthening. Reading God's word, especially the Psalms, where I receive comfort from the written word was, also, important. Crying out to the Lord with all my heart in prayer was another important aspect of the healing and helped me in ways I probably do not consciously understand. 

But perhaps the most important key to my healing in a tangible, physical way, that I remember most clearly above all the rest was the love and encouragement I received from others. For that to happen, I had to confess and share my heartache. The Bible says, “Confess your faults one to another. Pray one for another that you may be healed.”[1] Confessing to others what I was going through enabled me to receive the encouragement that I needed and was perhaps the key to victory and healing.

I remember my first day in Bermuda where my son had died. While asking for directions at a shop, I mentioned to the shop girl that I was the father of the young man who had recently drowned. “You poor thing,” she sighed. “Can I come around and give you a big hug.” On numerous occasions I received encouragement from strangers that I met in this way.

God promises to comfort us in our times of tribulation.[2] Jesus said He would send the comforter, the Holy Spirit, to us. He wants us to be comforted. But if we keep our troubles locked inside, if we keep the pain in, we won’t receive the love and encouragement we need and our healing process will be longer and perhaps never complete.

Therefore, do not keep those emotions hidden. Let the tears flow. Share your pain. Share your sorrow. In doing so, others will respond with the balm of love you need. Do not suffer in silence. Share your hurt and others around you will help heal it. God works this way to draw us closer to one another and be His arms and His hands and His lips and His ears to one another. 

When we receive the love and encouragement that we need in our time of anguish, we are able later to return that love and encouragement to other needy or suffering souls that pass our way. “Blessed be God…who comforts us in all our tribulation, so that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” [3]

You can watch the memorial my daughter Marie made of Martin here.

[1] James 5:16
[2] 2Corinthians 2:4
[3]2Corinthians 1:3-4

Monday, February 12, 2018

What's the State of Your Conscience?

By Dennis Edwards

I was talking to a man the other day. He was an agnostic, verging on atheism. I was trying to make a defense of my faith giving him various good reason for the existence of God. I talked about the design in nature and in living things, the fine-tuning of the universe, the fact that the universe had a beginning which leads to the argument of the First Cause. Then I talked about the information in the DNA. But he would have none of it, and believed everything was possible given enough time through evolution. 

I had exhausted all my arguments when he himself confessed, "But you know what really bothers me? It's my conscience. I don't have a good argument for where my conscience comes from and why it convicts me when I do wrong. My evolutionary world view just doesn't give me a good reason for this conscience of mine. It really bothers me."

In apologetics, his reasoning is called "the argument from universal morality." The fact that we all have that little voice of conscience bothering us throughout the day, or helping us in our decision making is a good argument for a universal moral law giver. 

Jimmy'd Cricket said it like this, "What's a conscience! I'll tell ya! A conscience is that still small voice that people won't listen to. That's just the trouble with the world today... "[1]

But the Apostle Paul warns us that in the latter days there will be strong attacks against our conscience causing it to become numb and even burning the conscience away altogether. Paul writes, "that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron."[2] Can you imagine burning the part of your brain where the conscience rests with a hot iron? 

At times we drink alcohol or take drugs to escape the control of our conscience. But by rejecting the truth and willfully believing lies, we are in fact burning out the power of our conscience. Through television and movies our minds are seared with violence, sex without commitment or love, vulgar language, same-sex marriages, evolution and millions of years, and other anti-God opinions and behaviors, so that we cannot even think properly any more.

As a result, we are afraid to take a stand for God and the truth. We are taught there is no truth anyway. You can have your truth and I can have mine. But by doing so, we have just run the true meaning of "truth" under a bus of falsehood. If something is true it is in accordance with fact or reality. Truth negates relativism. But you insist it's all relative! Well, it's not relative when you’re going down a busy street and the light is green or red. It could be a life and death call, if you think it's only relative. There are absolutes. If there weren't, the universe and life could not function. Society could not function. Our rejection of the absolutes leads to spiritual darkness. Like Nietzsche said in his famous story "The Madman."


"Whither is God?" he cried; "I will tell you. We have killed him- you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us?[3]

Nietzsche seems to have known that the rejection of God would plummet mankind into an endless abyss of hopelessness. Jesus said something similar, he said the love of many would wax cold as a result of the increase in iniquity in the last days.[4] "Has it not become colder?" It certainly seems like in our lifetime that it’s become a bit colder even with all the talk of global warming! "Is not night continually closing in on us?" We have chosen darkness rather than light, because our deeds are evil.[5] We have rejected the love and light of God. We have killed Him and have embraced the darkness.

That darkness promised us liberty, the sexual and moral liberty we desired, like Aldous Huxley so honestly confessed. He said,“I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; and consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics. He is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do. For myself, as no doubt for most of my friends, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom. The supporters of this system claimed that it embodied the meaning - the Christian meaning, they insisted - of the world. There was one admirably simple method of confuting these people and justifying ourselves in our erotic revolt: we would deny that the world had any meaning whatever.”[6]

Sadly, today's secular education and anti-God doctrines are the agenda of television and the movies. Our conscience is being burnt or seared and we have become the servants of corruption. The freedom that was promised has only brought us into bondage to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.[7] We cannot escape.

But there is a way of escape. God has made One. Turn around and call out to the Father in Jesus' name and He will hear you. He that confesses and forsakes the way of darkness shall have mercy[8]. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."[9] Are you seeking the truth? Then come to the light, the light of Christ, the true light and He will set you free![10] He has said, “If ye continue in my words, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”[11]

Recently Pope Francis, coming from his Jesuit roots, was talking about the conscience and the battle that takes place there. The battle is in our minds. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, had made his mental/spiritual disciplines mandatory for all new coming Jesuit disciples. Each one needed to learn to analyze his thoughts in relation to the word of God, so that he could learn to be totally submitted to God in both thought and action. He taught his Jesuit disciples to reject thoughts that were contrary to the word of God. This is exactly what the Bible teaches.

Jesus said the first and great commandment was, Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.[12] In Ignatius’ point of view, the Biblical point of view, mankind was living in a spiritual battlefield between the good forces of God and the evil forces of the Devil. These forces were fighting for the heart, soul and mind of mankind. That’s why Paul admonishes us “to cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”[13]

We are soldiers of Christ, because we are in a spiritual battle. Our spiritual enemy is constantly attacking us, to stop our good work of winning others to the truth of Christ. Jude warns us to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”[14] Peter similarly says the same thing, “But sanctify the Lord in your hearts,” in other words, love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind; “and be ready always to give and answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”[15] How can we give an answer if we do not even know, nor study God’s word?

I am happy to hear the Pope talk on the subject of conscience. But let us please reinforce our conscience by reading and studying God’s word and not just stuffing our heads with the philosophy of “vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”[16]

And don't let the subtle attacks against truth so cleverly presented on television move you from your faith. Turn the damn thing off! Alan Watt has said, "Never watch television. Never watch television. It is the greatest scientific indoctrination device ever invented. Have you figured that out yet? It has changed the course of cultures. Not just one culture. Why do you think it became mandatory for everyone in Britain to have access to a television by the government? Why do you think China and India are under the same program right now? Because they loved to be entertained? Do you really believe that? Most of your ideas and opinions come from what you watch on television, because you imitate what you see. Never watch television. You can't even watch a movie unless you do it critically."[16]

Are your Godly convictions going down the tubes because of the television you watch, or the music you listen to, or books you read, or the company you keep? Then turn it off, or put it down, or get new friends. Pick up the New Testament and read it for yourself. Or read C.S. Lewis, or some other great Christian writer. Cry out to God for the strength to change your old viewing and reading habits, and even your friends, before you have no conscience left. Remember, he that confesses and forsakes his bad habits, will find mercy. God will help you. He loves you. Why don't you give Him a try?

Notes:

[1] Jimmy'd Cricket
[2] 1 Timothy 4:2
[3] Matthew 24:12
[3] Nietzsche, Frederick; The Madman, or here.
[4] John 3:19
[5] Huxley, Aldous; Ends and Means
[6] 2 Peter 2:19
[7] Proverbs 28:13
[8] John 8:12
[9] John 1:9
[10] John 8:31-32
[11] Matthew 22:37
[12] 2 Corinthians 10:5
[13] Jude 1:3
[14] 1 Peter 3:15.
[15] Colossians 2:8
[16] Alan Watt: Never Watch Television!

Friday, February 9, 2018

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