Archive for November, 2014

It Matters!

Posted in Apologetics, Discipleship on November 12, 2014 by nmpreach

 

thinkerRecently, I had a discussion with another believer concerning the necessity of apologetics in the Church.  Before going further, perhaps a definition of apologetics is necessary.  Apologetics is simply a defense of the faith.  In other words, knowing what one believes and the ability to articulate those beliefs.  The person I was speaking with mentioned his concern over arguing or what he called “debate” within the local church.  The apostle Paul speaks of irreverent babble and avoiding such things while writing to Timothy.  While I’m not interested in an unproductive discussion, I do believe it’s important that one determine what is truth and defend truth accordingly.

It doesn’t take long to determine we live in a society that holds to truth being relative.  According to the ideology, what might be true for you is not true for me.  I pray you can see the problem with that way of thinking.  To form the issue in a question might be helpful.  So here goes: What can we know for certain?  Why do we know 2 + 2 = 4?  You get the point.  If truth is relative…fluid…constantly changing for the benefactor, can it be absolute truth?

Just before Paul warns Timothy of irreverent babble, he writes these words.  Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (1 Tim 2:15, emphasis mine).  A few words require a second glance.  The words “approved” and “rightly” must mean something.  In other words, “approved” means there is a standard Paul expects Timothy to attain.  The word “rightly” declares the standard to be concrete or unchanging.

As Christians, we believe we must start with the absolute truth.  In the Gospel of John, Jesus of Nazareth is reported to have said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”  (14:6).  Later in the same Gospel, John records Jesus answering Pilate, “…I have come into this world – to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (18:37).  Those words are not fluid.  They don’t have one standard today and another tomorrow.  Truth is truth.

Sadly, relative truth is not something just for the secularists.  The influence of the world has penetrated the walls of the Church.  For that reason, there are just as many who gather to worship who believe in some level of relative truth.  It’s easy to say “Amen” when one is not tempted in a certain way.  However, when the standard hits “too close to home,” it’s much more difficult.

Might part of the problem be that we’ve forgotten the importance of critical thinking?  Is it possible that even believers are influenced towards relativity rather than absolute truth?  After all, we’re told to be tolerant and love our enemies.  That said, often times we display a huge misunderstanding of tolerance and love.  Speaking truth is love to the nth degree!  In regards to critical thinking within the Church, apologist William Lane Craig offers, “Our culture in general has sunk to the level of biblical and theological illiteracy.”  That seems harsh at first glance.  But at times, love means hearing what we don’t want to hear.  Something to consider is what will the Church do about it?

The gentleman I was visiting with believes apologetics is something for the spiritually elite.  The thought goes “The Gospel is simple.  Leave the minutiae to those in academia.”  On one hand, the idea of a simple Gospel is correct.  However, when one chooses to never go beyond the “surface,” many blessings will never be realized.  Discipleship includes loving God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your strength.  Without absolute truth, a healthy starting place will not exist.

I would offer the healthy starting place must be Jesus.  But convincing an unbeliever of the starting place might be more difficult than you can imagine – especially if your starting place changes from time to time.  I have no right to determine truth for you or even for me.  You haven’t the right to do the same for me or others.  You see, truth has been defined.  Truth is named Jesus.  It matters where we start.  And it matters that we continue a relationship with He who is truth.

 

 

His Plan or…?

Posted in Scripture on November 4, 2014 by nmpreach

idolsWhen the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, ‘Up, make us gods who shall go before us.  As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.'”

Because we know the end of the story, most of us know what will happen in just a few short verses.  This might be a challenge, but think with me for a second.  What if all we knew was Exodus 32:1-2?  What if the only thing we knew was what the narrator recorded for us regarding the Israelites dilemma in the first two verses of the chapter?

Here’s what we know they understood:

1)  We know the Israelites had knowledge of Moses going to Mount Sinai to speak with YHWH.  Check out Ex. 24:14-18

2)  We know they were concerned about worshipping a God/gods.

3)  We know they were an impatient lot.

4)  We know it sounds as if they put more faith in Moses than in the God he was meeting with.

Often times, we read Old Testament texts and are quick to condemn.  How foolish!  How dumb could they be?!?  Why didn’t they just wait for Moses – one they considered their deliverer?  If they don’t know what has become of him, is anyone willing to go look?

Consider these:

1)  Any parallel between Moses going up on the mountain and Jesus praying to His Father in the garden?  In the Old Testament text, the elders were told, “Wait here for us (Moses and Joshua) until we return to you” (24:14).  In Luke’s Gospel, the physician records Jesus withdrawing to pray and returning only to find His disciples sleeping (Lk 22:41-46).  Prior to withdrawing, Jesus warned them of temptation.

2)  The Israelites had spent four hundred years in bondage.  However,  once provided their freedom, they weren’t concerned so much with God’s direction and timing as much as their own.  They might be considered religious by tradition.  But what does that have to do with a relationship with YHWH?

3)  Be still and know…!  Psalm 46:10 is a verse we like to quote from time to time.  Life experience tells me it’s a bit harder to live consistently.  We’re quick to chastise our ancestors for their lack of patience while believing our timeline to be flawless.  Not many have the gift of patience.

4)  “As for this Moses, the man…”  I don’t want to read too much into the text, but I’m led to believe because of their lack of relationship with YHWH, they focused too much on Moses rather than the God they should serve.  In fact, they were quick to write him off, consider him missing, and replace him with someone/something else.  In the Church today, how much faith do we place in a preacher, elders, a committee, or a program – rather than the one true God?  If something goes wrong, let’s replace the preacher, obtain new leadership, and/or start a new program.

Bottom line, is we’re much like the Israelites who left Egypt.  We’re quick to forget God’s faithfulness and revert back to our plan.  Thoughts?