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Letter To An Atheist

I understand you having doubts. I understand having doubts because I’ve had many. I’ve questioned the existence of God. I’ve questioned the character of God. I’ve questioned if Jesus was God incarnate. I’ve questioned what’s in the Bible. I’ve questioned if faiths other than Christianity were true. I’ve questioned if atheism were true. I’ve doubted these things very, very strongly at times, and at times the questions I’ve had enveloped my mind fully, and tore at my heart.

I doubt there’s anything you doubt about God, the Bible, Jesus, creation, or anything you doubt that I haven’t doubted. If there are any doubts you have that I haven’t considered I’ll probably get to them.

I doubt, and question, because that’s the way I am. Call it what you like, critical thinking, an open mind, being logical, or just being careful with this life that I have, wanting to live it to the fullest, most meaningful and productive way I can. Living it in the most truthful way I can, my human faults notwithstanding. I think we can both agree that these are good things. I hope so.

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Finding Jesus in Poverty; Can You?

“If you’re in a bad financial situation in life, there must be a character flaw somewhere.” – From a sermon by a senior pastor of a church in the United States, and owner of several successful family-run nation-wide ministries; author or co-author of several books and DVDs; also a CPA and son of a millionaire.

“What’s your character flaw?” – That same pastor, to a man who had lost his home.

“I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” – Solomon, in Ecclesiastes 9:11

“There is no logical connection between being smart and having money.” – Christopher Langan, whose IQ was first measured at 200, and then “unmeasurable, off the charts”.

“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no!” – Jesus of Nazareth

True or false: We live in an era of unparalleled prosperity in the history of the world.

The answer is both. It depends on where in the world you live. It depends on what part you play, what your position is in the world of business. In the western world, where many western countries are facing huge deficits, and unemployment is quite high, you might be surprised to learn that the “bottom line” for the majority of major corporations has continued to grow. In the United States, the Dow Industrial Average, a benchmark of the health of the market, is thousands of points higher than it was five or six years ago. And yet we’re daily reminded that we’re in a recession. We see the unemployment statistics. We see family and friends who are struggling. Some of us are struggling. And sometimes we ask where God is in all of it. Where is God in the lives of those who are struggling to get by. Where is God in our desperation.
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Finding Jesus In… The Bible (A “Duh, No Kidding” Blog Post)

Many years ago in Chicago before the fall of the Iron Curtain (No, not the Pittsburgh Steelers) I spoke with a couple whose real names I didn’t, and still don’t know. They couldn’t give me, or anyone they didn’t know well their real names because they were international fugitives. They were wanted by Russian authorities. The United States government wasn’t all that thrilled with them either.

They were international smugglers.
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Finding Jesus in Apologetics (An Apology For Apologetics)

“Apologetics” comes from the Greek verb “apologeomai”, which means “to speak in defense of” and also the related noun “apologia”, which means “a defense”. Apologeomai and apologia do not mean “to apologize” as if you were sorry. It’s more like a defense lawyer making a case for a client or a scientist explaining (defending) a theory. When Plato wrote “The Apology” he wasn’t saying he was sorry for what Socrates said, he was defending Socrates work. The subtitle of this post doesn’t mean I’m being or saying sorry for apologetics, or saying I’m sorry for saying sorry, it’s “a defense (apologia) for speaking in defense of (Apologeomai)”.

Apologetics–Christian apologetics–is the rational and reasonable defense of the Christian faith. Apologetics gives intellectual understanding to the faith that Christians hold, why we believe the truth of the Bible, and even why, using evidence and reason, we can trust that the Bible is the real Word of God. I would be remiss, however, if I did not say that you cannot discount or discard the role that The Holy Spirit plays in a Christians faith and walk in faith. This is something that’s very real, a very real experience in the life of those that have accepted Jesus. If you have not yet accepted Jesus, if you’re seeking what Jesus, Christianity, and the church is all about and have not experienced the Holy Spirit, you’ll have to take this one on “faith” and in the meantime investigate the rational reasons for Christianity. It’s also important to recognize here, if you haven’t accepted Jesus and received the Holy Spirit, that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It doesn’t mean the evidence (or The Holy Spirit) doesn’t exist, you just haven’t found and experienced it.
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Finding Jesus Loving Neighbors and Enemies

“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.” – G.K. Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton was a prolific Christian author who was known for funny sayings like this. He’s also the guy who said “Just going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car”. But there’s a very real and profound truth inside of what Chesterton said. Now, not all our neighbors are our enemies (if yours are, you might want to re-evaluate a few things), but we’re going to look at how Jesus looked at who our neighbors are, and what He taught about that; and also what He taught about our enemies.

In the Gospels we see Jesus saying “love your neighbor as yourself”. This is a very very good command, and it’s a great way to live our lives. Imagine if everybody lived that way. No war. No murder. No stealing. No rape. Even things that aren’t legally crimes: spiteful comments. Dirty looks. Apathy. Imagine if we lived that way all the time–loving our neighbor as ourselves.
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Finding Jesus… Loving Pagans and Pig Farmers

Lets look at Matthew 16: 5-12, a part of scripture that often gets overlooked or is misunderstood, and see what’s going on there.

Matthew 16:5-12
The Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees TNIV

5 When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6 ‘Be careful,’ Jesus said to them. ‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’
7 They discussed this among themselves and said, ‘It is because we didn’t bring any bread.’
8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, ‘You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

What was the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees that Jesus was warning against, and why did He mention how many loaves were left over from the five that fed 5,000 and the seven that fed 4,000?

Pagans and pig farmers.
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The Leadership of The Church

For this post I’ll be going a bit off the usual topic of “Finding Jesus” to address a topic of leadership within the church.

In the past couple of months I’ve had a few conversations with people IRL about the role of elders in the church. Some hold that the senior or lead pastor has absolute authority over the guidance and direction of the church, including over the elders, some hold that the elders have authority over church matters. Which view follows what is taught in the Bible?

Make no mistake, the Bible is very clear on the matter. Let’s take a look.
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Finding Jesus in A Soup Kitchen, Part 1

“Every creature has its stimulus, its mainspring: man’s is his self-esteem. Take it away from him and he is a corpse, and he who seeks activity in a corpse will encounter only worms.” – Jose’ Rizal

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?” – God, through Isaiah, chapter 58, verses 6-7.

A short time ago the church I go to, Christ Community in Murphysboro, IL, made the decision to “get in the game” by partnering with Victory Dream Center in Carbondale. Victory has a weekly food pantry and a “soup kitchen” on Saturdays, and members from CCC were given the opportunity to volunteer at these, and I was among those who signed up.

Why is this of great importance? Because compassion for and service to those in need is a vital–necessary even–part of following Jesus. Not just a good idea, not just a “nice thing to do”, not just another means of fellowship within the local church, not just an evangelism tool (although it certainly is), but a necessary part of following Jesus.
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Finding Jesus in Classical Music

Just a few tidbits to make up this post, both about finding Jesus in classical music. If not inspiring, at least you’ll have some trivia with which to bore impress your family and friends.
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Jesus and Abraham

In this post we’re going to find Jesus in the Old Testament, and in a very explicit way. There’s no tricks with words, no stretching meanings, no re-imagining of anything; just a simple look into scripture in historical context.

We start in Genesis 15: 7-10, where God tells Abraham (then known as Abram) that he will be given what we all know as “The Promised Land”. Abraham then does something that is, by any standard, “gutsy”, to say the least. Abraham says to God “how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”. Think about that for a moment, how huge that is.

Abraham questioned whether or not God would, maybe even could, deliver on His promise.

Gods immediate response is to tell Abraham to get “a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a young pigeon”.

Notice that Abraham does as God tells him, and gets the animals, but then goes a step farther by cutting the animals in two. Why would Abraham do this?
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