Monthly Archives: November 2014

What is it going to take?

There was a question posed recently in a well respected apologetics group on Facebook.  The writer ask, what appeared to be, a basic question that many, one would think, had already considered.  Maybe not, or should I state, obviously not.  Now before I give you the question, let me again state, my observations are strictly from my own personal experience.  I do not have a desire to “bash” anyone, and this is not directed at any one particular church, person or otherwise.  Whew!  Oh yeah, and I do not mean for it to be negative, and neither do I have all of the answers, never will, though for some reason those I am begging to listen seem to think otherwise.  It is however, my heartfelt desire, God’s call on my life, and Biblically motivated.  That seems to be a huge disclaimer, but in reality, well it doesn’t matter.  And now the question, remember, posted by someone on Facebook.  Why are most people not Christian?  Yes sir, that was it.  Simple enough huh?  Well, it doesn’t seem to be for sure!  So, here is why I personally, and ALL of my previous friends, were not Christian.  Please just take a second and listen, or read.  It has nothing to do with belief in God, following rules, or any other nonsensical things the majority of Christians think it is.  It IS us, or you, or however one would like to phrase it.  Most people are not Christian because of Christians!  What is it going to take to convince someone?  All the nice, serving, good Christian things we/you/us are all doing is not doing anything to reach the non follower.  The majority believe by the way, thus why I call them non followers.  The problem is our (Christian) ACTIONS!

I thank God daily for the Holy Spirit moving in my life.  Why? Well, if I based my salvation, or my accepting Christ, on the actions of other Christians, I would never have signed on.  And most days, without apologetics, I would walk away.  Yes, I know we tell the non follower not to base their life on others actions.  Been there, heard that.  And again, I promise, if actions are louder than words the perception of the Christian community is it’s own worst enemy!  This isn’t based on just the small town I grew up in as a child.  I have actually been a few places, spent twelve years in the Air Force, and it is the same everywhere I have been.  Christians doing their “good” Christian things, along with every civic organization, and other just good people.  In fact the other good people more respect than the Christian.  Why you ask?  Because they are perceived as doing it because that want to and not to put on the Christian front.  What is it going to take?  All of this sound familiar?  It is one of my greatest frustrations, besides the prosperity gospel.  No one will listen, or seem to care!  “Let’s just keep doing what we have always done”!  How is that working out for us?

I assure you that I was much “happier”, had more money, better friends, and thought Christianity was one of, if not the, stupidest things anyone could ever be a part of.  Praise God for His free gift of salvation!  Happiness is not what Christianity, or life is about.  God does not care if you are happy.  Our “prize” is heaven.  I had more money because my morals were less than what they are now.  It didn’t bother me one bit to look someone directly in the eye and lie to them.  Now, the Holy Spirit convicts my heart thinking about lying.  Friends, I had plenty.  Actual friends.  Not the extremely too sensitive person that if I happen to say something they don’t like pouted forever.  Or ran to the pastor and told on me.  (Something like what I am writing, BIG TROUBLE).  In fact, during my twelve years in the Air Force, I only recall two individuals professing Christianity.  One we made fun of, the other was a good guy, but still the only difference in him and “us” was he went to church on Sunday and we stayed in bed hung over.

I write all of that to write this…People are not Christians because of Christians.  We have all read the statistics, same divorce rate, porn problems, adultery, drinking, and well, most do not see the point.  Why would they?  They aren’t really concerned about heaven or hell.  They have no desire to live like they see many of us living.  Meaning, why call themselves something, or bother getting up on Sunday morning, when they can do the same things we are doing and have less guilt.  They think we are living a lie!  And why not?  Please tell me…What is it going to take?

And I didn’t even mention not knowing why we believe what we believe!  But then again, all we have to do is believe, right?

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Thoughts from the other side… part two

To pick up from yesterday’s blog, and restate, I do not think there is anything wrong with doing “nice” things or “serving” as many call it.  In fact it is Biblical.  I am also trying to be as positive as possible.  My intention is not to bash the church or anyone else.  It is simply to point out what I feel, based on my experience and being agnostic for most of my life, could be changed.  I do not have all of the answers, and am well aware that people do not like change.  So, with that being written, why not give it a try?

I stated yesterday that the majority of Christians have been so since a young age.  Let’s start there.  Simply because you believe something does not make it true.  Simply because it is what you have been taught your entire life does not make it true either.  Let’s all get on the same page!  How do we do that?  Define what we actually believe.  People ask why are there so many denominations, but in my experience the majority do not know what “Christianity” they believe, much less what a denomination may believe.  Here is how one can tell that statement is true.  Write or say something concerning one of the ever so popular preachers so many Christians love and see how Christ like they treat you afterward.  Here is part of the problem.  Orthodox Christianity is the foundation of the Christian belief.  If you do not know what that is, well as I said, this is part of the problem.  If you do know, and still follow the Hinns, Hagins, Meyers, Moores, Jakes, Joels and any WOF teacher, then you are wrong!  Sorry that was blunt, but we are to call out false teachers.  Take it up with God, I am just the messenger.  Everyone cannot be right.  Which means someone is wrong.  So let’s get on the same page, know where Christianity even started, who decided the Books, the sacraments,the Trinity and the rest of the essentials.  If you do not agree with the essentials, well, you are following something that is not Christianity.  Why not give it a try?  I know, I know what makes me right?  It isn’t about me.  I base my beliefs on the Word of God, history, evidence and reason.  It is not based on a feeling I have.  Bottom line, let’s come together on the basics and build from there.

Which brings us to our pastors.  It would appear, again from coming from the “other side” and now being a part of the “club” that our pastors do not want to state that there is one Truth.  We talk about the truth, but to actually tell someone they are wrong, well I have never heard it from anyone except my professors.  Again, if we are right, and I think we are, then we must also tell others they are wrong!  Again, I know the dreaded church member that has been there since the apostles may get mad.  Well, then they should go to the Book and handle it accordingly.  Stop getting upset over every little thing and accept that all of us cannot be right.  Myself included!  I also understand the excuse that it is hard to preach on Sunday to milk and meat both.  Well, put the milk folks in class on Sunday morning.  If they do not like it, introduce them to the church of comfort around the corner.  Stand up for God and teach the Truth.  It is not about how scripture makes someone feel.  It is about what scripture means in context.  Teach us, from the beginning, or as the Bible states, make disciples.  If you believe truth is subjective, then chances are you are not following the same Christianity, or Book, most profess to follow.  The Bible teaches objective, absolute Truth, and we need to be teaching it as well.  Why not give it a try?

All the nice things we do as Christians, or serving as I stated earlier, are fantastic.  Yes, I really wrote that.  However, if all we are doing is serving and not sharing the gospel then what makes us any different than the other folks doing nice things and serving.  But first, we must take care of our own!  Again, a Biblical standard.  And again, I know the excuses.  People will take advantage, or people will come here just for a handout.  Okay, how many have we helped outside the church that have come to Christ?  Where are they?  Our goal is to not only share the love of Christ, but to make sure we share the love with those that are followers.  How many people in your church do you think could use the kind of help we are sending to other countries?  Or need many of the items we are giving away.  How many kids in our church need coats, toys, and for that matter necessities, that we assume are okay?  Reminder!  This is not about a particular church,pastor or congregation!  But anyway, Biblically, we must take care of our own first.  In all ways.  Salvation first, then all the other nice stuff everyone else is doing too.  Set ourselves apart it states.  But that sounds like a cult.  No, it sounds like what the Bible tells us to do.

There will never be enough space to write everything on my heart.  Yet, the Holy Spirit moved in my life about nine years ago, and since then, well, the “club” has pretty much been exactly one of the reasons I stayed away for so long.  I am not being mean, or rude.  I have been on the other side.  I made fun of Christians, along with my friends, and most other non followers.  There are many reasons.  Mainly the actions, attitudes and beliefs of many that professed the Christian title.  My heart is to reach everyone that was like me.  My mind struggles with the fact of no one seeming to care.  Same thing different YEAR.  Can someone listen?  Would someone have the courage to make the change?  Can we come together in Truth?  Can we stop feeling good about ourselves and actually make a difference in the world; in our community, our family and friends?  Let me leave you with one final thought.  Would anyone notice if your church closed, other than those that go there sometimes?  Why not give it a try?

Thoughts from the “other” side…

I am going to attempt to make this as positive as possible. You know, since many feel I only want to argue, am blunt or too harsh. What I say, do and write is in love, but often frustration. It is from someone who truly cares.  Someone that the Holy Spirit moved in their heart to strengthen the follower and reach the lost.  Someone who has been “there”.  Someone unique to the “club”.  Someone who doesn’t have all of the answers, but can speak from experience.  One of the statistics that went against the numbers.  But for some reason, there are many excuses, no one seems to be listening.  All we ask, the few that are “causing division”, or “asking why”, is why not give it a try?  Give what a try you ask?  Listening, doing something that may not be comfortable, actually reaching out to the “lost” we so often preach that we are trying to reach, doing something, almost anything, that hasn’t been done, or that may actually have an impact.  Why not give it try?

I don’t have all of the numbers or statistics concerning the age that someone accepts Christ.  I do know, based on my experience, the majority of Christians have claimed to be so since a very early age.  Why does this matter?  It is all they have ever known.  They were raised in church, youth groups, church camps, etc.  They were taught at a young age what to believe.  That Jesus loves them and God wants everyone to go to heaven.  Both of which are possibly true, but not the point.  All they have ever known is VBS, revivals, hot dog sales, and inviting people to church.  Evangelism is talked about, but actually doing it consists of the same things all of the other churches, civic groups, and just nice people including atheists, motorcycle clubs, and other religions are all doing.  Don’t get me wrong these are all good things to do.  Feed the homeless, toy drives, sending money and people to other countries, all are fantastic!  But yet, Christianity is declining, Islam and Mormonism are growing, and we can’t seem to figure out why.  Again, please do not think I am bashing Christianity, or any church or person.  I am only speaking from my experience.  You see, I have been there.  Places the majority of Christians only talk about but could never know what it is really like.  There a very few of us in the Christian circle.  We know what it is like.  We have a testimony.  So why not give it a try?  Isn’t it obvious what we are doing hasn’t worked?  Is not working?  And in reality, has never worked?

Think about it.  The people in our churches are there either because their family is there or they like our worship, or they were mad at their last church.  Think about how many are there because they came to know Christ.  Not the son or daughter of a family member.  An outsider.  Someone that wasn’t raised in the church.  Someone the Holy Spirit moved in their heart and they realized they were lost and in need of a savior.  Seriously, why would anyone want to be a part of our little world?  Yeah, yeah so they can go to heaven.  But really, if we are right, and we are, why doesn’t everyone want to be a part of what we are doing?  Because we are doing the same things we have been doing forever!  Same sermons, same “outreach”, and same talk about reaching the lost.  What about the Mormon, Muslim, or other person that doesn’t follow Christ.  I know if you have read any of my other blogs, or spoken to me in person you have heard something similar to what I am writing here.  Thus the question, why not give it a try?

Let me give you an example.  We have all heard our best witness is our testimony.  Okay great.  What exactly are you going to tell someone if you have been saved the majority of your life?  How good God is and all the “blessings He has given you and your family?  What about VBS?  You know the saying, if we get the kids we will get the parents.  Oh, the homeless, feeding them once a year, or like some more often. Why aren’t they filling our churches?  The list goes on and on.  How many are we leading to Christ through all of our “good Christian” acts that, like I wrote above, everyone else is doing also.  One would think the churches would be overflowing from all the nice things we do.  So why aren’t they?  Why aren’t we reaching the Mormon, Muslim, the parents of our VBS kids, and all the recipients of our good deeds? We are our own worst enemy and either do not realize it, or simply do not care.

So this is a little longer than I actually intended.  Stay tuned until tomorrow to read the conclusion from the “other” side…

53800 and a poached egg…

Believe it or not I typically spend some time considering what to write before I write it.  What a concept huh?  The main reason, as I have many things I would like to write, is that all too often I am told to write something positive, or not to be so harsh, and well, you get the point.  And it is tough!  By that I mean there are plenty of apologetic topics to write about.  And I do, sometimes.  Even though apologetics is what drives my very existence, it is the main reason I am told to be more loving, gentle, and you know, Christ like.  You see, apologetics is about truth.  And when one presents truth it isn’t always accepted in a Christ like manner.  So what does all of this have to do with 53800 and a poached egg?  As I write this, my friend, Greg West, the owner of the poached egg, (an apologetic website http://www.thepoachedegg.net), has tweeted 53800 links, articles, blogs, and other material concerning apologetics.  I visit his site every morning in search of quotes or topics I want to share.  In theory, this way I am not the one saying it, so if others become angry then it is not at me.  Notice I wrote in theory…

So here in lies the problem.  I promise I want to share all of the limited knowledge God has given me the opportunity to learn.  I also want to share the truth/Truth concerning this knowledge.  I want to reach the lost and strengthen the follower.  I want to make a difference, to be a part of, or start a movement!  But, yet, it is not about me.  It is about God.  And God has placed all of these things on my heart.  God wants you to know the Truth.  God wants you to reach the lost and strengthen the follower.  God wants to make a difference in your life, the community around you.  He wants to be a part of a movement.  Thankfully, as frustrating and lonely as it may be, He chose me to do what I do, apologetics.

I have been blessed to be one of, if not the only, apologists in southern West Virginia.  By that I mean I have actually been to school to become an apologist.  There are many that know apologetics better than I do, and school is not a requirement to be an apologist.  However, it doesn’t seem to matter either way.  53800 opportunities are just a click away.  I would assume someone is reading them.  But it doesn’t seem anyone really cares.  I once thought it was because I am in southern West Virginia.  But recently it has become apparent the problem is everywhere.  The majority of my peers experience the same roadblocks that I experience.  And sadly, we can’t seem to convince the majority, how importance this vital discipline is.  In fact, I was going to write about no one caring.  But that seemed too negative.  Then I considered writing from my personal experience as an agnostic and the affect the church had on me, (which was zero).  Again too negative.  So here is where I landed today.

It doesn’t seem I have really said much in this writing.  And I am not really sure what the point actually was when I began.  One thing I am sure of though, we as the church, need to to do something.  Sorry that was negative.  Let me see, the Bible states to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind.  It states to make disciples, to have an answer for the hope we have, and well, to be Christ like.  Jesus, made disciples, He reasoned and gave evidence daily, He had an answer.  He is the Truth, and He is a lot more than 53800 tweets and a poached egg…

Will you join His commands?  Will you join His movement?  Will you really do your best?  The answer is not just apologetics.  The answer is Him.  You, me and a poached egg can make a difference!

The Historical Jesus

Jesus has been referred to in many different ways, both good and bad.  Christians refer to Him as the Christ, the Son of the living God, the second Person of the Trinity, while others seem to feel He was simply a man, be it a good man, a prophet, or otherwise.  Many claim that He is the same, regardless of one’s worldview.  While still others do not believe He existed at all.
A follower of Jesus obviously believes the Bible, yet to some that may all that seems to be necessary.  However, the Bible tells us in 1 Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”.  The point here is to “give an answer to everyone”, while some may feel theory answer of faith is sufficient, typically someone who does not believe the Bible would either continue not believing, or question the answer of faith.  All too often followers of Christ are forced into a position of defending their faith, while at the same time are instructed to “have an answer” for their faith.  It would seem if one is a follower, then having an answer would be a given.  After all, it is God we are talking about.  To this writer it is a driving force to have an answer, while it would appear that many, if not most, do not see it as important.  So what does all of this have to do with the historicity of Jesus?  The fact that we need to know why we believe what we believe.  We need to know the history of Jesus.  We need to be able to provide an answer.  The Mormon faith has answers, and a history of Jesus.  So do the Muslims, Catholics, and other worldviews and gospels.  Gospels are included simply to make a point of the so-called prosperity gospel, and the false teachings of it, along with the other beliefs of the views mentioned.  The history of Jesus is vitally important when one considers that fifty to eighty percent of college students leave the faith when they go to college.  There are at least two types of study to help establish the historicity of Jesus.  One being apologetics, a greek term, apologia, simply meaning to give a defense or reason, and the theological study of Christology.  We will use a portion of both to establish our answer for the history of Jesus, the Man.
Christology: Doctrine of Christ
“The doctrine of the humanity of Christ is equally important as the doctrine of the deity of Christ.  First John was written to dispel the doctrinal error that denies the true humanity of Christ (cf. 1 John 4:2).”1 The obvious starting point is the Word of God, or the Bible, in which if one is confronting a non-believer may or may not be a good source of evidence.  However, the scriptures teach the true humanity of Christ, albeit without the sinful nature of man.  Further, to establish a foundation for the historicity of Jesus, on must consider the humanity of Him also.
Jesus was born of a virgin, according to scripture, had a true body of flesh and blood, developed as humans develop, i.e., from infant to toddler, through childhood to adulthood.  This, being a basic definition, of establishing the humanity side, of a historical figure.  There are many ways to approach the evidence, one of which would be the Bible, in which has been mentioned previously.  However, after this brief introduction to the theological side of establishing history, and in an attempt to solidify our case, the use of the biblical text will be minimal, if not just in the above mentioned reference.  The idea behind taking this approach is as if we are approaching a non- believer, that does not believe the Bible, or anyone else for that matter that may or may not believe the Bible, but has a view of Jesus that is not the historical Jesus being discussed.
1   Enns, Paul, The Moody Handbook of Theology, Moody Publishers; Chicago IL, 2008

And besides, the majority of our sources for Jesus whatsoever are indeed the gospels contained within the Bible.  So if one does not believe it, then we have numerous thoughts, or beliefs about Jesus.  And, of course, this is exactly the reason we are told in Matthew 28: 19-20 “…to go and make disciples…”  If we are not following two simple scriptures, 1 Peter 3:15 and Matthew 28:19-20, how would anyone know the Truth, or the truth, concerning the historical Jesus?
Apologetics and History
At this point it would seem appropriate, if not necessary to provide some information concerning The Quest for the Historical Jesus.  “The beginning of the quest for the historical Jesus can be dated to 1774-78 when the poet Lessing published posthumously the lecture notes of Hermann Samuel Reimarus.”2 Much of what was in the notes discounted the Jesus of the NT, His claims of deity, any miracles, and the fact of His resurrection.  This movement lead to a point in 1835, when the book Life of Christ by D.F. Strauss was published claiming the gospels were not historical and the entire story of Jesus was simply a myth.  The quest died along the way, yet many other attempts have been made, and will probably continue to be made as they have since Jesus was actually here.  “The major problem that faces any attempt to arrive at the “historical Jesus” involves the definition of the term “historical”.  In critical circles the term is generally understood as “the product of the historical-critical method.”  This method for many assumes a closed continuum of time and space in which divine intervention, i.e., the miraculous, cannot intrude.”3
2  Elwell, Walter A., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd edition, Baker Book House Company; Grand Rapids MI., 2001
3 Ibid

It would appear that the definition accepted is just another way of trying to discount a historical Jesus.  However, our intention does not stop at a mere definition in critical circles.
Bart Ehrman, opens his new book with the following lines, “Every week I receive two or three e-mails asking me whether Jesus existed as a human being. When I started getting these e-mails, some years ago now, I thought the question was rather peculiar and I did not take it seriously. Of course Jesus existed. Everyone knows he existed. Don’t they?”4 A self proclaimed agnostic scholar, who obviously knows the existence of Jesus is true, and historical.  In our own quest for the historicity of Jesus, the statement from an agnostic scholar seemed appropriate place to begin our case.
The Bible, when accepted as a historical document is the most complete evidence of the historicity of Jesus.  However since we are making our defense without the major use of scripture, one must begin to look for outside sources and facts.
“An astounding amount of information about Jesus of Nazareth can be drawn from ancient historians and government officials who were contemporaries of Jesus and who lived soon after Him.”5 We will begin by listing ancient historians, with a brief biography of each and then proceed to government officials following the same format.  These sources confirm what the Bible states that not only was Jesus who He said He was, but a historical figure that changed the world.  C. S. Lewis stated that Jesus was a liar, lunatic, or Lord, and here we will have shown He was and is historically Lord.
4 Ehrman, Bart, http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2012/03/30/the-historical-evidence-of-the-existence-of-jesus-of-nazareth/  last accessed 05/25/2013
5 Hindson, Ed and Caner, Ergun, The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene OR., 2008
Ancient Historians
Tacitus
“Tacitus was a first-century Roman historian; he is considered one of the most accurate historians of the ancient world.”6  Tacitus states that “Christus “suffered the extreme penalty” under Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius.”7
Suetonius
The chief secretary to Emperor Hadrian, made two important statements concerning Jesus of Nazareth one of which contained information about the persecutions after the great fire in Rome.
Flavius Josephus
A Jewish revolutionist that transferred his allegiance to Rome in order to save his life.  His work titled Antiquities gives several insights into Jesus of Nazareth.
Thallus
A historian that wrote about the darkness after the crucifixion of Jesus.  This gives support to the reliability of the book of Luke when discussing the darkness covering the land.
Government Officials
Pliny the Younger
A Roman administrator that wrote in a letter about numerous New Testament references.
7 Hindson, Ed and Caner, Ergun, The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene OR., 2008
Emperor Trajan
In response to Pliny the Younger, wrote how early Roman government viewed Christians.
There are both Gentile and Jewish sources also; the one that would deserve the most attention would be the Talmudic writings.  They were written between AD 70 and 200 give many examples about Jesus.
Conclusion
We have shown, with the majority being of non Christian sources, that Jesus was a historical figure.  The evidence strongly supports the case for establishing the historicity of Jesus.