Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Tarot Reader

Golden Gate Bridge Near where the encounter took place.

Not too long ago, I had an interesting interaction. While walking back from a birthday dinner with my wife I had an opportunity to share the Gospel. I usually do not like to write about different interactions I have with sharing the gospel; however, I feel that this situation is different. While walking back from our restaurant in downtown San Francisco, we were approached by a woman and her assistant on the street. She came up to my wife holding tarot cards saying that my wife had a great aura and that she wanted to offer a free reading, (to which inside I rejoiced at the opportunity to share the reason for our joy; 1 Peter 3:15). I proceeded to share the Gospel message with her; while I was speaking with her, the “assistant” began yelling across the street to what appeared to be the rest of the group. I realized that all of these women were a homeless group that went around asking for money. While I was witnessing, her assistant was yelling out extremely loud what I was saying to her friend, “He is talking about God.” As I was speaking with the tarot card reader, I asked her where she would go if she died today, to which she gave the typical answer of being a good person but followed with, “Because I trust in Jesus and that he died.” This usually does not throw me for a loop because you come across many people who know the right answers, however, as I continued with some questions, I quickly realized she knew all the “right” answers but her lifestyle contradicted the words she spoke. I, then, respectfully confronted her profession (tarot card reading) and proceeded to explain what Jesus would have said to someone who would have been doing something similar to that in his time. She admitted she knew it was wrong but couldn’t give an answer for why she was participating in a job promoting demonic influence. At this point in time, I began seeing a change in her demeanor and began to sense the ally God has given to us, the Holy Spirit, convicting her. I began to see the emotion in her eyes wanting to receive more than just head knowledge; however, right when I was about to re-share the Gospel a man walked by --mind you it was late in the evening on a weeknight and the streets downtown were EMPTY. This businessman in a suit walks by, then stops and yells at me to leave her alone. This caught me off guard; I turned to see who my “heckler” was and he began to advance towards my position telling me to leave her alone and sell my “stuff” somewhere else. I then began to attempt to bring him into my conversation but he kept his distance from me, continuing to yell and scream choice words at me. I responded with “I am sharing the good new of Jesus Christ, and the reason for me sharing this is because I care about what happens to this woman after this life, and I also care about you.” He continued to share his words with me and then he finally left. I, then, went to pick up where I left off with the tarot reader but the look in her eyes was COMPLETLEY different. I mean a noticeable difference; what I saw before was tenderness and an eagerness to hear what Christ had done for us. The look I saw now was hate and anger, she said, “Leave me alone that man is right you don’t care about me,” and continued repeating it louder and louder. I finally bid her a good night and said, “God Bless.”
            I did not write this with the intention of leaving my readers upset or discouraged, for as far as I can see it may appear as there was no “happy ending” to my conversation; however, I wrote this for other individuals that also have a passion to share the good news. The point of this story is: do not get frustrated with the hecklers that come into the conversation. In this case, it was the businessman who interrupted our conversation. This wasn’t my first heckler and certainly not my last. I actually enjoy it when hecklers come because they attract more attention to the conversation so that more people can hear the good news. Also, do not take it personally when someone was once engaged and interested, suddenly turns off and slanders your message. James 1:2 came to mind where he says: “Count it all joy my brothers when you face trials of various kinds.” Did she walk away questioning her Salvation or what might happen when she dies? I don’t know and it is not for me to worry about. Something to remember when sharing the faith is that it is not our responsibility to worry about the outcome, as if our worrying was going to do anything. Instead, let the Lord deal with their heart, move on and be encouraged that God had given you an opportunity to share. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Moral Argument!

   Hey all, I am sorry it has been so long since my last post. Working 40+ hours a week, being enrolled full time in college, and being a father and a husband, it is tough to find time to blog. Since our last blog my wife and I have been blessed with good news that we will be having another baby! We are extremely excited and will be expecting the little boy/girl next June.
This post I wanted to focus more on some apologetic issues. Recently, I have been having an amazing opportunity with being able to share the good news with one of my college professors. Initially, when I began this I was nervous. This guy has a Doctorate Degree in English Studies and specializes in Critical Thinking! So, to say the least I was going up against a very intellectual person. However, something that I have learned is that no matter what the intellect of a person, the good news Jesus came to share with us address people on the conscience not the intellect. For about three weeks he brought up questions in which he had never been able to get answers to. I am going to highlight one of them in this blog post. This argument I used has worked for me; most of them I have pulled from Dr. William Lane Craig and his Defenders Podcasts and Scholarly Articles.

First Argument: The Moral Argument
Before I get into the details of this, it is a very powerful argument using logical syllogism. Logical Syllogism is an argument that draws its conclusion based off 1 or 2 premises. This is very common in philosophy and allows your conversation to not personally attack someone; this gives them a logical flow in the thinking to lead to why you believe what you believe.

 So The Moral Argument [TMA]

·      If God does not exist; Objective Moral Values Do Not Exist
·      Objective Moral Values Do Exist
·      Therefore God Exists

So, to make sense of this I am going to break it down. First off, lets define objective vs. subjective. Objective means that something is true Independent of human opinion. Subjective means that something is true Dependent on human opinion. So an example is: it is objectively true that I have a tattoo on my arm, this is true independent on what you may think or feel; because I do in fact have a permanent tattoo on my arm.

Premise 1: So an objective moral value would be referring to something that is morally wrong, independent on what the person may think or feel. What I typically say to someone who believes each person determines what is right or wrong [someone who does not believe in objective moral values]. Is, based off of what you just said; if I was a serial killer; I feel that murdering people is ok for me. So if there are no objective moral values I can continue doing this. I then ask the person, if I were a serial killer and I knocked on your door and said, “hey sorry, but you fit my profile for people I wish to kill, and I feel good about killing you.” Would you then allow me to do what I felt was right? No! Of course not, so based off you agreeing with me, you do in fact believe in objective moral values. Another example is to say that the Holocaust was objectively evil, even though the Nazi’s [who carried it out] thought it was good. Even if the Nazi’s won WW2 it would still have been evil even if the Nazi’s brainwashed everyone into thinking it was ok. So, to say that the Holocaust is evil regardless of whether anyone agrees with it or not is objectively true. Most atheists and theists agree; that if God does not exist then moral values are not objective.

Premise 2: So from here, the person [usually] admits that yes, they do believe in some form of objective moral values. Then you say, based off you agreeing with me that objective moral values do exist this leads us to premise 3 that God does in fact exist. This is an ethical argument, which is logically sound and ethically applicable.

I have used this many, many times, and has always proven un-arguable from many atheists, agnostics, and other relativists that deny the existence or the possibility of God. This is just one of many arguments I have followed to help me get the conversation to the point where the individual will even think about listening to the Gospel message. This argument helps because, if you are speaking with an atheist; and he or she will not even admit to the possibility of God, how then will you be able to speak to them in which they would listen to the gospel message. But, if you present this first, and then drawing from the conclusion that they admit it is more logically true than false that God exists based off the fact that Objective Moral Values exist, then you can open up into the gospel!!
            This is an amazing tool and argument to use, which does not require an insane amount of philosophical knowledge to master. So my professor started the conversation saying he believes in relativism and then ended by admitting there is most likely a God! Now something I want to say is, while you are doing this be careful not to focus solely on the intellect. You do not want to engage this person in a battle of wits; you want to engage them on their conscience. In Romans 2:15 it says that God has written his law onto the hearts of man. Each person has a conscience; this conscience is our ally when addressing individuals in matters of the faith.
            I hope this helps you and that the Lord allows you an opportunity to practice this! I will be posting more arguments that I have used for the next few posts. If you have any questions you would like me to explain further please ask away!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"Interrupted" Food for Thought

In continuing with my We're Under Attack series, I wanted to write a real quick blurb on something that my wife and I have been looking into. It is a book written by Jen Hatmaker called Interrupted.  Jen is a mother, Christian, blogger, and author. If you read her book Interrupted [which I am currently reading] she starts out the book with stating that this book is no manifesto, or something that can be interpreted as a devotional. Within the first few pages, her words tickle your ears and your emotions with very colorful language and descriptive terms -- something in which she is using to describe her “journey”. I will give her credit because she does state; “. . . it is not an experts opinion on church trends and postmodernist thought.” (Hatmaker, 2009) So she openly starts the book stating that she is a postmodernist [meaning we cannot know truth, we must question everything] and then Hatmaker stated that she does have some “churchy credentials”. Then, the very next page she again says: “. . . its better to wade through murky waters with a fellow explorer rather than an authority.”
            Within these first few excerpts from her book -- and let me say this was only in the introduction -- I have had nothing but red flags popping up all over. 2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV) says: "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." What Paul wrote was telling Timothy, [and us] how we should be studying Scripture. We shouldn’t be wandering through a swamp of mud, or murky waters with someone else who is as equally lost as I am. Instead, we should follow the words written in Titus 1:9 (ESV) "He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it." What this means is simple: we need to be solid in our backbone when we search the Scriptures and when we minister and disciple others. So we need authority when it comes to our search for truth. 1 Peter 5:2 (ESV) says ". . .shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain but eagerly."  This was a charge to Church leaders that they need to shepherd the flock so we don’t have a bunch of mindless zombies wandering the world in hopes that they may catch a glimmer of truth. Who should they model their example off of? God!

           Later on in her book and in many interviews as well, she pays tribute to a man who help radically change her view on life, her relationship with Christ, and her view of what it really means to be a Christian. She read a book by Shane Claiborne entitled The Irresistible Revolution.  In Shane's book, he outlines a revolution that needs to take place within the Church. The book also talks about how the Church has it all-wrong and it needs to change. Let's look at what Claiborne believes; Claiborne is a leader of the New Monasticism movement within Protestant Christianity.  Johnathan Wilson coined this term in 1998. Monasticism essentially means to devote one's life to spiritual work [emphasis on works] and is derived from the Greek, monachos. Now there is nothing wrong with devoting your life to doing the Lord's work, and I do believe Jesus has called us to pursue him, similar to David in the Old Testament being a man after God's own heart. But while this is noble and true, people within this movement place too much emphasis on working with the poor and showing them love, they tend to leave of the good news of the Gospel! It's this attitude: "Well, if the opportunity presents itself, then sure, we will share how Jesus loves them." The Gospel to Hatmaker, Claiborne and any other Emergent is too harsh which is why they need too emphasize God's love. This way of thinking is extremely dangerous and misguiding. In Ray Comfort's Book, God Has A Wonderful Plan For Your Life, he talks about what we would call false conversion. "If non-Christians [the people receiving the work that Clairborne and Hatmaker are doing] respond to the Gospel message only to improve their lives they will be di-allusioned when persecution comes and they may fall away from the faith." (Ray Comfort) Excuse this rough analogy, but it's like traveling to a city to visit, only to get off the airplane and stay in the airport because that is what is comfortable to you. You may not want to go outside the airport because there is danger, and stuff that may confront you. By only giving people one-half of the Gospel message we are robbing them. God IS a loving God, but he is also a just God and the perfect judge. If you cannot come to grips with this fact than you could possibly be a false convert.

A reviewer of the book Irresistable Revolution couldn't have said it better:

The fallacy is this: One's economic situation is a NOT a direct correlation to their spiritual condition. If a person dressed in rags and in desperate need of a bath came to our fellowship, would it be wrong for us to assume that his spiritual condition was far worse than our own? Of course it would. The man might be a modern day John the Baptist. But is it not just as fallacious to assume that people with lots of money are less a priority than those who are poor?

Let me make myself clear. I am not saying that we should not care for the poor. I believe we in the modern Church have been horrible stewards of what God has given us. This is true. But I have discussed with many college students who have read Irresistible Revolution and think that they must go and live in the ghetto to properly serve God. This is not true. If you are a young Christian seeking guidance, use this book as a launch pad to consider God's call on your life. Read it, read other books. Talk to dozens of ministers and missionaries. But go where HE sends you, not where Shane does. I would never want to usurp a young person's call by making them feel as though there was only one way to truly minister in God's kingdom.

            In an interview with Hatmaker, she is speaking to the interviewer and is saying that the spirit revealed something to her after hearing a lecture from Claiborne. She was walking and “ . . .heard a mysterious holy spirit whisper.” I left Holy Spirit in lowercase, because frankly, I don’t know what spirit it could have been. Claiborne also has used this terminology saying an eerie presence of the spirit came upon him. That is not the same Holy Spirit the Bible refers to: Judges 3:10-14, Matthew 12:31-33,  Luke 24:45-49, Romans 8:2-6, and Micah 3:8-10 (ESV) "But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might. . .” We do not see the Spirit mysteriously whispering sweet nothing's into peoples ears or fill you with question. The Spirit is part of the Godhead, he is powerful and mighty, when he comes in, he kicks the door open and makes his presence known, as we saw at Pentecost in Acts 2:1-5. The spirit in Acts was described as coming in as a violent wind. With this you have to ask yourself, who are they referring to?
            I apologize, this blurb has gone on longer than I anticipated and I could easily continue to go on dissecting what they believe. This; however, is a perfect example on how if you do not actually take the time to research your author, and search the Scriptures to cross-examine what was written, you could fall into this trap! For those of you who may read my blog and are currently reading this book, look into these facts I have brought up. As you continue to read this book, highlight areas in which seem controversial or that made you stop and re-read the sentence. This book by Hatmaker was put on the same level with Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis. We all know about him and his role within the Emergent church. So stay watchful and one of my new favorite verses 1 Thessalonians 5:21 . . . but test everything, hold fast what is good.

I leave you with one last analogy. The Scritpure is like a laser pointer. If you are trying to hit a target on the wall with the laser, you have to be spot on. Just a few degrees of movement with the laser skews the entire distance from the point to the target. In the same way, we must be prayerful and knowledgeable about how we interpret Scritpure. If we are just a few degrees off, we could lead masses astray.

Hatmaker, J. (2009). Interrupted. Colorado Springs: NavPress.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Were Under Attack Part 2!

    Hey everyone, sorry I have been absent from the blog, I have been extremely busy with work, school, and taking care of a crazy, two-year old son. I hope you all enjoyed last weeks blog interview with Apologist and former Navy SEAL, Chad Williams. This week I am going to continue the “We’re Under Attack” series. In my last post, I briefly went over the idea of the Emergent Church, and the views that are associated. It is incredibly easy for you to find yourself in one of these churches; in fact, you may be in one now! The reason I say this is because I found myself in one about 3 ½ years ago. I was one of the college leaders at this church, and started my own Bible study, which many college students attended. I was going through Grace Walk curriculum by Steve McVey. The group started off great; there was about ten of us and we met once a week. When we were about 3 weeks into the study, I was pulled aside by one of the elders of the church and was told I was too formal and structured in my way of leading this group. He continued to say it needed to be more “conversational”.  What did this change look like? It went from an interactive study of the Scripture and use of the Bible as means of explanation,  to what each person thought and felt. As this Bible study continued on, the rabbit hole got deeper, wider, and way off the topic at hand. We were looking at Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves it is a gift of God, not of works so no man may boast”. This is pretty cut and dry, wouldn’t you agree? What this says is we are not saved by our own actions or something we can do on our own. We cannot earn salvation and in Isaiah 64:6 this is made very clear. I was hearing stuff like, “Well, I think that if I do enough good works, and help people enough then God will be happy with what I am doing and then I can become a Christian,” or “Well, I don’t think what Paul wrote here applies to us today. It’s too outdated”. As I was hearing this, I wanted to pull my hair out! I finally stood up and said, “Guys, enough! What you are saying is in contradiction to what the Scriptures say.” It was too late, I had already lost the group. They then began to say, “Well Ethan, that’s what you think is true, and that is fine. What’s true for you may not be true for me and it’s left up to each person. It’s ‘relative.’” Does this sound familiar guys? Deconstructonism maybe?

            You are probably wondering why I told you this story; well I want you to see how easy it is to find yourself in a situation in where the “Emergent” way of thinking can trump the believers mind and interpretation of the Scripture. Well, to make a long story short, that was the beginning of my experience within the church. I wont go into more detail about how the pastor would play Semisonic- “Closing Time” before church, or how he referenced certain movies as sermon illustrations, or how I never needed to bring my Bible cause he never used it -- but my eyes were opened. I was in this church for almost four years before I realized what had happened. I then noticed they were endorsing authors and pastors such as Brian Mclaren, Rob Bell, Joel Osteen, and Rick Warren. The church was more concerned with questioning everything; they did not have time for Scripture. Let’s look at Brian Mclaren: he is a Christian pastor within the Emergent movement. He is a post-modernist (truth cannot be known), and endorses progressive Christianity. He was recognized by Time magazine as one of the 25 most influential Evangelicals in 2005! He sounds like a guy who is doing great things in the name of the Lord, right? Mclaren wrote a book called “A New Kind of Christianity.” In this book, he pokes fun at evangelicals and calls to question EVERYTHING they believe. An excerpt from his book says this about what he thinks of the Bible: ”The Bible is a portable library of poems, prophecies, histories, fables, parables, letters, sagely sayings, quarrels, and so on.” 

So if the Bible is a library of poems, prophecies, and fables, what does he base his life off of? What is his source of truth? Romans 14:22-23 sums it up “…whatever is not of faith is sin.” Where is his faith? Think about this statement and what it means. If he does not believe the Bible is from God, written by man through being filled by the Holy Spirit, then you must question your very existence! What then do you have to base your knowledge of right and wrong? What is your source of truth? It cannot be us, we are born into sin (Eph 2:1-3, Psalm 51:5, Romans 3:10-12, Romans 5:19, Romans 3:10-12.) I could share reference after reference where he Bible states we are born into sin, and unless we have a Savior there is no redemption. If you doubt the Bible, then by default you doubt the very basis and core of your belief. And if you don’t believe the Bible is perfect, then you must also doubt the very existence of God! This is a very dangerous path, and where it leads is to destruction. Matthew 7:13 says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”

            Here’s some advice I would like to give you. This is a test for you to ask yourself the next time you are at church. (However, I’m sure many of you may go to a great Bible-believing/preaching church and you may not need to ask these questions but it’s always good to re-evaluate from time to time.)

1. Do I use my Bible? Is the message based upon Scripture or is the message based upon a story or experience. Are there multiple supporting verses from Scripture or is there only a single verse used with lots of quotes and stories supporting it? Do you spend a majority of your time in the Bible during your church service or do you spend the majority of your church service listening to stories?
2. Am I hearing a lot of words like: conversation, post-modern, mystery, truth is relative? Is the pastor’s message leading you back to the cross or is his message leaving you further questioning the Bible in the name of “awe” and “wonder”?
3. What authors, or other pastors does my church endorse or support? Do the author’s agree with the church’s doctrinal statement? Do these supported authors or preachers support Biblical truth?

            I know this post was on the long side; however, there are so many people being pulled into the experiential based faith. It is also tough for me to try and sum up the Emergent church in a small blog post. It has been said, trying to describe the Emergent church is like nailing jello to wall. I will be posting more about the Emergent movement, and things to look out for, but hopefully this gets your gears spinning about what to look for. I leave you with a verse from 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Resources and further reading:
Further reading on Brian Mclaren, and a review of the book by Scot Mcknight from Christianity Today.' A New Kind of Christianity' review <---Click Link

This is a great message from Bobby Conway on the Emergent Church, Brian Mclaren,Rob Bell, and many other Emergent leaders.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Analyzing Apologists: Interview with Chad Williams, Former Navy Seal and Author of "Seal of God"

Hey everyone, as I mentioned in a previous post, I want to start interviewing different apologists. We have the opportunity to hear from the author of "Seal of God" for this first installment! If you read my about page you will see that his book was the one that helped spark my desire for apologetics. I'm  grateful to Chad for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer a few of my questions. Read the interview, check out some of his websites and be sure to purchase his book.                                                                                                                        1. When you were on the teams, what was the toughest thing you had to deal with in regards to being a Christian/ SEAL, without one role over-powering the other?

The toughest thing I had to deal with was the friction that occurred between some old buddies and myself after I had died to my old self (2 Corinthians 5:17; Col. 3:3). It has been said that, "the same sun that melts wax, hardens the clay." Any new believer can expect to see such a melting and hardening process occur early on in their spear of influence if you choose to be that sun -- which is to be a light just as Jesus calls us to be in Matthew 5:16, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." You see, sometimes other men encounter Christian light that ultimately has a melting effect on their heart, as they are convicted of their own sin -- by the work of the Holy Spirit-- and brought into a state where they are bowing the knee before the Creator as-it-were and glorifying God. Other times you let your light shine and it has a different result, a hardening effect. Lets not forget about the flip-side of light. As Jesus puts it in John 3:19-20: "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed." In such a case, you may be a radiant light that makes men living in the darkness of their sin feel uncomfortable around you…It hardens them toward God and toward you! That is the toughest thing I had to deal with while being a Christian in the SEAL teams...being marginalized at times for aligning myself with Jesus as Lord which resulted in some division between myself and comrades stuck in the old ways of living. Misery loves company, and so sometimes they would rather you turn that light off or put it under a basket (Matthew 5:15a).

2. How did/do you deal with these struggles?
I deal with this difficulty by having a "knowing mind" as John MacArthur might put it. James1:2-4 tells us, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." I knew that God was at work and intimately aware of my situation. I knew He was present in the midst of my struggles and He had a purpose in allowing it. Ultimately, I knew I would become a more mature Christian (that God would get greater use out of me) if I endured. "But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold" (Job 23:10).  

3. What advice do you have for current active duty or any other veteran?
Don't just be a soldier for your country but be a soldier for Christ (2 Timothy 2:3-5). Jesus tells us to let our light shine before men, so do the work of an evangelist by being a radiant light that not only shines but communicates the life saving message of the Gospel (Matthew 5:16; Matthew 28:18-20; Romans 1:16; Romans 10:14-17). Charles Studd once wrote, "Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last. And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be, if the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”

4. Where else can we find you?
Chad Williams Blog: http://streetapologetics.com/
Twitter: @rationaltruth
Youtube: Rational Responder
Request Chad as Speaker: http://premierespeakers.com/christian/chad_williams
Purchase his book: Seal of God

Chad Williams is a former Navy SEAL, having served his country proudly from 2004-2010. Now engaged in full-time ministry work, Chad uses the training and experience he gained as a SEAL to help communicate the Gospel to others. Chad and his wife, Aubrey, live in Huntington Beach, California and they are expecting their first child, a baby girl, and will be naming her Ella.