2nd look

Know the Gospel

Welcome to 2nd Look.
This past Sunday we talked about the importance of knowing the Gospel and how we need to come to think more and more like Jesus does. We need to see the world the way He does and that this is a central part of following Jesus. You may remember I said: “I don’t know much; but I know we are supposed to make disciples.” Jesus commands us to do this – to go into all the world and make disciples. Part of this process involves us knowing the gospel and helping others do the same.
So the follow up question is: Ok – but how do I do this? How do I deepen in knowing the gospel? How do I grow to think more and more like Jesus? Let me give you several ideas:

1. Studymemorizelearn from God’s Word

Psalm 119:11 – the psalmist says: “thy word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against thee…” A big part of coming to deeply KNOW the gospel – is to learn the teachings of the Bible and to let it invade your life. There is no book out there that has invaded my life like the Bible has. I’m a serial reader of books. I read them like they are a mission – once I complete the book, I’ve completed the mission. Very few books get a second read from me. Novels almost never get a second read. Some non fiction works will get a second go around – even fewer get a third. The Bible is the only book, I’ve read over and over again; and in that process, the teachings found within its pages have begun to invade my mind and heart in a way no other book has.
As Christians we need to study God’s Word. We need it because without it we really don’t grow to think like Jesus. We will be stunted in our growth – if we grow at all and we run the risk of making grave errors in our understanding of who God is and His will for our lives.
One other thing I’d like to say about this – memorization is not necessarily a weakness for me – but it requires effort so I wouldn’t say it’s a huge strength either. But memorization has powerfully impacted my life with God. I know some of us out there think there is no way we could memorize Scripture. Please consider that your mind is capable of doing amazing things – and then you add to that God’s empowering of your mind? Memorization is possible. Consider trying it – but before you do – please free yourself from the idea that you have to memorize entire books of Scripture. I think many of us are capable of this – but seriously – just start with a verse or two. Write a verse on a notecard and tape it to your mirror or on your dash console where you will see it often (But do this safely!!) Read the verse again and again; reflect on it – memorize it.
If you are just starting out with the Bible – there are all kinds of suggestions for how to read the Scriptures. Please check our church website in the days ahead – we will be posting some helpful hints on living from our values and more specifically – reading and learning from the Bible.

2. Make and execute an intentional plan to develop our minds

The key word here is “intentional.” How often are we intentional with the way we do things? This is especially hard for those of us who are  fly by the seat of our pants people. I’m one of them – but I’ve found there is great power to making intentional choices to grow. The mind is something that doesn’t just grow. It’s not like we put our brains in sunlight – add a little water then Voila! You have a larger mind! No, this takes an intentional choice on our part.  I’d like to invite you to think about this and maybe ask yourself some questions:

1) What are some ways I can help myself grow to think more and more like Jesus?

2) Are there thought patterns in my life that are like Jesus’? What are they? Are there thought patterns that are not? What are they?

There are tons of resources on the web that are available to help you grow and be challenged to know the gospel. If you are a reader there are a ton of books out and articles out there. Might I make a few suggestions?

-“The Search For Significance” by Robert McGee

-“Hiding From Love” by John Townsend

-“Christ Empowered Living” by Selwyn Hughes

If you are someone who likes to listen and watch videos – we have a great resource called: Rightnowmedia.org. Check it out – through it you have access to hundreds of hours of sermons; Bible studies and training.
The big thing is – to make an intentional choice; then an intentional plan – to grow your mind. It also means we might need to release some things in our lives that hurt our ability to grow to think more and more like Jesus…

3. Replace our errant ways of thinking with Christ’sways.

One thing I’ve found through the years I’ve known Jesus – is that He is in the business of changing me from the inside out. I’m finding I’m often wrestling with seeing the world the way Jesus does and how I so frequently find the way Jesus sees things is the opposite of how I naturally do. I’m often having to be reminded that this thought is not of Christ and it is in those moments; I am praying and asking God once again to take this truth and re-form my thoughts with it. Sometimes we need to take our errant misguided thinking and remind ourselves again and again what Jesus’ way of seeing things is – then we need to live as if Jesus’ way is actually the truth. This is not an overnight process. Let me give you an example:
So I see a guy on the street and my initial thought is – I want to stay away from him – to not invest in him because judging by the way he looks – he isn’t open to Christ and he’s beyond saving. But the Bible teaches us that nobody is beyond saving or beyond the love of God. So I need to remind myself of this and accept this truth – but then also maybe I need to live as if this truth is actually true. So I talk to this guy – all the while asking God to lead me because I am trusting that this guy is not beyond His love and ability to save.
Do you see what I’m talking about? We confront the errant ways we think – we replace them with Christ’s true ways and we live accordingly.
These three things will help us know the gospel. The question always comes back to: How far are you willing to go? How deeply do you want your mind to be like Jesus’? I promise you – this movement will rock your life and while some of it may be difficult – you won’t regret.

Have a wonderful week everybody,
Pastor Ryan



Thanks for the Info, now what?

Hello SNC friends!
Can you believe it? We finished our series on Tough Questions – Solid Answers. I had a great time discussion these things with you. This is a major area of passion for me although I would admit I am nowhere near as nuanced a philosopher and scientist as many of those who contribute to this discussion are. I’m a novice – but have deeply enjoyed this pursuit over the years. It was truly wonderful bringing this material to our Sunday mornings and really having this dialogue. My hope is that you can use it, return to it if you are wrestlying – or maybe ministering to a friend who has difficult questions. I’d like to take some time to share my answer to someone who asks me to explain why in the world I’ve decided to lose my mind and be a Christian! Here is my (hopefully short and clear) answer:

“Joe, thanks for asking me that question. I know it might seem crazy to you, but I have really thought about this and wrestled with it through the years. If you’ve got a few minutes, I’d love to share with you several reasons why I have decided to place my faith in Jesus Christ.

As I begin I’d like to say is that I am going to share multiple pieces of evidence that could point to the existence of a God and that Jesus is Him – but each piece may not be enough to prove God’s existence on its own – but when you line them up together it begins to look more and more compelling to me that Christianity is true. Now I just want to share these reasons with you and then we can discuss questions you may have for the reasons I gave.

Okay, first thing I’d like to point to is science. I know this is disputed but it seems to me that science has not disproven God’s existence, but rather it may actually point us to a creator. I see the vast scope of a universe that seems to have a design behind it – I see the brilliant design of a human being and find it hard to explain how we just got here on our own. To me, I look around me and am in awe of it all. To me – I’ve read and throughout a lot about this – it just seems to me the explanation of a God behind it all is just as compelling if not more than the explanation  of God’s non existence.

Secondly, I think Christianity gives us the best explanation as to why we can define what evil is – and the best explanation for why it exists and it gives us the best hope for us in the midst of this evil.

Third, I see the Bible as an historically and archaeologically accurate and philosophically strong book that changes lives. I know the Bible has been scoffed at but every attack I’ve seen brought against it seems to fail. This lends credence to the words within it.

Fourth, I find Christianity to be the most compelling religion (atheism included), philosophically; morally; archaeologically; and to be honest – I find it to be the most hope and life-giving of all religions out there.

Fifth, the evidence for the existence, the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus Christ is very powerful and compelling to me. Jesus was either raised from the dead – or He wasn’t. If He wasn’t then He is just a man and Christianity is just another religious system – but if He was raised from the dead – then Christianity is something else entirely.

Sixth, I’ve seen how my relationship with Jesus has changed my life and the lives of millions throughout history who claim they have not only had a relationship with God but they have seen Him move in powerful ways. To me – all these testimonies together is very powerful.

So these are my six major reasons for belief in God and in Jesus Christ.”

How would you describe why you believe in Jesus? You don’t have to use big philosophical words or concepts – but can you explain why you believe what you do? In 1 Peter 3:15 we are encouraged to always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in you . . . My hope was to help you arrive at your reasons and be prepared at all times to share that if asked. So let me ask you – this week pull out a piece of paper and a pencil. And write down these questions:

  1. What do I find to be most convincing about the Christian faith?
  2. Why is it most convincing?
  3. How would I communicate this to others?

Have you ever thought about this? I have confessed that sometimes when I’m on long drives I pretend I’m in a discussion with a non-christian, and I try to answer questions that would be asked to me. I think about how I would answer questions: what I’d say and how I’d deliver it. As we move forward in our mission to make disciples, I can guarantee: you will be questioned. My hope is that you will be ready and it’s awesome because so many times, I find there will be points in the conversation where I’m not ready and yet God powerfully moves through me. These are very exciting tines because I’m reminded it’s not my intellect or persuasiveness that wins the day – but God’s Holy Spirit speaking to a heart and moving someone. May God bless you richly in your mission with Him!

Pastor Ryan



Why Church?

Hello SNC friends!
If you remember last week we talked about the church. We spoke about how some people have pointed at the church as their reason for why they do not believe in God. I shared with you three toxic poisons (the three TPs) that can run in the veins of christians and churches; that make them become places that are hurtful; uninviting; uninspired; powerless places. They become toxic.

This is an area of strong interest for me because I’ve seen the toxic church. As a minister for over twenty years, I’ve been in some very toxic situations behind the scenes of church. I’ve seen deacons fist fighting over the issue of dancing. I’ve seen a pastor grab one of his staff members and yell in her face. I’ve seen gossip; and bitter feuding. I’ve seen pastors fall. I’ve seen churches drive pastors into retirement. There are many stories out there of the carnage that is left in the wake of a toxic church.

This was enough to bring me to the brink on several occasions; of giving up on the church. But no matter which way I could rationalize I couldn’t (and still cannot) escape God’s heart for His church written in the pages of the Bible. He loves his church!

I’ve heard people say: “I love Jesus but I don’t love the church. So it’s just Jesus and me!!!” Here’s the problem with that statement – you claim to love Jesus but you are attacking and writing off one of the things He is most passionate about. The church in all its imperfections and weaknesses is still the bride of Christ and He loves her!!!

So here’s my invitation to you this week. Open your Bible and find some passages where God is talking about his church. Go on google and start a web search on this. I think you’ll be amazed to see just how passionate Christ is about His church. As a church we need to fight the toxic poisons that can run in our veins. We need to be willing to ask tough questions because Jesus loves us and wants us to be a place that gives life and pursues a powerful vision. I think God wants to run rampant with us – to blow our minds – to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine for the sake of His kingdom! I believe Jesus wants us to look at our lives and be amazed at how God has allowed us to impact this world……

I don’t know where this church will be in 60 years – heck I don’t even know what we’ll look like in ten years – but darnit – my hope is we’ll look back and say – we saw what church could look like – powerful; passionate; purposeful; and we can point to how God used us in Sunland!

Take time this week to search the church. God loves us folks – and He believes in us – because He knows He is there to make us something extraordinary. The question is: do we believe?

Have a blessed week everyone!
Pastor Ryan



God, I Just Don’t Understand

“God, I really like some things about you but if I was honest, there are some things I see here that really don’t make sense.”

I have to be honest, this prayer has been mine on and off during my journey with God. I have especially struggled with some of the things I see God doing in the Old Testament. I’m not sure if any of these things have caused me to doubt God’s existence because I trust that He has a greater reason and that just because He doesn’t make sense doesn’t mean He doesn’t exist. While this issue hasn’t caused me to struggle in my belief – it has caused me to struggle in my trust of God – in my faith. It has caused me to wrestle with the goodness of God and that has been quite disillusioning at times.

A few years ago when I was working at Biola, I set up a lunch appointment between one of my students who was an atheist and two Biola philosophy professors. I even got to tag along and watch as these two brilliant men gently sought to have an open and constructive dialogue with this young man. They sat down over lunch and this young man began to ask questions. He was very well read with some of the new atheist literature and you could tell he was very bright. I already knew this – I had met with him several times. Now in retrospect – from the perspective of an outside observer – it seemed to me that the professors handled the young man’s questions although it was reported to me later that the young man was bragging to his friends that he had stumped the philosophy profs. It didn’t look that way to me at all – however one could fairly accuse me of seeing what I wanted to see in this.

During the luncheon – the young man began to address evil and God’s goodness. They began to really and deeply wrestle with the philosophical questions. At one point though they really challenged the young man and asked him: “Joe (not his real name) – how does the fact that evil exists – or that God seems to do evil things in the Old testament – really disprove His existence? Or rather – does it just prove to us that you don’t like or understand the way He does things?  

This was a very powerful question for me; and it felt like a huge moment in the conversation. It seemed to me that Joe didn’t really have a compelling answer to this question. Since that luncheon that question has often stuck with me. I had a friend who heard an atheist speaker accuse God of being wasteful proclaiming that humanoids have existed on this planet for up to 150,000 years before we have records of them being fully realized humans. So what did God do with all the humanoids? The speaker accuses God of being incredibly wasteful in His plan – unless there was no God at all. But this is a big jump that one could make but it’s definitely not ironclad. If there were humanoids; (Which we still haven’t really found fossils for); then God would have a reason for how and why He dealt with them the way He did. How does this prove He doesn’t exist – but rather the speaker didn’t like the way it seems God does things? Unfortunately for my friend – this article opened the door for him to begin deeply questioning His belief in God and ultimately led him to abandon his trust in Jesus. When he shared this argument with me I was reminded of the two philosophy professors debating that brilliant young student in the Biola Burger Pit.

When we look at the questions leveled at God’s goodness; like we did last Sunday – this question is of vital importance. How does the fact that God doesn’t seem to make sense here – really disprove His existence – more than prove that you don’t like or understand the way He has done things?

In addition to this question has been recent scholarship – some of what I shared with you – that has been extremely helpful to fill in some of the blanks in this discussion and paint certain things in a different light. This is what has been so exciting for me – because as an inquisitive and skeptical man – I have found that the fact there are answers to these questions is something that frankly: feels good, like lifting a weight off my shoulders.  It also amazes me – deepens my worship and trust of God.

I’d like to direct you as I close this 2nd look to several resources. If you enjoyed last week’s sermon and want to go deeper – here are some links I’d like to invite you to check out. The scholar I’d like to direct you to is Paul Copan. This guy is a hero to me. Below are links to his website and a couple of his books.  There are other scholars out there but for now – I’d like to direct you to Paul because he has done a great deal addressing the questions that we brought up and discussed last Sunday.

http://www.paulcopan.com/articles/

http://www.amazon.com/God-Moral-Monster-Making-Testament/dp/0801072751/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1392771995&sr=1-1&keywords=paul+copan

http://www.amazon.com/When-God-Goes-Starbucks-Apologetics/dp/080106743X/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1392772021&sr=1-3&keywords=paul+copan

Have a wonderful week everybody!

Pastor Ryan



2nd Look

Hello friends,

Instant disclaimer – this is a long email – please take some time to read it over the week – you don’t need to read it all today.

If you were here on Sunday – you may recall we spoke about God and the problem of evil. We looked at several underlying beliefs people have when they say they don’t believe in God because there is evil in the world. The underlying beliefs are:

1. There is such a thing as evil and we can define it. We discussed this and looked at how difficult it is to define evil without a God who can give us an absolute definition of what is right and wrong. Without Him we are limited to each one of us determining what works for our lives and morality – which then makes defining evil and suffering very difficult.

2. God, if He exists; is morally and logically obligated to stop evil. This is a big argument. If God is all powerful and all good why doesn’t He stop evil. Either He cannot stop it – in which case He’s not all powerful – or He doesn’t want to stop it in which case He’s not all good. It seems very clear that both God and evil cannot logically co-exist…. That is true… unless God has a reason for why He allows evil/suffering. It may be difficult to understand what that reason may be – but the truth is – just because we don’t see a reason doesn’t mean there isn’t one.  

That is a hard truth to live with. We want to know why these things happen. We want to know what possible reason He could have because then it might make some of this make sense. I wish I could tell you God is in the habit of giving us reasons. He isn’t always very forthcoming with this. As a matter of fact – if you have read the book of Job you’ve likely noticed that at the end; When God and Job have their big showdown and it’s God’s turn to give Job a reason for why He allowed all of this horrible suffering in Job’s life – God doesn’t answer him. He just asks more questions and talks about leviathans and other creatures. He basically says: “Job – were you there; when I created everything? Do you know how I did it?  Can you possibly understand me?” But I think there is something else going on in here.  I think this is also God saying: “Job – do you see you can trust Me even if I don’t give you an answer?”  

God tends to do it this way. But there are some things that God does say about why He allows evil. Interestingly enough these things have more to do with what evil and suffering produce in us than why He allows it. Let me give you three examples:

1) Evil/ Suffering Removes Our Illusions

    One of the biggest illusions we buy into as humans is the illusion of control; or power. As Americans we have been bred to believe that anything is possible for us as long as we put our minds to it – that we determine our own destiny – that we have power and control. Evil/suffering removes that illusion for us. For many of us this is frightening and extremely painful. We love our illusions. But this is a very necessary truth for us to learn; we are not in control. Evil and suffering may fight against our tendency  to live life as if its guaranteed and thus take all the good things in our life for granted: our family; friends; our calling from God. We sometimes live life as if tomorrow is guaranteed to be there – so why not worry about that thing tomorrow – and yet the world is a place where tomorrow is not guaranteed. Evil/suffering are powerful reminders of this.

       Jesus was teaching about this once. He spoke about a man who was very wealthy trying to figure out where to put all of his wealth. He devised plans to build huge barns in which he could store everything and yet Jesus says: “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (Luke 12:20). The only thing guaranteed in our story is death. 

The apostle Paul needed suffering to blast a hole in his illusions. Here’s what he says in his second letter to the Corinthians:  “Because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said, ‘My grace is sufficient for you for my power is perfected in your weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties, for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

     Paul had seen great things and learned many powerful truths from God. He had an amazing walk with Him and yet there was a danger there; that Paul would become conceited; that he would trust in his own power and his own wisdom – in the things he apparently “knows” instead of trusting in God moment by moment. The more Paul learned, the greater the danger became, that his illusions of power and control would grow – so God allowed him to be tormented. And when Paul asked for God to remove this suffering – God said “No, Paul this thorn will bring you to the edge of your power and force you to grasp a hold of mine.”     

 Evil/suffering removes our illusions about control – which then opens us up to living more in the moment with Him. We don’t take things as much for granted – we may get more serious about our calling and the time God has given us on this earth to do something for His kingdom.   Did you watch the Super Bowl? There was an unforgettable commercial. Two people are driving in a car and in the passenger seat is a woman who is looking out the window at a beautiful sunset. Something looks off about the woman. She seems fragile, tired or ill. As she views the sunset her eyes become glassy as they fill with tears and she reaches across and grabs her husband’s (who is driving) hand. He smiles and then the commercial advertises national cancer month. Gut wrenching. But this woman has seen then edge of her control – has had her illusions removed and now she sees a sunset completely differently. She relishes the moments of quiet beauty with her husband. The illusion has been removed and with it – her eyes are opened.

Here’s the link to the commercial:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vhMpXMPvdU

2) Evil/ Suffering produces the life of Christ in us

Evil and suffering produces the life of Christ in us. The apostle Paul writes about this in that same letter to the Corinthians. He starts by talking about how they are greatly suffering and this great treasure that they carry; the treasure of the gospel is in their perishable bodies so that it will be clear that all the great things they do are done in God’s all surpassing power. But then he says this: “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesusso that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.  So thendeath is at work in usbut life is at work in you.”

The death of Jesus – his suffering – is something they live with but in that the life of Jesus is revealed in them. This is a powerfully deep thought. Somehow and someway; the sufferings of Christ lead them more deeply into the life of Christ. Jesus is more powerfully revealed in and through them. They become more like Jesus not in the fact that they know more stuff about Him – but rather that their lives literally look more and more like Jesus – their characters are transformed; and God moves powerfully through them.  Paul goes on to say: “Therefore we do not lose heart; though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us a glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes on what is unseen rather than what is seen – for what is seen is temporary, what is unseen is eternal.”

The suffering they experienced led them to renewal which leads us to our final point.

3) Evil/ suffering points us to real  and true hope

Hope shines brightest in places where there is none. This seems to be true. In those places where nobody is struggling; everybody feels comfortable and at peace; hope is not very powerful – but it’s in those moments of darkness; powerlessness and hopelessness where hope really shines. There is something about suffering that leads us to a deep yearning and desire to grasp a hold of truth and hope. In the Scripture above we see Paul’s hope that he has – that their suffering in comparison with the eternal glory they had placed their hope in; was light, and momentary. Paul lived with this hope at the forefront. In Paul’s letter to the Colossians he encouraged them to set their minds on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. They were to set their mind on the things of God and the gospel; and on Christ rather than all the things down here-  they were to take hope in Christ.    

    Dana Madsen shared this verse with me after church on Sunday and I thought it was apropos to what we are talking about.  it’s in Isaiah 57 – here it is:

The righteous perish,

    and no one takes it to heart;

the devout are taken away,

    and no one understands

that the righteous are taken away

    to be spared from evil.

Those who walk uprightly

    enter into peace;

    they find rest as they lie in death.

What is at work in this passage – the truest hope we can hold on to. In a world that is full of chaos; living in bodies that are truly mortal – this passage gives us a picture of hope – peace for those of us who walk uprightly. And we know – we simply cannot even get upright without Jesus. He is our hope in the midst of suffering.

My hope is that these three lessons – while not necessarily explaining to you why God allows evil and suffering in our lives – it might show you what He wants to do with you in the midst of this. If you are suffering or know people who are – my prayer for you is that you will be bolstered in times where you are being pounded by the storms of life – that God is with you even if He feels a million miles away and that He will redeem this experience whether here or when you are home with Christ. 

May you be blessed this week. 

Pastor Ryan

 


Has Science Buried God? Part 2

Hello SNC,

For the last two weeks we’ve been looking very specifically at the question – “Has Science Buried God?”. It has been a very intellectually stimulating and challenging two sermons to preach but I’ve had a great time. From here we are going to move on to some other questions. I recognize that there are side questions that arise from this discussion that because of time constraints I may not have addressed. Please know that there are wonderful resources online for you to study and look in to. If this discussion has piqued your interest, let me invite you to run with it and do not let your study end here. If you are interested in more resources let me know, I’m sure we can find some together.

My main focus was to really ask a very specific question and look at the commonly held misconception that science and Christianity are incompatible. My hope is that you have seen me build a case for why I believe they are actually quite compatible and that I believe science may even point us to God’s existence. To me this is such a fascinating topic; one that fills me with awe. It slams home reality to me: “Oh dude; He’s actually there!!!!!” Thank you for joining me on this journey of wrestling with this question.

Now with that said – some of Christianity’s staunchest critics would argue that science is not a complete smoking gun proving God is there and that Christianity is true.  I would agree.  but it is one of the pieces of evidence that have led me to find the Christian faith to be highly compelling and rational. From here we will move on to other questions that may be more theological or philosophical in nature. But as we close this little discussion on science and God I’d like to leave you with a song by Phil Wickham called: “You’re beautiful.” Give it a couple listens this week. Click here for the lyrics. Let them be a prayer for you. May God bless you this week!!!

Pastor Ryan

I see Your face in every sunrise

The colors of the morning are inside Your eyes

The world awakens in the light of the day

I look up to the sky and say

You’re beautiful

 

I see Your power in the moonlit night

Where planets are in motion and galaxies are bright

We are amazed in the light of the stars

It’s all proclaiming who You are

You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful

I see You there hanging on a tree

You bled and then You died and then You rose again for me

Now You are sitting on Your heavenly throne

Soon we will be coming home

You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful

 

When we arrive at eternity’s shore

Where death is just a memory and tears are no more

We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring

Your bride will come together and we’ll sing

You’re beautiful (x2)

 

I see Your face,

You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful

 

I see Your face,

You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful

 

I see Your face,

I see Your face

 

I see Your face,

You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful, You’re beautiful

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGlTzH9xkXQ



Has Science Buried God? Part 1

Has Science buried God? Have we found enough evidence through the rigorous study of science – to sufficiently dismiss a need to look to a God for answers on why we are here – why the universe exists; what truly gives us meaning and purpose and so forth? There are some voices out there that would claim we have; that science has given us all we need to sufficiently and confidently leave our archaic faith in God behind. But has science really done this?

A few weeks back I had a very lengthy and pleasant conversation with a man who identifies himself as an atheist. He told me that he was not a religious person at all – but that he felt he was a man who placed his trust in science. The assumption he made in this statement was that the two are polar opposites. You either are a religious man – or a man of science – however, I find that this distinction between the two is not necessary. In other words – you don’t need to be one or the other as a matter of fact – I think there is no good reason why you cannot and should not be both.
This past weekend we discussed some scientific findings in the universe that seem to imply not only a cause behind the universe’s existence – but a designer. Now, to be fair – each of the “fine tuning” points I made in the sermon are debated although I still find these fine tuning arguments more compelling than the arguments against them and I’m not alone; many in the scientific community do. In fact a new theory has emerged called the “multiverse” and it is somewhat of an answer or response to how our universe could appear to be so specifically fine tuned. The theory states that maybe it’s because there are millions of universes out there – some universes exist without capability of supporting life and some universes do exist with this capability. So we just happen to live in one of those universes. It’s like saying: Yea we know the universe is fine tuned but it’s no big deal because there are millions of possible universes out there – this one just happens to work and so we live in this universe… The problem with this statement is that there seems to be no real hard evidence – no real evidence at all for the existence of a multiverse – nor an explanation for why there is such a multiverse and where it came from. In other words – it takes faith to believe in a multiverse – big time faith – I would propose even more blind faith than some have accused me of having for believing in a God who created everything and yet there are some scientists out there who believe in the multiverse. One scientist named Martin Rees concedes that he sees fine tuning in the universe – but he attributes it to the existence of a multiverse – here’s what he says: “If on does not believe in providential design, but still thinks the fine tuning needs some explanation, there is another explanation – a highly speculative one, so I should reiterate my health warning at this stage. It is the one I much prefer, however even in our present state of knowledge any such preference can be no more than a hunch…” What’s he saying? Basically he’s saying: “I know it’s no more than a hunch, this multiverse – but I prefer it anyway…” At the very least this is not scientific fact – it’s a highly speculative hunch that explains why we might see fine tuning without referring to a designer; but nevertheless; only a hunch it seems. Is it not fair at least to say someone needs to exercise some bit of “faith” to explain away a possible designer behind a universe with what appears to be… Design? And I must also add- there are new arguments arising that suggest that should we discover a multiverse – it wouldn’t necessarily disprove the existence of God even then.

Here’s my point:

We are asking the question – has science buried God. From what we have seen science has not seemed to bury God but on the contrary some could argue that science points us to God. This is very exciting when we consider this because we may find such a highly respected field of study like science – showing us divine fingerprints throughout the universe. For me – it fills my mind and heart with awe. And I am reminded of David’s words in Psalm 8: “What is man that you are mindful of him?”

Did you know that He is mindful of you?  He is not only mindful of you – He has considered you a friend – an heir to his throne – an adopted child – His beloved. You don’t believe me?  Go on google search and type in: “I am God’s friend” or “I am an heir to God’s throne” or “I am God’s beloved.” You’ll likely find a Scripture reference that talks about this. The God who made all of this – the God whose fingerprints we can see on this universe – who finely tuned it all – is not only aware of you – but loves you. My hope and prayer for you this week – is that you will be reminded of not only God’s amazing power – but His wonderful love.

I’d like to give you an assignment. It’s called a beauty project. For some time every day this week – take some time to enjoy nature. Maybe it means you get outside – or maybe you watch a movie; tv show – or look at beautiful pictures online. Take sometime to just marvel at the creation of God and let that bring you back to the reminder – you are loved by the same God who made all of this! You are loved by the same God who imagined colors – or wove the stars into space – the same God who conceived of Yosemite; the same God who can dip a finger in the ocean and stir a tidal wave; this same God – loves you. Be at peace this week for you are known and loved my friend.

Pastor Ryan



Doubts?

Hello SNC friends-

You may remember on Sunday I spoke about some reasons to think Christianity is sound as a place we can put our trust in. You may notice that over the next ten weeks we will address each of these 7 areas I spoke about. Next week we will address the question: “Has Science Buried God?” I truly hope you can join us on Sunday morning.

Recently I’ve been reading a book titled: “Tough questions; Real Answers” by William Lane Craig. In the book he has a chapter on the issue of doubt in the life of a Christian. Is it ok to doubt the existence of God? Is doubt something we can eradicate completely from our lives? How do we deal with doubt? In my journey as a Christian I have wrestled with moments and seasons of doubt; and it has become clear to me that there may be places where we don’t have all our questions resolved – but can this lead us to doubt? Dr. Craig talks about the destructive nature of doubt and how we can combat it in our lives. He gives four ways to wage war against our doubts:

1) Recognize that doubt is never just a purely intellectual problem.
This was a powerful reminder to me. If God is truly there and everything we read in the Scriptures is true – then not only do we have a Savior – but we have an enemy, and if so – then we have someone devoted to the destruction of our faiths. Doubt may be a result of spiritual attack. If you are struggling with doubt – perhaps prayer is the first place to begin. To ask God to allow you to hear His voice and to silence the voice of the enemy.

In addition to this – our doubting may have more reasons than just intellectual problems. Many times I have found that doubts often arise in connection with other emotional reasons: grief; anger; bitterness; pain; health struggles; pride; even sin. I’m not saying this is purely the cause for our struggles and certainly we can doubt God’s existence for intellectual reasons – but I have often found those aren’t the only reasons. George Wald; winner of the nobel prize in physiology and medicine wrote this:

There are only two possible explanations as to how life arose: Spontaneous generation arising to evolution or a supernatural creative act of God . . .There is no other possibility. Spontaneous generation was scientifically disproved 120 years ago by Louis Pasteur and others, but that just leaves us with only one other possibility . . . that life came as a supernatural act of creation by God, but I can’t accept that philosophy because I do not want to believe in God. Therefore I choose to believe in that which I know is scientifically impossible, spontaneous generation leading to evolution.”

I don’t think it’s unfair to say that Dr. Wald is making his decision to believe in the non-existence of a God for more reasons than just intellectual. Hey at least he’s honest. He just doesn’t want to believe in God. This shouldn’t be a surprise to us – the Scriptures are clear that we are unable to desire the Gospel with God’s Spirit moving in our hearts – opening our eyes, minds and souls to Him. In the heart of our doubts – I think it is accurate to say – intellectual difficulties aren’t the only reason. It may be helpful when you are dealing with doubt to recognize it’s not necessarily just about reading books or listening to seminars. There may be other things we need to look at.

2) When doubts arise – keep in mind the proper relationship between faith and reason

When we ask the question: Is my faith true? The truth is – our intellect doesn’t give us the answer to this. Dr. Craig’s point is that The Holy Spirit in our lives authenticates our faith. This is not to put our powers of reason down but to actually give them their rightful place in our lives. The counsel and voice of God need to be first in our lives and our reason needs to be second.

I was meeting with a friend of mine who is an atheist. We were talking with him and his wife about their marriage. At one point in the conversation he admitted that sometimes he relies too heavily on his powers of reason when trying to work on things with his wife. I responded: “I agree – but let me ask you this – don’t you think that perhaps you might be doing the same thing with God?” Wouldn’t it be possible that while you are willing to admit you may have gotten things wrong about your wife – a human being you see every day with your own two eyes; and while she is mysterious she is nothing compared to God. Wouldn’t it be somewhat reasonable to doubt your doubts about God?” Faith is active trust and sometimes we can trust even when we don’t have all the information or things don’t always make sense.

3) Remember the frailty of our limited intellects and knowledge.

I alluded to this on Sunday. Claiming absolute knowledge of something is highly difficult to defend, and yet there are many questions brought to Christianity that do just that. To make an absolute claim that there is no God – while you do not have absolute knowledge of the universe or even what is outside this universe – is simply not defensible. Our intellects have limits and is it possible there are things we do not understand simply because we just can’t? For those of us wrestling with doubts – it can be very comforting to note that even though somethings don’t make sense to us – to a higher intellect who has the advantage of foresight; hindsight; and any other sight; it might make sense to Him. Sometimes to battle doubt it’s helpful to remember we don’t have everything figured out.

4) Lastly, We need to wrestle this doubt to the ground

If you have a doubt – instead of just accepting it – perhaps it is an invitation to wrestle with this thing. Do some research. Explore what it is you are doubting, in particular the Christian response to this. See what others have written and said about this issue. Maybe it can help you resolve some of your questions. This has been hugely important for my journey with God. I have had many conversations; read books even sat down and listened to lectures on the areas of struggle that I’ve had. My friend Greg is another great example of this.

Greg has struggled with Hell. He has struggled with it emotionally; philosophically and Biblically. He has deeply wrestled with this issue and has done lots of research; debating; writing and thinking on the issue. He has done so much that he is now at a point where I think he can debate and hang in there with some of the most brilliant minds regarding this issue, and his doubts that have arisen with Hell – have been put to rest.

Sometimes we are too quick to accept that our doubt is unresolvable – or that it is just always going to be a dark spot on our Christian horizon. Wrestle that thing! Don’t let go! I knew a guy who was struggling with his faith. We gave him a ton of books to read. Hey he asked us for it! We met with him to discuss the books. Years later – when he had made his decision to abandon his faith he was giving his Christian books away because he wouldn’t be needing them anymore. So he offered me some of these great Christian books on philosophy and apologetics. I gratefully took them. As I was reading them I noticed they were brand new – looked like they’d never been cracked, and in knowing my friend; I know that he marks up everything he reads. He abuses books – littering them with his thoughts and reactions. Yet in these books? Nothing. Not a mark. It was so dismaying to me. It doesn’t look like he ever gave these books the time of day. This saddened me. He was so willing to read any atheist author out there but yet it seemed he wasn’t willing to balance it with a Christian response. If he didn’t; then he never really wrestled his doubts; he just accepted them. We don’t have to go down that road.

Doubt can be a very difficult and painful experience in the life of a believer – but it can be combatted and we can find victory there. Let me add this – please don’t go through doubt alone. If you have areas of doubt – seek out people you respect and see if they can help you – at least to discuss and verbally process; but also to maybe point you in the direction of answers. This is the beauty of being part of the family of God because we can support each other – but often we go through experiences like this alone; in isolation; because we do not want to admit that we are struggling.

My hope is that this series will help to give you some more foundation to the hope you have and maybe even serve to help combat doubt when it arises. Have a great week everybody and get ready – this Sunday we look at something called the “Kalam Cosmologial Argument.” It’s going to be awesome!!!

Have a great week my friends and may God fill you; and use you to build His kingdom,

Pastor Ryan



2nd Look

Hello Everyone!

And we’re off!

The series of tough questions has begun. What I’d like to do with this week’s 2nd look is to give you some resources for the journey ahead. Are you a book reader, see the post below for some books below that you might find very helpful and stimulating in this process. Are you a person who reads articles? I have some great website resources for you. My hope is that with these things you will find nuanced arguments that are sophisticated and not hokey. It has been a huge relief to me through the years to find that Christianity has a defense and brilliant men and women are standing in the gap – debating at the highest levels of philosophy and science. Take some time this week to check out some of these resources. I think you might be pretty surprised to see all that is out there. Have a great week everybody!

Pastor Ryan



Pastor Ryan’s favorite books & articles on Defending the Faith

Lee Strobel: The Case For A Creator
Lee Strobel: The Case For Faith
Lee Strobel: The Case For Christ
Lee Strobel: The Case For The Real Jesus
Paul Copan: Is God a Moral Monster
Paul Copan: How Do You Know You’re Not Wrong
Paul Copan: When God Goes To Starbucks
John Lennox: Gunning For God- Why The New Atheists Are Missing The Mark
John Lennox: God And Stephen Hawking
John Lennox: God’s Undertaker- Has Science Buried God
Gary Habermas: The Case For The Resurrection Of Christ
Gregory Boyd: letter From A Skeptic
C. Stephen Layman: Letters To Doubting Thomas
William Lane Craig: Hard Questions Real Answers
Dr. Steve Kumar: Christianity For Skeptics
Tim Keller: The Reason For God
 
 
 
There are many, many more- I truly hope this can be helpful to you in the days ahead as we take a deeper look at the defense of Christianity!