Are You Ready…

Hello everyone!  For today’s 2nd look I want to take some time to reflect on a very popular verse written by Peter. Here it is:

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, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.                                        — 1 Peter 3:15-16

When it comes to being someone who can share the gospel – the question I often ask my self is: Am I prepared to give a defense for my faith? Am I prepared to explain what it is I truly believe and why I believe it? Can I share with others just what my story with Christ is? This is extremely important for us in the process of sharing the gospel. I think many of us avoid sharing the gospel because we are afraid of looking foolish – so we go to the other extreme; we determine that sharing the gospel is not for us, (someone else can do it), and we simply never prepare our minds and hearts for this. This is a problem because we see Peter encouraging us to be prepared to give an answer.
I’d like to ask you ponder several questions that will help you prepare yourself to give an answer:

1) Could you explain what the gospel is, in clear terms, if you are asked?
Here’s a quick explanation: Jesus is God; He died for you and He rose from the dead. Turn to Him, and you will be set free.
2) What are some of the most difficult questions you’ve heard critics of Christianity ask? Have you ever researched how to answer them in these questions? There are some very simple websites you can look up, and please keep in mind some great books. If you have questions you want to research, please contact me, I may have some books and websites that I can point you too. This kind of thing is a passion for me! I love to share this with others. And I cannot tell you how much it has helped me when I share the gospel – to have thought through these questions. It has also enriched my own worship of the Lord – and given me a great sense of peace when I wrestle with doubt. Yes I am human and I have moments of doubt. When those moments hit, I go back to the questions and answers I have studied, I remember God’s faithfulness in my life. This all helps!
3) Could you describe what knowing Jesus has meant to your life? Critics can attack the philosophy side of Christianity – they can attack the historicity and the ethics – but it’s very difficult for someone to deny your experience. Often times this will speak more loudly than all the philosophical arguments for Christianity.  When we share of our faith – it’s important to be able to give our testimony – do you think you could share it quickly and clearly?  Here are some things you could address – who you were before you knew Christ – how you came to know Him – and what your life is like now.
4) Are you bathed in prayer? The truth is nothing you say can change someone’s heart towards the Lord. This is entirely up to the work of God in their heart. When we leave the house are we bathed in prayer?

These are some powerful questions that will help you get prepared to give an answer for why you have placed your faith in Jesus. I pray God will bless you as you wrestle with them.
One last suggestion: practice. It may sound silly, but I will often have practice discussions with nobody when I’m driving somewhere. I’m just talking through my testimony – and how I would share my faith. I pretend there is someone who is genuinely interested to hear what I have to say and I have a dialogue with them. Sure it looks weird to the person sitting in the other car who sees me – but I’m getting practice in. Sometimes we just need the practice; and in the end please remember – God is going to speak through you and do whatever He wishes. This is bigger than your or my ability, and God is faithful. He has all the authority and He has not left you alone. Take courage my friend; we have a world to reach!

Have a blessed week!

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