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Many a philosopher has attempted to prove the existence of God.  There are numerous philosophical arguments (cosmological, ontological, etc.). The Bible itself never attempts to prove God’s existence but just introduces Him (Genesis 1:1) and describes His as the great “I am” (the self-existent one). However, there is a plethora of books written to defend our faith (the definition of apologetics) in Christ as the son of God and our only hope. Much of what has been written is technical and scholarly but of little use to the common man (such as I). So, here is my rudimentary version of why I believe there is a God, that the God of the Bible is the one true God, and what we as Christians must understand in our personal evangelism.

 Is There a God? 

Despite the obvious evidence of creation (See Romans 1), our innate sense of a greater power, and the moral code that is apparent through all of time and all civilizations (the argument that most atheists will admit is the strongest for a supreme being) many choose to remain in disbelief. Blasé Pascal’s argument clearly states the practical solution to this critical question. He said, “Belief is a wise wager. Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false? If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing”. Wager, then, without hesitation, that He exists”.  In other words, if you believe in God and you are wrong then you have lost nothing. If you don’t believe in God and He exists then you have lost everything. This is a common-sense explanation of why there is no hope for us beyond this life if there is no God. Most unbelievers will accept the logic of this argument. 

How has God Spoken? 

Next, if we believe there is a God why would we choose the God of the Bible? There is no shortage of religions or religious definitions of God. A thorough study of the Bible as opposed to other religions has made it clear to me that the Christian Scripture reveals the one true God. I would say that God’s word is self-authenticating (so would John Calvin). There are many technical arguments for why the Bible of Christianity is true and most obviously demonstrates the real character of the Omnipotent but that is not enough to convince some.  It must be read with an open mind and heart while doing an honest comparison of Christianity to all other religions. God’s sovereign power will do the rest. The Jesus of the Bible, and His mission of sacrifice, grace, and power over the grave, is unlike anything other religions offer. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate communicator of this truth. 

The Role of faith. 

In the end, we all believe in something.  Some choose to believe in disbelief but it is still the exhibition of a form of faith. Since no one can absolutely disprove the existence of God or the facts of the Bible then even atheists are operating on faith. God’s Spirit has convinced me that faith in Him and His word is the obvious choice. If I have to wager my eternal destiny, I will choose to believe in God and the God of the Bible. The faith that He has given me gives solace and hope. No technical argument for or against the existence of God can replace the peace from believing in and knowing God through Jesus Christ. 

The Sovereignty of God. 

As much as the grace of God overwhelms and baffles me, I know that faith in Jesus is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-10). I don’t know whom He chooses but He does so according to His own divine purpose and will (see Romans 9:14-24). I do know that I am to believe, be faithful, and surrendered to Him. I’m to share Him as I go (Matthew 28:19-20) and trust that He will reveal Himself to those that I encounter and share Him with. I’m also called to live in such as way that He is glorified and I image forth the beauty of our great God and beautiful Savior. As St. Francis of Assisi put it, “Preach the gospel everywhere and when necessary use words”. Beyond that, it is between the individual and their Creator as to whether they believe of not. I believe the greatest act of apologetics I can do is to live in such a way that others see the God of the Bible and Jesus in me. The rest is left up to Him in His sovereignty. I pray that God will use me to draw those apart for Him to Himself for His own worthy glory.


David was a college friend of mine. Actually, we were also teammates on the college track team. He was a disciplined long distance runner. Though congenial, he was, seemingly by nature, serious and focused.  He was from a small town near my home so we had a few things in common. David was, however, closed off and difficult to really get to know. He shared little about his life and kept things on the surface. Little did I know, below the stern demeanor was a past and present of doubts, questions, and disappointments. That was until he finally opened up to me.                                     

I don’t recall what triggered his catharsis but the story spilled out of him one winter day. His father had been a Methodist minister for many years – faithful to his family and church. One evening his father didn’t come home. After hours of worry the family finally fell asleep. The next morning they found him – passed out on the couch downstairs with a half empty pack of cigarettes and a fully empty bottle of whiskey lying on his stomach. He never explained what had happened and David was never told later of the mysterious developments. The next Sunday he resigned from the church. Soon thereafter his father disappeared and my friend, to that day, didn’t know of his father’s whereabouts.  David was 14 years old. He had been deserted and, we would surmise, his father has abandoned his faith. 

It has been over 20 years ago so I don’t know how the drama ended. I hope the outcome was the restoration of David and his father. The entire incident reminded me of one very minor New Testament character – Demas. We know almost nothing about him other than he deserted his friends and his faith. He is mentioned by Paul in relation to Luke (Colossians 4:14) and Mark (Philemon 3:24) but he is most infamous for his desertion. Second Timothy 4:10 explains, “for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia”. 

The phrase that struck home to me was, “because he loved this world”. We all know the allure and magnetism of our secular culture – the pleasure found in the present that gives no credence to the reality of judgment and eternity. It appeals to our carnal, self-centered, and fleshly nature. Our society screams to us that the temporal nature of this world’s charms will satisfy us. But they don’t – we know because we have tried them and they left us empty and guilty. Tragically Demas chose the world over Jesus. But beware – we are all just as susceptible. 

The other text that came to mind was written by the apostle John: “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us” (1 John 2:19).  It is a sobering warning about apostasy – the forsaking of our faith. This passage clearly states that those who desert and never return were never among God’s chosen, His redeemed. Their permanent desertion was proof that their faith was false. Clearly some who wander never return. This is a thought worthy of serious consideration as it has eternal consequences. 

The good news is that Jesus welcomes those who have strayed, temporarily captivated by the world’s enticements and temptations, and choose to stagger home to Him. There are many scriptural stories that give us hope as we return. The story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) and Peter’s three-fold denial of Jesus and subsequent restoration (Luke 22:31-34; John 21:15-19) are two poignant examples. In His grace, He lovingly embraces those who have wandered but eventually return. He even prepares a rich feast to celebrate our homecoming. 

As I mentioned, I don’t know the final chapter in the saga of David and his father.  God does. However, I can speak from personal experience that, having briefly lost touch with my Savior, there is hope for David’s father. Despite my own angry and rebellious desertion fueled by an attraction to this world, God was looking off in the distance for me as I stumbled home in despair and brokenness. Once I realized that He was the only thing of true and lasting worth the journey back, though painful, was well worth His infinitely valuable presence in my life.

I believe that it’s obvious that we see a much more intense pursuit of happiness than holiness today. Harvard University even offers a course on happiness that helps students discover “how to get happy.” As Christians that begs the question, “Should we pursue happiness or holiness”? Secondarily, are the two concepts mutually exclusive? As clear as it is that God’s word puts a premium on holiness as opposed to earthly happiness, much of contemporary Christianity presumes these are diametrically opposed concepts – an either/or proposition. With that line of thinking a dichotomy has been created that suggests we have to prioritize one over the other through an intentional choice.

Generally speaking, the “happiness camp” says that feeling good is the natural by product of a relationship with Jesus. He has come that we might have and abundant life (John 10:10) and that means we are the beneficiaries of emotional “blessings”. We are to pursue these gifts and find our meaning and purpose as we seek after what He has to offer us for our emotional wholeness and prosperity. This is not totally wrong. In fact, the Bible even suggests on several occasions the importance of being happy or joyful. Solomon tells us that God grants happiness to us as a gift (Ecclesiastes 3:12; 7:14; 11:9). Sometimes, though, we take the search for earthly happiness too far. We sometimes see it as the most important pursuit and even believe that our happiness is God’s primary purpose. Much of popular “Christian” psychology is entranced with becoming “self-actualized” by accessing the promises and power of God’s word. This misguided approach can become self-indulgent and humanistic as personal happiness takes precedence over personal holiness.

The “holiness camp” is in the definite minority. This camp doesn’t attract many adherents due to its austerity. They promote self-mortification, spiritual discipline, and a rabid pursuit of righteousness. Holiness, they contend, is the intentional journey of becoming more Christ-like via a focused plan of “sin reduction”. The ultimate goal for a believer is sanctification. This group is “dying daily” in order to grasp the fullness of their relationship with Christ. In a regimented way they seek to sacrificially eliminate all that would take their focus off of Jesus or replace Him with worldly pleasures. The thrust here is that personal holiness is to take precedence over personal happiness. They would proclaim that God’s Word tells us that true happiness comes by keeping God’s law (Psalms 1:1-2; Proverbs 16:20; 29:18). God demands holiness and has called us to live a holy life – one that exemplifies His moral character (1 Thessalonians 4:7; 2 Peter 3:11). In Peter’s first letter we read, “As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16). As much as I believe this focus is to be preferred over selfish happiness, the danger here is prideful legalism or perfectionism. 

To a certain degree I believe in parts of what both camps suggest. I must agree that humanity is wired for the pursuit of happiness (joy). We all seek satisfaction from something or someone. I also identify with those that emphasize the high calling of imitating Christ and pointing others to His beauty. Also, I do believe that we are to reflect Him through our lifestyles. But do these philosophies really compete? Are they mutually exclusive to one another? I don’t think so. Frankly, I believe they are gloriously intertwined and even synergistic. That is, if we are looking in the right direction. 

My opinion is that our priority should not be the exclusive pursuit of either happiness or holiness. I would contend that we can have a heightened experience of both by an exclusive spiritual pursuit of Jesus Himself. Actually, I see Him as the only conduit to holiness and happiness. I see satisfaction and sanctification as the byproducts of pursuing Him instead of the vehicles for finding Him. 

Let me frame it this way: when we are adoring, praising, worshipping, savoring, resting in, and glorifying Him then our holiness and happiness is most real. The end result is a type of holy happiness. Pursuing God in this way combines satisfaction with sanctification. How is that? When we delight in Him as our greatest treasure the satisfaction is supernatural and unsurpassed by anything else. When we love Him in this way our lives reflect Him more – and that is a vital part of sanctification. Both our happiness and holiness are elevated as we prize Him for all that He is.

So, the equation would look like this: there is no true happiness apart from holiness and no holiness apart from Christ. Therefore, pursuing a righteousness-giving Jesus empowers us to live the holy lives that reflect the joy that we find in Him. In Christ we find the consummation of both our holiness and our happiness. That is why Paul can say that “in Christ” we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3).

My son was born yesterday.  Not literally, but figuratively.  He’s almost 21 now – grown, mature, and independent.  But it seems like just a second ago that I held him for the first time and smelled the newness of life.  As joyous as it has been, my time with him has quickly vanished. But, if you think about it, all of our lives are rapidly disappearing – just like a mist. The years have sped by and picked up steam as they have progressed.

That is what James is referring to in the 4th chapter of his epistle to the scattered believers of the 1st century:

“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” (James 4: 13-17).

The word for mist in this passage is a description of when we breathe out on a cold winter day. There is a vapor that forms but speedily dissipates and vanishes.  Right before our eyes – it is there and then it is gone. Once we exhale this mist, it forms and evaporates before we can get our hands around it.  Such is life – fleeting, temporal, and picking up its pace. It is here today and gone tomorrow and we never seem to quite catch up to it before it has left us behind.  Subconsciously, we want to believe that this life will go on forever but in reality we know that our existence on this earth is quickly moving toward its final scene. Suddenly, we are more than half way through our life expectancy (if we should even consider such a thing) and we begin to ask some very serious questions. To name but a few:

  • Is this all there is?
  • Is this but a dress rehearsal for eternity?
  • What will we be able to present to our Lord when we do meet Him?
  • Has our life been spent (wasted) on the trivial and temporal?
  • Have we pursued our own earthly pleasure and comfort above eternal rewards?

The conclusions that we reach can be quite sobering. Thus, James gives us great insight in to how we are to live in these fleeting days of our lives.  He says:

  • Don’t plan based upon what we desire but, instead, be led by God’s plan.
  • Don’t let money dictate what we choose to do and be in this life.
  • Only God knows our earthly future and we must trust Him in all things.
  • This life passes with such rapidity that we must have our eyes focused on eternity.
  • With eternity in mind, we must do the right thing and not the most comfortable or convenient thing.

And, by the way, the correct answers have nothing to do with “us” having “purpose” in our life but they have to do with finding pleasure in Him and serving Him. Finding Him as the end and not just the means is the only suitable paradigm for those who want to have meaningful and true answers to these compelling questions. The real issue, in view of the magnitude of eternity, is not wasting this life for Him.  Paul says:

“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:15-18).

That is why, given this critical issue, I’m drawn to the words of Jesus, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35). May we all be compelled to lose ourselves and our vanishing life here for His sake.  May we surrender to storing up treasures in Heaven for His glory. An eternity of joy awaits those who do.  Let’s choose this now – before this life is gone and we face our Savior who laid down His life for us. That meeting will be here before we know it.

Have you ever stopped to think that we can never disappoint God? To do so would suggest that He is not omniscient. He knows all – past, present, and future (although Hebrews 8:12 informs us He graciously has chosen to forget His children’s sins). Therefore, He may be saddened or angry with us but never disappointed. 

On the other hand, I have spent a good portion of my life being disappointed with people – myself and others. If you haven’t experienced this, you will eventually. And it can be excruciatingly painful. Often we do not live up to our promises and commitments. We selfishly do what is in our own best interests to the detriment of others. It has happened so frequently in the most folk’s experience it is safe to conclude we will continue to relive these types of situations. So, it is easy to become cynical. 

Jesus, in His humanity, was not isolated from the reality of being disappointed in others. He was familiar with the failures of those that were closest to Him. Often He experienced the weakness and frailty of the very folks He had given His life and ministry for. I must believe that these disappointments caused Him grief and pain. Let’s look at but a few instances: 

  • His own people (the nation of Israel) – refused to accept Him as the Messiah and their rejection caused Him great sorrow (Matthew 23:37)
  • His family – they thought He was crazy and for the most part (as far as we can tell) did not accept who He was until after His resurrection (Mark 3:21)
  • His disciples in general – they consistently didn’t understand Him or His message. In the end they fled in fear as He was being sacrificed for their sins (John 16:31-32)
  • His hometown – they rejected Him, drove Him from their town, and wanted to kill Him (Luke 4:14-30)
  • His followers – many heard His divine message and temporarily embraced it but, in the end, chose to ignore His teachings and were nowhere to be found as He was crucified
  • Judas – sold Him for 30 pieces of silver and committed suicide as a result of his betrayal (Matthew 27:3-5)
  • Peter – the most boisterous of His followers, he denied Him 3 times and deserted Jesus when He most needed him (Matthew 26:75) 

So, as followers of Jesus, why would we think that we would be treated any differently? As a matter of fact He predicted that we would be treated poorly just as He was. Listen to His words in Matthew 10:22-26:   

“All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.  It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!  So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” 

So what should we learn from this: 

  • In this life we should expect to be disappointed with people as we are all sinners by nature
  • The pain of dealing with other’s failures toward us is part of living in a fallen world
  • Those closest to us will fail us the most
  • We will fail others as well
  • Jesus understands our experience of being disappointed by others
  • The score is not settled in this life – the truth will eventually come to light
  • Jesus is the one thing that we can truly count on 

Since we can’t avoid being failed by others (and failing ourselves), what should we do?  We must look to Jesus. He is our sympathetic High Priest (Hebrews 4:15).  He is the author and completer of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). He is the one who suffered and died so that all of this might be made right for all of eternity (Hebrews 2:17).  And we must look to His cross. For it is there alone that we find the forgiveness of the sin that causes us to disappoint one another. So when others disappoint (and they will) we have no other redemptive solution than to cling to Jesus and His cross and know that He understands and has the ultimate remedy. That is because He alone said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). And His cross proves it.

Social networking is all the rage. People have an array of mediums to “connect” with each other yet studies indicate that loneliness, isolation and a sense of “disconnection” or insulation are all on the rise. Why? Could it be that physical proximity or communication alone does not necessarily generate intimacy and real relationship? And it may be that all these social networking tools are, by there very nature, superficial and poor facsimiles for vibrant fellowship, transparent sharing, and dynamic “community life”. Probably so. But before we lay all of the blame on the internet or secular culture, let’s ponder the words of Pricilla Shirer:

“In the first century in Palestine, Christianity was a community of believers. Then Christianity moved to Greece and became a philosophy. Then it moved to Rome and became an institution. Then it moved to Europe and became a culture. And then it moved to America and became a business. We need to get back to being a healthy, vibrant community of true followers of Jesus.”

The truth is that with all of our “tools”, mediums of communication (does your church blog, “tweet” or have a Facebook page?), and mega gatherings we still see a dearth of genuine koinonia. In other words, the consumer church is just as guilty as the world of propagating a shallow definition of how intimacy, fellowship, and sharing in authentic community is supposed to operate. We rarely seeing the “body-life” and synergy that the new church experienced soon after its advent at Pentecost (Acts 2:44-47; 4:32-35). It is no wonder the commercial church exhibits so little power.

Soon thereafter, however, these believers were scattered to the surrounding regions. Just like us, it didn’t take long before they needed to be reminded of their calling to community in Christ. For their edification James writes to the diasporic churches located throughout Palestine. The conclusion of his letter found in James 5:13-20 points us to 5 critical activities of the community of faith. This is what “church” is supposed to look and act like. These are the types of things that the followers of Christ do with and for each other. They are:

• Sharing – of our tribulations and joys (and, I believe, resources as well)
• Healing – primarily spiritual and emotional, but also physical
• Praying – for ourselves and each other
• Interceding – on behalf of the entire group or the larger cause of God’s kingdom
• Intervening – in the lives of those that are struggling with various issues

James beckons these small groups to invest themselves in each other on such a deep level that they were to be in communion as if their lives and faith depended on it. And such was the case with these early believers. As many faced temptation, tribulation, persecution, and even martyrdom the strength of their faith became inseparable from their interdependence upon one another. They needed to be in community as much as they desired to be. Their on-going sense of togetherness was much different than most of us experience in our 21st century society or, for that matter, our journey with Jesus.

This is not to suggest that this community of believers was a “holy huddle” that did not affect or transform the culture around them. Just the opposite was the case. Their influence was manifested in the dynamos that germinated in their mutual sharing, support, and love. Even those who persecuted them could not deny their radical commitment to each other and their Lord. They flourished in the midst of their challenges because they clung to their Christ and community of faith. Nurtured in their shared experience and commonality in Christ they, by their courage and love saturated lifestyle, projected the beauty of Jesus and the glory of God. In doing so they demonstrated what real church and community is all about. And we should do the same. I’m reminded of the words of Peter Williamson – “The Lord does not want us to live in the world and go to church, but to live in the church and go to the world.”

In order to do so, the relationships we have with each other in Christ must be deep, servant oriented, and meaningful. We must gather around the cross together in a genuine community of faith. Only then can we unleash and exert the power of His body in a world where each individual is in desperate need of Jesus.


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