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Welcome to 2012! 

Our God is an amazing God! What started out a couple of years ago as “journaling posted on the internet,” the Captivated by Christ Blog has been blessed beyond measure. Incredibly, the Lord has directed readers from 6 continents and over 20 countries to this site during 2011. We will only fully know how God has moved in this ministry when we reach Heaven and enter into His presence.

Thanks to all who have shared with me in this simple ministry, one which seeks to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  I pray that He uses this small gift to spread His kingdom and exalt Himself. May the beauty of Jesus and His Gospel be trumpeted to all peoples. And, if He is willing, may He use this work to do so in an even greater way in the new year.

Happy New Year and  grace to you!

The information below is furnished by the fine folks at WordPress – here are the numbers:

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

 

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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“I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write.” – John Calvin

When I wrote the post below a little over a year ago only about 1,000 people had hit the Captivated by Christ blog. Less than a year and a half ago God encouraged me to get serious and consistent in blogging, committing to at least 2 posts per week. This practice has become my personal electronic journal. I never imagined that the counter would role over 10,000 so quickly (actually it is significantly higher; the counter doesn’t include email subscribers but only those who actually visit the site). I have only 3 things to say about this: glory to God alone, thanks for reading (I hope my ramblings have been used of God to challenge and bless you), and what I wrote in the post below, I believe, is still true today.

One of the coolest things about blogging and the nature of internet media is that I don’t really know who reads my ruminations. And I don’t know how God may be using what He compels me to write. That excites me because I believe that one day I will find out; that glorious day when I fully and permanently experience His presence. I can’t wait to hear what he has done with this little ministry! So today I celebrate Him and the 10,000 hits that He has produced on this site. He is truly good and worthy of all of our adoration and praise!

And now, on to the aforementioned post…

The Power is in the Word – 15 January 2010
“I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that” (2 Corinthians 11:1). 

Paul had a sense of humor. God’s greatest fully human theologian and missionary essentially says, “thanks for putting up with me and, by the way, you have already read 10 chapters of this foolishness” (now I know that Paul’s letters weren’t written in chapters but please indulge me). I can laugh along with Paul – you are reading this so I thank you for putting up with me and my blog. I read and write blogs (some would prefer me to focus just on reading them). Many folks call blogging a narcissistic exercise and I heartily agree that it can be (but not so much as the hyper self-absorbed, cyber abyss called Twitter – by the way, I’m @captivatedanew). But I guess it is all about motives, attitudes, goals, and methods. 

Although many blogs communicate the truth of Jesus, some “Christian” blogs have little to do with Christ or His Word. Often they are personal ramblings and man-centered opinions. I pray this is not the case with CaptivatedbyChrist.org. And this is because, like Paul, I don’t think I, in and of myself, have much to offer. In this same letter to the church at Corinth he humbly states that his speaking abilities are less than stellar (2 Corinthians 10:10; 11:6) and that he is accused of hiding behind his writing as opposed to a face-to-face consultation with the church (2 Corinthians 10:1:10). But he makes it clear that he doesn’t do business like the world (10:2) and his methods are not carnal but spiritual (10:4-5). 

So how does Paul wage this war? With the truth of Christ and His Word. He says, “For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.”  I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way” (11:4-6). These weapons are a constant in Paul’s teaching – the power of the gospel (the Cross) and a distinct emphasis on God’s Word and its truth. 

My point is this: if I ever venture too far from Jesus, Him crucified, and the use of Scripture (yes, I know that the references can be overdone and make the reading more tedious but…) then stop reading the Captivated by Christ blog. Why? Because that is where the power is – God knows we don’t need any more of man’s philosophy. Any potency in this blog will not be found in me or my opinions but the transforming power (the Greek term dunamis, meaning power, is where we get our English term “dynamite”) of the Word (logos – see John 1) and His Word. The writer of Hebrews says it this way: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). 

I know my grammar (Or is that grammer?  I forget.) is poor and my sentence structure and syntax is imprecise and cumbersome (that’s why I have a talented and godly editor for my books – stand up and take a bow, Bethany). Please, overlook all of that. Skip over all my verbiage if you’d like. Just take your Bible and read along with the passages and turn to every scripture reference and let God teach you through the real difference-making medium; His Word as it is enlightened by His Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 2:12-14). Saturate yourself in His truth because if I have anything of value to share it must be Him, about Him, from Him, and for Him (John 14:6). 

So there it is – my foolishness for this blog. By the way, thanks for putting up with it – you have already read 650 words! I hope that you had your Bible with you on this little journey and that you turned to and digested every passage and reference. For I know with certainty its power far exceeds any frail attempt of mine to demonstrate the wisdom of God. For it truly is His Word! David sums this up perfectly when he says, “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7).


This is an actual dialogue between me and an unbeliever. I have kept the content intact (except for correcting some of my typos…the commenter’s entries were left completely unchanged). At the beginning I have included the original blog that spurred the conversation. I’m sorry for the length of this post but I could find no good way to break it up. I think you will find it interesting reading – here we see two totally different worldviews and two radically different approaches to life (and communication).  Judge for yourself.

Defending our Faith – Simplified Christian Apologetics

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. 

Commenter:

>Most unbelievers will accept the logic of this argument.

Not so fast. You can believe in a god and still lose Pascal’s Wager. If there is a god, it really matters which god you believe in. If you believe in Yahweh/Jesus, you could end up in Muslim Hell or reincarnate endlessly.

Pascal’s Wager is simply an illusion created by Christian ethnocentrism. There is no safe bet. It is truly a wager. The real god might reward rationality or detest blind faith.

>Since no one can absolutely disprove the existence of God or the facts of the Bible

No one can disprove the existence of Santa Claus. Is the evidence of your god on the same footing?

>then even atheists are operating on faith.

All believers are also atheists about all the other gods. You know what it’s like to be unpersuaded that Vishnu or Thor are real. You have heard of one god concept that makes sense to you. Atheists simply haven’t heard of any god concepts that makes sense to them.

Does it take faith to not believe in the Easter bunny? No. Everyone lacks the belief in thousands of gods and other baseless ideas. This is normal, it isn’t faith. 

Linden:

Greetings, My Friend!!
I agree with some of what you say but not with all of it. Either way, I have no desire to enter into an argument with you. We all can choose to believe or not believe whether it is “normal”, based on evidence, or on faith. I caringly pray that you choose to believe in something real that brings you hope and joy that is both temporal and eternal. I have found that in Jesus and I desire that you do as well. My Jesus is not the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus – there is much more historicity (and experiential) to Him than that. In your honest pursuit of the truth that gives you a purposeful present and future, I hope you seriously and open-mindedly consider Him. At the end of this life (death), we will all discover what is true. In the meantime, I will cling to Him and His promises. There I have found all that makes this life and my hope in the life to come most satisfying and complete. No matter where you stand, I care that you find the peace only Jesus can give. Psalm 14:1.
In Him,
Linden 

Commenter:

>Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false?

This is a false choice. The choice is not between believing in God and not believing in God. You still have to choose which god to believe in. “Faith” is not monolithic. You could believe in Yahweh/Jesus and end up in Muslim hell.

There is no safe bet.

>what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false?

One harm is the possibility of living one’s life in a delusion. Another is that the faith mechanism offers no good way to adjudicate between conflicting claims, leading to a world where everyone lives in different, subjective worlds. In other words, the world we presently live in. Scientific naturalism, while not perfect, offers a way out of this volatile situation.

 Linden:

Hey Don! Thanks for your comment!!! A personal question, if you don’t mind: Do you still enjoy playing the organ at your Presbyterian church?

I think I understand your reasoning. Yes, I may be, by your definition, “delusional” for believing not just in a God but, also, that the God of the Bible (Jesus) is the one true God. However, I came to that conclusion not based upon indoctrination but my own open-minded study of the evidence for God (much of which is scientific) and an in-depth analysis of all the major religions. Christianity was my much analyzed choice because of several key differentiators (God’s grace and not a man-induced works-based salvation, a living Messiah, and a distinctly unique moral code (see the Sermon on the Mount for an example), etc. Anyway, this is probably, to you, me lying to myself in order to cope with the eventuality of death. But to me, experientially, my faith (and it really is faith) has manifested itself and is self-authenticating due to a transformation in every aspect of my life here and now. I pray that you would also experience the joy, peace, and hope that comes through such faith. You may consider me a simpleton or delusional but I believe I serve an infinitely worthy Savior to whom I owe all that I am. In this I have found indescribable contentment. My faith has allowed me to experience love on an altogether different level – a level only the God of the Bible could create. And I pray the same for you!

Yes, I have considered Scientific Naturalism and found it lacking (this is by no means exhaustive):

It, like Christianity, it is just a theory. Faith is always a part of any belief system.
It, like Christianity, starts with a presupposition – that there is no God and there is nothing beyond what our senses allow us to know (and, by the way, they also deceive us).
It gives too much power to science – which has historically showed itself to be sometimes wrong, biased, and unreliable.
It is inherently fatalistic – giving the believer no real purpose or hope.
It devalues mankind to a grouping of chemicals, molecules, and atoms that makes us of little more significance than a rock (and I believe YOU and I have more value than that -:).
It gives no place or credence to a moral or ethical code (talking about chaos!). Why, based upon naturalism, would anyone be inclined to treat their neighbor with love, respect or fairness – why not lie, steal, murder, rape, etc. (after all we are just matter with no eternal destiny or no eternal consequences)?
It is completely man-centered and mankind is not the solution in our world but the problem. With all of our scientific and intellectual “evolution” our world is still haunted by war, hunger, poverty, anger, crime, etc. not to mention the continued decline in the respect for human life on every level.

You seem to be a much brighter fellow than I am and certainly a seeker for some sort of truth to hold onto. I will pray that you find that truth. You may scoff at my Jesus and my belief in Him but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in this world. I pray that an honest pursuit of who He is as the Bible reveals Him will lead you directly to the one Who is “the way, the truth and the life”. The one who is supreme over all people, nations and rulers. Sounds silly, eh? Well that silliness has changed my life…I pray it changes yours too. Interestingly, God’s Word says that such faith will be “silliness” to some: 

Christ the Wisdom and Power of God
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:18-31).

Again, thanks for your comments and have a great week!

In love,
Linden

Commenter:

>My Jesus is not the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus – there is much more historicity (and experiential) to Him than that.

There is abundant history and experience supporting the Greek and Norse gods. I doubt you would change your belief to Hinduism because it has a deeper faith tradition. We want more than that. We want our beliefs to be true.

Over at jwwartick.com, we’ve been discussing the evidence for god. It sounds like you don’t need evidence; that’s the power of faith. My worry about faith is that it leads to conflicting claims. Your faith may be wholesome and important to you, but others are using it to justify killing their sisters for dating the wrong guy. There is no way we can say that guy is wrong and you are right. His religious experience carries just as much weight as yours.

I am a former believer. I’ve had religious experiences and been in love with Yahweh. I felt privileged and elated to know the truth. As I grew up, I felt several pinches because of my faith. Logical, humanitarian and scientific conflicts arose. Ultimately, I gave up my faith because of my values. I value truth more than my own comfort. While I don’t have privileged access to truth, I have been able to rule some things out using reason.

Nice talking with you. Your beliefs aren’t far from the ones I once held. We all have different values and it sounds like your beliefs are in line with your values.

Commenter:

I don’t share your characterization of scientific materialism.

>It, like Christianity, it is just a theory. Faith is always a part of any belief system.

You have a point and I am skeptical of science, too. There is an area of the philosophy of science called Instrumentalism. It says that science is quite limited and its results should not be taken as ontological statements about reality. I’m in this camp. I think science is the worst way we have to know the world, except for all the others.

>It, like Christianity, starts with a presupposition – that there is no God and there is nothing beyond what our senses allow us to know (and, by the way, they also deceive us).

Definitely not true. My version of materialism does not deny the existence of anything. I simply confine myself to commenting on those things that present themselves to our senses. I mentioned this to JW Wartick:

Scientific naturalists limit themselves to materialism because to make claims without it is a form of lying. Sam Harris has pointed out that if I told you I had an even number of cells in my body, you would have no reason to believe me. That claim has a much better chance of being true (50%) than the claim that some sort of god exists (and far better than the claim that Yahweh exists) but is still not justified.

>It gives too much power to science – which has historically showed itself to be sometimes wrong, biased, and unreliable.

We must remain humble when doing science. Being human, we are prone to ego, wishful thinking, comfort-seeking and pride. Even so, I think the contributions of science (such as this blog) speak for themselves. They are morally neutral and have thus done both good and bad things. But so have knives and teeth. Science is a toolkit and to explain its success without saying it really is getting at the nature of external reality seems impossible.

>It is inherently fatalistic – giving the believer no real purpose or hope.

Dawkins said: “The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”

When asked how he, one of the most purposeful men alive, could believe such a grim philosophy. Dawkins replied, “The universe has no purpose, but I do.”

>It gives no place or credence to a moral or ethical code

First, nonbelievers behave as well as believers. Two, religion has not inoculated anyone against evil. The correlation between religious belief and morality is a false one. We don’t need religious belief to be good and it doesn’t make us moral anyway. These are matters of plain observation.

Humanistic philosophy, given to us by evolution, is more than sufficient to live together. And it doesn’t make gods of humans. We are all still subject to nature.

 Linden:

Hey Don! I’m glad you have connected with JW Wartick – he is really a philosophical apologist and I’m just a simple follower and servant of Jesus.

It seems to me that logic is not the real issue here. When you suggest that those who believe in eternal reward and punishment are no more incented than an atheist to live morally and ethically I believe that statement is not very reasonable. All of the honest atheists (since you quote several atheists) I’ve met are keenly aware that the biggest weakness in atheism is the presence of a similar moral code across all of history and civilizations and are unable to logically explain that apart from some kind of supreme moral Being. Secondly, your comment that the Greek and Norse gods are just as historical as Jesus is weak. Jesus is a known historical figure and that is verified by historians of the 2nd and 3rd centuries. This can not been said of the gods you mentioned.

Anyway, if it is just reason and logic that you seek then Wartick and others (Ravi Zacharias, Josh McDowell, and Lee Stobel – the last 2 being former atheists) are a better place to start than me.

My speculation is that this is not an issue of values or logic. I’m guessing it is a spiritual rebellion that has arisen from some crisis, pain, injustice, or tragedy that has caused you to try your best to rationalize God out of your life. I may very well be wrong and truly hope that I am. If I am correct then I’m terribly sorry for whatever it is or was. Therefore, I will leave you with a couple of thoughts. I believe He exists and does so whether we choose to believe or even try to determine His non-existence by some statistical odds. He says that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. That is true of you as well as me. And that is not about our comfort. I don’t believe in Him for that for He has called me to a life of self-denial and self sacrifice because He is infinitely worthy of my total surrender. That means pain, persecution, and tribulation. I gladly will endure that because He is the King of the (and my) universe. I pray that you return to your faith in Christ stronger and more devoted to Him and His Kingdom. And I will sincerely and repeatedly pray for that. I’d love to stand along side you in this journey of faith.

Let’s now leave on good terms. Honorable people can agree to disagree. Given that God describes Himself as love I hope that message and the beauty of Jesus has permeated my responses to your comments. For in the end He will be glorified!

Respectfully,
Linden

 Commenter:

All faith claims are on an equal footing. A follower of Thor could just as well say the same to you about your faith in Yahweh/Jesus:

Linden:

I’m just a simple follower and servant of Thor.

My speculation is that this is not an issue of values or logic. I’m guessing it is a spiritual rebellion that has arisen for some crisis, pain, injustice or tragedy that has caused you to try your best to rationalize Thor out of your life. I may very well be wrong and truly hope that I am. If I am correct then I’m terribly sorry for whatever it is or was. Therefore, I will leave you with a couple of thoughts. I believe Thor exists and does so whether we choose to believe or even try to determine His non-existence by some statistical odds. Thor says that He is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. That is true of you as well as me. And that is not about our comfort. I don’t believe in Thor for that for He has called me to a life of self-denial and self sacrifice because He is infinitely worthy of my total surrender. That means pain, persecution, and tribulation. I gladly will endure that because Thor is the King of the (and my) universe. I pray that you return to your faith in Thor stronger and more devoted to Him and His Kingdom. And I will sincerely and repeatedly pray for that. I’d love to stand along side you in this journey of faith.

Let’s now leave on good terms. Honorable people can agree to disagree. Given that Thor describes Himself as love I hope that message and the beauty of Thor has permeated my responses to your comments. For in the end Thor will be glorified!

When you abandon reason, you are adrift in a sea of equal, contradictory faith claims.

 Linden:

I rejoice to be mocked for the name of my sweet Savior Jesus. I and my Christian friends will be praying for you. Please let me know if I can do anything for you. In His name, Linden

 Commenter:

I used your own words to show you how your claims sound to someone who doesn’t believe in Yahweh/Jesus. It is a device that helps overcome ethnocentrism. You can gain nothing from them if you dismiss them as mockery.

 Linden:

Actually, you are right. You weren’t mocking me but my God. If that is a device you find helpful then all I can do is pray for you. God (and I don’t mean Thor -:) bless you, my friend!

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