Monthly Archive March 2019

An unlikely witness for Jesus

A doable but challenging task

Christianity, like all other worldviews, claims to be true. It presents a way of living that makes sense, or as someone said “a life worth living.” Christianity is not unique in this sense because all worldviews try to present “a life worth living.” Moreover, Christians cannot but speak and tell others about their faith. They know that it works, at least for them.

Furthermore, Jesus gave the mandate to go and tell everyone about the good news. This includes their friends, fellow students, and wherever God has placed them. But how can I reach my friends and the world around me? It seems a daunting task.

In this post, we will have a look at how a woman became a successful communicator.

A successful woman communicator

In the gospel of John chapter 4, we read about a woman. Yes, she was an outcast and therefore a lonely person. But she also was well-informed about the latest interpretations of her society on matters of truth and meaning in life. This woman was dissatisfied with the life she was living. She knew that there is more to life than this. Moreover, she was thirsty for love and justice. Plus, she was continuously thinking and hoping about a new and better way forward, a new and better society where love for God and our neighbour would be a reality, not just a dream. Finally, she had enough time to think, she was after all forced to be a loner. Let’s have a look at how she finally became a successful and bold witness for Jesus.

Wonder inspired by an encounter with a stranger

Little did she know that something really big was waiting for her that day. She was about to have the most amazing encounter. This encounter was with Jesus, who in the gospel of John is described as God in the flesh. Meeting with the Messiah was not a small thing. It filled her heart with a real sense of wonder! She left her jar and ran to the city and boldly and unashamedly proclaimed what she had experienced. We should never lose that wonder! Have you lost the wonder?

Witness inspired by truth

We also see that she was inspired by truth! Jesus knew the reality of her brokenness and situation. He knows your reality as well. Jesus is not only interested in nice conversations about reality and truth. He comes uncomfortably close to us and reveals our true condition. Someone said that “Jesus disturbs the comfortable and comforts the disturbed.” But his main reason to disturb you is to comfort you.

Moreover, the woman was amazed that Jesus was knowledgeable and spoke truth related to the world around them. He had a good grasp of the actual history of the place and its different religious and political interpretations. But more than this, he was able to give the true meaning, to explain the true essence of what faith in God really means. Truth was coming to this woman from different directions. The truth about herself, about her peoples’ history, and about real worship. Truth that corresponded to reality like nothing else she knew before. It was an encounter with truth in the person of Jesus. Jesus is the truth! A truth that is supported by the Old Testament prophesies.

Worship that satisfies the deepest desires of the human heart

Jesus then explained what true worship means. It is a person-to-person encounter with the living God. It is worship in spirit and in truth. They would no longer worship in a particular place. A time was coming when worship would be done in many different places. Not only in one or two particular places. But in the whole world. Later in our passage, the men who came to faith testified that Jesus is “the saviour of the world,” not only a tribal deity limited in one or two places. But the saviour of the whole world!

Nothing but true worship can satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart. This reminds us of C.S.Lewis’ argument from desire. For the woman at the well, the deepest longings of her heart were satisfied. She was able to drink living water because of her encounter with Jesus. We were made to be worshipers. This should be our first priority. This will keep you going in good and not so good times. It will also make you a good witness of Jesus Christ. You cannot give what you don’t have.

Fulfilment by doing God’s will

Finally, Jesus replied to the disciples by saying that “my food is to do the will of him who sent me.” Living in the will of God satisfies! It is like being in our element, just like a fish is in the water of its own element. When Jesus said these words he was also partly referring to the conversation he had with this woman. He was evangelizing, witnessing about the truth. Bringing people to Jesus satisfies! It is a clear mandate, go and make disciples of all nations! The harvest is ready. People are hungry for reality! It is a hunger that only Jesus can satisfy. By going we experience a sense of satisfaction.

This woman became one of the most successful witnesses for Jesus Christ. What are the one or two things that appeal most to you from her story? Take a few moments to reflect on the following questions.

Reflections

Are you satisfied with the life you are living?

Are you a true worshiper? Are you living in the will of God? Are you witnessing for Jesus? Have you lost the wonder? Have you had an encounter with Jesus and his claims? What is God saying to you through this story?

Feel free to leave a reply, I will be happy to hear from you.

Notes

– The gospel of John chapter 4:1-42

– proofreading Dan Truitt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Connexxion Amsterdam retreat 2019 Reasons for our faith

At this student retreat, we talked about reasons for our faith and communicating the good news with our friends. The Christian faith makes sense of reality. On the practical side, we talked about “asking good questions” in conversations we have with our friends. 

Connexxion Amsterdam, a student group, had their annual retreat this year in a nice hostel castle at Heemskerk. Martha Moore, the student worker for this student group, invited me to give three talks. The retreat was planned for March 30th-31st.

Retreat Group Photo

 

The three sessions

In the first session, we talked about what Christian apologetics is and why it is important, especially for the 21st century. At this link, you can read about the content of this session.

Next, we talked about some “reasons for our faith.” In this session, we addressed topics such as “the nature of faith,” and two main ways to show that Christianity makes sense. Here you can read more about this session.

At our last session, we talked about “an unlikely witness for Jesus” from the gospel of John chapter 4. Furthermore, we dealt with the following: Giving a gospel presentation, and how to ask good questions in a conversation.

There was one more talk given by Martha herself. This was an inspiring and visionary talk about living day to day with Jesus and participating in what God is doing in the world.

Session: Reasons for our faith

Q&A session

Finally, we had a Q&A session on Saturday evening. The students collected about 15 questions and Pia and I replied the best we could. This was a highlight for me personally. I always enjoy these moments of interaction with the students. Their questions are open, sincere, and authentic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian faith: It really makes sense

It really makes sense!

The author of “The Chronicles of Narnia,” C.S.Lewis, once said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” His point is clear: the Christian faith illuminates the landscape of reality and helps us see it as it is. As the sun rises we can see the landscape; we can see things as they really are.

The Christian faith is a worldview that adequately explains reality as it is, both the universe “outside” of us and our experience “inside” of us. In other words, it is a coherent whole that makes sense of reality as we observe it and experience it as human beings. I would say that the Christian faith has the capacity to explain things as they really are much better than other worldviews. But how can we show that this is really the case? This brings us to the question of methodology.

A reliable method and a toolbox

Let us start with “hypotheses testing.” This is a good way to form and test a theory or a worldview. In our case, we want to test the Christian worldview and find out if it makes sense. More than this, if it makes better sense than other worldviews. Moreover, we want to use some reliable criteria that can test a worldview. Our toolbox contains the following tools: hypotheses testing, criteria to test a worldview, principles of logic, understanding of truth and knowledge, and the scientific method. For now, that’s enough.

Two ways that show that the Christian faith makes sense

We can show that the Christian faith makes sense in two different ways. One complements the other.

  1. By showing there are good arguments and evidence for the Christian faith. (We will mention some of these.)
  2. By showing that the Christian faith makes more sense than alternative views. We will use a case study and compare two worldviews, Atheism and Christianity. This is the Two Story Idea. Ultimate purpose and fulfilment.

Pointers and evidence for the Christian faith

These arguments are better understood as pointers for the existence of God. We don’t use them in a rigorous mathematical way. Rather, we use them as reasonable and good explanations of reality.

There are many such pointers for God’s existence. I’ll mention two of them that are also supported by recent scientific discoveries.

A universe fine-tuned for life

The fine-tuning of the universe is one of these pointers. The astonishing thing is that the universe is fine-tuned with an amazing amount of precision to make life possible on planet earth. There are three options to explain this discovery: chance, necessity, or design.

The following clip from “Reasonable Faith” presents the fine-tuning argument in just about 6 minutes and it is worthwhile to watch. You can watch here. This argument, as presented in this clip, is a strong pointer towards the existence of God. What it does not do is prove in a rigorous mathematical way that a theistic God exists. But it does give the best explanation possible, an explanation that resonates with what we read in the Bible. David, one of the authors of the Bible said three thousand years ago “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

A universe that had a beginning

The Kalam cosmological argument is another pointer to the existence of a theistic God. The simple form of this argument goes like this. Everything that begins to exist has a cause. The universe began to exist. Therefore, the universe has a cause. The cause of the universe is God. The strength of this argument is that it is supported by both philosophical reasoning and the scientific discovery of the big-bang theory. This theory makes the point that there was a beginning of the universe. This short four-minute clip is a good presentation of this argument. You can watch it here.

Again, this is a strong pointer towards a theistic God. It is an explanation that makes sense, and that is the point here. It is reasonable and points to what another biblical author mentioned three and a half thousand years ago, that the universe had a beginning. The first line of the Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Reliable historical documents

Furthermore, there is good historical evidence that the Christian faith is true. There are reliable historical sources, such as the writings of the New Testament. It is generally accepted that these writings are some of the most reliable ancient documents that exist. The gospels, the four books that speak about Jesus’ life and teaching, are indisputably accepted as authentic historical documents. It is supported by the science of textual criticism, a science that investigates the authenticity of ancient documents.

Christianity compared to other worldviews

Finally, let us open our toolbox again and compare two worldviews. Let us take the question of “is a fulfilling life possible without ultimate purpose?” Read here a short post I wrote about theism and atheism in relation to the question of purpose and fulfilment in life.

Conclusion

Christianity makes sense! That was our main point in the beginning. It better explains the universe and the human experience. In this blog, I present a way, a method, to investigate the belief of the Christian faith. I did not come up with this approach but have embraced it because it is helpful. It is an example that can be used to further search and hopefully come to a meaningful conclusion. What is your worldview? And, does it make sense? Is it helping you to live a “life worth living” in good and not so good times? Does it explain things as they really are? Leave your thoughts and I will be happy to reply.

 

Notes

  • Mere Apologetics, Alister McGrath. The “two ways” I mentioned above are from McGrath’s book. His chapter on “Reasonableness of the Christian faith” is worthwhile to read the book.
  • Reasonable faith, Win Corduan
  • Christian Apologetics, Douglas Groothuis
  • Reasonable Faith Animated Videos
  • Psalm 19:1, Genesis 1:1.
  • Proofreading, Dan Truitt

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Christian Apologetics: what’s that?

Christian Apologetics

  • What is apologetics and why is it important?
  • Understanding the nature of faith
  • Know your audience

What is apologetics and why is it important?

Christian apologetics has to be done in the context of the Great Commission, Matthew 28. Christian apologetics requires thinking, yes. But, it is not to be done isolated from everyday reality. We believe that ideas, worldviews, and ideologies impact our lives, societies, and the world.

Christian apologetics has to be done for two main reasons.

First, it helps Christians better understand that their faith is reasonable, it makes sense. An “unexamined faith” is not worth believing, someone said. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. But always strive to find good answers. When the book “The DaVinci Code” was published, a few Christians were alarmed. But they got over it quickly. Why? Well, the book was of a certain genre, it was “fiction.” Moreover, the science of “textual criticism” was strong enough to defend the reliability of the New Testament. Furthermore, historically, things were not accurately presented.

Second, so we can help others understand what the Christian faith is all about. Christian apologetics deals with the whole of reality. It is a worldview. It claims, like all other worldviews, to explain what a “life worth living” is. Does your worldview help you face the good and not so good times? Is it liveable?

Christian apologetics tries to find what the real issue of rejecting faith is. Is it a myth? (maybe they reject a god we also would reject) a mood? There are different reasons why people may reject faith: Someone said that there are reasons of the mind, memory, culture, and the heart.

Aspects of Christian apologetics

Christian apologetics does three things.

It defends the Christian faith from objections. What are some of the objections to the Christian faith that you think hold people back from the Christian faith? It commends the richness of the Christian faith. It shows the beauty of our faith.

Christianity has the depth and the ability to explain reality as it is. The power of the Christian faith to explain reality is appealing to me personally.

It is our responsibility to translate our Christian faith in a way that helps people understand the message. We want to make sure that what we say is not misunderstood.

Understanding the nature of “faith”

Some people think that faith is taking a blind leap to the dark without any evidence or good reasons. So is faith unreasonable? Is faith a leap to the dark without any evidence? We have to understand the nature of faith in order to be able to answer these questions adequately. Is faith only for people that are ignorant and stupid? A student once told me that a lecturer told her that if she believes in God then she is stupid. I talked to a lecturer at Erasmus university a few years ago and he told me that faith is not reasonable.

Faith is a normal way of being human

Someone said that our convictions are formed in three different ways. Those that are formed through logical deduction and reasoning. Those that are formed by empirical observation. Thirdly, those that are formed by neither of the above two.

For instance, we hold different things as true without any absolute proof. Can you think of some convictions humans have that they hold as true and yet cannot justify either logically or scientifically by observation?

Human rights, for instance, is one of them. Or when we say that something is evil. Or any statement like “religion is evil,” as the New Atheists would say.

The real issue, therefore, is not whether you have “faith,” but what kind of faith do you have? That’s the real issue. Is your faith justified belief? Therefore, faith is not necessarily incompatible with reason. The Christian faith is reasonable and evidence-based.

Know your audience

It is important to understand the worldview of other people. We can understand what others believe only if we listen carefully and ask questions. Moreover, we have to be consistent with what we believe and live out our faith daily and in every situation. Only then will we be prepared to give a reason for our hope that is within us.

The apostle Peter says, “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 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 behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

Christian apologetics is a very important part of our efforts to be a good witness of Jesus Christ.

 

Notes

– Mere Apologetics, Alister McGrath. Very good introduction book for Christian apologetics.

– Bible, NIV

– No Doubt About It, Win Corduan. This is a useful book, not easy to find though, that introduces the basic elements of Christian apologetics.

– Proofreading, Dan Truitt

 

 

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What kind of relationships do I need to be truly happy?

Relationships matter

Relationships are important because they define us as human beings. To be authentically human, someone said, is to exist in relationships. Happiness has to do with the knowledge of being loved. Relationships define our identity. Not any kind of relationships brings happiness. Only loving relationships bring happiness in our lives as nothing else can do.

A famous rock singer, Freddie Mercury, once said that success had brought him fame and lots of money. However, before his death, he confessed that he missed the one thing really needed, “a loving, ongoing relationship.” Not only loving but ongoing relationships make the difference. This involves commitment.

Evidence that relationships matter

A nearly 80-year-old study has proven that “embracing community helps us live longer, and be happier.” The study revealed that “close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives.” Furthermore, they discovered through this study that “loneliness kills. It is as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.” And the key to healthy aging is “relationships, relationships, relationships.”

This study resonates surprisingly with what we read in the Bible. From the repeated words in the creation narrative of everything being good we have a sudden break with the words “it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” God created human beings in his own image and likeness, “in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” We are relational beings.

The reality of loneliness in our times

Loneliness is a real problem in our times. I asked a group of students in a university in Utrecht what could be a problem students are facing. They didn’t need much time to come with an answer. Loneliness and the need for loving relationships were on the top of their list. This generation has social media but still, it feels lonely. Business is a challenge for many people. Things go fast. Some struggle to catch up with things. Others have made it their aim to reach the top. A very successful novelist once was asked what he would like to have known as a boy. Here is what he said, “that when you get to the top, there’s nothing there.”

Relationships and true love

Love is important for good relationships. Our lives become meaningful when true love is part of our daily lives. The Beatles with their song “all we need is love” pointed to the brokenness of their generation which was struggling with racial tensions. The sad thing was that they ended up suing each other.

True love is more than a song that expresses an idea. Someone said that “love is not free” but it is the nature of love to bind itself.” This means that love is not selfish. To gratify our desires is not true love. For relationships to grow and become meaningful commitment is unavoidable. Relationships are messy. Relationships are complicated. But the one thing that can make relationships blossom and grow is true love.

Finding and experiencing true love

Jesus taught about love many times. But more than this he talked about his love relationship with his Father in heaven. In one occasion he said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now, remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”

According to Jesus true love can be experienced in a personal relationship with God. This relationship brings joy and leads us to loving, ongoing, meaningful relationships with others. It gives meaning to life. Here you can read more about this love. A good way to find out more about Jesus’ teaching about true love is to join the Alpha Course. I will be happy to answer questions you might have.

 

Notes

– This blog is a shortened version of a talk I gave at SEARCH, university mission in Utrecht in 2018. I also reworked it and used it at Grace Church on March 10th 2019. Here is the outline of the talk.

– Alister McGrath, Mere Apologetics

– Harvard study of adult development

Bible Gateway. Online Bible in different versions. I used the NIV, New International Version in this blog.

Questions of Life: An Opportunity to Explore the Meaning of Life

– Ravi Zacharias, Can man live without God? 

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