Tag Archives: Greg Koukl

“Why do you believe in Jesus? And how can I?”

Are you equipped to answer those questions in a clear, winsome and biblical way?

I actually got an email with those two questions in the subject line.  The sender was a guy from  a Sunday school class I was teaching.  He attended with his wife, who was a committed believer, but he was a skeptic. We ended up having a great conversation about the real Gospel, the importance of reading the Bible, etc.  (We ended up leaving that church so I’m not sure of his current beliefs.  But I trust the process.)

Those are the ultimate softball questions for Christians, right?  They recognize that you believe in Jesus, they are interested in the reasons and they want to know how to do it as well.  Not all encounters will be that tailor made, but my question is this: Are you ready to give effective answers to those questions?  If you aren’t then you need to equip yourselves starting now.

I always start any evangelism / apologetics training with that anecdote.  I want people to get away from thinking that evangelism is only about knocking on doors (not that there is anything wrong with that) and pushing through hostile encounters (Jesus gave us the pearls before swine commandment in Matthew 7:6 for a reason).  I want people to be prepared, but not to give up before they start.

I highly recommend reading this book and having extra copies to share with people.  You will learn how to give an effective presentation of the Gospel, explain the main themes of the Bible and Christianity and address common objections.

P.S. There was an interesting side note with the email.  The guy was a trustee of a 3,000 person Methodist church at the time.   They didn’t even know he was an explicit non-believer.  I knew the church had agnostics in other roles who thought they are Christians, but this guy knew his real spiritual status.  Maybe churches should get to know their leaders first, and as a bonus, their members.  /sarcasm

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Decision, decisions

My favorite apologist linked to this so I thought I’d re-run it.  Still the most practical biblical lesson I know of for daily living.  As Greg Koukl says, we are constantly either making decisions or living with their consequences.  I use this method and share it regularly.  I just used it with the high school kids at church to talk about careers, dating, marriage, college, etc.  

Click here to download a set of PowerPoint slides to read or to teach others.

And here is a new video of this lesson!

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Decision Making and the Will of God is one of my all-time favorite lessons to teach.  This is such a crucial topic, because we make big and small decisions all the time and are constantly living with the consequences of past decisions.

Does God speak to you about specific decisions when you are reading the Bible, such as whether you should pay off your mortgage, whom you should marry, what job you should take, etc.?  I think this is about how you apply the Bible to decision making and not about whether God sends individual messages through his word.

For example, if you want to know whether paying off your mortgage is the right thing to do, you have a couple options:

1. Ask God for a supernatural sign for the answer, whether it is a yes or a no (a la Gideon).  My guess is that He won’t decide for you that way, but it is always his option.  One thing we know about God is that if He wants to tell you something directly He isn’t very subtle.  There are zero examples of him trying to tell someone something in the Bible and not getting through.

2. Use the wisdom model of decision making.  You don’t have access to God’s sovereign knowledge (Will I lose my job?  Will interest rates go up or down?  Etc.).  You do have unrestricted access to his moral will via the Bible. Example: Is it immoral to pay off your mortgage early?  No, unless that means you won’t have enough money to feed your kids.  After moral considerations, look to the wisdom angle.  Ask God for wisdom, as He promises to deliver.  But as with Solomon, He doesn’t promise to decide everything for you.  Read Proverbs (and more).  Seek the counsel of others.  Consider the pros and cons.  That’s how to make wise decisions.  Finally, provided the options are moral and wise, consider your personal preferences.  We have tremendous freedom in Christ to do many things with our time and money.  Will paying off your mortgage make you happy?  If so, then do it.

Here’s a picture of what is looks like:

Decision making and the will of God

Really short version: Aside from direct and clear personal revelation from God, you don’t have access to his sovereign will when making decisions.  Therefore you must look at other factors.  If it isn’t moral, don’t do it.  If it is moral but not wise, don’t do it.  If it is moral and wise, then use your personal preferences.

Using this model you can end up with a wise and biblical decision, but you have avoided the traps of the “God told me to ____” routine.  People who run around saying that God told them this and that convey a super-spirituality that can leave less mature believers wondering if they really have a relationship with God (i.e., “God doesn’t tell me every little thing to do, so maybe I don’t really know him.”).

The “God told me ___” routine can also be outright blasphemy, as when “Christians” claim that God is moving in a new direction counter to what He revealed in the Bible.  The United Church of Christ “God is still speaking;” theme is a good example of that.  They didn’t believe what He said the first time around, so why trust them on allegedly new revelations?

Saturating yourself in the word is a key success factor in making good decisions. If we focus on worldly wisdom things go badly:

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

But if we repent and do everything we can to see things from God’s point of view we will make better decisions.

Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

This model will help you make good decisions in all areas of life — dating, marriage, college, careers, purchases, giving, ministry and more.  You can also use it to help friends, children, etc. make good decisions.  I even use it at work as a “faith flag” at times.  If people ask career advice, for example, I pull out this diagram and share it with them (i.e., “At the risk of getting all religious on you, here’s the method I use to make decisions like that.”)

Click here to download a set of PowerPoint slides to read or to use yourself to teach others.

P.S. A kid came into my wife’s elementary school library yesterday and asked if she had any books on how to make good choices.  She thought of the diagram above and laughed.  Let’s just say I refer to this model now and then.  She thinks I should write a children’s book on decision making.  I think she is kidding.

Hat tip to Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason for much of this, including the diagram.

Decision, decisions

Uber-apologist Wintery Knight linked to this last week so I thought I’d re-run it.

And here is a new video of this lesson!

—–

Decision Making and the Will of God is one of my all-time favorite lessons to teach.  This is such a crucial topic, because we make big and small decisions all the time and are constantly living with the consequences of past decisions.

Does God speak to you about specific decisions when you are reading the Bible, such as whether you should pay off your mortgage, whom you should marry, what job you should take, etc.?  I think this is about how you apply the Bible to decision making and not about whether God sends individual messages through his word.

For example, if you want to know whether paying off your mortgage is the right thing to do, you have a couple options:

1. Ask God for a supernatural sign for the answer, whether it is a yes or a no (a la Gideon).  My guess is that He won’t decide for you that way, but it is always his option.  One thing we know about God is that if He wants to tell you something directly He isn’t very subtle.  There are zero examples of him trying to tell someone something in the Bible and not getting through.

2. Use the wisdom model of decision making.  You don’t have access to God’s sovereign knowledge (Will I lose my job?  Will interest rates go up or down?  Etc.).  You do have unrestricted access to his moral will via the Bible. Example: Is it immoral to pay off your mortgage early?  No, unless that means you won’t have enough money to feed your kids.  After moral considerations, look to the wisdom angle.  Ask God for wisdom, as He promises to deliver.  But as with Solomon, He doesn’t promise to decide everything for you.  Read the Proverbs (and more).  Seek the counsel of others.  Consider the pros and cons.  That’s how to make wise decisions.  Finally, provided the options are moral and wise, consider your personal preferences.  We have tremendous freedom in Christ to do many things with our time and money.  Will paying off your mortgage make you happy?  If so, then do it.

Here’s a picture of what is looks like:

Decision making and the will of God

Really short version: Aside from direct and clear personal revelation from God, you don’t have access to his sovereign will when making decisions.  Therefore you must look at other factors.  If it isn’t moral, don’t do it.  If it is moral but not wise, don’t do it.  If it is moral and wise, then use your personal preferences.

Using this model you can end up with a wise and biblical decision, but you have avoided the traps of the “God told me to ____” routine.  People who run around saying that God told them this and that convey a super-spirituality that can leave less mature believers wondering if they really have a relationship with God (i.e., “God doesn’t tell me every little thing to do, so maybe I don’t really know him.”).

The “God told me ___” routine can also be outright blasphemy, as when “Christians” claim that God is moving in a new direction counter to what He revealed in the Bible.  The United Church of Christ “God is still speaking;” theme is a good example of that.  They didn’t believe what He said the first time around, so why trust them on allegedly new revelations?

Saturating yourself in the word is a key success factor in making good decisions. If we focus on worldly wisdom things go badly:

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

But if we repent and do everything we can to see things from God’s point of view we will make better decisions.

Psalm 37:4 Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

This model will help you make good decisions in all areas of life.  You can also use it to help friends, children, etc. make good decisions.  I even use it at work as a “faith flag” at times.  If people ask career advice, for example, I pull out this diagram and share it with them (i.e., “At the risk of getting all religious on you, here’s the method I use to make decisions like that.”)

Click here to download a set of PowerPoint slides to read or to use yourself to teach others.

P.S. A kid came into my wife’s elementary school library yesterday and asked if she had any books on how to make good choices.  She thought of the diagram above and laughed.  Let’s just say I refer to this model now and then.  She thinks I should write a children’s book on decision making.  I think she is kidding.

Hat tip to Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason for much of this, including the diagram.

Parts of the Pachyderm

A favorite updated for your reading pleasure.  If you haven’t encountered the “parts of the elephant” argument yet, you probably will.  Even some people who claim the name of Christ use it to bolster their “all paths lead to God” mistake.

 —

IMG_0098

Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason has an excellent piece called the Trouble with the Elephant.

The ancient fable of the blind men and the elephant is often used to illustrate the fact that every faith represents just one part of the larger truth about God. However, the attempt is doomed before it gets started.

In the story, multiple blind men feel different parts of an elephant and describe it in different ways.  Someone who is not blind then points out the truth to them.

The typical application of the story is that religious pluralism is true – i.e., we’re worshiping the same God in different ways.

A good question to ask anyone who repeats this parable is, “Where do you fit into the story?”  If he is one of the blind men, then why would he have anything to offer you?  If he claims to be the person with sight, then what are his qualifications that he understands this world and you don’t?

Note that the blind men are describing different parts of the elephant, but it is still an elephant.  But if one religion says God is personal and another says He is impersonal, then they can’t both be right.  You can’t be an elephant and not an elephant.  I wrote more on the irreconcilable differences in the essential truth claims of religions in Religious Pluralism is Intellectually Bankrupt.

In a sense, the whole story is self refuting.  While the principle message is that we can only know a certain piece about God, the message itself claims to have the big picture.

It also has a rather odd premise: The “real” religion would be to follow every religion.  That way you’d have the whole elephant.

The only way the parable would work is if the elephant described itself to the blind people – sort of the way the God reveals himself to us in the Bible.  As Koukl says:

If everyone truly is blind, then no one can know if he or anyone else is mistaken.  Only someone who knows the whole truth can identify another on the fringes of it.  In this story, only the king can do that–no one else.

The most ironic turn of all is that the parable of the six blind men and the elephant, to a great degree, is an accurate picture of reality.  It’s just been misapplied.

We are like blind men, fumbling around in the world searching for answers to life’s deepest questions.  From time to time, we seem to stumble upon some things that are true, but we’re often confused and mistaken, just as the blind men were.

How do I know this?  Because the King has spoken.  He is above, instructing us, advising us of our mistakes, and correcting our error.  The real question is:  Will we listen?

Remember that if the elephant illustration is true, then Christianity is false.  The Bible teaches 100+ times that Jesus is the only way to salvation.  This is an argument that no Christian should use.

Accurate answers to any “Why did God __________?” questions

I’m paraphrasing here, but Greg Koukl made some good points on an old Podcast of Stand To Reason that I thought were useful in answering common questions from both Christians and non-Christians.  The question from the show was, “Why didn’t God just kill Adam and Eve after they disobeyed God?”  When we get questions like that the following answers are usually accurate, even if they aren’t completely satisfying to the questioner.

  1. I don’t know.
  2. Because He wanted to.
  3. For his glory.

Sometimes the answers are in the Bible, but not always.  But that shouldn’t rock your world.  It can be interesting to speculate on the answers based on what we do know about God. In this case, Koukl noted that by letting humans live and ultimately coming to earth as a substitutionary atonement for our sins that God was able to demonstrate more of his attributes.  It would have been completely legitimate for him to kill Adam and Eve for their rebellion, but He chose not to.

It is often more productive to focus on what we do know than on what we don’t know.  The end of Job is in the Bible for a reason.  Ask all the questions you like, but don’t pretend that God didn’t reveal everything to us that we need to know.

And don’t get spooked if there are tough questions you can’t answer, whether the questions are your own, from other believers or from skeptics.  In an even greater sense than how a toddler can’t understand why his parent does something, we don’t know near enough to explain why God is or isn’t doing something in every situation.

If you like the “Left Behind” end times teachings, you may not like this post

And by “may not” I mean “definitely not.”  I updated this because I saw a Facebook thread that advanced the pre-tribulation rapture with a lot of bad arguments.  I was about to write a new post, then did a search and realized I had already done one!  I’m not sure if that is good because the work was already done or bad that I have such a poor memory.

I think it is valuable to understand the different orthodox interpretations of the book of Revelation.  But the most important thing is to ensure that you have trusted in Jesus for you salvation.  If you get run over by a bus today that will be your own “personal rapture,” in that you’ll be facing Jesus with your eternity already determined, one way or the other.

An agnostic friend used to have a bumper sticker that said, “Come the rapture, can I have your car?”  We had few things in common theologically but we both weren’t keen on the likelihood of the pre-tribulation rapture (that is, the teaching that Jesus will bring all believers to him before 7 years of his final return, thus avoiding a period of mayhem and intense persecution).  This is a sadly serious issue these days, what with Harold Camping’s claims a while back that brought such embarrassment to the church.  Such foolishness is un-biblical and is a distraction and embarrassment to Christianity.  Atheists had a field day mocking it, and who can blame them?

While I think we should be charitable about non-essential Christian beliefs, this is a teaching that can be harmful to people.  What does it do to someone’s faith when they think they’ll escape worldly persecution via the rapture and then it doesn’t happen?

Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason gives two good reasons why the pre-tribulation rapture is not what the Bible teaches.

The first observation I made was that this doctrine, the disappearance of the church seven years prior to the return of Christ, is not a doctrine that anyone in the history of the church ever held to until about 150 years ago. That was the first red flag. There might be justifiable explanations for that and some people make those explanations. But my question is, if the Bible teaches this, why didn’t anybody see it for almost 2000 years? All of the church fathers expected to see the Antichrist which would leave at least a mid-trib rapture. My suspicion was, the reason the church didn’t see it for 2000 years is because it wasn’t there. The information about the rapture actually came from a prophecy that was external to the Scriptures, the Plymouth Brethren prophecy. With that prophecy in place, people went back to the Scriptures and then began to see what they saw as hints of this doctrine in different passages.

It is technically possible that the church just got it wrong for 1,850 years, but it seems that the burden of proof is on those introducing a new theology.

More importantly, what does the Bible say?  Greg explains that  1 Thessalonians 4 and 1 Corinthians 15, the two most commonly cited passages, give a time frame, and it isn’t pre-tribulation.

Let’s try to pull this together. It is very important for us to start from a foundation of an explicit Biblical teaching on this issue so that we can build from there and take what is really clear and then answer the other objections based on what we know to be true from the clear text. We have two passages that give, by all counts, an explicit description of what has been called the rapture. Both accounts tell when it is going to happen. They say it is going to happen at the coming of the Lord. That is our explicit foundation. Both describe it, both tell when. Now the question becomes, which coming of the Lord does the author here, Paul, have in mind?

Here is my answer. The second coming. Not the third coming, not the one-and-a-half coming. The passages call it the coming of the Lord. Not a coming. They call it the coming of the Lord. I don’t know how it can be made more clear. It is very straight-forward. What some want to do is bring a lot of theology from the outside and twist the plain sense of those words. They say, “Well, he’s coming in the air.” What does that have to do with anything? In both cases, Paul calls it the coming of the Lord. And he says, right after that, then comes the end. That’s the order. The writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 9 “In as much as Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin to those who eagerly await him.” My point is that there are only two comings. The coming when Jesus accomplished the work of the cross, and the second coming.

And here is a simple explanation about Matthew 24, often cited by pre-Trib folks as a proof-text.

We read about the second coming in Matthew 24. That is a visible, powerful and conclusive coming. He says everyone will be able to see Him, right? Paul says these events that are called the rapture happen at the coming of the Lord and the coming of the Lord, according to Jesus, is visible and there is only one second coming. This falls together so neatly, I don’t know why it isn’t more obvious to more people.

Read the whole thing.

 

Life still begins at fertilization

This is a great example of “sibling rivalry”* in action.  Just because some people question whether the unborn are living human beings doesn’t mean they have any facts on their side.  Pro-lifers have all the embryology textbooks to support their view, not to mention concessions from leading pro-abortion people (see this link for a lot of examples of both).

Dream all you like about finding life elsewhere in the universe, but don’t be anti-science and ignore the logical and scientific fact of human life in the womb.

“Sibling rivalry” is a phrase used by Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason to describe the situation where people hold opposing ideas at the same time.

Sometimes objections come in pairs that are logically inconsistent and therefore oppose each other. I call this “sibling rivalry” because they are like children fighting.