Why You Should Use Apologetics for Your Own Growth

Sharing today from Clear Lens.

Why You Should Use Apologetics for Your Own Growth

Even if no one is around to hear your evidences or respond to your arguments, if your own faith is strengthened, the time you spend studying is worth it.

By Amanda Fischer

Have you ever heard the expression “preach the gospel to yourself”?

I’m not sure where it originated, but the idea is that the gospel is more than a once-and-done lesson for us. We are forgetful people and we need to hear it again…and again. We aren’t necessarily going to hear the gospel from someone else every day, so the duty lies to us.

Apologetics works the same way.

Usually, we think of apologetics as something we do with other people. It’s a debate, or at least a conversation. It’s a question and answer exchange. So how can you apply apologetics to yourself? What does it mean to practice apologetics for your own growth?

To tackle this question, we must understand what the purpose of apologetics is, and what our motivations are for engaging in it.

The purpose of apologetics

As the oft-quoted 1 Peter 3:15 says, as Christ-followers, we should always be prepared to give an answer for the hope we have. In the context of the chapter, the idea becomes clear: be a living witness for unbelievers, and when they ask you why you live like you do, have answers for them.

Of course, there are other passages that deal with the components of what we consider apologetics, which talk about making arguments and tearing down strongholds. And there’s the word itself, apologia, which simply means “to give a defense.” This leaves a lot of room for how exactly we are to give this defense, and what form it will take.

So to apply this to the topic at hand: Do you ever answer your own questions? Do you ever defend yourself, against yourself, to yourself? (Don’t even try to tell me you’ve never argued with yourself.)

In case this is getting confusing, let’s look at an example.

Read the rest here.

Love Song

We were treated to a spontaneous mini-concert by our two-year-old grandson, whose full repertoire consisted of “Jesus Loves Me.” He belted out the chorus with vigor and quality. If one of us attempted to sing along, he abruptly fell silent until we ceased. He indicated in non-verbal terms that he intended to perform solo.Then he resumed the lyrics, never missing a word.

The words of the song are simple, yet profound; personal, yet universal; gentle, yet powerful. Little did our grandson appreciate the joy and heart-warming belief he conveyed in his memorized lyrics, booming out the Good News of the Gospel. Jesus heard the succinct but sincere words of “Jesus Loves Me” and acknowledged the love the words generated in our grandson’s heart. If there is no doubt in a toddler’s mind regarding the unconditional love of God, why would any of us harbor skepticism?

Throughout God’s Word we are presented with substantial evidence of God’s love: “Love comes from God” (1 John 4:7), explains the source of love. “God is love” (1 John 4:8), condenses one of the most powerful messages in the Bible.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16), states the purpose of God’s love. His faithful love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1b, NLT), describes the eternal nature of our Lord’s love.

“One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, ‘Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them!’ Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them” (Mark 10:13-14; 16, NLT).

If Jesus had appeared, our grandson would have eagerly run into His open arms. Children of all ages readily believe God. They do not require long explanations; just a statement of the love of God from trustworthy adults is convincing enough for them. Children love Jesus because Jesus first loved them. God simplifies, removing cobwebs and confusion. Young children readily understand simple, direct explanations and commands, for their faith has not yet been sullied by deceptions of the world. God instructs us to mirror the faith of children who possess uncomplicated, unpretentious faith.

There was another young boy who expressed his love in a tangible manner. One day when Jesus withdrew by boat to a solitary place to pray, multitudes of people who anticipated his next stop walked ahead of Him on land, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14). All through the day, Jesus ministered to the people, offering healing to body and soul. As evening approached, the disciples suggested their Master send the crowds away. Instead, Jesus commanded His disciples to feed the multitudes in the remote countryside. When Jesus’ disciples returned to Him after checking the crowd for any remnants of food, they had found only five barley loaves of bread and two fish, donated by a boy in the listening throng.

We have no knowledge of the boy whose lunch was used in Jesus’ miracle to feed thousands of hungry, attentive followers. Had he been sent from his home that morning to accomplish an errand, but intrigued by the crowds, he fell into the rank and file of those pursuing Jesus? When the disciples circulated among the people asking for any available food, the boy offered his own lunch. In a time when many people went hungry, the gift of food for Jesus’ use displayed phenomenal generosity.

The little boy who contributed his lunch of bread and fish, gave it up willingly. The loaves were small, like individual dinner rolls. The fish were also diminutive, perhaps a smoked or a pickled variety, like herring, a delicacy for lunch.

God had already planned to use the boy’s meal to feed the entire multitude of five thousand men plus women and children, who would minimally total about 15,000 people. Jesus’ disciple, Andrew, took the boy’s small lunch to Jesus. “Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted’. So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten” (John 6:10-13).

If we allow God to use our availability and material possessions, as the little boy demonstrated, we may also be used as catalysts for a miracle. Imagine the thrill and amazement on the face of that boy who watched as Jesus multiplied his meager lunch to feed the masses. Fascinated by Jesus’ miracle, he then participated in the picnic created from his personal lunch donation. What a story he would tell his family when he finally arrived home later that day!

Jesus loves and respects boys and girls, and they know it. “‘I tell you the truth: anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it’” (Luke 18:17); a severe warning, encouraging us to simplify our faith enough for a child to understand. Though Jesus’ disciples initially displayed doubt, they learned a new level of uncomplicated faith displayed by a child. Jesus commands all of us to emulate the frank openness of a child’s faith.

The miracles Jesus accomplished aroused anger and hatred among the Jewish rulers and teachers of the law. When they “saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they were indignant” (Matthew 21:15). When those same rulers asked Jesus if he could hear what the children were saying about him, Jesus replied, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’” (Matthew 21:16). Jesus acknowledged praise from children. They were His ardent supporters; they knew they were loved, professing their faith as they enthusiastically sang about their Savior in the temple courts.

Envision the children clasping hands, dancing around the courtyard in a circle, singing exuberant worship songs to Jesus. If you listen intently, there will arise above the crowd an angelic voice singing, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. We are weak, but He is strong.” Suddenly Jesus’ attention will be focused compassionately on our grandson, the little boy with unsurpassed love for Christ, the one who treasures his adoration and praise.

Let’s Talk About Your Worry

Shared from Unlocking the Bible.

Let’s Talk About Your Worry

by Eden Parker

Yep, we’re gonna talk about worry. You’ve heard the command:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life… (v. 25)

But a good friend of mine told me to always ask, “What’s the therefore there for?” What was said before this to birth Matthew’s imperative? Earlier in the chapter, we read, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (6:21) and, “No one can serve two masters” (6:24). God in his Word has reminded us that he is our Father and Master, and out of this reality we find the command to live free of anxiety.

When we labor for the Lord, it’s not a part-time employment—he’s the Master. When we fight for the Lord, it’s not a temporary deployment (2 Timothy 2:4)—he’s the King. But one of the ways Christians side-step service to the King and dishonor his Lordship is by worrying.

We know this deadly enemy by our fret and sweat, the jitters, the “oh-no!”s about tomorrow, the thoughts surrounding events that make our palms sweat and elevate our heart rates. But really, worry is our heart’s response to a deeply rooted belief that we are our own master; a deeply felt responsibility that we are our own king; and a deep craving to meet our own needs.

I read Matthew 6, and I write now to admonish my own failure. There are four things, among many more, we can learn about the root of worry—what’s really going on in our heart—from this passage. As we consider God’s Word, I pray he works in us both to put to death this sin in our heart.

Four Things That Happen When You Worry

1. You have disordered priorities.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (v. 25, emphasis added)

Life is more than the sum of solutions to the things we worry about. What things does God warn us not to worry over? Food, drink, clothes, our body. These are real needs, but they’re not worth one minute of faithless fretting.

Read the rest here.

Paying Attention to the Bible’s Important Messages

Sharing today from Bible Engager’s Blog

Paying Attention to the Bible’s Important Messages

How to identify qualifiers that give you pause
June 25th, 2018
MAnn-Margret Hovsepian

BIBLE ENGAGER’S BLOG

“To be honest with you…” 
“To tell you the truth…”
“As a matter of fact…” 
“Honestly…” 
“To be frank…” 

How often have you heard or uttered these words, or some similar phrase? Have you ever wondered why anyone would preface a statement with such a qualifier? After all, shouldn’t we always tell the truth? If you use one of these expressions in a given situation, does that mean you are dishonest the rest of the time?

While starting a sentence with “to be honest” may be a red flag in some situations—or simply a bad habit—there may be times when the speaker is trying to break the ice, command attention, or give the listener a heads-up that something direct or potentially unpleasant is about to be said. It can be a way of saying, “I’m about to say something important” or “listen up!”

Notice Important Qualifiers

Have you ever noticed that similar qualifiers appear in the Bible? Depending on which version you study, you will find phrases such as:

“Truly I tell you…” 
“I say to you very seriously…” 
“For I assure you…”
“I can guarantee this truth…”
“What I’m about to tell you is true…”

Zooming in on teachings prefaced by these qualifiers will help you get more out of your Bible reading. These markers help us identify truths that are vital to our understanding of God’s will for us and to our Christian growth. Like road signs that caution us to slow down or tell us where to turn, these clues in Scripture make Bible reading more than just an item to cross off our to-do lists.

Try Starting with Paul

Here’s a good place to start. In his letters to Timothy and Titus, the apostle Paul started or concluded five statements with “This is a true saying…” He was not implying that everything else he’d written was untrue, but he clearly wanted his readers to pay special attention to these teachings.

Let’s look at the five sayings Paul highlighted for his protégées:

Read the rest here.

Thought Patrol

Thought Patrol

 

When anyone hears the message about the kingdom
and does not understand it,
the evil one comes and snatches away
what was sown in his heart… 
Matthew 13:19

The devil can invade our mental privacy?! The very thought sends shivers. And it should. Satan tries to tap into our brains all the time. He’s a regular soul-hacker — like the techno-geeks on their computers at home, breaking security codes and logging onto sensitive government systems. Scripture calls him “the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient,” and today’s verse describes his access to the human soul.  

People joke about this and say, “The devil made me do it.” They laugh because they don’t think he exists. And if there is a devil, he’s their ex-spouse. Meanwhile their minds are as soaked with his suggestions as a pickle in vinegar. They don’t see him — he’s a spirit. They don’t hear him — he has tiptoed in sock-footed. If they do catch some small noise at their mind’s door, they assume it’s just opportunity knocking.  

But Christians know better; they understand the power of their invisible tempter. We are aware, as well as wary. The wonderful thing for the Christian is, 1 John 4:4-5 says, “…the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” His Spirit helps you stand guard over your mind with the power of God’s Word.  

Put a barbed wire fence around your thinking. Make your will “stand guard” over your mind with the ammunition of God’s Word. Learn to recognize the devil’s tactics so that you can shoot down every suggestion — every temptation — of the enemy today. And take courage knowing that if Satan can be stealthful for evil’s sake, God is much more at work for goodness’ sake.  

Spirit of Christ, please help me stand guard over my thoughts today. Help me to resist any suggestion from the devil that I offend You, hurt my brother, or tarnish my own testimony through sin or selfishness.


Taken from Pearls of Great Price. Copyright © 2006 by Joni Eareckson Tada. Published in Print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version.

10 Bible Reading Habits I’ve Learned from My Pastor

Sharing today from Unlocking the Bible.

10 Bible Reading Habits
I’ve Learned from My Pastor

By Rachel Lehner

…hold fast to the word I preached to you… (1 Corinthians 15:2b)

A good sermon exhorts us to grapple with God’s Word preached, hold fast to its truth, and do what it commands. A preacher who places himself under Holy Scripture will present his teaching in a way the congregation can follow, to understand the text they hold on their laps.

10 Bible Reading Habits I’ve Learned from My Pastor’s Sermons

I have found my senior pastor to be exceptionally faithful in this regard. In recently reflecting on 15 years of sitting under his teaching, I’ve seen how his Word-based preaching has significantly impacted my personal Bible reading.

Here are 10 habits I have picked up from my pastor’s weekly sermons:

1. Slow down!

I’ve read the Beatitudes many times and thought I had mined all their treasures—until our church did a 17-week series on only 10 verses. My pastor’s high view of Scripture has challenged me to expect more from each verse and to slow down when I read my Bible.

2. Use Scripture to explain Scripture.

When seeking to understand the meaning of a word or verse, I’ve seen how important it is to interpret Scripture in light of itself. For example, I understood the word “blasphemy” to mean insulting or showing contempt for God. But my pastor used Mark 2:7 to explain Matthew 26:65, which defines “blasphemy” as claiming to be God. This makes the charge against Jesus before the priests all the more meaningful since Jesus was put to death for claiming to be God, the one crime for which Jesus could be rightfully convicted.

3. Expect glimpses of Christ outside the Gospels.

I likely would never have seen all the ways Joseph pointed further to Jesus Christ if it hadn’t been shown to me, but as I repeatedly saw this on Sunday mornings I started finding Christ throughout Scripture on my own. I found Jesus in the promised son who would deliver God’s people (Judges 13:3) and in the psalmist longing for a pledge of good (Psalm 119:122), among many other examples. As Pastor Colin has said, “The whole Bible is one story. It begins in a garden, ends in a city, and all the way through points us to Jesus Christ.”

4. Details are often more significant than we realize.

I’ve learned to ask questions of details that may seem insignificant in a passage. For example, why are we told that Jesus heals an official’s son in John 4? My pastor brought to our attention the many parallels to Pharaoh’s son who died in Exodus 12. He explained how this small, but significant, detail pointed to why grace is better than law, and why Jesus is better than Moses. Any time a verse gives specific details like the number of baskets in Mark 6 or repeats a phrase like “here I am” in Genesis 22, I want to look closely because I know the Spirit has preserved the text this way for a reason.

5. We have more in common with the original recipients than we think.

Read the rest here.

Kids and Kindness

Kids and Kindness 

By Pat Knight

The six-year old was staying overnight at his grandparent’s house. During the night the young man left his bedroom en route to the bathroom. He walked past his grandmother sound asleep on the couch. As he retraced his steps to his bedroom, he halted beside the couch. In hushed tones he spoke, “Nanny, Nanny, I didn’t flush ‘cause I didn’t want to wake you up.” Then, he trudged back to his bedroom, satisfied he had been thoughtful enough to prevent his Nanny from awakening! Meanwhile, Nanny was shaking her head in bewilderment. She wanted to laugh out loud, but in the silence of the night, there was no one awake to listen. She chuckled to herself and fell back to sleep, thanking God for her dear little grandson.

Under the rule of the Pharaoh of Egypt, the Israelites were an oppressed people in a foreign land. They were living as slaves in abject poverty, forced to build cities out of the bricks they made. Their captors were brutal and demanding. Though they were in bondage to Egypt, their numbers continued to grow. Their masters were fearful and threatened by their rising population. Several methods were tried in an attempt to squelch the rapid growth, but when all else failed, the Pharaoh issued a vicious executive order that every Hebrew newborn boy be thrown into the Nile River. (Exodus 1)

Jochebed was a godly Hebrew woman who gave birth to a healthy baby boy, but her great love for her son prevented her from announcing his birth to the authorities. So, she successfully hid him for three months. What a chance she was taking! The Egyptian soldiers regularly patrolled the Israelites’ living area for the sole purpose of confiscating baby boys.

When Jochebed realized she could no longer muffle the loud cries of her infant, she was not going to stand idly by while hateful murderers drowned her child. Jochebed worked tirelessly, fashioning a tightly woven ark out of bulrushes. Meticulously she daubed the exposed seams of papyrus with tar and pitch to prevent water seepage. Because Jochebed loved and trusted her God, He was merciful to her and gradually revealed His plan for saving her son.

Jochebed must have repeatedly rehearsed with her daughter, Miriam, her participation in the plan to save her infant brother. With tremendous faith, the infant’s mother placed him in a little sea-worthy, waterproof ark. It was Miriam’s responsibility to surreptitiously carry the precious bundle to the river. There she found a shallow area in the reeds where she stealthily eased the precious cargo into the water.

There were many dangers inherent in Jochebed’s plans: alligators roamed the waters of the Nile River, an Egyptian soldier could have intercepted Miriam, or the tiny ark could have floated away without discovery. However, faith prevailed. God’s plan was perfect, much larger and involving many more thousands of people than Jochebed could have imagined. “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Jochebed was confident that her God would answer her prayers. With innocent faith, she became an important participant in world history.

Miriam closed the lid on her brother’s custom-made houseboat, secretly slipped it into the river, and waited. Soon, the royal participants in the drama arrived. Pharaoh’s daughter and her attendants went to the same secluded shallows of the river to bathe where Miriam had maneuvered the ark into the water. Abruptly, the princess spied the mysterious basket floating among the reeds and instructed her servant to fetch it. When the lid was opened, a beautiful baby was revealed. Although the princess immediately recognized the infant as Hebrew, “he was crying and she felt sorry for him” (Exodus 2:6).

Right on cue, Miriam emerged from hiding, asking Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” (Exodus 2:7). The princess agreed, ultimately offering the baby’s mother the opportunity to nurse the child and receive payment for her services. What an exceptional reward God granted Jochebed for her faithfulness! She was allowed to serve as surrogate mother to her own son during their bonding years. When her son grew older, Jochebed delivered him to Pharaoh’s daughter, who raised him as her own

“She named him Moses, saying, ‘I drew him out of the water’” (Exodus 2:10).

God had promised His people delivery from slavery; this scene was but a small portion of the plan God chose to liberate nearly a million people. He had selected Moses prior to his birth as the leader of his people. It took many years for God to reveal His plan to Moses, but he eventually became God’s spokesman before Pharaoh, to plead for his countrymen’s release from slavery. 

From the time Moses was born to Hebrew slave parents, there was potential for his life’s plans to fail. Infant mortality was excessively high with soldiers drowning boys in the river. But, when God has a plan, He uses the most unlikely people in the most absurd situations to facilitate His purposes. We have proof that God intervened in the lives of His oppressed people in a miraculous way.

Pharaoh had every intention of eradicating the Israelite nation by attrition; drowning all newborn boys. He did not account for the sensitivity and weakness of his own daughter displayed when she opened Moses’ papyrus basket. She was unwittingly manipulated by God for His purposes. Moses was nurtured by the princess, nourished at the table of kings, educated in progressive Egyptian schools, and protected by their vast army. That baby grew up to save the nation of Israel—a foretaste of the baby of Bethlehem.

How history would have been altered forever if Jochebed had not obeyed her Lord and allowed Him to use her practical trust for His good purposes! God uses each of His believers throughout their lifetime to accomplish His will. God wants us, like Jochebed, to use our common sense, resourcefulness, and intelligence to serve Him. Then, believing that God will use His love and empower us to develop His plan, we march forward in faith, doing what we know God is directing us to do. 

Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God. —Bob Pierce, Founder, World Vision

It is our privilege to respond to the issues that tug on the heart of God. His goals transform to our goals, His priorities become ours, and we develop passion for all of God’s projects. Then we will be prepared for use in accomplishing His goals. 

It was the squealing life of a forbidden Hebrew baby boy who wrenched the love from the heart of the princess. Even the grandchild who was so considerate of his Nanny spoke volumes of love and kindness with his simple act. With his extraordinary sensitivities, he, too, may someday fulfill God’s plan as he learns to trust in Him and give his life for God’s purposes. 

“From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise” (Psalm 8:2). God may speak to us through our children of lofty purposes we may not recognize in any other way. Let us seek to learn the same innocent and straightforward love children have for Jesus. It will greatly improve our faith and our lives.