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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Showing posts with label ministry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ministry. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Come Reason 2015 Ministry Report

Merry Christmas from Come Reason!

I hope you are beginning to settle in and enjoy the season of Advent. This is a special time of year, not simply because of the festivities surrounding the holidays, but because we celebrate the greatest gift, God's giving of his Son for us. What a blessing it is to recognize how a holy God would humble himself and become a man for our sakes!

 It's why this time is appropriate to reflect on all the blessings that God has bestowed upon us over the year. I wanted to do just that. God has been working mightily through the ministry in 2015. Here are just a few of the highlights:


I had the opportunity to teach in several different areas of the country this year. Most notably, I was able to join Ratio Christi in their student symposium at Charlotte, NC to equip the student leaders of clubs in major secular universities on how to better defend their faith. I truly appreciate all Ratio Christi is doing and I look forward to many more years of ministry partnership.

The "Come Let Us Reason" monthly apologetics class entered its elevenths straight year at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside. The church has been a blessing and I invite anyone on the Southern California area to come out to this free class (with childcare!) every second Monday of the month. You can see all the upcoming classes here. I also partnered with Pastor Daniel Eichelberger of Harvest to help teach their Deepening Your Faith series on Sunday afternoons. 2016 looks like a great lineup and you may join us for that, too!


This year, I led a group of students from Harvest on another Apologetics Missions Trip to Berkeley, CA. The interactions were great, and the students really got to sharpen their skills while witnessing to a very lost generation. I also was able to help prepare students from Upland Christian Academy on their upcoming Missions Trip. These are a special passion of mine. If you'd like to know how your church or group can participate, contact me here.

Other outreaches included moderating Dr. Hugh Ross and Dr. Fazale Rana in a discussion at the California State University San Bernardino, meeting with Harvest's The Well Club at CSUSB, and answering questions from skeptics at Riverside Community College—not once, but on two separate occasions.

Writing and Online

My writing has been busy, especially with the daily posts at The blog has grown tremendously over the past year, with 50,000 visitors reading nearly 100,000 pages. Add that to the over half a million pageviews the website saw in the last year and our online  presence is making a tremendous impact in nearly every country around the world. The Come Reason Podcast has seen nearly 250,000 downloads since we began and it continues to provide fresh, relevant apologetics content every week.

On other writing projects, Sean McDowell's A New Kind of Apologist, to which I contributed a chapter, is slated to be published in March. You can pre-order copies here, and don't forget to support Come Reason Ministries by using your Amazon Smile account!

Special Changed Lives Series Dec 28-31

There are so many more things I can tell about the ministry that I simply don't have room here! That's why I will send out four special emails from December 28th through 31st. If you aren't on our e-mail list, you can sign up here.


I'm thankful for all the opportunities that God has placed before this ministry; I'm even more excited for the unique things that 2016 offers—more on that next month. But I would like to ask for your support. It is your gifts that provide the income which allows me to minister in these ways. As the year ends, would you consider providing a gift to Come Reason? You may give securely online here. All gifts are tax-deducible as allowed by law. I truly appreciate it and thank you for your kindness and generosity.

Our volunteers and I want to wish you the merriest of Christmases and a blessed New Year.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Most Insidious Sin

Today I'm in North Carolina preparing to speak at a national apologetics conference. I'm staying at a hotel that was built in the 1980s as part of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's empire. Of course, Jim Bakker is most famously remembered as one of the prominent televangelists who fell when his sexual sin was made public. The media ran with the story knowing the pubic loves a scandal, especially one where a minister—someone who is supposed to be a moral leader—has been caught in adultery.

Sexual failings are pretty much guaranteed to grab attention. Even in local churches, people who have fallen to sexual sin, be it adultery, homosexuality, or pregnancy outside of wedlock will cause people to talk. We tend to think sins like these are "major;" ones that carry a stigma unlike lying or addiction. Even as the culture becomes more and more sexually charged, sexual sins are held to almost a different standard. But there is a sin that is more problematic in the church than abusing sexual desire, one that no one points and whispers about: the sin of pride.

The Leaven of Puffing Up

How much do you think about the sin of pride? How do you guard against it? While there are ministries that offer filtering of pornography for your internet connection, what filters are there for one's pride? As an apologist, I know first-hand just how easy it is to fall into pride. Anyone in a position where he or she is teaching or leading others can almost effortlessly fall into this sin. As the Bakkers built their Heritage USA center, it should have been obvious that they were no longer doing ministry toward others but constructing a monument to themselves.

Pastors and apologists can fall into the same trap. They are trying to do God's work. They preach, they witness, and they defend the faith which is good and important work. TI truly is ministry. However, when one begins to believe the ministry is so important that they don‘t have time to sit and listen to people or their calling has a higher value than another's, they've begun to elevate not God's blessing upon them but their won self-worth.  That's why I believe pride is the most insidious of sins; it is the leaven that corrupts by puffing up an individual from the inside. It replaces one's reliance on God with a reliance on one's own ability.

The Bible warns against the sin of pride quite a bit. God tells Jeremiah, "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth" (Jer. 9:23-24). James reminds us "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6), and Proverbs declares "Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished." (Prov. 16:5).

Guarding Against Pride

Because it's so easy to fall into pride but so difficult to detect, each of us must be extra vigilant to guard against it. One way to do so is to have an accountability partner or partners with whom you meet on a regular basis. Perhaps this partner may be a spiritual leader, but it should be someone who can be completely honest with you. You may even benefit by choosing a partner that has different spiritual gifts, so they can provide a balanced perspective. Regardless, being able to ask someone to watch and keep you humble is a big step in protecting yourself and your ministry.

Prayer and daily devotions are another way to guard against pride. As we seek God in his word and in prayer, we should be confronted by how reliant we are on him for all that we are. One thing I always include in my daily devotions is a time of reflection on Jesus's decision to go to the cross. I am continually amazed at his determination and self-sacrifice, how "he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Phil. 2:9). I remind myself of how the Father was willing to sacrifice his only son for me and my gifts are only a result of that sacrifice. How could I be proud in my strengths in the face of these amazing acts of selflessness? Thus any boasting I would do should be boasting on the cross and how his acts saved me.

In his book I Was Wrong, Jim Bakker said that it took prison for him to realize his excesses were anti-biblical:
Tragically, too late, I recognized that at PTL I had been doing just the opposite of Jesus' words by teaching people to fall in love with money. Jesus never equated His blessings with material things, but I had done just that. I had laid so much emphasis upon material things, I was subtly encouraging people to put their hearts into things, rather than into Jesus.1
Don't let the sin of pride go unguarded in your life. It shouldn't take prison to make you realize that Jesus is the center of not just your ministry but all ministries and each serve an important function in the body of Christ. Remember, God can accomplish his plans with or without your involvement. Guard against the leaven of pride.


1. Bakker, Jim. "I Was Wrong: Excerpt From Jim Bakker's Autobiographical Book." Spiritwatch. Spiritwatch Ministries, n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2015.
Image courtesy jim gifford Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Answering Questions as God's Herald

Most people think of apologetics as either an intellectual exercise or a way to try and convince unbelievers of the Christian faith. Neither of those views is accurate. Ministry-minded apologetics serves many functions: it powers our evangelism, it strengthens our own faith, and it is relevant to understanding the changes in today's culture.

Joe Gorra offers another aspect of how apologetics, specifically the ministry of answering questions from both believers and nonbelievers, is ministerial: we become heralds of God's word. In A Reasonable Response, Joe offers five reasons for having a ministry that is engaged in answering questions. It is his fifth point that is especially poignant. He writes:
When answering people's questions, not only must we "go beyond" what is in the foreground and help people discover a background, but we must also help direct people's attention to how God is at work in their lives and in the lives around them. We announce how the kingdom of God is near to them. We invite them to acknowledge this, not because we are trying to "close a deal" between them and God (for He's really good at completing good work that He's started), but because we owe it to our fellow human beings to let them in on the "divine conspiracy." This is not a call to be loud and noisy with our answers, or to be "triumphalist" in our answers, but to find meaningful ways to declare, herald-yes, verily, and truly, preach-in order to bring attention to what is in their midst! After all, doctors, meteorologists, and pundits of society and the "good life" do this all the time; they bring knowledge (hopefully!) to bear on our life.

If we are sincerely interested in offering answers, we must not shrink from the opportunity of helping others notice how the gospel of the kingdom of God, indeed, Jesus Christ Himself, is near to us by the ministry and presence of the Spirit, and can be found whenever He is sincerely sought. To draw attention to Jesus' authority, presence, ministry, words, deeds, knowledge, wisdom, mission, and even His very questions and answers is to herald Him. How sad it would be if we answered people's questions but did not seek to help them pay attention to the living and risen Christ who is here, and not far off. How incomplete it would be to grant them wisdom to their questions but not invite them to be encountered by the Fount of all wisdom and understanding. In short, we might understand heralding as calling people to be confronted by the significance of the moral and spiritual authority of God for their life.[1]
I think Joe has put his finger on something that is both insightful and instructive. If we are approaching apologetics correctly, others should see God more clearly. Certainly, the atheist may balk at the positions we take, but that is no different than what they did to the prophets of old or the evangelists who sought to spread God's word. We should see ourselves first and foremost as messengers who are delivering the truth of the Gospel in its fullness to both God's people and a lost world. That is the correct attitude to take. It diminishes contention, increases consideration, and offers a humble approach to a ministry that runs a risk of puffing up its ministers. That's a great approach to take.


1. Craig, William Lane, and Joseph E. Gorra. A Reasonable Response: Answers to Tough Questions on God, Christianity, and the Bible. Chicago: Moody, 2013. 42-43. Print.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

How to Reach Students with Apologetics (radio interview)

Recently, Lenny was a featured guest on the Urban Theologian radio show, which broadcasts in the greater Phoenix area. Urban Theologian has been bringing stellar interviews by noted apologists; previous shows recently featured Dr. J.P. Moreland, Dr. Paul Meier, and Dr. Paul Nelson among others.

In this interview, Lenny comments on the need for apologetics in student ministry, how Christians can effectively reach out on college campuses, and how to shift the conversation on ideas like teaching about sex. You can listen to the entire interview below or visit the show's web site at 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Ministry Spotlight: The Poached Egg

turn on your brain
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis offered a rather famous reply to the skeptics of his day who tried to marginalize Jesus by saying he could never be divine. Lewis explained:
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
I offer the quote because it is the the genesis of Greg West's apologetics site The Poached Egg, which is today celebrating its five year anniversary. The site is one of the top aggregators of apologetics content on the Internet; Greg  scours the web for some of the best content to help you defend the faith and gathers it together in a single location so you don't have to do the hard work of sifting through hundreds of blogs, articles, and ministry sites yourself.

The Poached Egg features content from apologetics luminaries such as Lee Strobel, William Lane Craig, Sean McDowell, J. Warner Wallace, and many others. it is updated several times a day, so there's always something fresh to read. Greg has graciously features quite a few articles from this blog as well.

Make sure to check out The Poached Egg and wish Greg a very happy five year anniversary!

Friday, March 06, 2015

Overcoming Objections to an Apologetics Ministry

It's no secret that most churches don't offer any kind of apologetics as part of the ministries available to their congregations. There can be many reasons for this, from a perception by either church leadership or the laity that apologetics is too tough, no one is qualified to lead such a ministry, there would be no interest, there isn't enough time, or simply a general lack of knowledge concerning what apologetics really is. Each of these problems can be overcome without a whole lot of difficulty. Let's take each in turn, beginning with the last.

1. No one knows what apologetics is

This is probably the biggest problem in the Christian church. People either don't recognize the word apologetics or misunderstand what the study of apologetics entails. The word apologetics is itself foreign, not used much beyond those interested in it. But this is also the easiest problem to fix.

The word apologetics comes from the command in 1 Peter 3:15 to "always be prepared to make a defense (the Greek word apologia) for the hope that is within you." This is a defense like a trial lawyer would put on for his client, using reason and evidence to prove innocence. You can explain apologetics in more detail, but it is perfectly fine to talk about the need today for Christians to be able to defend their faith with reasons and evidence. After all, Christianity has always been a faith based on the evidence of Jesus's resurrection.

It's becoming more and more evidence that being able to defend one's Christian beliefs in a non-threatening and reasonable fashion is important. So, let's speak about being good and thoughtful defenders.

2. Apologetics is too tough

As I said above, apologetics doesn't have to be considered tough. This goes back to misunderstanding just what apologetics is. Apologetics isn't about formal debates or arcane facts that no one would know. It's about giving good reasons for why you believe what you believe. Some of these can be as simple as looking at a movie like Forrest Gump and comparing it to the resurrection accounts. Or, just teaching people the common-sense idea that you can't get a something (like the universe) from a nothing. As I've written before, you're smarter than you think you are, and everyone can easily grasp the basics of apologetics.

3. There would be no interest in apologetics

As I engage with congregations at various churches, I simply don't see this objection to be true. When I speak at conferences or services, people are truly engaged and many are surprised they have never heard some of the arguments that apologists now use to demonstrate why God exists, or why the New Testament is reliable history. Like I mentioned above, people are being challenged more and more about what they believe and they're being questioned as to why they believe it. At the same time, there are many churches straining to become more relevant to help retain young people.

Helping people find the answers to their questions is not merely relevant, it is attractive. People need help in finding such answers and apologetics is just the place to begin. One can perhaps define apologetics as theology practically applied when engaging in conversations about issues of faith or morality. It isn't interest that keeps people away from apologetics topics, but not knowing that apologetics is beneficial to the Christian in many ways. Learning to defend the faith isn't just for witnessing to others.

4. There isn't enough time to teach apologetics.

In our busy world, time is becoming more and more precious. Many of my friends are pastors, and I know how taxed their time is with the responsibilities of preparing messages, managing budgets, visiting the sick, and all the other tasks laid upon them. However, apologetics doesn't need to be "one more thing," it could be simply a part of everything else. Perhaps one sermon a month can have a focus on apologetic-type content. Or, you can plan a movie night to watch one of William Land Craig's debates. Or, you can find someone within the congregation would be interested in leading a small group focused on apologetics. You can even partner with Ratio Christi to find out if there's an apologetics group in your area college that will integrate with your church. There are many other suggestions you can find to implement such a study.

5. No one at the church (either on staff or laity) would be qualified to lead such a ministry.

The idea that an apologetics ministry must be led by someone who has studied it for years is a common misnomer. A small group that goes through C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, J.P. Moreland's Love Your God with All Your Mind, or Lee Strobel's The Case For… books will be well on their way to learning and growing in their defense of the faith. There are also a ton of video resources (I even offer full lectures on my YouTube channel) church groups can share as aids so that the class can be taught by first tier apologists. I've even presented to small groups via Skype or Google Hangouts, giving them all the benefit of a guest speaker without all the costs associated with booking an in person appearance.

What to do next:
If you would like some help getting an apologetics event or ministry started in your church, please contact me here. Come Reason would love to help you take the next step in equipping the saints to defend their faith in an intelligent, loving, and gracious way.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Another Hidden Benefit of Apologetics: Relevance

Relevance. It's the buzzword of the day, especially for churches looking to capture and retain young people today. Many church leaders have a justified concern that they are losing the next generation, especially given studies like the one conducted by Lifeway, showing 70 percent of young adults ages 23-30 stopped attending church regularly for at least a year between ages 18-22.1 Christianity Today, in commenting on how to keep youth committed to church, offers the advice of "Disciple, disciple, disciple. If your student ministry is a four-year holding tank with pizza, don't expect young adults to stick around. If, however, they see biblical teaching as relevant and see the church as essential to their decisions, they stay."2

I agree that movie nights and pizza parties won't hold our kids; these provide no distinguishable difference from the social lives of most college dorms. But what does it mean to be "relevant?" Here are a few things relevance is not:
  • Relevance is not being hip. Some think that relevance is wrapped up in the style of worship that's played on Sunday morning or how fashionable the youth pastor appears. But that isn't relevance, it's faddishness. If a church is trying to be relevant by importing Ray Bans, beards, and baristas, it won't work. College campuses will always be more cutting-edge than the church, and will change more quickly.
  • Relevance is not using the newest media. While a great web site, sermon video integration, and similar technologies can help the church communicate its message more effectively, it doesn't make that message relevant to its audience. These are methods of communication, but what's being said is more important that the medium used to say it. Advertising has tried to use every conceivable method of communication invented, but in a house of all boys, the sale of pink dresses has no relevance to me whatsoever.
  • Relevance is not offering "how-to" clinics on crafts, workshops on budgets, or cooking classes. I have no problem with churches reaching out to their congregations in offering such instruction. This can many times be a good service to provide to a community that could not otherwise afford to enroll in a community college course or something along those lines. But relying on such activities on their own does not offer relevance in the lives of others.

Relevance Means Making a Difference Where it Counts

So, what is it to be relevant, especially to young people today? The concept of relevance is much deeper than clinics, communications, or pop-culture. Relevance means making a real difference where it counts. The early church was relevant because they dealt with the difficulties that real people faced. While the Greek writer Celsus criticized Christianity as being the religion of "only foolish and low individuals, and persons devoid of perception, and slaves, and women, and children, of whom the teachers of the divine word wish to make converts,"3 it is precisely these individuals, the disenfranchised, that Christianity helped the most through its teaching that all persons bear the image of God and are therefore equal. In a letter written just over one hundred years after the founding of Christianity, the anonymous writer addresses Diognetus who was seeking to understand the attraction to the new Christian faith. He reported:
They share their board with each other, but not their marriage bed… They obey the established laws, but in their own lives they go far beyond what the laws require. They love all men, and by all men are persecuted. They are unknown, and still they are condemned; they are put to death, and yet they are brought to life. They are poor, and yet they make many rich; they are completely destitute, and yet they enjoy complete abundance. They are dishonored, and in their very dishonor are glorified; they are defamed, and are vindicated. They are reviled, and yet they bless; when they are affronted, they still pay due respect. When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; undergoing punishment, they rejoice because they are brought to life.4
Relevance comes when we meet the needs, the questions, and the struggles of others. Someone who can help you through the real questions and challenges of your life becomes very relevant to you. Community projects reaching to help the poorest in your own community are a relevant thing to do.

Apologetics Offers Relevance

Another way of meeting people is to meet then where they are struggling intellectually, too. Apologetics ministries can greatly help in this area. As apologetics wrestles with the conflicts people face in defending their faith against the social and cultural disintegration we see happening around us, it becomes incredibly relevant. A lot of people have doubts or very difficult questions that they are afraid to share with others, thinking they would be perceived as weak in their faith. Yet, the church should be the first place they come to find answers. Young people are especially searching to find the answers to a host of issues. Their friends and teachers will many times contradict what they've been taught at home or at church and they simply don't know how sift through the milieu to find out what is true. Apologetics can help them get the right answers and help them to share those with others, vindicating them when they are defamed.

Just as guarding against heresy is one hidden benefit apologetics offers the church, another is providing more relevance to the congregation and to the youth. The truth is always important, we should be helping our kids find it and share it well.


1. McConnell, Scott. "LifeWay Research Finds Reasons 18- to 22-Year-Olds Drop Out of Church." LifeWay. LifeWay Christian Resources, 7 Aug. 2007. Web. 02 Mar. 2015.
2. Stetzer, Ed. "Dropouts and Disciples: How Many Students Are Really Leaving the Church?" Christianity Today. Christianity Today, 14 May 2014. Web. 27 Feb. 2015.
3. Schlabach, Gerald. "Celsus' View of Christians and Christianity." Celsus' View of Christians and Christianity. Gerald W. Schlabach., 8 Aug. 1997. Web. 02 Mar. 2015.
4. . "An Anonymous Brief for Christianity Presented To Diognetus." Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Accessed 4/6/2014.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Hidden Benefits of a Church-Based Apologetics Ministry

"Apologetics? What are you apologizing for?", "Is that a class that husbands are supposed to take?", "What is that?" These are questions I hear frequently whenever I mention the study of apologetics. It probably comes as no surprise the word "apologetics" is foreign to most people, not only the general public but also those who are a part of the Christian church. Even evangelicals, who define themselves by their passion to follow Jesus' command to "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations"(Matt. 28:17) usually look quizzically at me whenever I begin discussing the need for apologetics, even though apologetics is an essential part of making disciples. Why would this be?

One of the problems is simply that the church doesn't talk a lot about it. Apologetics is generally understood to be a specialty discipline—specifically engaging in defending the faith against skeptics, alternate religions and cults, and contrary worldviews. As such, many pastors eel that it can only play a very limited role in ministering to the needs of their congregation. How does apologetics help the man trying to feed his family after losing his job or the newly widowed woman?

I've said before that in many churches, a person telling his or her pastor of their desire to start an apologetics ministry results in an experience similar to a young man telling his Jewish mother he wants to be a proctologist. "Well, I glad you're going to be a doctor," she would say, "But why did you have to choose that!" Pastors are happy to have people desiring to get into ministry opportunities, but they simply aren't sure where apologetics fits in their church. However, many times both church leadership and laity fail to understand the more holistic aspects of providing a strong apologetics ministry to the local congregation. In this article, I'd like to highlight some benefits of an apologetics ministry that applies directly to every member of the church congregation, benefits that you may not have considered before.

Apologetics guards believers against heresies

The word apologetics literally means providing reasons and evidence for the Christian faith. Part of this means defending the Christian faith from imposters or detractors, but it also means protecting those in the church from the wolves dressed in sheep's clothing. I've often made the claim that one could define apologetics as theology properly applied and there is no greater need to apply theology properly than with new believers. The Burned-Over district of western New York in the early 1820s is a good example. Just as church congregations continued to grow and revivals spread, these were accompanied by the establishment of such unorthodox beliefs systems as the Mormons, the Spiritists, and the Millerites who spawned both the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Seventh Day Adventists .1

 If we are to defend our beliefs with reason and evidence, then it follows we need to know just what we believe and the reasons why we hold to those beliefs. Since apologetics encompasses the study of theology, especially as it relates to orthodoxy, it is one way Christians learn to discern orthodoxy from heresy. Thus one of the hidden benefits of a church beginning an apologetics teaching ministry is it helps guard Christians from falling into heretical beliefs. Apologetics is defensive as well as evangelical.


1. John H. Martin writes of the District: "The Burned-Over District of New York spawned one religious revival after another in the decades between 1820 and 1850. Revivalism, Millennialism, Spiritualism followed each other, often overlapping and partaking of similar elements. There was a credulity at the time (and at other times as well, no doubt) which led individuals from one religious impulse to another. There was a spiritual yearning for answers to the questions and problems of this world and a concern about any future existence which might be faced after this life. There also existed a willingness to follow any one who seemed to have answers, be it Charles Grandison Finney, William Miller, the Fox sisters, or a new, self-proclaimed prophet, Joseph Smith, who appeared on the scene in Palmyra, New York. The very early followers of Joseph Smith came from among the religious restless, the dissatisfied, who succumbed easily to the religious emotionalism of the times. They had been exposed to the popular religious awakenings of the day with the expectations for the life beyond this worldly realm. The traditional theology of Christianity was not of great interest to these seeker for answer, and they were susceptible to explanations which moved beyond the traditional Biblical basis of the various Christian faiths. Thus the beliefs of Joseph Smith were to find a small following in New York before the new faith of Mormonism moved beyond the borders of New York and its future growth." From "Saints, Sinners and Reformers: The Burned-Over District Re-Visited" The Crooked Lake Review Issue No. 137. 2005. Web. 3/17/2012
Image courtesy [CC BY-SA 3.0 us]

Monday, November 10, 2014

Building Faith Muscles in Your Kids

Last week, I got to have a nice conversation with my eighteen year old son about some different things that's been on his mind. He told me that he's been mulling over concepts of predestination and free will, and reading up on the subject.  We discussed the Calvinist and Arminian models as well as Molinism. We also talked about the nature and purpose of salvation and touched on creation models.

Some of you may think that because I'm an apologist, our family has "theology hour" or some such thing.  That would work about as well in my home full of teenage boys as it would in yours. However, there are a few things you can do to nurture the faith of your children.

1. Realize that It's Their Faith You Want to Develop

I think it's natural that people want the best for their children. In affluent cultures such as ours, that desire sometimes gets mistranslated, though. As parents we can mistake providing a safe, loving home for our kids into providing a care-free area for them to grow up where every difficulty is eliminated or marginalized as much as possible.

Probably the most important principle I can offer is this first one: your desire is not to give your kids your faith, but to have them develop a strong faith of their own. This is key. Teenagers are naturally inclined to seek out meaningful lives. They actually want to understand their world and do things that are important. But our kids don't yet have the experience to know how to go about understanding the world. They're like a young hockey player who has some raw talent, but who doesn't know what it takes to make it in professional athletics.

Your job as parent is to train them. You can't simply tell them what to believe, you have to ask them what they think in a certain situation. You have to let them understand the basics of Christianity then ask them how they would express it. This means drawing their attention to big topics.

One way you can do that is to use movies to point out different worldviews.  For example, my family may go watch the latest superhero action movie. The movie is a lot of fun, but I also try to draw attention to the values the film is promoting. Listen to their ideas of why this hero is so cool and ask why would they want to be like him or her. Ask a lot of questions! The more you explore their point of view, the more they will see where their beliefs may be inadequate. Just as a young athlete must get acquainted with the rules of the game and know the mechanics of moving  on ice skates, so the young Christian must learn to stand upon those things he or she believes. We are to train our children in the way they should go; we shouldn't try to carry them there.

2. Faith Requires Exercise to Grow Stronger

Next, don't shun tough questions that they have or difficult situations in which they're placed. We have a tendency as parents to want to "helicopter" our kids out of uncomfortable or difficult situations. But doing so actually impedes their growth. Faith is like a muscle; in order to make is stronger, one must use it.

This is again just like developing an athlete. You would never take a person who only played in a neighborhood league and force them to face the professionals. Athletes grow by joining leagues where the level of play is higher than they're used to, but where they can be coached and receive additional instruction on how to improve. As they grow, they're own style and skill come to the fore.

One way I help youth ministries do this is by leading different apologetics missions trips to places like Salt Lake City, Utah or Berkeley, CA. We take kids out of their comfortable environment and train them how to interact with students on a college campus who do not share their Christian beliefs. They get to dialogue with atheists or others and they then can see how those views compare to their own. All the while, we are training the students and talking with them after every encounter.

The problem is if we don't let our kids struggle just a bit with tough questions or with objections to their faith, they will never learn that what they believe is actually able to withstand the pressure. I've talked with many people who in college lost their faith. It wasn't because they thought the objections to Christianity were too difficult to overcome. Instead, they concluded that, since their parents and pastors told them to just ignore those "troublemakers" with tough questions that Christianity didn't really care about the truth at all. Since they had never faced someone antagonistic to their beliefs before, they never knew that Christianity could handle to toughest shots thrown at it.

Our kids can do amazing things. They are truly interested in forming their beliefs, but that formation requires them to have some experience with those beliefs. Help them grow into mature Christians by allowing them to explore their faith and be challenged every once in a while. The conversations that result may surprise you!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Two More Ways Learning to Defend Your Faith Benefits You

I've recently been writing to encourage people to learn how to better defend their faith against objections of others. I've already talked about how it isn't as scary as many believe, the Bible commands it in many places, and how engaging your mind is part of loving God more fully. But learning to defend your faith is more than an act of obedience; it actually benefits you directly! Yesterday, I described two ways the Christian benefits from the study of apologetics and today I wanted to give you two more.

Engaging God Intellectually Strengthens Us During Trials

A third reason to engage our minds and be prepared to defend the faith is a very practical one: it makes us stronger in times of trials. The questions one must deal with in defending the faith are truly the biggest questions of life, questions like the existence of God, why am I placed on this earth, and how I should treat my fellow man. These are tough issues that require a clear mind and considerable attention. No one wants to wrestle with such ideas during a time of emotional upheaval. They require each of us to ask ourselves penetrating questions like, "Do I really have the good evidence that God exists, or am I just kind of feeding off of a lot of the information that I've been told? Am I just believing that because it feels good or because it helps me?" Once you've explored the arguments for these issues and reached a satisfactory conclusion, you can rest assured of the fact of God's existence or the resurrection.

Then, when a crisis hits and you're praying and you're praying, and God doesn't seem to answer, you can be tempted to wonder, "Is this all a joke? Was I really fooling myself? Maybe there's no God after all." But when I've reached such a point, I've looked back and said, "Well, I know I can't doubt that God exists, because I've already worked through that problem. I know I can't doubt that Jesus rose from the dead. There must be a God. Christ must be real. Now, God may not be answering me. Don't understand it and I may not like it, but at least I know that my faith is on more sure footing." Our faith is made stronger, even in times of trials, as we become Christians who value the life of the mind. (To read my personal story of how this benefited me, see this post.)

 Engaging God Equips Us for Ministry, No Matter What It Is

Before we close this series, I want you to look at verse 21 of Proverbs 22. It reads that we are to "correctly answer him who sends you." Who is this that sends us? In Matthew chapter 28, Jesus commands his followers to Go out and make disciples of the whole world. Disciples, not converts. So who's requiring an answer from us? Ultimately it's God. Ultimately we learn and we seek to grow our minds in order to please Him.

But God does not leave us to ourselves even here! He also provides for us. Paul tells us that, "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." Do you see that? God gives us a sound mind by his Spirit. The Holy Spirit will be with us as we continue to seek Him. James confirms that "if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him." God will honor our efforts at loving Him with our minds and our desire to defend the faith. We may not do a perfect job at first, but that's OK. As we continue to seek out His truths, He will develop in us a spirit of power and love and a sound mind.

One final thought here. It's important to realize that you don't have to know everything to be a defender of the faith. You must realize that knowing enough to believe something doesn't mean you have 100% certainty. I can say "I believe tomorrow is going to be sunny" and I can have good reasons for that belief. I live in California where it never seems to rain, it's September, and the weatherman said that today should be sunny. But we could all be wrong. That doesn't mean I shouldn't believe it will be sunny today because I can't be 100% sure. It means I have good reasons for my belief, but they may in fact be insufficient when I find out more information. That's OK. Reasonable people draw conclusions from the evidence they have. It's just up to us to try and gather all the good evidence we can so we can draw good conclusions.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Four Ways Learning to Defend Your Faith Benefits You!

Last week, I wrote a blog post saying that if you want to love God in the way Jesus commanded, you need to get serious about loving Him with your mind as well as your heart, soul, and strength. Part of that means we as Christians need to better understand what it is we believe and we need to be able to defend our beliefs. But many people think that studying apologetics is akin to being on the school debate team; it just prepares you for face-off against opponents and helps you win debates. That's really a shallow way of understanding why learning to defend your faith is important. I can see at least four different ways learning apologetics can benefit you personally in your walk with God. I will tackle the first two today, and address the second two tomorrow.

Engaging God Intellectually Transforms Us into Better Christians

I want to draw a big line under one item here. Loving God intellectually doesn't mean you're simply equipping yourself to win an argument — it means you've studied His word carefully and thoughtfully. God isn't holding us accountable as to whether we convince others of our point, but if they are "ready on our lips" and if we can "accurately handle the word of truth" (1 Pet.3:15, II Tim 2:15). Studying God's word changes us! Paul furthers this point in Romans 12:2 when he writes, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed… by the renewing of your mind." We are transformed when we begin to understand and believe correct things about God. But just as we said to the critic, we can only be sure ourselves if we're holding right beliefs if we study them and make sure they are true to His word and His creation.

Engaging God Intellectually Guards Against Falling into Errors

Another important function of using our minds to love God is it protects us from falling into heresies or theological error. In fact, many of the cults that we face today actually have their origin in the early 19th century in Western New York in what was then the rugged frontier of America. There were many revival movements that would come and go and the itinerant preachers would really get people worked up; they would call the masses to repentance and many would respond to be "saved." But the movement was rooted only in an emotional appeal, and not intellectual rigor.1 Emotional response without understanding doesn't lead to true salvation, but a fa├žade of true belief. It's no wonder, then, that the cults sprang up in the same area. The roots of Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Spiritism, Utopianisim, and other cultic beliefs can all be traced to this drive to find religion divorced from careful study.

We are not immune to such corruption of Christian beliefs even today. One extreme example is the word-faith movement. These teachers are spreading all sorts of heresies, from teaching that God has a material body to the supposed existence of a "force of faith" that even God must obey. Duped followers take it in willingly, without understanding how much they have corrupted even the most basic Christian doctrines. But, what other false ideas may have begun to thrive as a result of our unwillingness to engage our minds? In Acts 17, the Bereans were commended for not merely believing Paul and Silas' message, but they were "examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so." This is why Paul warns us to "examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good." (1 Thess. 5:21) This is the way we begin to protect ourselves against heresies.


1.In her article "A Crusade Among Equals" Janette Bohi notes the approach to the Revivalism spreading across the frontier was a mixture of emotionalism and patriotism in the early nineteenth-century. She writes "These early nineteenth-century revivals put the principle of churches being supported freely by their members (volunteerism) before liturgy, democracy before orthodoxy, and emotion before intellect. By crossing denominational barriers, they enabled the church to reach the masses. They made camp meetings a social institution which supported manifest destiny." Missionaries were trying to bridge denominational boundaries and spread the movement across the frontier, but the result was it stunted the importance of being critical and holding to orthodox beliefs and substituted compromise for truth. For more see Bohi, Janette, "A Crusade Among Equals", Eerdman's Handbook to the History of Christianity, Tim Dowley, Ed. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman Pub 1977, p.534.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Crucial Lesson Taught on Holy Wednesday

Today is Wednesday of Holy Week, the week of Jesus' Last Supper and crucifixion. Many scholars have worked through the Gospel narratives to provide a chronology of the events they record during this week. Most know that on Palm Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem as the crowds exclaimed "Hosanna to the Son of David!" proclaiming His messiahship. On Monday, He curses the fig tree and He then cleansed the Temple of the moneychangers, both actions showing how those called by God must be faithful and pure in their responsibility.

Tuesday was very busy, and the Gospels record several different exchanges of Jesus. First, he faced off against those responsible for the spiritual welfare of the Jewish people, the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Jesus then takes some of His disciples up to the Mount of Olives and gives them a two-chapter overview of what they can expect at His second coming and cautions them to be ready. Of course, Thursday is the Last Supper and it kicks off a chain of events leading to Jesus' capture, Friday crucifixion, and His glorious Resurrection on Sunday morning.

What's interesting in all this is that today—Wednesday—The Gospels are pretty much silent on the actions of Jesus. The only thing we know about Jesus' day is that Mary anointed His feet at Bethany (Mark 14:3-9, John 12:1-8). There's nothing recorded about Jesus coming again to Jerusalem or even giving a sermon on this day. It seems a bit strange that, with all the action building toward the climax of Friday, none of the Gospel writes would tell us all that Jesus did this day, as they've done so far.

If you put yourself in the place of the disciples, you might have found yourself a bit confused by Jesus' lack of action on Wednesday. Here, they've achieved a lot of momentum in their ministry. I mean, Jesus has finally allowed Himself to be recognized as Messiah and the crowds were with Him. He faced off against the prevailing power structure and had beat them at their own game. Passover had caused Jerusalem's population to swell, but after tomorrow the Sabbath would take a lot of opportunity to reach even more people away.

Certainly, Jesus shouldn't waste this day and do nothing important, right? Ministry moments are fleeting! But Jesus knew what was ahead for Him. He had greater things planned than the conquering of Jerusalem. His plan was to conquer sin itself. The quiet He cultivated before His final events provides us with two good lessons.

First, quiet times are important in ministry. For most people, ministry isn't one's primary vocation, but a labor of love done in addition to the job that provides the paycheck. Even here, when there's so much to do, it's important to pause and refocus your attention and devotion o what Jesus would have us do. Mary's anointing was a pure act of devotion. It also showed her sensitivity to the things of God. Mark tells us that more than one disciple felt indignant about the costly perfume being "wasted", but Jesus corrected them. Mary had insight that they lacked. We, too, must cultivate our own worship and devotion to God first, lest our business miss the point of ministry.

Secondly, sometimes when God seems silent, bigger things than you realize may be coming! Don't imagine that God's silence means nothing is happening. Many times in apologetic ministry, we think all we are doing is posting things no one is reading or arguing with others who never change their minds. However, you can never know this side of heaven how God is using the faithfulness you show in those areas to His greater glory. Jesus said of Mary, "She has done what she could… And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."

So, minister, remember to pause and reflect on this week. Think about what Jesus has done for us and remember to take time out for Him. Don't lose faith because He seems still or your ministry seems to not be moving forward. God can do great things with the quiet times.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Three Problems with the World Vision Decision

"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife."  1 Cor. 5:1

Yesterday's announcement by president Richard Stearns that World Vision will "allow a Christian in a legal same-sex marriage to be employed" at the ministry sent immediate shock waves through the Evangelical community. World Vision has required all of its employees to not only assent to a statement of faith, but also to abide by the ministry's Standards of Conduct Policy, which forbids any employee from participating in actions such as sex outside of marriage. Thus, making such an allowance for united homosexuals confused many supporters as it seemed completely out of step with World Vision policy.

In the official announcement, the company claimed to not be compromising their position. It reads:
Since World Vision is a multi-denominational organization that welcomes employees from more than 50 denominations, and since a number of these denominations in recent years have sanctioned same-sex marriage for Christians, the board—in keeping with our practice of deferring to church authority in the lives of our staff, and desiring to treat all of our employees equally—chose to adjust our policy. Thus, the board has modified our Employee Standards of Conduct to allow a Christian in a legal same-sex marriage to be employed at World Vision.

I want to be clear that we have not endorsed same-sex marriage, but we have chosen to defer to the authority of local churches on this issue. We have chosen not to exclude someone from employment at World Vision U.S. on this issue alone."
The notice also justified the policy change by stating "our board of directors is recognized as one of the leaders among Christian organizations in the U.S. It includes deeply spiritual and wise believers, among them several pastors, a seminary president, and a professor of theology." Interestingly, there is a biblical parallel here in the early church at Corinth. The Corinthian church also struggled with divisive theological battles. They also allowed people who practiced what the Bible clearly labeled as sexual sin within their ranks, and they also claimed themselves as wise. When addressing each of these issues in the epistle of 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul took the church to task. "We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute… When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things."

World Vision's Failed Foresight

Of course, World Vision is trying to claim that it is remaining neutral on issues where good Christians disagree. Note the claim, "I want to be clear that we have not endorsed same-sex marriage, but we have chosen to defer to the authority of local churches on this issue." My response is that it is impossible to claim neutrality by implementing such a policy. Here are some reasons why:

First, World Vision, in recognizing same-sex "marriage" while keeping their abstinence provision has made a theological judgment: they have concluded that marriage is not something designed by God, but is something that can be redefined in whatever way some denomination's whims take it. As I've stated before, natural marriage can be easily seen in the fact that men and women's bodies couple in a unique way and the natural result of that coupling is offspring. The Bible says "the two shall become one flesh" and that is exactly what happens if there is nothing to impede nature. Realize, there is no institution other than marriage to properly bring children into this world. None. However, by equating same-sex unions to marriage, World Vision says biology, God's design for family, and the right of a child to have a mother and a father don't really matter. Marriage is what a partner denomination says it is.

Secondly, by maintaining the abstinence component of the Employee Standard of Conduct, World Vision sends a strong message that individuals who violate the Bible's prohibition on premarital sex are committing a greater sin than those practicing homosexual intercourse on a consistent basis. Both acts are condemned in the Bible, but one must assume that same-sex couples who went through a ceremony have the intent to repeatedly engage in sexual immorality. There is no repentance in such instances, and it is clear that World Vision therefore is making a theological claim that there is then no sin.

Lastly, I understand that different denominations hold to different views on a variety of theological topics. However, no Christian denomination teaches that one is in habitual sin by holding to the perseverance of the saints or whether baptism should be full-immersion only. We recognize that Christians will differ on these issues. Habitual sexual sin, though, is clearly taught to be a factor in one's salvation. Paul warns the Corinthians "Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." So, deferring to denominations on matters of disagreement is fine, but not where the action bears on what it means to be a Christian.

"But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!" 1 Cor. 6:8

Spears states that part of the reason for the policy change is to keep them focused on their mission. "The board and I wanted to prevent this divisive issue from tearing World Vision apart and potentially crippling our ability to accomplish our vital kingdom mission of loving and serving the poorest of the poor in the name of Christ." The Corinthian church was also successful. They were "not lacking in any gift" (1:7) and were even able to contribute to the collection Paul was taking up for the Christians suffering in Jerusalem. But, their ministry and abilities were considered secondary to their obedience. He says by allowing such immorality go unchallenged they Corinthians are harming the body of Christ.

Many Christians today have been taking a live and let live approach to same-sex unions. "I may believe that homosexuality is wrong, but I don't want to judge others." Such a view is wrong. We are called to be stewards of one another first, and our ministry to the outside world is secondary. Homosexuality is physically dangerous, and as Paul has stressed, it is spiritually deadly. World Vision seems to have focused so much on its ministry to the world that it has gone blind to its ministry to the church.

Friday, December 27, 2013

2013 Top Ten Apologetics Blog Posts

We're once again highlighting the top ten blog posts for the year. The blog continues to grow in popularity with over 10,000 readers per month visiting the blog alone.  Add that to our web site and we see over 370,000 hits from nearly every country on earth.

Below are the top ten unique articles or content for 2013. There are a couple of podcasts that were also featured on the blog and would have made it to this list, but I will cover those in a separate post. Questions on the reliability of the Bible, the problem of moral grounding, and even a word of encouragement from J.P. Moreland all resonated with readers. The top post tackles an objection we hear all too often: religion is the cause of so many wars throughout history.

All ten posts are linked below. Which was your favorite?
  1. Does Religion Cause War?
  2. How Can God be Without Beginning or End?
  3. Bible Contradictions - Why Responding "Show Me Some" Doesn't Work
  4. Debunking 'Bible Secrets' Television Shows
  5. Worldview Definitions: The Problem with Postmodernism
  6. J.P. Moreland to Young Christians: "Don't let anybody bully you"
  7. Do You Need Religion to Have Morals?
  8. The Big Bang is Not the Enemy of Theology
  9. How Teaching Answers Fails Christian Students
  10. Why are Christians so obsessed with homosexuality?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013 Was a Great Year for Apologetics

Christmas is always a joyous time, a time to be reminded of how blessed we are. And now that we're preparing for a new year, I'd like to take a moment and reflect on all God has accomplished through this ministry along with your prayers and support.

Outreaches and Debates

Students at the ForumOne way Come Reason seeks to share the Gospel is through different outreaches and debate opportunities, particularly at college campuses. 2013 was a great year for outreach as we were able to interact with students at four different college or university campuses this year. I was invited to participate in open forums at both UC Irvine and Riverside Community College. Open forums are where a panel of Christians take questions on morality, biblical Christianity, and other issues from the students. The latter event was covered in the college newspaper with a great write up.

Dr. Michael Ruse and Dr. Fazale RanaIn May, Come Reason co-sponsored with Harvest's The Well Club the second Great God Debate held at UC Riverside. This year's debate focused on the question of life's origin and pitted Dr. Fazale Rana against Dr. Michael Ruse. Over 1,000 students attended the event, which was webcast to countries around the world, thanks to Biola University's apologetics department.

Apologetics Missions Trips are another type of outreach we provide. These trips are where we take a group of high school and college kids to locations that are culturally non-Christian. This year, we visited Dearborn, Michigan for the first time, which boasts the highest Muslim population in the U.S. and has the largest mosque in North America.

Dearborn Apologetics Missions TripThe 22 students I took on that trip got to interact with imams, Muslim apologists, speak with ex-Muslims as well as go out on the streets at shopping centers and the University of Michigan Dearborn to witness one on one with the Muslim population.


Our Dare to Defend apologetics conferences have been a staple of Come Reason since the ministry's beginning. This year we held two such events, with the first at The Well Church in Oak Valley. Pastor Ron Wood and his congregation graciously hosted a three-day event covering the existence of God, the facts of the resurrection, and other topics. We look forward to holding a similar event in 2014.

A Reason for Hope Military OutreachThe highlight of our year was certainly the outreach at the U.S. Army Garrison in Vicenza, Italy. Entitled “A Reason for Hope,” I was able to give four talks to the troops and their families stationed at Caserma Ederle. I was able to talk about things like the problem of evil to those who had just a few weeks prior returned from the war zone in Afghanistan. Army Chaplain LTC Scott Hammond hosted the event and we are especially thankful to Jeff and Kim Neill for their organization and hospitality in letting us stay at their home.

Speaking and Teaching

Speaking and teaching opportunities continue to play an integral role in the ministry. I continued teaching the monthly apologetics classes at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, CA. I was also blessed to help teach Pastor Daniel Eichelberger's Deepening Your Faith classes, which are more in-depth theology studies. We covered topics on logic and argumentation, revelation and authority, the person of Jesus, and historic Christian heresies. Other events included services at Calvary Chapel San Diego and Calimesa, and radio interviews on stations in Michigan and New Jersey. If you would like me to visit your church, I would love to come out! Just let me know.

Internet Outreach

Our online ministries continue to grow. Over the past year, we've had over 300,000 visitors to the Come Reason web site from nearly every nation around the world. I've been writing nearly daily in the Apologetics Notes blog, which now averages over 10,000 views monthly. The podcast saw 485,000 hits this year and over 30,000 downloads of the weekly teaching. Our YouTube channel also continues to expand as we add more teachings there, and Facebook and Twitter conversations have been bristling. If you aren't following the ministry through one of these channels, I encourage you to start!


One new project that I'm excited about is the upcoming release of True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism by Kregel. I was blessed to have contributed a chapter on the argument from reason, made famous by C.S. Lewis. The book is due to be released on February 1.

Lastly, after several delays, I was happy to see my debate against Richard Carrier released on video. This was the first Great God Debate, and as you can see it was a packed house with great interaction by the audience. If you'd like a DVD of the deabate, comlete with the Q&A and bonus features, you can get one with your contribution to the ministry.

I can tell you that God opened more doors this year than ever before. It has made me deeply humbled to see how He continues to work and excited to see what He has in store for 2014. It promises to be filled with even more ministry opportunities. I also wanted to say thank you to all those who have prayed for this ministry or contributed to its support. Without you, it would be impossible to accomplish so much. He has truly blessed me and I pray that in 2014 He will bless you as well.

Lenny Esposito

Give a year-end Gift

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Eastertide is High Tide for Apologetics!

People have often commented on the incredibly fast pace of our current culture.  We live in a "get it then forget it" society where we're always looking towards the next thing, but we don't take the time to ponder what we have already. Even in our celebrations, we are sometimes too quick to move on. Take Easter for example. We think of it as a single day. We make some preparations, mark it with a day at church and maybe a family dinner, and then it's over.  Put the decorations away; what next on the calendar? But this approach doesn't do justice to the incredible change that the events of the first Easter Sunday brought. If you only focus on Easter as one day, you will miss out on a joyful and powerful time to reinvigorate yourself as a member of the body of Christ.  You will miss out on the historic Christian tradition of celebrating Eastertide.

What is Eastertide?  It is simply another name for the Easter season, those fifty days between Christ's resurrection and Pentecost.  Most people have heard of the season of Lent, leading up to Easter, but the celebration of Eastertide has somehow fallen out of popular favor, especially with Protestants. While Lent is a solemn time marked with abstinence and quietness, Eastertide can be a time of re-invigoration and joy.

It is during these fifty days that Jesus showed Himself to His disciples on multiple occasions. It is here that Jesus reveals Himself to Thomas and recommissions Peter.  It is here that Jesus explains Himself to the two walking to Emmaus. It is here appears before five hundred brethren and promises the disciples that the Holy Spirit will come upon them in power not many days from now. It is here that Jesus ascends to the Father to intercede on our behalf forever.

Because of all this, Jesus' followers were engaged and excited.  Look at how the two Emmaus disciples reacted after they realized they had been with Jesus in Luke 24:31-35. They felt their hearts burn within them as they gained clarity about Jesus and His mission. They couldn't wait to tell the other disciples that they had new insight into the Lord, immediately turning around and travelling back to Jerusalem, even after they had planned on retiring for the evening. The knowledge that the ultimate consequence of death no longer had any power over Jesus gave them confidence and conviction. They would draw on these in the days, weeks, and years to come as they faced a hostile world with the message of the saving Christ. Yes, the days between Easter Sunday and Pentecost Sunday are to be embraced and celebrated.

I think Jesus' actions during this time show us how we can celebrate Eastertide.  Jesus was always specific in his actions. Prior to the crucifixion, Luke 9:51 tells us that Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem. After the Resurrection, He focuses all His attention on preparing the disciples for the task that is now set before them, to "be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." This is a good model for us to follow.

I think that the fifty days between Easter and Pentecost are the perfect time for Christians to prepare themselves for engaging an increasingly hostile world. Apologetics provides the perfect platform to do just that. 1 Peter 3:15 reminds us to "always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is within you" and that's exactly with apologetics does. So during Eastertide, perhaps you can subscribe to an apologetics podcast, like one of these top podcasts that Brian Auten has put together.  Maybe you could begin an apologetics study at your church. You may wish to simply read a book defending the Christian position on an issue you feel strongly about, or you can plan on attending an upcoming apologetics event in your area. What you choose doesn't matter as much as simply engaging in new ideas that can prepare you for the future.

We all need reminders to do those things that are important but often neglected in our lives. Just as we use the changing of the clocks at spring time to remind us to change the batteries in our smoke alarms, the season of Eastertide can serve as a good way to remind ourselves we need to recharge our intellectual reservoirs. Easter declares that He is risen. Eastertide allows us to celebrate why that matters. Let's steel ourselves for the task set before us.  Pentecost is coming; will you be ready to go when the Spirit moves?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 Top Five Apologetics Podcast Topics

The Come Let Us Reason Together podcast has been one of the most popular features of our ministry. With nearly 125,000 downloads last year we saw our podcast audience grow by about 40%.  This weekly series continues to provide thoughtful instruction on important apologetics issues.  We've been blessed to again be counted among the top 16 apologetics podcasts by the well-respected Apologetics 315 web site.

Below are the top five topics downloaded in our 2012 releases. If you haven't yet subscribed to the podcast, you may do so via iTunes or by RSS.
  1. The Case for the Resurrection
  2. Talking About God at Starbucks
  3. Does God's Predestination Contradict My Freedom to Choose?
  4. Separating Science from Scientism
  5. Talking about the "God" Particle—Interview with Dr. Barry Ritchie

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Psalm for the New Year

My devotions today happened to include Psalm 20, in which Israel prayed to God and thanked Him for their fortunes, asked Him to respond to their troubles and reminded themselves of His power. "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God." I think this is a great psalm to reflect on as we close out one year and begin another. It also makes a great prayer for the New Year.

May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble!
   May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help from the sanctuary
   and give you support from Zion!
May he remember all your offerings
     and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices!   Selah
May he grant you your heart's desire
   and fulfill all your plans!
May we shout for joy over your salvation,
   and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the LORD fulfill all your petitions!

Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
   he will answer him from his holy heaven
   with the saving might of his right hand.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
   but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. 

They collapse and fall,
   but we rise and stand upright.

O LORD, save the king!
   May he answer us when we call.

The great encouragement of this is that we're given the answer to the people's petition in the very next Psalm--God heard David's cry and provided him with his heart's desire.  May your  year ahead hold the same promise and blessing!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ten Faith-Defending Ministries Worthy of Your Support

Recently, I saw an article by Jason Hiner entitled "Take my holiday challenge: Contribute $25 to 3 of these 10 worthy charities".  I thought this was a great idea, and while Hiner lists ten charities that are doing great work and are worthy of support, he's writing for a secular audience and doesn't include any overtly faith-based organizations.  Therefore, I decided to compile a list of ten ministries that are not well-known but are making a real difference in defending the Christian faith. Some of their leaders you may have heard of, but most of these are operating on shoestring budgets.  A gift at this time of year would be a huge help as they obey the command to "contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints."
So look at the list below, choose three (or more if you desire) and meet the challenge of donating $25 to each. You will truly be a blessing to them and make a difference in the Kingdom.
  1. Reasonable Faith Reasonable Faith is the nonprofit ministry of philosopher and theologian Dr. William Lane Craig, who is simply one of the most active defenders of the faith today. Craig's many debates against the most stalwart of atheists have become legendary, so much so that after debating the recently deceased Christopher Hitchens, an atheist web site remarked "Craig spanked Hitchens like a foolish child."  Not content to rest only in the US, Bill's traveled the world over, recently getting back from a very successful tour of the UK where in the space of ten days he presented five debates and at least eight more lectures and interviews to a largely secular public.  His clear thinking and scholastic ability are unmatched.
    Support Reasonable Faith here
  2. JP Moreland/Eidos Christian Center Another well-known figure in philosophy and Christian apologetics is Dr. J.P. Moreland, who authored the phenomenal Philosophical Foundations of a Christian Worldview (with Craig), Scaling the Secular City,  and many other popular books. However, most people don't know that Moreland, as an in-demand speaker, also has his own nonprofit ministry, Eidos Christian Center.  The main goal of the organization is to help support selected speakers and authors who are doing great work in promoting the Christian worldview. There are many churches and groups who may not be able to afford a speaker the caliber of Moreland, but Eidos seeks to stand in that gap, providing the funds necessary to get solid Christian thought into the minds of the larger culture. JP's been a huge influence on me in my growth as an apologist and his organization needs to be more recognized.
    Support JP Moreland/Eidos Christian Center here.
  3. Stand to Reason's Brett Kunkle & Alan Shlemon Stand to Reason is one of the flagship apologetics ministries in the country.  Led by Greg Koukl, the team there is always providing top-notch teaching and material, whether on the radio,  on the web, or in person.  While STR is pretty well known, less so is its powerful student impact leader, Brett Kunkle and speaker Alan Shlemon.  Kunkle has been doing a remarkable job with junior high and high school students, preparing them for the absolute war of worldviews they will face when heading off to college.  He is the originator of the Apologetics Missions Trip concept; taking kids "in the field" to talk with atheists, Mormons, and others hostile to Christianity. Shlemon has been cutting his own path in focusing on cultural issues such as abortion, homosexual marriage, and Islam. Both gentlemen do not get paid by STR, but must raise their own support - so your gifts can mean quite a lot!
    Support Brett Kunkle   Support Alan Shlemon
  4. Mike Licona/Risen JesusMike Licona has gained a rather elevated profile lately.  In his monumental work, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, Licona delivers over 700 pages of support for the contention that the resurrection of Christ is as strong a fact of ancient history as there ever can be. However, because he also honestly included a few paragraphs that explain his struggle with the best way to approach Matthew 27:52, he's been let go from his previous ministry position and is now creating his own apologetics nonprofit. Licona's scholarship is outstanding, with many talking about his book replacing N.T. Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God as the new standard work on the topic. As a new organization, Licona really needs your support.
    Support Mike Licona/Risen Jesus
  5. Evangelical Philosophical Society If all your favorite apologists could be considered superheroes in battling worldviews, the Evangelical Philosophical Society would be the Hall of Justice where they all congregate.  The EPS has done a stellar job putting out one of the top-ranked scholarly journals on the philosophy of religion (Philosophia Christi) as well as the annual EPS Meeting where scholars can meet and discuss the latest issues in the field of apologetics. Beyond the academic arena, they host the annual EPS Apologetics Conference, where each of the over 30 speakers present for free in order to keep the costs down for the general public.  The EPS basically covers their costs with memberships and subscriptions, so any donations provide a bit of a cushion to the great work they do.
    Support the EPS
  6. Illustra Media We live in a visual age and if you want to get your message across, you will need to do so visually. Concepts such as the irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum or the origin of life are especially difficult to discuss without a model.  Luckily, apologists have Illustra Media to handle the tough task of making compelling DVDs on such intricate topics - and they do so with beauty and finesse. Using computer animation along with interviews from high-visibility personalities such as Lee Strobel and Dr. Stephen Meyer, Illustra makes a compelling case for the Creator that is as faith affirming as it is awe inspiring. All this even though the two founders operate basically out of their house!
    Support Illustra Media here
  7. International Society for Women  in Apologetics I know a lot of people think that the geeky ideas of textual criticism or the biological challenges to life's origin are not going to resonate with women, but there is a definite need for female apologists, and the ISWA is seeking to make that happen.  When you think about it, who is the first person to hear questions from kids about what their teachers just taught them in school?  It's going to be Mom, so Christian women better be trained in how to understand and effectively answer these issues. Sarah Ankenman has put together an organization seeking to speak the language of 52% of the population (that's ladies, friends) and provide insights that men simply don't have.  We need more of these!
    Support ISWA here
  8. Mary Jo Sharp/Confident Christianity Speaking of women in apologetics, Mary Jo Sharp has not only embraced her calling, but she's running with full gusto. From conference speaker to author to a couple of very stimulating debates against Islamic scholars, Mary Jo and Confident Christianity are showing what an apologetics ministry with focus and purpose can accomplish - even with a miniscule budget. Her clear style resonates well with both students and women's groups. A donation here could help Confident Christianity cover travel expenses so she can reach even more people with a smart and winsome Christian faith.
    Support Confident Christianity here
  9. Ratio Christi Ratio Christi is a unique organization reaching out to college students. Rather than creating a whole new ministry, they leverage existing Christian clubs and study groups on college campuses and universities across the country, and pair them up with a trained apologist who can help answer the tough questions that students or their professors will invariably raise. The idea of meeting people where they are is practical and I love the idea of empowering apologists to come out of the study (or away from the computer screen) and meet real students with real needs.
    Support Ratio Christi here.
  10. Apologetics 315 Ever since Brian Auten got the itch to blog his apologetics homework back around 2007, Apologetics 315 has been one of the top resource sites for gathering and disseminating apologetics information.  The weekly apologist interviews along with the Top 16 Apologetics podcasts and the growing list of apologetics ministries and materials put Brian at the forefront of internet resources for both apologists and lay people. The site doesn't yet have a donation function as it isn't a fully qualified nonprofit, but you may want to contribute anyway.
    Support  Apologetics 315 here
There we are. These are ten different apologetics organizations that could really use your support. For $75 you can be a huge blessing to these organizations and also truly help advance the Christian worldview. Of course, if you'd like to make your donation amount come to an even $100, you may also consider supporting the work we do here at Come Reason Ministries. On only a couple thousand dollars we were able to touch over 200 countries online, share the gospel at four different colleges, and provide instruction to some 300 people through our classes and speaking engagements. This year we hope to do more.

Blessings to you this Christmas season and during the New Year.  May we continue to take every thought captive for Christ.
Come Reason brandmark Convincing Christianity
An invaluable addition to the realm of Christian apologetics

Mary Jo Sharp:

"Lenny Esposito's work at Come Reason Ministries is an invaluable addition to the realm of Christian apologetics. He is as knowledgeable as he is gracious. I highly recommend booking Lenny as a speaker for your next conference or workshop!"
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