Hello all !
I’m hoping you’ll join the church family tomorrow for a special morning of worship and a special message on the subject of reconciliation and forgiveness.
Craig Diestelkamp, who is a Senior Staff Counselor at Live at Peace Ministries in St Louis, will be our guest speaker. Craig has been a tremendous help to me and my family as we’ve worked through some of our own brokenness, and I’m really looking forward to the message God will bring to us tomorrow through Craig. I sincerely hope you can be there. Craig will be preaching from Genesis 50:19-21, the tail-end of Joseph’s story where Joseph – after all the hurt and hardship he experienced due to his brothers – was able to say, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” The title of Craig’s message will be “Reconciliation : Living with Forgiveness.”
Prior to coming on staff with LAPM, Craig had 25 years of pastoral experience. Presently, his work at LAPM emphasizes helping couples and families who are facing relational conflict and experiencing personal brokenness. He is a Certified Christian Conciliator with the Institute for Christian Conciliation, a division of Peacemaker Ministries.
I hope to see you tomorrow ! Don’t forget about our two adult classes which meet at 9:00 – Study in the Book of Acts, and a Discovery Bible Study chock full of personal discovery and good discussion. The class for 6-12 year-olds, “God, What’s Your Name?” continues and is open to newcomers, and there is an informal study and discussion time for young people over 12, led by Catherine Mahoney.
Thanks for your good participation in discussion groups during last Sunday’s wrap-up of “Becoming a Contagious Christian.” I had some good feedback this week from those discussion groups, and I’m excited about the heart God has given you to reach people you know (and want to know) with the Good News of new life through Jesus Christ. Truly, there is nothing more satisfying than having a small or large part in impacting someone for eternity.
Here are some very simple responses to the questions (objections to Christianity) you discussed in your groups last Sunday morning. I hope these thoughts help you some as you continue to process objections people around us raise to the Gospel.
1. Don’t all religions basically teach the same things, but just use different names for God ?
Actually, when you look beneath the surface, you’ll find there are major differences between the religions – including contradictions about who God is. Some forms of Buddhism don’t even teach there is a God ; Hinduism teaches that God exists and that everything is a part of Him. Christianity teaches that God exists but that He is separate from all He has created. Islam presents a God but not a loving one a person could know as “Father.” These are mutually exclusive definitions that can’t possibly describe the same God.
Other religions generally view Jesus as being on more or less the same level as other prophets from God – not as who He claimed to Be, the unique incarnation of God who came to earth as a man. Other religions deny the biblical teaching that Jesus’ ultimate mission was to give His life on the cross as a payment for our sins.
2. As long as a person is genuinely sincere, what difference does it make what he/she believes ?
Sincerely believing something doesn’t make it true. You can be sincere, but sincerely wrong. Sincerely believing the speed limit is 65 when it’s actually 45 won’t prevent you from getting a ticket for speeding. And holding strong – but wrong – beliefs about God doesn’t make those beliefs true.
Sincerity did not change the facts or the outcome for sincere members of the Jim Jones cult in Guyana in the early 1980s, or more recently, the David Koresh cult in Waco, Texas.
What counts is not the sincerity of our faith, but the object of our faith. “Is what I’m trusting in truly trustworthy ?”
3. Isn’t it narrow-minded for Christians to think they’re right and other religions are wrong ?
It’s not narrow-minded if you’ve investigated the facts and found Christianity to be true in ways other religions and viewpoints are not.
The argument is not really with Christians ; it was Jesus Himself who said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Avoid confusing truth and tolerance – they are two different things. We should hold strong to what is true … but also support the rights of others to disagree with our viewpoint.
4. What credentials back up the claims of Christianity ? Is there any good evidence to support it ?
There were detailed prophecies written about Jesus in the Old Testament hundreds of years before He was born. No ordinary person could have fulfilled these, but He fulfilled every one of them.
There are historians, both inside and outside the Church, who have written about the historical existence of Jesus.
The Bible is a unique book as evidenced by its amazing unity, its historical accuracy, its record of fulfilled prophecy, and its high moral and ethical teaching. We have thousands of handwritten copies of the Bible, including copies of all the Old Testament books except one dating back to 200 years before Christ. On the contrary, we can count on two hands the number of manuscripts of many other writers of ancient history (Caesar, Herodotus, Plato, others).
Jesus predicted He would come back to life after He had died on the cross … and He did !
Your changed life is good evidence of the truth of Christianity !
5. How do you know God exists ?
Science points to the incredible order of the the universe and to the many ways in which Earth is precisely suited for human life. Who made such an environment ? Who created such complex order in the human body ? A wristwatch needs an intelligent designer, but the hand that wears the wristwatch is far more complex than the watch is, so it too must have been made by a Creator.
God alone could be the adequate source of the sense of right & wrong – and love — that human beings possess.
6. What about all the evil in the world, and innocent people who suffer ?
This is a difficult question, and sometimes people raise it out of their own pain more than out of a desire to hear a rational answer. Often their need is for Christian care, not Christian answers.
One thing is to remember that evil isn’t just “out there” ; it’s in you and me, too. If God decided to get rid of all the evil in the world, He’d have to destroy us as well. (I think you’ll find Craig Diestelkamp will touch on some of these questions tomorrow in his sermon about Joseph.)
To God, the suffering caused by evil is not some abstract idea. God came to earth as a man for the purpose of taking our evil and its penalty on His back on the cross. Jesus Christ suffered under evil in ways none of us ever will.
God has promised that He will put an end to evil one day. But He hasn’t done so yet. He’s waiting because people matter to Him and He wants more to turn to Him while there’s still time (2 Peter 3:9).
7. What about people who have never heard the Gospel ?
The best answer I’ve heard to that question is one I was given many years ago : “Go !” Take the Gospel to people near and far. Share the good news. Be prayerful, and be intentionally contagious.
I’m comforted by the fact that the Bible says God does reveal Himself in nature (Romans 1:20) and in the human conscience (Rom 2:14-15). I think there is evidence in the Bible that for people who respond positively to those revelations, God continues to reveal and woo and send the message of salvation. Proverbs 8:17 says, in speaking of wisdom, “I love those who love me, and those who diligently seek me will find me.” While that verse may speak of a search for wisdom, true wisdom is about seeking and finding God. Cornelius, in Acts 10, seems to be an example of this kind of person.
Thanks for being contagious Christians ! Let’s keep praying for those on our “Impact List,” and pray for each other.
Happiness is a Box of Chocolate-Covered Strawberries
Are you surviving this long, cold, grey winter ? Highlights of this cold, snowy week for me include …
… sledding with friends on Monday afternoon.
… being at the church Wednesday night (lots of energy in every corner of the building. Btw, are you aware that our building is becoming cramped ? Hmmm.)
… being a listener to a couple people who were in need this week,
… a box of chocolate-covered strawberries that someone sent our family from The Candy Factory in Columbia. I don’t know who sent them, but they were very much appreciated. Only a note, “Love to all of you.”
Thank you, if you’re the one who sent us that little burst of spring ! It was a reminder to me that it doesn’t take much to brighten someone’s day. Let’s be intentional in loving each other. Spring and summer will be here soon enough, along with our many, many warm-weather projects and activities. Don’t forget to share God’s contagious love this winter.
See you tomorrow !
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