Saturday, December 21, 2013

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

The Bible consists of sixty-six books which are divided into one thousand, one hundred, eighty-nine chapters. These chapters are further broken down into thirty-one thousand, one hundred seventy-three verses.

And out of these thirty-one thousand, one hundred seventy-three verses exactly one hundred are devoted to telling the story of Jesus’ birth. In fact, all of the details of the first Christmas, the stable, the manger, the star, the shepherds and wise men, all of it can be found in two chapters, one in the book of Matthew and one in the book of Luke. Two of the four gospels completely ignore the events surrounding His birth. The simplicity of the Christmas story stands in sharp contrast to extravagant Christmas celebrated by many Christians.

Christmas was costly as well. It cost Mary and Joseph the comforts of home during a long period of exile in Egypt to protect the little Babe.  It cost mothers in and around Bethlehem the massacre of their babies by the cruel order of Herod.  It cost the shepherds the complacency of their shepherds' life, with the call to the manger & to tell the good news.  It cost the wise men a long journey and expensive gifts & changed lives.  It cost the early apostles & the early church persecution and sometimes death.  It cost missionaries of Christ untold suffering & privation to spread the good news. It cost Christian martyrs in all ages their lives for Christ's sake.  More than all this, it cost God the Father His own Son—He sent Him to the earth to save us.

May we as believers rise in celebration of the Newborn King and His incredible sacrifice for us!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Shroud of Turin

The "Shroud of Turin" has figured in the news of late. The Shroud of Turin of course is a piece of linen cloth approximately 14 feet long by 4 feet wide. Historically, it first appears about the year 1360 A.D.  Some Roman Catholic authorities contend that it is the burial cloth of Christ; they claim that it contains His very image and thus is proof of the Lord's death and resurrection.  Pope Paul VI declared the shroud to be "the most important relic in the history of Christianity." Pope Sixtus VI declared that in the shroud "men may look upon the true blood and the portrait of Jesus Christ Himself."

Now, after decades of speculation, new research suggests that the Shroud of Turin, one of the Catholic Church's holiest relics, may very well be much earlier that the 14th century.  The latest battery of experiments has led experts to conclude the cloth may have come from the first century A.D., making it old enough to have been used to bury Jesus Christ.

Giulio Fanti, a professor of mechanical and thermal measurement at the University of Padua, announced the findings in a book that hit shelves Wednesday in Italy, reports Vatican Insider. Fanti has written several papers about the shroud, including one in 2011 that hypothesized how radiation could have caused the image of a man's bloody face and body to appear on the cloth.
In his most recent effort, Fanti and a research team from the University of Padua conducted three tests on tiny fibers extracted from the shroud during earlier carbon-14 dating tests conducted in 1988, according to Vatican Insider. The first two tests used infrared light and Raman spectroscopy, respectively, while the third employed a test analyzing different mechanical parameters relating to voltage.  The results date the cloth to between 300 B.C. and 400 A.D., per The Telegraph.

I invite you to listen to a recent radio presentation with Gary Habermas, New Testament Scholar from Liberty University, about the evidence for the Shroud.  He is the leading scholar on the Resurrection of Jesus today:

Monday, March 18, 2013

How Rich are You...

How rich are you?  Perhaps that is a question that we all should ponder.  Jesus taught about money more than just about anything.  Billy Graham once wrote this, “The key of the selfish, unregenerate person is get. The key word of the dedicated Christian should be give. The Prodigal Son set off a series of negative events destined for failure when he said to his father, ‘Give me the portion of goods that falleth to me’ (Luke 15:12).” “Our Lord’s command was, ‘Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over…’ (Luke 6:38). Yet it was more than a command. It was an invitation to glorious and abundant living. If a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area of his life.”  Check this website out.  See how rich you are.  

$8 could buy you 15 organic apples OR 25 fruit trees for farmers in Honduras to grow and sell fruit at their local market.

$30 could buy you an ER DVD Boxset OR a First Aid kit for a village in Haiti.

$73 could buy you a new mobile phone OR a new mobile health clinic to care for AIDS orphans in Uganda.

$2400 could buy you a second generation High Definition TV OR schooling for an entire generation of school children in an Angolan village.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

6 Styles of Evangelism…

We are called to be ambassadors for Christ according to Apostle Paul in 2 Cor 5:20  "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God."  But, how will you go about it.  Below are 6 separate styles identified in the New Testament.  Which one do you think best fits you! For more info check out Becoming a Contagious Christian by Mitelberg, Strobel, and Hybels.

Acts 2:38-–41 is an example of this style. Peter tells people to repent and be baptized. He is in their face with the gospel. Billy Graham is an example of this style. He paints a clear picture of God’s plan for life in Christ and leaves a person with a decision to make.

Acts 17:16-–34 is an example of this style. Paul is in the Areopagus, a place of debate and conversation, and he tells the people about God. He uses their desire for truth to introduce the nature of God revealed in Jesus. He uses a statue to an unknown God to tell them about the one true God. Lee Strobel is a modern example of this style. Lee was an atheist, and came to Christ through his wife’s change of life transformation through the Christian faith. He had many doubts about the faith, but once he claimed a relationship with God through faith in Christ, he started to see how the Christian worldview made sense. He now writes and speaks about how a relationship with Jesus has changed his life and is changing the course of creation.

John 9:1–34 is a biblical example of this style. The blind man is healed by Jesus, and his testimony is about how Jesus has changed his life. What he knows about Jesus is that before he met Jesus he could see! In an encounter with Jesus, his sight is restored. 

Luke 5:27–31 is an example of the interpersonal style. This style is conversational. Matthew, the tax collector, finds new life in following Jesus and invites his friends to a party where they can hang out with Jesus. 

John 4:1–32 is an example of an invitational style. The woman encounters Jesus. She is a person who goes to the well in the heat of the day so that no one is around. She is the topic of conversation around the well because of her lifestyle. However, in Jesus she experiences the love of God. She experiences being loved as she is, but being loved way too much to be left as she is. Out of the change in her life, she bears witness to people in her village, both those who supported her and those who were against her. 

Acts 9:36–43 is an example of the serving style of evangelism. People come to know the love of God because Dorcas cared about their human condition.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Song of the Week...

Enjoyed this video clip that someone recently sent my way.  Make sure to turn your speakers up and enjoy.. 

The LORD is my strength and song......Ex.15:2 

Since most conservative Mennonite and Amish churches sing only A Cappella hymns in their churches, it is not surprising to find that there are numerous Mennonite and Amish A Cappella choirs, quartets, and family singing groups. Most of these groups sing in simple four-part harmony. 

Altar of Praise Chorale is a mixed  A Cappella group, comprised of some of the best male and female singers in the conservative Anabaptist world. Members of the group come from various Anabaptist backgrounds: Beachy Amish, Mennonite, and Charity Christian Fellowship. 

This is the  A Cappella   Hymn  "WHO AM I?" 

Check it out:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Dead Sea Scrolls…

Is the name given to a collection of ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek manuscripts and fragments of manuscripts found in a number of caves in the barren foothills of the Judean wilderness, just west of the Dead Sea. These documents represent one of the most extraordinary archaeological discoveries of our era.  It is a wonderful opportunity for us in the Cincy area to take advantage of seeing part of this collection first hand. .  Many folks have stood for hours just to get a glimpse.  I urge to go before April 14, 2013.

As a reminder about the scrolls themselves…more than one-third of these documents are books of the Old Testament, which are older by at least one thousand years than the hitherto earliest known Old Testament manuscripts.
The discovery of the scrolls carries an interesting story.  It is generally traced to 1947 when an Arab shepherd boy missed one of his goats. While searching for it in one of the steep valleys, he threw a stone into a hillside cave and heard what sounded to him like the breaking of pottery. He summoned his assistant and the two entered the cave and found some pottery jars 25 to 29 inches high and about 10 inches wide. In these they found objects that looked much like miniature mummies but were actually leather scrolls wrapped in squares of linen cloth. They were covered with a pitch-like substance, possibly derived from the Dead Sea. With a only a vague idea that they had discovered something significant of antiquity, especially that might bring them money, the shepherds divided the scrolls and set off for Bethlehem, where they located an antiquities dealer and offered him the scrolls for twenty pounds.  The dealer if you can believe it reportedly refused to buy them.

Afterward they were directed to Jerusalem where, after bargaining for weeks, they sold four of the scrolls to Archbishop Athanasius Samuel of St. Mark's Syrian Orthodox Monastery and three to E.L. Sukenik, professor of archaeology at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. After Archbishop Samuel presented his scrolls to several authorities who were uncertain about their content and value they were taken to John C. Trever, acting director of the American Schools of Oriental Research (Jerusalem), who photographed and studied some of them, then sent copies to W.F. Albright. This well-known authority tentatively dated them "about 100 b.c.," and declared them "an amazing discovery.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Must Reads for the Budding Apologists...

I believe we as believers need to be ready to engage others about our faith.  In fact, 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV) says to us,"but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect"
Apologetics does not mean that we are to apologize for the gospel.  It comes from the word Apologia which means to give a defense for our position. 
If you are new to apologetics perhaps you are wondering where to begin. Because there are so many apologetics books out there I think it would be useful to have a sort of "top 10" reading plan for  beginners.
Here are my top 10....

1. The Triology:
Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel
The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

All of Lee Strobel's books are required reading for two reasons. First, they are good introductions to the subject and provide a good overview of the material from some of the best scholars in their fields. Second, the writing style is very accessible, taking you alongside a journalist in his investigation of the evidence for Christianity. In this particular title, Strobel focuses on the life and identity of Jesus.  The second book is just as readable as The Case for Christ, but this one delves into the evidence for the Creator. The third book moves from making a positive case for Christ and a Creator to defending Christianity from some common criticisms and objections. This one deals with the hard faith questions such as the problem of pain and suffering and issues of doubt. I suggest all three of these by Lee Strobel as a great starting point.

2. Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics by Doug Powell
This resource will introduce you to the wide landscape of apologetics by outlining, diagramming, and illustrating all of the key arguments for the existence of God, the reliability of the Bible, the beliefs of other world views, and common objections. This is very helpful in providing visual categories for the content you are taking in. This is also useful as a "primer" on the key topics and helpful to establish a bird's eye view. Illustrations of the ideas are also great for sharing with others what you have learned.
3.  More than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell
This resource has been around more than three decades but it is still a helpful book to acquaint those new to apologetics.  It provides a good overview of some of the important aspects of the life of Jesus.  It is a book that explores areas where those who are skeptical about Jesus deity, his resurrection, his claims on their lives.

4. Relativism:  Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air by Francis J. Beckwith and Gregory Koukl
This book offers commonsense help to all who want to explore modern challenges to the Christian faith and its moral system.  A variety of angles are explored such as education, law, political correctness, and marriage among others.  I think it provides a solid critique of moral relativism.
5. Love Your God With All Your Mind by J.P. Moreland

In this book you'll be challenged to live a vibrant life of intellectual engagement with your faith. This is a classic book that every apologist should read.

6. Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Greg Koukl
Information without application results in stagnation when it comes to apologetics. That's why it's time for a good dose of Tactics, which will train you not only to use apologetic content in everyday life, but it will also train you to be a better, more critical thinker. This is another "must read" book, and mastering its contents early in your apologetic studies will put feet to your faith.

7. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Mike Licona & Gary Habermas
The resurrection of Jesus is central to Christianity. This book equips you to understand and defend the resurrection from an historical perspective.  This is an essential book for the apologist.

8. Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists by Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow
Now it's time to look at some of the most common objections that have come against Christianity since the rise of the new atheism.

9. I Don't Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist by Geisler & Turek
Geisler and Turek have authored a great apologetics book that also takes a step-by-step approach to showing that Christianity is true—and it's filled with lots of information. This book will help to grow your overall general apologetic knowledge as well.

10.On Guard by William Lane Craig
On Guard has illustrations, argument maps, and sidebars which aim to make the material easier to grasp and engage with. This book will introduce the newer apologist to Craig's time-tested arguments for the existence of God and the resurrection of Jesus. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Days of Lent...

What is Lent?  Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means "spring." The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan.

Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others. Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday represents a "mini-Easter" and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection.

As we enter this important time in our life I want to invite you to enter into a time of prayer and introspection.  Let us begin a time of growing in our relationship to God.
Fast from criticism, and feast on praise.
Fast from self-pity, and feast on joy.
Fast from ill-temper, and feast on peace.
Fast from resentment, and feast on contentment.
Fast from jealousy, and feast on love.
Fast from pride, and feast on humility.
Fast from selfishness, and feast on service.
Fast from fear, and feast on faith.

What will you give up or take on in this season?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Roads Jesus Traveled...

We are quickly approaching Lent...less than a week away in fact - Feb 13.  Let me remind you about this sacred time of the year....Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday.  Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means "spring."  The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan.

As we embark on this journey I want to lift up some of the roads that Jesus traveled during his earthly ministry.  This week I want us to take a look at Mark 1:9-13 and ponder the time Christ spent in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry.  Here is my outline:

The Road to the Wilderness

Mark 1:9-13

It was a time when Jesus would:

Focus on what he would do

And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Mark 1:11 (ESV)

Face the temptation to be less than He was

         The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.
Mark 1:12 (ESV)

Finalize the commitment to see it through
           And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan.
And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.
Mark 1:12-13 (ESV)

Again, Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of introspection.  In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism.  Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others.  Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday represents a "mini-Easter" and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection.  Let us eagerly enter into this season together. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

What a Difference a Century Makes.

This just in from a Church friend....

1910 Ford I cannot see this too often! This has only been 103 years ago. 
What a difference a century makes!

Here are some statistics for the Year 1910:

The average life expectancy for men was 47 years.

Fuel for this car was sold in drug stores only.

Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub.

Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.

There were only 8,000 cars and only 144 miles of paved roads.

The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.

The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower !

The average US wage in 1910 was 22 cents per hour.

The average US worker made between $200 and $400 per year.

A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year, a dentist $2,500 per year, a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year, and a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year. More than 95 percent of all births took place at HOME. Ninety percent of all Doctors had NO COLLEGE EDUCATION!

Instead, they attended so-called medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press AND the government as 'substandard.'

Sugar cost four cents a pound. Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen. Coffee was fifteen cents a pound.

Most women only washed their hair once a month, and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo. There was no such thing as under arm deodorant or tooth paste.

Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering into their country for any reason.

The five leading causes of death were: 1. Pneumonia and influenza 2, Tuberculosis 3. Diarrhea 4. Heart disease 5. Stroke

The American flag had 45 stars.

The population of Las Vegas Nevada was only 30!

Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and iced tea hadn't been invented yet

There was no Mother's Day or Father's Day.

Two out of every 10 adults couldn't read or write and only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school. Eighteen percent of households had at least one full-time servant or domestic help.

There were about 230 reported murders in the ENTIRE U.S.A.!

Try to imagine what it may be like in another 100 years 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Do in Remembrance...

This week we share Holy Communion together.  I will be sharing the passage of scripture we find in Luke’s gospel concerning the Passover meal. Now, when the Lord's Supper was celebrated in the early church, it included a feast or fellowship meal followed by the celebration of Communion. In the church in Corinth for example, the fellowship meal had become a time when some ate and drank excessively while others went hungry. There was little sharing and caring. This certainly did not demonstrate the unity and love that should characterize the church, nor was it a preparation for Communion. Paul condemned these actions and reminded the church of the real purpose of the Lord's Supper. 

What does the Lord's Supper mean? The early church remembered that Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper on the night of the Passover meal (Luke 22:14-20). Just as Passover celebrated deliverance from slavery in Egypt, so the Lord's Supper celebrates deliverance from sin by Christ's death.  Here is my outline with some scriptures I will be drawing on….

Luke 22:14-20

Remember well what the Lord your God did...
Deuteronomy 7:18 (KJV)

Assume your own responsibility
Galatians 6:5 (GW)

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV)

Participating in the Lord's Supper is an important element in the Christian faith and we should remember that Christ's presence strengthens us spiritually as believers.  My prayer is for that to occur on Sunday.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Nic at Night

It would be difficult to find any other portion of Scripture as well-known as John 3.  Probably most of us who were raised in church recall the memorable verse John 3:16.  Even non-church attenders have no doubt caught the glimpse of a sign at a ballgame with the words "John 3:16".  What is more, I am really not sure that their is any other statement of Scripture more applied than “You must be born again” (3:7). When Jesus revealed the necessity of the new birth to Nicodemus one night, he exposed our ultimate hope. This night interview is the first of a series of individual encounters between Jesus and persons who fit the description given at the end of chapter 2—those who approached Jesus with an inadequate faith.  We see Nicodemus (3:1-15), the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-42), and the nobleman from Capernaum (John 4:43-54) all illustrating a certain view of who Jesus was and what He could do. But meeting Jesus face to face changed their views. It also changed their very lives. This week I will be sharing a message about the most important thing in life - your relationship with God.  Here is my working outline.....

Nic at Night
John 3:1-8; 16

The Must of the New Birth
Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’
John 3:7 (ESV)
The Marks of the New Birth

Jesus answered Nicodemus, “…but the Spirit gives birth to things that are spiritual. The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound,
but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
John 3:7-8 (HCSB)
The Means of the New Birth
No one has gone to heaven except the Son of Man, who came from heaven.
John 3:13 (GW)