Dec 27, 2017 10:56 AM
Many Christians hesitate to use apologetics in their teaching and writing ministries. Some do not feel qualified. Others believe it unnecessary. There is also the belief that reason does not bring one to trust in Jesus.
Let’s consider each objection.
Not qualified. The area of apologetics already has experts. We have access to their knowledge by the way of videos, books and conferences. We need not be an expert. Being a seeker yourself is a way of engaging others. Sprinkling questions into your lessons and writing and leading to a conclusion through Bible verses is a humble way to help others strengthen the reason they believe.
Teaching apologetics is unnecessary. Holding out truth in a truthless culture is not easy, but it is necessary. Britannica defines postmodernism as skepticism, relativism and the mistrust of reason. Christians define it as a difficult atmosphere in which to teach the Bible. But ask any popular apologetics expert with recent bestselling books and they will tell you interest in the subject is high. According to Ken Ham’s books Already Gone, Already Compromised and Ready to Return, teaching the why of Christian belief is as important today as teaching what to believe.
The fact is apologetics matters in a culture where myths reign. Culture has given God a reputation that is nothing like what He says about Himself. Biblical illiteracy is high. Barna’s State of the Church 2016 reports almost half of Americans, 48%, are post-Christian. They do not read the Bible, and they’ve never made a commitment to Jesus. This doesn’t stop them, however, from having opinions like Jesus was a sinner and the Bible is inaccurate.
Reason does not bring a person to salvation. Reason alone does not bring one to a complete trust in Jesus, but it opens the door. In our culture reason is exalted. Pseudo-scientific reasoning assaults God’s revelation of Himself in schools, colleges, movies, art and music. It has affected the Church for decades. Removing barriers to belief is important for many people.
The most popular Christian apologists were former atheists. Why? They know the barriers that kept them from putting trust in Jesus, and they know breaching those barriers allowed what seemed impossible to become possible.
By introducing apologetics in our teaching and writing, we remove stumbling blocks to belief in Jesus set up by our culture. Our goal is not providing an answer to every question. We don’t have them anyway. It is creating an atmosphere of possibility and a condition for trust. It is building a foundation of knowledge that can be passed on to others.
So the answer to the question, "Why teach apologetics?" is because it impacts men, women and children for Jesus.
Dec 24, 2017 6:50 PM
Dec 18, 2017 11:33 AM
It is a repeating news story this time of year. Christians are accused of lying about Jesus’ birth. Let it be known the only approved liars at Christmas are those lying about Santa. But it seems that Christians dropped their ideas of a virgin giving birth to a Savior in December to coincide with an innocent Roman festival of lights and presents. First Christians lied; then they stole a holiday. It is a world-wide scandal.
The truth about Jesus’ birth exists if anyone cares to hear it, but the debate lingers. No wonder since the issue over the year of His birth has finally reached a reasonable compromise. The year ranges any where from 2BC to 6BC.
I admit I cringe when I hear Christians defend Christmas (or Easter) for being celebrated on pagan holidays. They describe the Christian holidays– holy days– and their pagan roots.
Let me begin by saying Christmas (and Easter) have NEVER been pagan holidays. Both are celebrated at these times of the year for reasons apart from paganism.
Many believe that Jesus’ birth was passed over by the Gospel writers. There are those that bemoan the little detail or collaborating evidence given for Jesus’ birth compared to the story of the cross. The reason is because the cross was current news. There were many witnesses to it and the resurrection.
But the birth went unnoticed, except for two elderly believers in a synagogue who were waiting for it, a group of Magi who were watching for it and some shepherds who were alerted to its happening by the heavenly host who burst from the sky because they couldn’t keep quiet. It was fulfilled prophecy. But the priesthood missed it. Can you blame the angels?
The result is many believe that Jesus’ birth has no historical evidence to help place it on a calendar. But scholars have biblical evidence. Unfortunately, they use the same evidence to arrive at different dates. Both views, however, contain evidence for why December is a month of focus.
Here are some of the details pertaining to their investigation.
The census is one aspect of historical proof that as yet cannot be dated. It was thought that Luke mistakenly reported it, but archaeology has uncovered evidence for the census to have taken place exactly as Luke reported it.
Previously scholars argued that Joseph, under Roman law, could have registered for the census in Nazareth. There was no need for Joseph to travel, and Mary did not have to go with him. Returning to the place of birth was a Hebrew tradition not a Roman one.
But an order for a Roman census written in 104AD stated otherwise. It required people to return to their ancestral homes to register. You can read more about this in Paul L. Maier’s book, In The Fullness of Time.
As for guessing the time of year of the census, weather conditions may or may not have been considered for the traveler’s convenience.
Weather does play a role in the argument about the shepherds. Were they in the fields in the cold, rainy season with sheep? Were the sheep out in the open or penned? Like all weather reports, the conditions are unknown. It could have been a warm stretch in the middle of winter. Some scholars say the sheep around Bethlehem were raised for Jewish sacrifices. That is an interesting note when you think the Lamb of God was born there.
The next detail we have is the birth of John to Zacharias and Elizabeth. John’s conception is miraculously foretold, and Mary visits Elizabeth in the elderly woman’s sixth month of pregnancy. This is the evidence that scholars use to reach their conclusions concerning December.
Zacharias was a priest from the order of Abijah. King David divided the priests into groups so that they would take turns in working at the Temple. These were known to be partially reinstated at the time of the Jews’ return after their captivity. The mention of Zachariah’s group in Luke is thought to be evidence that they were fully reinstated at some time after the return.
Calculating from the assigned service of this group the scholars make two conclusions: one states that they served in October, another in June. If John was conceived in October and Mary visited Elizabeth six months later to tell her of her news, Jesus was conceived sometime in the early spring putting Jesus birth in late December or January. This is exactly where some early church leaders put it.
If John was conceived in June and Mary visited six months later, Jesus was conceived in the month of December and born in September. This is exactly where other church fathers put it.
Either way, December plays a role in the birth of Christ. It is either His birth or conception according to early and present church scholars.
The September birth eliminates the objections for the weather. It also coincides with the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles when the Jews celebrate their restoration of fellowship with God. John 1:14 of the Literal Translations reads, “And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us.” It adds, “And we beheld His glory…” a reminder of the angels’ declaration, “Glory to God in the highest.” (Luke 2:14)
The September birth date also is interesting when you think that the Jewish fall festivals are linked with Jesus’ second coming.
So according to the scholars, December is the month that God became flesh and dwelt among us. But either conception or birth, this Christmas Christians hold your head high. You are neither liars nor thieves. It is not our fault the pagans have holidays we can use to tell them about Christ.
For more, read the Case for Christmas by Lee Strobel.
Dec 18, 2017 10:02 AM
Attention has a role in discovering your gifts.
Attention has three basic levels. More modern research has added one to the ladder. Basic or passive attention happens when the mind follows whatever external stimuli is placed before it. It is the “first this then that” kind of attention modeled in If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. While it is a trait of young children, adults can exhibit this type of flitting attention.
We do have the ability to focus our thoughts. We will ourselves to focus on one task or another. In this process we can say that our attention is directed. We choose where to direct our attention by an act of our will. This type of attention is called active or selected. It can be learned as a skill.
Active attention is what you use while listening to directions from your boss or a doctor. It is what you use while taking a test or working on a project. It can alternate between reading directions and cooking a recipe or building a model plane. (Alternating attention is another level on a modern chart. But it uses directed attention.)
Multitasking is listed as divided attention. Essentially the mind cannot concentrate on two things at once. Multitasking success depends on the focus needed to complete tasks. This is why getting dressed while watching tv is ok but texting while driving is not.
Without active directed attention performed by the will, we would never experience the next level of attention, that of absorbed or sustained attention. This is the state in which we learn best. What is peculiar is this type of attention is made possible by active attention. We cannot enter this absorbed state unless we create the conditions for it. We have chosen our focus, then continued to direct our focus until our interest is absorbed.
As parents and teachers we strive to arm our children with the skill of directing focus and eliminating distractions to achieve this environment.
Something else can happen in this absorbed state. We can experience a pleasant, invigorating feeling where distractions fade, we forget about food and time passes without our sensing it because we are drawn into a state of complete absorption.
This may not happen during your child’s algebra homework. But– we have had this experience at some time in our lives.
As a parent or home teacher, watch for instances where your child creates this state for himself without prompting. These interests are what are unique to them and possibly the area of their gifting. I say possibly because they may be a stepping stone to another skill that will build into a calling.
Attention is not a steady thing. It passes from one kind to another throughout the day. But we are in control of the movement.
Watch for the signals of absorbed attention in your children and in yourself. Allow time for those activities. Provide lessons, books and apprenticeships to facilitate learning with a focus on enjoyment. When you see the interest is real in your children, your only goal is to encourage and foster the twin powers of patience and perseverance.
For more on cultivating attention, go to our Teaching Tips page and click on Tips for the Learner.
Oct 25, 2017 7:28 AM
I grew up rural. I think it more an attitude than a lifestyle.
I learned that you could always tell a non-rural by their car. Theirs came in sleek, unfamiliar shapes with small tires that my father laughed at. I think he appreciated those small tires in winter though, as he pulled the non-rurals from snowbanks and they pushed bills into his hand.
I drove my grandfather’s pick-up. He bought green trucks. I never asked why, but I’ve always wondered. He must have liked the color because he wore Dickie’s brand forest green shirts and pants with Red Wing shoes. Never did he stray from this uniform except for weddings and funerals. My father was a rebel. He wore blue Dickies.
My grandfather chewed tobacco. That’s not a moral judgment; it was a warning. One clue was the driver’s side door of his truck. Flecks of dried chaff crusted the outside surface, and a brown stain ran down the inside of the door. My grandfather was not as tall as he used to be, and spitting out the window while driving required more art. Stray tobacco littered the seats from the pouches scattered there, and an empty– you hoped– coffee can sat on the floor in the middle under the radio.
I used the pick-up to drive to school. A quick stop shifted the miscellaneous papers, hammers, wire cutters, screwdrivers, tie-downs, broken flashlight and spare coffee cans from under the seats. Accelerating slid them back into place. My passengers never minded, brushing out tobacco, setting aside the coffee can. We were busy becoming adults, talking jobs, dreams and boyfriends.
But the smell. We rode with windows cracked in below zero temperatures. Today, tobacco never smells good to me. It is mingled with the grease, dust and sweat of a shrinking, aged man in green Dickies and his green truck.
I’m not sure if he made it through the Pearly Gates, but I hope he did.
The above excerpt is an example of first person point of view. Choosing the POV of a main character is an important choice to make in writing a story. First person is popular because it allows immediate access into the thoughts of your reader. It engages them from the start.
It does have disadvantages. The reader, and writer, is limited to the opinions and experience of the main character. The reader only knows what they know. Daphne du Maurier, however, used this to her advantage in her classic novel, Rebecca. It was what Rebecca didn’t know that held the key to her happiness.
Image courtesy of SockSnapi.o
Oct 8, 2017 7:42 AM
On September 23, 1857, Jeremy Lanphier organized a prayer meeting for businessmen in New York City. Despite vigorous advertising, only six men attended. On October 10 of that year, the final day of the Jewish holiday, Sukot, the stock market crashed. Sukot is a time of thankfulness, and it follows Yom Kippur, a festival for repentance. As Judaism’s season of repentance and thankfulness ended, Christianity's was about to begin. Soon thousands were attending the prayer meetings, and what came to be called America’s Third Great Awakening began.
It popped up in other cities like Chicago, Louisville, St. Louis and Cleveland. It spread to England, Ireland, South Africa, Scotland, Europe, Australia, the Pacific Islands and India. In 1858, newspapers ran articles covering the revival. It was obvious that God was at work, bringing people to Him.
God cares for people, and He cares for nations. On October 10, in honor of Jeremy Lanphier’s prayer meeting, we’re launching our downladable lesson plans. Be watching for your opportunity to get our first set of five lessons at no charge. These lessons cover the countries of the Middle East, their identity and history in the Bible and what God has to say about their future. This is a limited time offer.