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Wherefore Gird Up the Loins of Your Mind….(1 Peter 1: 13)

The loins are a procreative, generative and productive area of the human body. It is the part of the body that is between the lower ribs and the hip area. The apostle Peter drew a parallel from the natural and customary practice of the people of his day and gave us an object lesson – First the natural and then the spiritual (1 Cor. 15:46). Girding is a process of encircling a certain part of the human body with a belt to hold it together. In Bible times, in the Near East, people wore long loose robes (some still do) for everyday labors and activities, but when they faced an imminent intense activity, they girded their loins in preparation for it. They tucked their robes into a wide belt around their waist to free themselves from any encumbrances and to concentrate on the task. Strenuous activities required a sustained effort of engagement.
The apostle Peter is calling believers to prepare their minds for the inevitable intense challenges and tests of their faith. He is urging believers to think and reason intellectually and purposefully, not randomly or haphazardly. In order to do this, the mind should be surrendered to its Creator, the Source of all reason and wisdom, and be renewed. This is contrary to the popular belief that the Christian faith precludes intellectual activity and reasoning. Most critics of the concept of faith insist that faith is believing where there is no evidence. Sadly, they miss the point that every human being exercises a measure of faith in one thing or another. We believe our spouses love us not because we can quantify that love and test it in a laboratory, but because they tell us so and we see them demonstrate that love in their behavior toward us. The claim that science is the only way to access truth is itself unquantifiable. It cannot not be dissected or tested in a lab. Therefore, it is self-refuting. Not everything we believe can be quantified. Scientists believe in the intelligibility of the universe and in the fact that they can explore it? They are exercising a measure of faith here. The Oxford English Dictionary states that “faith and belief are cognitive concepts intimately related to the question of substantiating evidence.”1 This means that “evidence-based faith is the normal concept on which we base our everyday lives.”2 As such, faith is inevitably interwoven with our everyday living. Therefore, Christians need not be ashamed of their faith.
The apostle Peter is calling believers to apologetics, which is a defense of their faith; what they believe in and why they believe in it. But he urges them to do it with gentleness not strife. Intellectual indolence is not a characteristic of the Christian faith. A believer divinely endowed with a… sound mind cannot have a languorous or torpid mind. One of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to convict us of sin and to lead unbelievers to Christ, but can they do this without applying their reasoning power? By grasping the reasonableness of Jesus’ finished work on their behalf and what He says about them, unbelievers can open their heart to Him and become converted through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. No one can make such a radical decision about their life without reasoning and sifting through the evidence presented to them. Reasoning is one of God’s gifts to mankind. Why, He even challenges us to reason with Him (Isa. 1:18). The assumption that to become a good academic you need to be an atheist is a fallacy that has no evidence for its claims whatsoever. Believers who have girded the loins of their minds can see through the façade.
Unfortunately, there are some believers who have been fanning the belief that Christianity is opposed to intellectual engagement by insisting that the Word of God is not for the mind but for the spirit. This is nothing other than intellectual lethargy and languor. But where did this mindset come from? The early scientists were Bible-believing intellectuals such as Joseph Lister, Louis Pasteur, Isaac Newton, Gregor Mendel, James Joule and many others. They found no dichotomy between their faith and intellectual acuity. In fact, these individuals believed that a Christian’s mind must be an intellectually sharp mind. A mind that is yoked to the mind of Christ is a keen and exceptionally intelligent mind because it draws from His unsurpassed wisdom and reasoning. Jesus was both an intellectual and spiritual authority. J.P. Moreland asserts that the anti-intellectual position among some of the believers is a consequence of the rise of “rhetorically powerful, and emotionally directed preaching of” some preachers of the Great Awakening revivals of the 1800s, which were not balanced with “intellectually careful and doctrinally precise” teaching to equip the saints to defend their faith with reason. This approach ill-prepared the church for harsh attacks from people such as David Hume, Immanuel Kant and Charles Darwin etc…with their philosophical challenges and arguments against Christianity.3 Since then, the attack against Christianity has grown more shrill and intense. Instead of responding to these challenges with counter intellectual vigor, the Church has mostly withdrawn from intellectual public debates and has lost the zeal to authenticate and validate its tenets. Its enemies have mistaken this to be a capitulation and admission of lack of rationality for the doctrines of the Christian faith. Perhaps the time has come for believers to study, soak and saturate themselves with the Word of God, and earnestly seek wisdom from above. The Church should ever match forward armed with reasoned-out truth. This is the wrong time for the Church to be marginalized and voiceless in the public debate. There is too much at stake.

Sources
1.Lennox, J. (2011). Gunning for God: Why the New Atheists are Missing the Point. Lion Hudson Plc. Pp. 55
2. Ibid.
3.Moreland, J.P. (1997). Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul. NAVPRESS. pp. 23

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Young Adult Faith Attrition Crisis: What the Church and Family Can Do

In a global culture that is fast becoming secularized and hostile to religion and the Christian faith in particular, the church has a responsibility to prepare its congregants and especially its children and young adults for Christian apologetics. Apologetics is merely giving a reason and justifying one’s faith. This will not only ground them in the faith and equip them to have an objective foundation for their faith, it will also help them give an answer to everyone who asks them a reason for their hope, particularly as they enter faith war-zones in colleges and universities. Without this foundation, our kids are likely to take books like the Da Vinci Code and mistake them for truth. Most young adults lose their faith in colleges and the main reason they give is that they find Christianity to be “intellectually shallow” (attrition statistics vary, but they should be of concern us). This is why it is important to have a concerted effort between the church and the home, the family, to take steps together to familiarize our children with the ideas that will challenge their faith before sending them out as sheep among wolves, as it were. They need to be aware of the tests they will encounter regarding their faith and learn how to intellectually (and spiritually) engage and interact with those who ridicule their faith without flinching or feeling idiotic. You cannot defend what you do not know. Apologetics answers objections to the faith and builds the faith and intellectual inquiry of the defender. If we neglect this, we will have abdicated our responsibility and in our place will arise “another generation …, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done …” (Joshua 2:10 KJV). This is the time to take seriously the command that “Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul… And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deut. 11:18,19 KJV). It is no longer enough to merely raise good boys and girls. We must prepare them to fight the good fight of faith; to be confident men and women, rooted and grounded in their faith. We must pass on a bright torch to our children, not one dimmed by uncertainty, retreat and hesitancy otherwise our children will end up with a distorted view of Christianity. The battle for people’s souls is raging and it will only intensify with time. Apologetics should be part of regular sermons and weekly Bible studies. It should even be part of children’s story time. Children should understand Jesus is a Person. He is not a myth. His historicity is as axiomatic as that of Alexander the Great. Parents should study hard to keep their children in the faith. Praying for them fervently and teaching them how to study their Bibles and draw life-applications from them. Allow your children to ask the questions they are wrestling with. Let them explain to you what salvation means to them. Help them understand that evolution has not debunked the existence of God. Let them understand that science is not against God, but rather explains what God has already made. They should know that there is nothing wrong with faith. The atheist uses it when he or she claims that the universe is their creator or that life sprang from some primordial soup. They were not there to witness the process. Therefore, they are relying on faith that it happened as they believe it did. Christians believe that God created the heavens and the earth. They were not there to witness the creation, but they believe it. Both sided have faith. It is just a matter of where one chooses to place it. Faith is not credulity. That is why the apostle John indicates that “These things were written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God” (John). The things John is talking about are the life, ministry and death of Jesus Christ and the testimonies of the eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If the church continues to bury its head in the sand, this is what atheists vow to do to our children when they enter college: “we try to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic, religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own…we do our best to convince these students of the benefits of secularization….So we are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable…” [1]. Apologetics is not a new phenomenon. Jesus faced the Sadducees and defended His reason for believing in the resurrection which they were trying to repudiate. This is not to advocate that Christian students should enter college to fight with those who challenge their faith, but that they should be confident of being able to withstand attacks on what they believe without flinching or feeling intellectually shallow. Alvin Plantinga, a Christian Philosopher said, “The contemporary Western intellectual world is a battleground or arena in which rages a battle for men’s souls,” [2].
Sources
[1]. ‘Universality and Truth,’ in Robert B. Brandom (ed.), Rorty and his Critics, pp. 21-22.

[2] Ratio Christi (2016). Are Christian Students Really Ridiculed and Humiliated? Accessed from http://ratiochristi.org/about-us/why-important

http://www.wmturls.com/pp

 

The Sower

“….Behold, the sower went forth to sow . And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty,” (Matthew 13:3-8).

This is a fascinating, multidimensional parable. Most of the time we interpret it by focusing only on the soil. Each one of us who has studied the parable has shuddered at the likelihood of being identified with wayside soil, rocky soil or thorny ground. Because we desire to be the good soil, we find ourselves almost always compelled to conduct a deep self-introspection, and an evaluation of our own spiritual standing. We make an effort to identify strongholds in our lives that defy spiritual regeneration; areas that need to be surrendered to God so that we can walk in victory and worthy of our calling, which is a commendable undertaking indeed. We do not want to be the type of soil that is not productive nor do we want to belong to churches that are inefficient or those that misuse or waste the resources dedicated to the Lord. This mindset has engrossed the church so much that it has become a guide in planning evangelistic efforts. When planning evangelistic meetings, budgets are carefully planned to avoid “wayside, stony, and thorny ground” wastage. The focus is usually on potentially “good soil” as the target population group for our efforts so that we can end up with a 30-fold, 60-fold or 100-fold harvest. The more, the better—it is a game of statistics!!! We send individuals ahead to till the ground to ensure that it is receptive to the seed because we must be smarter than that “reckless” sower of antiquity. Sometimes special marketing strategies are designed and implemented to maximize the harvest from the church’s financial investment. No wonder we end up with homogeneous churches-cocoons that shut-out “publicans.”

But what if we attempted to look at this parable from another dimension? What if we focused on the nature of the sower Himself? This seemingly wasteful sower seems to have no concept of the cost of His seed in the light of global economic down-turns. He insists on being appallingly extravagant! As a matter of fact, extravagance is His nature. He tends to always give exceedingly abundantly more than we can ask or think. Look at how lavishly He has arrayed the universe with billions of galaxies and astonishingly glorious nebulae. One only has to look into the telescope to behold astounding formations of constellations hanging against the vast darkness of space. Then there is that gem of our universe, the blue planet swarming with an unparalleled ecosystem. This is also home to creatures bearing His image, to whom He gave His Son. Talk about epic giving!
This is the Sower who goes out to sow His seed in myriad of soil types. Not skipping over the dry, unpromising soil, He casts His seed on the wayside and bicycle lanes, and asphalt pavement with a constant flow of incessant traffic. Pedestrians jostle for space, dodging each other in the hectic traffic, oblivious of the seed they are crushing underfoot. The traffic is so dense that the “senseless” efforts of the Sower become an irritating distraction and, consequently, a target of disparagement and crass jokes. But the Sower keeps on sowing His seed unmindful of the profanities directed at Him. Some seed falls on hungry winos sprawled in the gutters of the back alleys of the city center. Curiously, they pick up the seed, examine it, toss it in the mouth and down it with the dregs of their stale beer. Some of the seed falls on the soil littered with rotting trash on the edges of the gutters. It quickly germinates and blossoms into stunningly beautiful flowers. Enthusiastically, the Sower continues to sow His seed. Some of it falls in church parking lots and the deacons quickly sweep it away in an attempt to keep the grounds immaculate for parishioners. On and on the sower goes…to those steeped into superstition and witchcraft. Some of them pick the seed up. Supposing it to be a magical remedy for their ailments, they eat it up. The Sower proceeds to institutions of higher learning, scattering His seed in lecture halls amid scorn and hysterical ridicule. Tirelessly, he marches casting His seed in fields in the community valley where the seed sprouts and brings forth a rich harvest. He keeps on sowing joyfully and lavishly until the end of the planting season.

The Greatest Form of Witness

As attacks on the Christian faith continue to grow more militant and shrill, it is tempting for believers to focus more on theological arguments, creeds, and other statements to defend their position. Over the years, believers have learned how to engage in rigorous dialogue and to debate with intellectual bullies who try to mock, repudiate and ridicule their belief in God. A positive aspect of objections to the faith is that we are being forced to study the Word more and to spend more time in prayer so that we can learn to sanctify the Lord in our hearts and to be ready to give an answer to whoever asks us the reason for the hope within us, (1 Peter 3:15). It is no longer enough to merely recite the tenets or creeds of Christianity. The growing hostility against the Christian faith has also forced believers to learn to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints,” (Jude 3). You cannot contend in the absence of challenges or difficulties. When objections to the faith are raised, believers should try to refrain from emotionally-charged arguments that can end up alienating and hardening the objector. Instead, we should pray for grace and wisdom to engage in reasoned discussions to justify our faith and to give reasons for believing the way we do. For example, when discussing the existence of God, we could use approaches such as presuppositionalism or evidentialism without using unnecessary philosophical sophistry to throw off the objector.
However, the greatest case for Christianity can be in the way Christians live their lives. One of the main reasons for the rejection of the gospel is not because it is unable to provide the answers to the questions people have. Rather, its greatest obstacle is in the Christians’ failure to according to the dictates of the gospel. If we claim to be followers of Jesus, then we must act the way He did. We should be spiritually morphed and transformed, and that should be evident in the way we live so that God can be glorified in our lives. We should exude the life of our Lord, Jesus Christ. That does not guarantee that the believer will be insulated from being maligned, criticized, and hated. Jesus lived a perfect life and sinless life, yet the Church of his day found fault with Him, hated Him, ridiculed Him and turned Him over to the Roman imperial powers to be crucified. Interestingly, when He stood before Governor Pilate, accused of inciting insurrection, Pilate questioned Him and found Him innocent of the very thing He was accused of. No other life has fascinated and attracted millions of people like the life of Jesus. Similarly, the lives of His followers, empowered by His Spirit, can be the greatest argument for the Christian faith ever.

Association between Worship and Health

One remarkable discovery by science is the relationship between the strength of the immune system and worship. Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a protein our bodies use to counter inflammation and to boost the immune system. High levels of IL-6 are indicative of a compromised immune system whereas low levels are often associated with a strong immune system. In a longitudinal study, scientists at Duke University discovered that participants who were frequently engaged in active church worship had lower IL-6 levels in their blood than their counterparts who never went to church, after controlling for many factors; meaning that regular worshippers manifested a stronger immune system than non-worshippers.

“…I am the Lord that healeth thee,” Ex. 15:26. Explore the relationship between spirituality and your health in the book, The Perfect Prescription from: www.wmturls.com/pp

View also our latest release: www.wmturls.com/bp