Category Archives: Everyday Apologetics

A Few More Words About Relationship

Thinking about your relationships eventually leads to thinking about the relationships you have which are not so good. If you are a conscientious believer in Jesus Christ,  you must be honest and circumspect with yourself about whether you have behaved rightly in those less than ideal relationships. Jesus put an extraordinarily high bar on our relationships.

I was thinking about a person, let’s say X, who I find difficult, who I don’t really trust. Walking away from the relationship is not an option. I must get along and I certainly would never want to be openly unpleasant to X if only for the sake of peace. But my approach has been to be emotionally distant and to give X no further opportunity to injure or make use of me. Sounds like a good strategy, huh?

Then I did something dangerous. I thought about Jesus. Did my part of this relationship meet with his approval? Did I reach his bar for relationship maintenance? And the clear answer was: absolutely not.

The imperative of relationship, Jesus’ imperative, is that we have total integrity in our relationships with other human beings. We are not here to make things easy or comfortable for ourselves; we are here to be holy and righteous. Our imperative, our command, is to persevere through relationships and make them loving to the extent that it depends on us. And what Jesus means by loving is this:

This is my commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.

We are here to become holy. We are here to demonstrate by our every moment what the True God is like. And He loves perfectly. He invented love. He is love.

Yes, especially those relationships we could do without. That in law, that sibling, that old friend. The one who actually has done you dirty.

Rather than distance yourself, literally or emotionally, be ready to be real in that relationship and to engage with that person. Recognize that it will be challenging to stay in and stay righteous. It will probably be impossible. But you have access to a supernatural and inexhaustible supply from outside your own resources.

I’m not saying there isn’t a time to walk away from a relationship which is actually harmful or dangerous. There are people we must leave behind and not see again. And a break up is a break up— that’s a relationship that is over.

Most of our relationships, however, are not so. We should not be so quick to discard other people because our relationships with them are uncomfortable or challenging. It could be you are meant to face that challenge and learn from it. It could be you would be a better friend, or sister, or spouse because you learned how to navigate in that relationship and succeeded in making it a healthy one.

We don’t get a pass on leaving a relationship emotionally because it is a difficult one. We have a responsibility to make that relationship loving if we answer to the God who is love.

 

P. S. Can we do away with the terms boyfriend and girlfriend when the people being described are no longer boys and girls?  Relationship statuses which were meant to be left behind in teenagerhood because people were supposed to move on to more mature and permanent statuses (significant other) haven’t proved sustainable. But please, a 70-year-old does not have a girlfriend.

 

 

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10 Ways Large Families Save the (Earth) World

1. I just finished wiping the icing off the bottoms of a bunch of birthday candles. I’m going to need those again in ten days, and again less than a month later. Why would I buy new ones when these still have a good inch and a half? Crumbs of old homemade icing never hurt anyone yet. I bet moms of two kids buy a new set of candles every birthday and throw them away.

Also, homemade-from-scratch cake costs about 1/20th of a bakery cake and tastes 20x better. Hydrogenated shortening kills; real butter doesn’t.

2. My son needed to do zero adjusting when he went to college and shared a room with two other guys. He shared a room with two guys at home too. Maybe my boys were unusual, but they never fought over territory. So at college my son was perfectly content with his bed and his desk; he let the other guys vie for lebensraum.

3. It is essential to learn patience when eight people share one bathroom. It is equally essential to learn sympathy and consideration for others (‘ bladders).

4. Bags and bags of clothing used to show up on our porch. We had never asked for hand-me-downs; people just assumed we could use them. They were right and we were thankful. It would have been difficult indeed to buy new clothes every season for every child. Most of the clothing we received was in like-new condition, and a lot of the items had price-tags.

Perhaps the most valuable component of these acts of generosity was that my kids learned that a second-hand item in good condition does not differ one iota from a brand-new one. There is shame neither in sharing nor receiving, and there is nothing which so inspires giving than receiving.

5. My kids are now adults who don’t expect the world to hand them all the amenities– partly because we didn’t teach them to expect gifts except on Christmas and their birthdays. They didn’t expect candy except on Christmas, Easter, and Halloween.

My oldest daughter was honestly judgmental about her friends expecting big gifts for Easter and lesser holidays. My kids know how to delay gratification, and although they do not always practice it, they know how to be frugal.

6. Reduce, reuse, recycle. It was our lifestyle before the motto was coined. I was raised by children of the Depression and learned to make my spending count. When I was growing up, we didn’t spend money on non-essentials but we had all we needed. We weren’t used to vacations and we were usually the last of our friends to get the latest tech like color TV.

We raised our kids with the same mindset: one not deprivation but careful frugality. Spend when you need to without regret, but save whenever you can for future needs. We didn’t spend much on vacations. We drove our cars until they were junk. Eating out or ordering in was a rare special occasion.

7. Contrary to popular assumption, big families have small footprints. We eight use approximately the same resources that the four of you, or the two of you, do.

At the same time they condemn parents of several kids for selfish and wasteful American materialism, my childfree acquaintances espouse the superior lifestyle of spontaneously flying the globe, to stay at the priciest family-free resorts, indulging themselves in only the finest and most select perks that the self-absorbed can devise. Driving further to shop for only the trendiest fair trade items.

I’ll compare my eight-person staycation expenses to your two-person dream trip any day you like. Guess who comes out using up more of earth’s precious resources? Virtue-signaling and Childfree -signaling don’t mix.

8. Happy families. Positive family experiences. Fostering a concept of unconditional belonging. We believe that being plunked in the middle of a bunch of other difficult human beings is actually according to a wise plan; we are each more or less compelled to learn how to live in peace with these other people, which teaches us valuable lessons about how to get along in a world full of other people.

9. Raising people who want to have children and build families, and who see the importance and enduring value of pouring their lives into others and investing themselves in creating a unique family culture which will continue to influence after they are gone.

In other words, small footprints may lead to small footprints.

10. Today, a large family orientation usually develops within a faith orientation. Our society has moved toward smaller families with the advent of birth control and the cult of personal fulfillment. I might also say with the de-emphasis of faith culture and the growth of materialist culture. It is counter cultural to have large families and, counterintuitively, large families very often happen due to deliberate choice. That choice usually derives from faith in the intrinsic value of each person, given by a gracious God.

Because of this faith orientation, the lessons of other-centeredness, the value of family, the hope of enduring heritage, good stewardship of material wealth, sustainability, recycling and reusing–all part of a whole.

Bonus reason: I love my big family.

 

 

 

 

 

Celebration at the Bottom of a Hole

This post was written with Easter in mind, but it is no less relevant at the present moment.

I can celebrate the joy of Resurrection Day just where I am, sitting at the bottom of a deep dark hole in the ground. I can celebrate not because I’ve managed to clean up my mindset for the celebration of a holy-day, nor because I’ve willed myself to feel happy about the right things to feel happy about at Easter-time.

I anticipate the joy of Easter even though.

I’m feeling the exhaustion of three years of pushing through because what needed to be done needed to be done. The stresses of life increase while my husband and I grow older and weaker in the face of them. We regularly lament to each other these days. I am downright depressed. I’ve had to realize that I am no longer the optimist who presumes the happy outcome.

Rather because of those things, I am celebrating.

Easter comes whether or not I’m ready to put on an appropriate Easter hat. Indeed I’m not where I ought to be, fully grounded in daily Scripture meditation, immersed in His Word. I’m not handling life a well as I could right now, and I know I need to focus on God’s wisdom and guidance, yet I do not open that Book nearly as often as I can. I’m trying to push ahead under my own power, which is simply foolish.

But right where I am, I can celebrate the Resurrection without fear and embarrassment before my Savior. Indeed, I can’t adjust myself so as to pretend to be presentable to him.

Too often we translate our Lord’s words as transactions rather than expressions of relationship. The question: am I measuring up well enough to face Jesus Christ right now? is foolish on so many levels. First of all, no–and you never will. Second, he already knows that. Third, he’s taken care of your unfitness already. Fourth, that’s not what he was talking about.

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

Behold, I am coming soon!

A discussion of his second coming devolves from joy to engineering as we try to discern pre-trib timelines and terrifying scenarios of judgement. Will I pass the test? Am I really in the club? I could be left behind!

The transactional view steals our joy and deadens our desire for relationship. But he is always speaking words of intimate fellowship and love.

We aren’t listening. What he said was: “I am coming back for you.”

Like you’re a child and your father must leave you in a scary place for awhile. He says to you: Don’t be afraid. Just wait here. I’m coming back for you. You trust, you sit and wait, in faith. Because he loves you more than anything and you know he would never abandon you. He will never leave behind those who are his own.

Through the haze I still know He is the one who humbled Himself to become one like me, but poorer, humbler, less regarded. He set his face like a flint toward his torture, rejection and murder. On his own behalf, he had no reason to go there. Then He made good on all the purest promises ever given. He is the One still there making Himself known to me, hour by hour. He knows just where I am, and whether the cause is a broken world or myself, he is willing to meet me just where I am.

I am a pillar in the Temple of my God. I will be given a white stone. My treasure is where my heart is. I will receive a crown of life. I have the free gift of eternal life. I will enter into the joy of my Lord. I will inherit glorious riches.

All these things, and much more, will be because He is being true, to Himself and to me. Because He is grace and love and I am so needy. It is right to celebrate the Resurrection here and now, joyfully, at the bottom of my hole.

Mythicism and the Public Jesus of History

Mythicism and the Public Jesus of History

“Arguments for the nonexistence of the Jesus of history stumble over the public nature of much of the primary evidence. Jesus was observed by crowds of people, by friends and foes alike. The strongest evidence for the existence of Jesus is found in Paul’s letters to the Christians of Corinth and Galatia. In these letters, whose authenticity no one doubts, Paul describes his firsthand—and very public—encounters with two of Jesus’ original disciples, Peter and John, and with James, the brother of Jesus. Attempts to explain away this James as someone other than the brother of Jesus reveal the desperation of the mythicist approach to the evidence. It is important to remember that critics of early Christianity never doubted the existence of Jesus—they disputed His identity and significance. Modern critics should follow their lead.”

I Don’t Believe in Ford

The success of science sometimes leads people to think that because we can understand the mechanisms of the universe, then we can safely conclude that there was no God who designed and created the universe in the first place. This reasoning commits a logical error in that it confuses mechanism and agency. Consider a Ford motor car. It is conceivable that someone who was seeing one for the first time and who knew no science might imagine that there is a god (Mr. Ford) inside the engine, making it go. Of course, if he were subsequently to study engineering and take apart the engine, he would discover that there is no Mr. Ford inside it. He would also see that he did not need to introduce Mr. Ford as an explanation for its working; his grasp of the impersonal principles of internal combustion would be enough to do that. However, if he then decided that his understanding of the principles of how the engine worked made it impossible to believe in the existence of a Mr. Ford who designed the engine in the first place, this would be patently false. Had there never been a Mr. Ford to design the mechanisms, none would exist for him to understand. It is equally mistaken to suppose that our scientific understanding of the impersonal principles according to which the universe works makes it either unnecessary or impossible to believe in the existence of a personal Creator who designed, made, and upholds it.” — John Lennox (from, Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend)

This is one of several great quotes here:

12 Apologetics Quotes: Christianity, Critical Thinking, and the Life of the Mind

Imagine

“…And no religion too-hoo…”

Imagine the world that our atheist friends yearn for, the one they say is inevitably on its way because religion is going out of style like spats, and we have evolved past the need for it. Most everyone is a non-believer in religion, organized faith, the supernatural, or anything outside the materialist box.

Imagine the consensus is non-faith. Everyone agrees that there’s no God up in the sky, the universe randomly appeared out of nothing, and we human beings create our own moral consensus.

Freethinkers rejoice. We don’t talk about the fact that there’s no God anymore because it’s no longer a debate. It’s not even an issue.

Everybody thinks with crystal-clear lucidity. Insanity, gone. Reason for conflict or war, gone. Harmony and peace prevail because there’s no longer any spiritual conviction making people care about righteousness or goodness. Nobody’s invested in anything enough to have serious disagreement.

Cultural atheism is the societal religion. We have thrown off the shackles and taken off the blinders. Finally we can think freely.

Do we imagine that all non-believers are true non-believers?

Sure, there are some committed atheists who understand why they are atheists. They are devoted to the maintenance of societal consensus. Defenders of the truth. They teach. They disciple. Because it’s important.

Then, there are the unreflecting atheists who were born into their non-faith. They don’t think about it. They say the right things and they believe them because it’s what they’ve always been taught. Everybody thinks these things. They are cultural atheists who swim in the water they’re immersed in. Indeed there are many who call themselves atheist, but don’t understand their own worldview. They are nominal atheists without any real interest in the cause.

What do you think the ratio would be? And wouldn’t that be a lot like the world now, under the tyranny of superstitious religion?

And might there not be skeptics in the freethinking world? Heretics? One of the things acknowledged by that bygone antique, the Bible, is that all human beings are fundamentally self-seeking and contrary. There will be people who perversely insist that there is a God, He wrote us a book, He sent His only Son to earth as a man…even if they don’t mean it.

Here’s one illustration of the fact that non-belief can be as committed as belief:

In largely Muslim Pakistan, a taboo atheist subculture endures

The criticisms of the faithful by atheists include:

Why do millions of Christian people disagree? Why are there multiple denominations? Differences in doctrinal interpretation must mean that all doctrine is false. The conclusion is not at all logical. Because we’re not robots but freely-thinking humans, we experience our own separate journeys of learning the faith. If we were all mindless followers, wouldn’t our stories be nearly the same?

Or maybe there is that divide between believers: the vast numbers of nominal and the comparitively few committed believers. The news that anti-faith proponents can’t seem to digest: most people who might call themselves religious are nominal; the numbers of believers who have really invested, examined and intentionally adopted  are relatively few.

The Bible predicts that the world would be just so. The way is narrow, and few enter therein. Those who Christ will address with, “I never knew you” may not be speaking with authority or proper knowledge when they discuss their experience of the faith. Atheist apologists usually prefer to argue with the low-hanging fruit.

And if the current discourse of atheists on social media or mass media is any indication, that utopia where everyone goes about their lives relieved of the burden to acknowledge a god, free to finally act and think without the religious detour, finally able to arrive at some kind of real reasonable, natural stasis, will never happen. Because no atheist I have ever encountered seems able to dismiss God from his thoughts for a single second. The typical atheist is more invested in his awareness of the existence of God than most Christian believers I know.

When the atheist paradise arrives, the world may be filled with heretics and nominal atheists. And the few true believers will have the onerous task to keep orthodoxy alive.

For the record I hate that vapid song Imagine.