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When I was in college and was taking my first semester of Chemistry, my professor announced that there was an open invitation to hear a Chemistry professor speak on science and Christianity. Attendance was completely voluntary and it did not happen during regular class time. The professor giving the lecture was probably the most famous and most decorated professor on campus. His name was Dr. Henry Schaefer. He came to the University of Georgia after getting his undergraduate degree at MIT, a Ph.D. at Stanford, and teaching for 18 years at University of California at Berkeley and at the University of Texas. At this point in time he has been nominated for the Nobel prize five times and has authored over 1,400 articles.

He became a Christian while he was at Berkeley and began giving lectures on science and Christianity. He had given lectures on the topic at a number of schools but when he attempted to speak on the topic at UGA, it became national news and some of his peers even tried to get him fired. I remember reading about this in the student newspaper. The university president stood by Dr. Schaefer and his right to deliver these lectures on his own time and he has now lectured on the topic at over 350 universities around the world.

Eventually the lectures were expanded into essays and the collection of essays has become a book. The book is called Science and Christianity: Conflict or Coherence, published (shockingly) by the University of Georgia. I think my copy was purchased from the Discovery Institute but I think you can also get in on Amazon.

Going back to the open invitation to hear Dr. Schaefer speak when I was taking my first chemistry class for science majors, I didn’t actually go hear the lecture. Looking back, I now wish that I had gone. But, in reality, as an 18 year old college student it was probably more than I was ready to digest at that point in my life. Thankfully, I now have the lectures in book form. I actually just finished reading this book and I highly recommend it. If you have any interest in the relationship between science and the Christian faith you should definitely pick up a copy. Don’t believe the narrative that to be a scientist you must deny faith. Dr. Schaefer blows this argument right out of the water with quotes from leading scientists that he knows personally.

Do you have someone in your family who isn’t friendly towards the faith but has bought into scientism or values intellectual conversation? If so, you may want to give them a copy of this book. Dr. Schaefer’s academic pedigree and credentials are second to none. The authority with which Dr. Schaefer speaks requires anyone with an open mind to listen to what he has to say, even if they disagree with him when all is said and done.

So, go get yourself a copy of this book. Better yet, do a search on Youtube for Henry (or Fritz) Schaefer and some of his lectures will come up. Listen and enjoy what he has to serve up to you. It will engage your mind and it will point you to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria

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I am not a prolific reader. In fact, I really didn’t read much growing up. I avoided reading books I was assigned in school other than the rare exception. I usually just got by on class discussions about the books. That usually gave me enough information to get by without actually reading the books.

As Christians we are called to read. It is part of our spiritual growth and discipleship. This is one reason that most old institutions of higher learning started out as Christian schools. But, I am a slow reader and not a very good one so it takes me forever to get through a book. Consequently I have not read a great number of books.

Through my studies, I have learned that there a particular books that have been especially influential in the lives of many Christians over the years. Many of them I have not read but some I have. I have heard of many missionaries talk about how they treasured The Life and Diary of David Brainerd or Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. I have heard others mention books such as Mere Christianity or Pilgrim’s Progress as being foundational in their spiritual growth.

Since I’m not much of a reader, I don’t have a list of books that have so greatly influenced me. But, if I had to list some books that I loved and I would like to read again due to their impact on me as a Christian, here are a few.

1. Tortured for Christ, by Richard Wurmbrand

3. Let the Nations Be Glad, by John Piper

2. Missionary Patriarch: True Story of John Paton

4. Come and Welcome to Jesus Christ, by John Bunyan

I have heard of several great Christians throughout history speak in the same way of Luther’s commentary on Galatians. I am working my way through it right now and I must say it is every bit as good as advertised.

So, what about you? What books have influenced you? What are some of your favorites? I would love to hear your list.

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There has been much made lately on youth leaving the church. I subscribe to a lot of podcasts where this has been a topic of conversation. This is not a conversation among just Calvinists or just Arminians but is a conversation that is taking place among Evangelicals of all stripes. There is apparently some kind of data, collected by someone like Barna, that supports this position. What the experts are saying is that American Evanglicals who are active in church as a youth have a tendency to leave the church once they graduate from high school, leave home, and go to college.

I am someone who was part of church youth in high school and left home to go to college and remained in the church. I experienced college as someone who was part of a local church and am still part of a local body of believers today. I now have children who are youth-aged. In fact, I am a parent of multiple teenagers. (Feel free to pray for me. I need it.) I sit watching the youth of our day praying that I don’t screw up as a parent and that my kids will have faith in Christ that will be their own and that their faith will continue to grow into adulthood and that they would be committed lifelong disciples of Christ.

What I see from so many youth today is that they are not part of the church as young people. Their parents take them to church and drop them off with the youth group. They hang out with a bunch of youth at church. They have Sunday School with their peers — which is positive since they are all experiencing the challenges of transitioning from childhood to adulthood. While at the youth group, they usually sit around on comfortable sofas because we all know that NOBODY would come if they had to sit in uncomfortable straight back chairs (gasp)! They listen to relevant music and not that boring stuff their parents listen to. And often times, they sit around and complain about how they are not respected because of their youth all the while remaining in their youth cocoon. After Sunday School, or Bible Study, they head off to the worship center for Sunday morning worship. And guess who they sit with during worship? That’s right: they sit with youth. After worship, they find their parents and ask to go eat lunch with the their friends in the youth.

On Sunday night often times the youth have their own get together for more fellowship and study — separate from adults. On Wednesday nights they are with the youth again. They may even have some other get-together on Friday or Saturday because there isn’t enough youth fellowship time already. Yes, I am being a bit sarcastic here.

So, I’ve mentioned four meetings at church: Sunday School, worship, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening. How many of those times do the youth at your church integrate with the church body and how many times are they with just the youth? Your answer is probably that the youth are with just youth about 75% or 100% of the time, if your church is like most American churches. If this is the case, how can we say that’s youth are leaving the church? I don’t think we can say that. I submit to you that youth are not leaving the church. I say that they were never part of the church–at least not while they were in the youth group. What they were part of during their youth years was a para-church group called “the youth ministry” but were not really part of the local church. If your church is like this, here are some critical things that your young person is missing out on.

1. First and foremost, they are missing out on worshiping with their family — particularly their mom and dad. They need to see that mom and dad are serious about worship and that they are there to worship God; not just to take their kid to the youth group. They need to see that mom and dad take the sermon seriously by taking notes and not texting and checking Facebook during the preaching.

2. They miss out on the inter-generational nature of the body of Christ. By being with youth all the time they are hanging out with those who are facing similar problems. That is true. But why not hang out (sometimes) with people who have already experienced those problems and have come through them? Why not learn lessons from people who can encourage youth as examples of those who have been through those tumultuous years?

3. They miss out on opportunities to serve and to be the body of Christ. To be part of the church they should be plugged in. They have no right to complain about being disrespected by adults due to their age if they aren’t trying to plug in and serve. Let us not encourage our youth to be spiritual navel gazers but people who are committed to building up the body of Christ by serving!

So, why shouldn’t youth drop out of church when they go to college. They don’t know what it is like to be part of the church and how beautiful the bride of Christ really is. Don’t misunderstand me. Teenagers need teenage friends. They need to know how to build friendships and develop relationships and hold each other accountable in the Lord. However, I don’t think that their relationships should be limited to those with peers. I am praying for a change in the church youth culture and that this change would take place before all of the youth that were never in the church leave the church.

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If you are in the Orange County, California, area and have any youth aged people in your life this is something you don’t want to miss out on.  It is called Rethink Apologetics and it is on September 26-27 at Crossline Community Church.  Follow this link to get more information or to register.  RETHINK APOLOGETICS

It looks like a great conference that you don’t want to miss.  We need to teach the young people in our churches to defend their faith and to decide what they believe and why.  It looks like this will be a great way to help equip them.

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There is an interesting blog post about some early church fathers.  These church fathers were ones that lived following the apostles and were part of the early church councils.  Sadly, today Christians know very little about the early history of the church.  It is also sad that as a whole people don’t read much about church history.  Read this post to get a sketch of some early church fathers such as Athanasius, Augustine, Jerome, etc.

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Have you ever wondered if God has Liberterian Free will or not? Some recent things I’ve been reading have made me think about this. Greg Koukl says that God has Liberterian Free will within limits of what would not go against God’s nature. If this is the case, would you not say that God’s Free Will is compatibilistic rather than Liberterian or is it both? What are your thoughts? Watch the video and let me know.

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A friend of mine recently moved to a new city.  This, of course, meant that he needed to look for a new church home.  If you are relocating to a new city and need to find a new church home what are things you should look for?  There are so many things that one should look for but if we want to narrow it down to the most important things to look for in a church, what would those things be?

The first and most important characteristic that should exist is a commitment to expository preaching by the senior pastor.  By expository preaching I mean a particular thing that others might not mean when they use the same term.  I am referring to the pastor preaching through entire books of the Bible in chronological order.  Not the the books of the Bible are taught in chronological order but the chapters within the book are taught in chronological order and no section is skipped.  By doing this, the pastor can ensure that he is preaching the whole counsel of God and he is not just parking on texts that he likes.  The pastor’s message should come directly from the text and he should teach the context, the verses, and the particular words within the verses.

The reason this is number one for me is that the teaching is directed by God’s Word.  If the church and I disagree about some particular issues, it will be covered by God’s Word eventually.  I will be changed or the church will be changed.  If we all place ourselves under the authority of the Scriptures, we will all be in one accord eventually.

Second, and not far behind it, is a biblical understanding of the gospel.  This drives how the church will do evangelism and missions.  It will affect how alter calls are conducted.  It will affect how children are led to Christ.  Part of this will expose the church’s understanding of the doctrines of grace.  The doctrines of grace are important but not everything.  Although it is not the be all and end all of the church, the doctrines of grace affect how a lot of things are done.  A biblical understanding of the gospel also includes important theological truths such as penal substitutionary atonement.  This is also very important.  A theology of missions comes from their understanding of the gospel as well.

The third thing that comes to mind for me is a commitment to believer’s baptism.  This is the first step of obedience in the Christian’s new life.  It is important that only believers are baptized and only those with a credible profession of faith.

These are my top 3 requirements for a new church.  There are many other secondary issues but I think these are my non-nogotiables.  What about you?  What do you consider important when looking for a new church?

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I’ve heard on several occasions speakers at missions events try to throw a guilt trip on people.  Here is how it typically goes.  God’s plan to save the nations from hell is through the spread of the gospel.  We have failed in accomplishing this task so people are dying and going to hell every day.  Businessmen at companies like Coca-Cola and Apple have been able to develop plans for getting their product to the ends of the earth.  Shame on us!  If businessmen can get their product sold all over the world, why is it that we can’t get the gospel to all peoples of the world.  Businessmen are motivated by money.  We should be motivated by our love for our fellow man and our love for God. Why can we not get the gospel to the ends of the earth?  Do we not love God as much as businessmen love money?  Shame on us!!!

This line of argument makes my stomach churn.  It is definitely true that we need much more passion and abandonment in our efforts to spread the gospel.  We could probably do much more if we took the money we spent on football or basketball tickets and gave it to missions.  That is true.  However, the example I gave (and it is a real life example) implies that the gospel is something that is for sell.  It is not something that is for sale.  It is not something that we can get people to buy.  If people do not experience the effectual call of God then they will not respond to the gospel presentation.  Our job is to present the gospel.  Our job is not to present the gospel in a way that will appeal to them or get them to accept Christ.  Our job is to share the good news with them.  The rest is up to God.  We cannot convince people to follow Christ through better marketing or better strategy.  It is wrong to compare the gospel to something that is for sale.  

Let us not try to motive Christians to care about missions through guilt.  Let us motivate Christians to have a passion for the glory of God.  An outflow of Christians’ passion for God’s glory will be to see people from all nations worship God in Spirit and in Truth.  We are not selling something.  We have a story to tell.  It is a story that is costly.  It may even cost them their life if they choose to follow Christ.  

Jesus is not a brand to be sold.  He is Lord.  He offers forgiveness of sins but to follow him is costly.  People must weigh the cost of following Him whether it is losing jobs, families, or even personal freedoms.  It is not a matter of dropping a few bucks for some soft drinks or even a few hundred dollars on an iPod.  There is a much higher cost which we must we willing to pay as disciples of Christ.

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Have you wondered what countries to pray for when you pray for persecuted Christians around the world. Look no further. Open Doors has ranked the countries where persecution is worst. Pray for believers in these locations.

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The Screwtape Letters is one of many books authored by the late C. S. Lewis.  Lewis taught literature and Cambridge and Oxford universities and wrote over thirty books during his lifetime.  Some of his better known works include The Chronicles of Narnia and Mere ChristianityThe Screwtape Letters is considered to be a classic.

The Screwtape Letters is a collection of letters from a fiend named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood.  The book is simply a collection of these thirty-one letters from Screwtape to his nephew.  Wormwood’s job, as a fiend, is to be the devil’s representative in a particular human being’s life in order to cause him to live a defeated lifestyle which will lead him to hell.  Through the letters written to Wormwood, the reader is able to chronicle the events in the human’s life and the ways in which Wormwood attacks.

Screwtape first tells Wormwood to not teach his person to think, but this fails and the human eventually becomes a Christian.  At this point, Screwtape tells Wormwood to cause his person to stumble by having him focus on Christian hypocrites.  Wormwood attacks this man in other ways as well: by damaging his relationship with his mother, by trying to impede his prayer life, by sexual desire, etc.  However, in the end Wormwood fails, for the man to whom he was assigned dies and goes to be with their enemy, God.

This book brought to light many encumbrances which people face in their Christian life.  One fact that some believers seem unaware of is that we are in a spiritual battle.  Christians who do not know this are not prepared to face the adversary and consequently live a defeated life.  Christians who are aware of this fact often times forget about the battle and are not prepared.  They end up falling flat on their face as a result.  This is the message that I get from Lewis in reading The Screwtape Letters.  Although we need to be reminded of this battle, the focus on the battle is an inherent weakness of this book.  This book causes the reader, presumably Christian, to focus on the spiritual battle and on our adversary, the devil.  This is probably what has made this book a classic.  Contemporary culture is enamored with evil and invites it into their home on a regular basis.

I would contend that the focus should be on Christ.  As Paul says in his letter to the saints in Ephesus, we are in Christ and we must live our lives in a way such that the fact that we have God’s authority and power is clearly evidenced.  The ultimate victory has already been won and we should “put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:10 NASB)  As Jehoshaphat said in 2 Chronicles 20:12,

“O our God, will You not judge them?  For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.”

When Jehoshaphat was powerless against his enemies he focused on God, the only one who could save him.  Likewise, we should focus on our Lord and not Satan as we fight this battle.  It is only through Him that we “take up the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:13) and can be victorious in this battle.

Although Lewis takes what I believe is a wrong approach to describing this issue of spiritual warfare, he brings out some key points in his book which I believe are worth repeating.  First, shortly after Wormwood’s assigned human becomes a Christian, Screwtape writes the following to him,

“As long as he retains externally the habits of a Christian he can still be made to think of himself as one who has adopted a few new friends and amusements but whose spiritual state is much the same as it was six weeks ago.  And while he thinks that, we do not have to contend with the explicit repentance of a definite, fully recognised, sin, but only with vague, though uneasy, feeling that hasn’t been doing very well lately (52).”

The point is not that Satan is afraid of Christians who repent of specific sins and live victorious Christian lives, as the context of the letter seems to indicate.  The point is that, if we have genuine salvation, there will be a spiritual change in our lives and the change will not be simply external but a change from the inside out.  Involved in this change is repentance of specific sins.  Lewis is right to point out that we will live defeated lives if we do not live in such a way that we confess each of our sins specifically.  We must not live defeated mediocre lives.

Lewis makes another point which also bears repeating.  Screwtape writes the following to Wormwood regarding what one would call “small sins:”

“But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy.  It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing…Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without miles-stones, without signposts (54).”

The enemy Screwtape speaks of is God.  The strategy is for the fiends to use small sins to gradually drive the man away from God.  This is a good reminder for Christians.  Just because we are not committing the so-called big sins, by committing small sins, we gradually drift away from God.  This is one way that Christians are attacked by our enemy and he knows just how and where to attack.  This is why Paul exhorts all of us through his letter to the Ephesian church “to take up the full armor of God.” (Ephesians 6:13)

Screwtape also writes to Wormwood regarding the redefining of Jesus.  He writes, “this idea must be used by us to encourage once again the conception of a “historical Jesus” to be found by clearing away later “accretions and perversions” and then to be contrasted with the whole Christian tradition (85).”  Lewis shows how our adversary can use the quest for the “historical Jesus” against the cause of Christ.  Screwtape writes that this quest will “tend to direct men’s devotion to something which does not exist, for each “historical Jesus” is unhistorical (86).”  By focusing on this, we also “distract men’s minds from Who He is, and what He did (86).”  The letter is fictional but it is good description of how Satan can use the teachings of people like John Dominic Crossan and Robert Funk of the Jesus Seminar to further the cause of evil in the world and to cloud the truth about Christ and who he was.  ABC and the late Peter Jennings produced a show a few years back on Jesus but the Jesus they presented on the show was not Jesus Christ at all.  They redefined Jesus, what he did, and what he said.  We, as Christians, must combat this kind of evil.

There are many other strategies of Satan which Lewis points out in The Screwtape Letters but space does not allow the discussion of all of them.  This book has helped me to become more aware of the ways in which Satan attacks me.  However, I must not let my focus be on the attacks.  My focus must be on my relationship with Jesus Christ.  I must major in discipleship and ways in which I can put on the full armor of God.  Only by doing this can I overcome the enemy and claim that victory which is already mine through Christ Jesus.

If you have never read The Screwtape Letters I recommend you pick up a copy and read it.  If you are a Christian who likes movies about magic, or likes books about witches and wizards, or are fascinated with exorcisms, etc., then you’ve got issues.  But you probably really like this book.

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