A Blog By Mia Langford
The world is full of incredible stories. Stories that defy imagination. Stories of beauty. Stories of tragedy. Stories of love. Our created universe is one big story, with many sub-plots. Each one of us is a character in this story, with our own part to play. Humanity has a collective purpose, and the church has a collective purpose as His people, but each of us must discover our own individual purpose as well.
Jesus knew his purpose. Born to be the Savior of this created world, He knew the task would require much of him, body, mind, heart and spirit. We each have our own purpose, our own cross we must be ready for.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
As always, Jesus didn’t leave us without a beautiful example. Let’s look at some ways he prepared himself to fulfill his Father’s will before taking up his cross.
Readiness of Body
I’m utterly fascinated with the Shroud of Turin, a cloth bearing the image of a crucified man many believe to be Jesus. The Shroud is unnecessary to making a robust case for the resurrection of Jesus, but the evidence for the Shroud’s authenticity is intriguing. A University of Padua professor has even used the Shroud of Turin to create a 3D carbon copy of the man in the Shroud, allegedly revealing Christ’s true features. Other researchers have joined the professor in his conclusion: The Shroud reveals a muscular, trim man in good overall physical shape, although badly tortured before and during his death.
But even without the Shroud, one need only read the description of what Jesus went through during his crucifixion to deduce that he must have been in good physical shape. He couldn’t have endured as he did otherwise. In order to even make it to the cross, Jesus had to survive the scourging that took place beforehand. Battered and bruised, dehydrated, and exhausted, Jesus endured joint-rending cramps, inability to breathe, and hours of searing, limitless pain.
Christians should steward our bodies well. History is replete with stories of people who were called upon to save or defend others. There were also people blessed with beauty who used it for God’s glory, and people who glorified God with the marvel of their body’s talents and abilities. These Christians’ faithful care of their health and physical gifts allowed them to do the most good for the longest amount of time possible.
Readiness of Mind
Again, we don’t need the Shroud of Turin to have all the evidence we need for reasonable belief in the Christian God or the reliability of scripture. God has gifted us with enormous amounts of objective evidence to support reasonable belief in His reality and the truth of His word, and this must under-gird our personal testimony, even though our journey may start with our own personal experiences with God.
We must know this evidence if we’re to go fulfill the Great Commission, Jesus’ command (Matthew 28:18-20) to make disciples of all nations. The world is filled with people craving solid reasons for the Christian faith. In fact, we are commanded to always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope” that is in us (I Peter 3:15).
Knowing then why we can trust the Bible, we must study to know what’s in it. Jesus defeated the devil during His temptation by knowing scripture. Knowing why you can trust your Bible, and installing it in your mind through study and memorization will anchor you in enduring faith.
There is so much more to read and learn, finish this blog at www.growingdeeperroots.org
A Blog By Josh Trombley
There has been a lot of doubt and skepticism from “high profile” Christians. Many have felt that there hasn’t been a place for this line of thinking in the Christian movement. While there are circles where this is not encouraged, there are also a ton of circles that are exploring.
I have seen a few rebuttals by bloggers and musicians that have some excellent points. Some have pointed out the holes in the arguments; others are urging us to follow God and not celebrity.
As much as these points are valid what needs not to get lost in the conversation and what I want to say to those who identify with the struggle of faith that has invaded so many Christian leaders is, It is ok to struggle with God and your faith. I believe it is un-Christian to not.
To not struggle in some capacity or another is to say that you have a full understanding of not just what the Scriptures say, but of God. If you believe in the God of the Scriptures, then both of those premises are absurd! Us understanding God is like a chair trying to understand it’s maker. The maker of the chair is so far beyond what the chair could ever comprehend.
Luckily we have Scripture and can experience God in beautiful and rich ways. To say that Scripture should be the thing that pulls us through and anchors us into the world of certainty is to claim that we have a perfect understanding of what the Scriptures say, which we don’t. Not even close. We rely on wisdom, experience, and tradition, and we do the best we can.
Often not recognizing this, we fix our faith to unhealthy paradigms.
When doubts and questions appear to unfurl our sails of faith, we become crippled. Instead of pushing forward to discovering brave oceans of new realities in God, we can either give up and lose hope or bunker down in safe coves.
I see neither of the later as viable options.
I believe it is good to doubt and question. When I look at the Scriptures, I can’t help but see a God who wants us to wrestle with the big issues, always realizing that there is more to learn.
There is a story at the beginning of Scripture that articulates this. There is a story about a man named Jacob. Jacob, like us all, has some serious baggage, much of which is self-inflicted.
As Jacob begins to travel to create a new life for himself and his family, he begins to wrestle with his ideas of what his life is and who God is. The book of Genesis records the Jacob has an encounter with an angel where they wrestled, and Jacob left with a limp and a new name. In the words of Switchfoot, however, “[he] wrestled an angel for more than a name.”
The Scriptures record,
“Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
While the name change is important, we must not lose sight of how the ancient rabbis interpreted this verse. They believed that this set the premise for our approach to the Scriptures and a relationship with God. (more in this in Chapter 2 of my book Hidden faces).
There should never be a point when we stop wrestling with God, Scripture, or hard questions. It doesn’t mean a patchwork of ideas that we throw together as though we’re filling a pothole, but there are times when we need a fresh coat of pavement.
It is not that Scripture, tradition and experience don’t matter. That somehow our wrestling with the big and small questions undermine everything. It just means that sometimes we need a tweak and other times we need a new street.
For me, because I have experienced God, it demands me to push to understand this life deeper. There have been times when my tradition has let me down, majorly. There have been times when no matter how much I trusted and looked at Scripture, it left me frustrated, confused, disillusioned. I had an experience that I could not deny. I knew and still know that there has to be something beyond myself and that faith isn’t built upon the straw of others nor upon the weak foundation of my limited understanding of an ancient text.
My faith is built upon the fact that I have had experiences with something beyond myself. It now demands of me to wrestle.
Saying this, if my faith stopped at the experience and didn’t have the structure of tradition (tried and true practices, rituals, and paradigms) and the Scriptures (God’s word that tells of the Word, Jesus) then my faith becomes a kite flying in the wind with no string.
Finish reading at www.joshtrombley.com & also check out more excellent blogs from Josh.
By Joe Bragg
Yesterday (8/13/19) a buddy of mine sent me an article written by George Brahm from Cogent Christianity and I am not going to lie I was super curious. Those who know me well, know that I am not a big Skillet fan. I can appreciate them and I certainly acknowledge all they have done in the Christian rock scene, but I personally don't dig their music much. Skillet was actually my first Christian concert after coming to Christ and I left disappointed. They put on an amazing show as far as rock concerts go but I felt that it lacked Jesus. To be fair, my expectations were high, I had never been to a Christian concert and I expected it to be Spirit filled, the gospel clearly presented and that it would be so evident that these bands were different than what I had come to know in the world. Sadly, that wasn't the case. I looked around and felt that Skillet and TFK had in some way dropped the ball (side note, Decypher Down was the opening act and they were the only band to say the name of Jesus, they made a fan of me that night). I share all of this to say, when I saw an article from John Cooper speaking about the apostasy of young Christian leaders, I knew I had to read it.
As I read what John had to say, I was honestly blown away.
John was transparent and real in his response to the recent falling away of Hillsong's worship leader Marty Sampson and Josh Harris author of "I Kissed Dating Goodbye". John didn't pull any punches and he said what needed to be said. I know it is a Facebook post and we can read whatever tone we want to read into it, however, it is as if you could feel John's sadness and frustration. The post is filled with edifying admonishments to the church and other believers and it is refreshing to hear someone with John's influence draw people back to the Word of God and to take Christ seriously. I felt that George of Cogent Christianity summed it up well at they end of their article when he said... "I am glad to see one of these ‘influencers’ come out in defense of the authority of Scripture and the importance of a robust faith that can outlast even the harshest of challenges."
Below you will find John's Facebook post. It's a little long but it is very much worth the read. I am curious to hear your thoughts so be sure to leave a comment! As always thank you for stopping by and taking the time! God bless!
“Ok I’m saying it. Because it’s too important not to. What is happening in Christianity? More and more of our outspoken leaders or influencers who were once “faces” of the faith are falling away. And at the same time they are being very vocal and bold about it. Shockingly they still want to influence others (for what purpose?)as they announce that they are leaving the faith. I’ll state my conclusion, then I’ll state some rebuttals to statements I’ve read by some of them. Firstly, I never judge people outside of my faith. Even if they hate religion or Christianity. That is not my place and I have many friends who disagree with my religion and that is 100% fine with me. However, when it comes to people within my faith, there must be a measure of loyalty and friendship and accountability to each other and the Word of God.
“My conclusion for the church (all of us Christians): We must STOP making worship leaders and thought leaders or influencers or cool people or “relevant” people the most influential people in Christendom. (And yes that includes people like me!) I’ve been saying for 20 years(and seemed probably quite judgmental to some of my peers) that we are in a dangerous place when the church is looking to 20 year old worship singers as our source of truth. We now have a church culture that learns who God is from singing modern praise songs rather than from the teachings of the Word. I’m not being rude to my worship leader friends (many who would agree with me) in saying that singers and musicians are good at communicating emotion and feeling. We create a moment and a vehicle for God to speak. However, singers are not always the best people to write solid bible truth and doctrine. Sometimes we are too young, too ignorant of scripture, too unaware, or too unconcerned about the purity of scripture and the holiness of the God we are singing to. Have you ever considered the disrespect of singing songs to God that are untrue of His character?
“I have a few specific thoughts and rebuttals to statements made by recently disavowed church influencers…first of all, I am stunned that the seemingly most important thing for these leaders who have lost their faith is to make such a bold new stance. Basically saying, “I’ve been living and preaching boldly something for 20 years and led generations of people with my teachings and now I no longer believe it..therefore I’m going to boldly and loudly tell people it was all wrong while I boldly and loudly lead people in to my next truth.” I’m perplexed why they aren’t embarrassed? Humbled? Ashamed, fearful, confused? Why be so eager to continue leading people when you clearly don’t know where you are headed?
“My second thought is, why do people act like “being real” covers a multitude of sins? As if someone is courageous simply for sharing virally every thought or dark place. That’s not courageous. It’s cavalier. Have they considered the ramifications? As if they are the harbingers of truth, saying “I used to think one way and practice it and preach it, but now I’ve learned all the new truth and will start practicing and preaching it.” So the influencers become the voice for truth in whatever stage of life and whatever evolution takes place in their thinking.
“Thirdly, there is a common thread running through these leaders/influencers that basically says that “no one else is talking about the REAL stuff.” This is just flatly false. I just read today in a renown worship leader’s statement, “How could a God of love send people to hell? No one talks about it.” As if he is the first person to ask this? Brother, you are not that unique. The church has wrestled with this for 1500 years. Literally. Everybody talks about it. Children talk about it in Sunday school. There’s like a billion books written on the topic. Just because you don’t get the answer you want doesn’t mean that we are unwilling to wrestle with it. We wrestle with scripture until we are transformed by the renewing of our minds.
“And lastly, and most shocking imo, as these influencers disavow their faith, they always end their statements with their “new insight/new truth” that is basically a regurgitation of Jesus’s words?! It’s truly bizarre and ironic. They’ll say “I’m disavowing my faith but remember, love people, be generous, forgive others”. Ummm, why? That is actually not human nature. No child is ever born and says “I just want to love others before loving myself. I want to turn the other cheek. I want to give my money away to others in need”. Those are bible principles taught by a prophet/Priest/king of kings who wants us to live by a higher standard which is not an earthly standard, but rather the ‘Kingdom of God’ standard. Therefore if Jesus is not the truth and if the Word of God is not absolute, then by preaching Jesus’s teachings you are endorsing the words of a madman. A lunatic who said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” He also said that he was alive before Abraham, and to see him was to see God because he was one with God. So why then would a disavowed christian leader promote that “generosity is good”? How would you know “what is good” without Jesus’s teachings? And will your ideas of what is “good” be different from year to year based on your experience, culture trends, poplular opinion etc and furthermore will you continue year by year to lead others into your idea of goodness even though it is not absolute? I’m amazed that so many Christians want the benefits of the kingdom of God, but with the caveat that they themselves will be the King.
“It is time for the church to rediscover the preeminence of the Word. And to value the teaching of the Word. We need to value truth over feeling. Truth over emotion. And what we are seeing now is the result of the church raising up influencers who did not supremely value truth who have led a generation who also do not believe in the supremacy of truth. And now those disavowed leaders are proudly still leading and influencing boldly AWAY from the truth.
“Is it any wonder that some of our disavowed Christian leaders are letting go of the absolute truth of the Bible and subsequently their lives are falling apart? Further and further they are sinking in the sea all the while shouting “now I’ve found the truth! Follow me!!” Brothers and sisters in the faith all around the world, pastors, teachers, worship leaders, influencers…I implore you, please please in your search for relevancy for the gospel, let us NOT find creative ways to shape Gods word into the image of our culture by stifling inconvenient truths. But rather let us hold on even tighter to the anchor of the living Word of God. For He changes NOT. “The grass withers and the flowers fade away, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8)”
Here is the link to the original post bit.ly/2KPuq5o
Thoughts? Start a conversation and leave us a comment. Thanks again for taking the time! God bless!
Before coming to Christ I was a big Deftones & Meshuggah fan. After giving my life to Jesus I got rid of all of my "secular" CDs, that was a super hard day for me. I remember praying rather boldly & not necessarily in a way that I would recommend but I remember saying "Lord, You better replace this." See I longed to be obedient to Jesus but I really loved music & I was so worried that I wouldn't find bands that were comparable and that I would live a sub par if not music-less existence (I knew nothing of Christian music at the time & all I had heard I thought was super cheesy). I was legitimately torn & young in my walk.
God did not have to honor my prayer but He did.
I began to scour the scene for solid rock and metal bands. I came across Red, Oh Sleeper, Memphis May Fire, For Today, Fit For A King, and a band I came to enjoy exponentially A Plea for Purging. I was super sad when A Plea for Purging called it quits as their last album is by far my favorite. You may be wondering why I am sharing all of this in an album review for the new Bloodlines album, and your wonder is valid but trust me I have a point ;)
For me "Hostile | Minds" picked up where The Life & Death of A Plea for Purging album ended. A Plea for Purging's album dropped in 2012 and I hadn't heard an album like it until July 30th 2019 when "Hostile | Minds" Dropped.
Bloodlines has managed to create something really special here. Their album isn't just heavy in sound and style, it is super heavy in it's content which is super refreshing! Bloodlines is unapologetically Christ-centered in their music. A stand out track to me is "Babylon" where lead singer Alexis Rodriguez is boldly proclaiming that he understands that he will be persecuted for his faith in Jesus but that will not cause him to loose his faith in God and that as God's people we are not to be silent.
I love the over arching theme throughout this album that life is hard and we are at war but our God is good and worthy to be praised. The first song "Esh" comes flying out the gate and sets the whole tone of the album and with it comes an admonishment and exhortation to burn bright for Jesus so that the world can see (Matthew 5:14-16). I was absolutely thrilled when I heard the song "Wrath". I loved that they had a song warning people of the judgement to come, this is not only bold but it is so often over looked these days when sharing the good news of Jesus. "Wrath" carries with it a sense of urgency and the stylistic choices they used in the song are nothing short of brilliant as it creates the same sense of urgency and dissonance as the message they are sharing. You can feel their heart for the lost through the music as they want people to realize that apart from Jesus they are slaves to sin.
The other dynamic I really enjoy about this album is how transparent it is lyrically. You can sense the struggle Alexis is facing as he seeks to grow in his walk with Jesus. The material is extremely relateable. "End of Days", Disconnect", "Had Enough" & "Spiritual Warfare" really capture a genuine battle between the flesh and the Spirit as portrayed in Galatians chapter 5 as well as Romans 7. For me, this makes the album very real and when they are sharing the realities we are up against in say a song like "Wrath", a non-believer may be more apt to listen to the message of that song based on the testimony shared through out the album.
From an overall production stand point, this album is very very well done. It is incredibly well written and laid out, everything is clearly done with intent and purpose. "Hostile | Minds" is very dynamic, it has a fantastic flow and it is recorded superbly.
I don't normally do a rating system but if I did I would give this album a 5 out of 5 and I am inches away from calling it an instant classic. If you are a fan of Christ-centered metal you would be doing yourself a real disservice if you passed this album up. These guys are the real deal both in their boldness to proclaim the truth of Jesus and in their music.
We would love to hear your thoughts on the album, leave a comment below. We are also big proponents of asking people to support the bands they enjoy by purchasing their albums as this helps them continue to make the music you enjoy listening to! Links to stream and/or purchase are at the top and bottom of this post .
John Warwick Montgomery tells the story of a man who was convinced that he was dead.
His wife took him to the local psychiatrist, who decided to change the man’s mind by convincing him of one fact: Dead men don’t bleed.
After a week of reading medical texts and viewing autopsies, the man was overwhelmed by the evidence and confessed, “Fine! I’m convinced that dead men don’t bleed!”
The psychiatrist promptly jabbed a needle into the man’s arm. Blood spurted out.
“Great Scott!” the man exclaimed, “Dead men do bleed after all!”
Christians often find themselves in a similar conundrum when sharing the gospel with non-Christians. What they frequently discover is that their counterparts remain unconvinced even when presented with logically watertight arguments for the truth of Christianity. This occurs because their presentation is devoid of persuasion. While the evidence matters immensely, a persuasive method of presentation is also necessary; for our audience must be persuaded of the need to give it a fair hearing and be open to changing their minds.
In his Pensées, Blaise Pascal presents one such method. He writes,
“Men despise religion…The cure for this is first to show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect. Next, make it attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is.”
I consider the three-step method delineated in this pensée to be a valuable method for evangelistic apologetics since it highlights the need to persuade both the head and the heart during our presentation. Let us examine each of these steps in the context of presenting the Christian message.
THE RATIONAL STEP
Most atheists dismiss religious faith as irrational, or in Dawkinsian terms, a delusion latched onto despite the complete absence of evidence. These preconceptions are the largest stumbling blocks preventing people from considering Christianity.
The rational step is aimed at removing these stumbling blocks to belief. This is the function of a large part of Christian apologetics today, including things like arguments for the existence of God and responses to the problem of evil; while they often don’t convince people to turn to Christianity, they do help them overcome the obstacles erected in their path, demonstrating that the Biblical God is not a “capriciously malevolent bully” and that Christianity itself is “not contrary to reason”.
Unfortunately, many fail to realize that presenting these rational arguments is but the preliminary step in evangelistic apologetics and fail to move beyond this step. Observing that most remain unconvinced of Christianity after hearing them, they wrongly assume that these arguments have no utility.
Conversely, Pascal urges us to continue on from the rational step to the emotional step; to move from the issues of the intellect to those of the heart.
THE EMOTIONAL STEP
Pascal once noted that people are more likely to be convinced by reasons they’ve discovered themselves than by those presented to them. An aim of the emotional step, then, is to help your counterpart generate reasons for belief on their own instead of presenting them with ready-made ones. Another aim of the emotional step is to personalize our presentation. The rational step presents impersonal arguments that respond to objections, while the emotional step takes a more personal approach, attempting to answer the person (Col 4:6), and not just his objections. But how might one go about this?
Perhaps you’re engaging with a naturalist friend who is also a humanist, or someone who holds that there is no reality beyond nature and its laws, but also holds that humans have intrinsic value/dignity and human flourishing ought to be pursued. You can begin by demonstrating how such humanism is naturalistically unsustainable. According to naturalist Richard Dawkins, “There is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pointless indifference…. We are machines for propagating DNA.” The logical consequences of naturalism include a world without objective morality, for without a transcendent source, moral facts become the subjective preferences of the majority; a world without objective meaning or purpose, since there’s no explanation for why my life’s purpose is better than Hitler’s; and a world without love, for what is love but a reaction produced by a certain set of hormones when you see that mewling bag of chemicals you call your ‘baby’?
Now, you ask your friend whether he wants to live under a nihilistic naturalistic framework or wants to continue in his humanism, for clearly, he cannot have both. In most cases, he will choose humanism, given our shared desire for a world with morality, meaning, purpose, and love. It is now your opportunity to present a plausible alternate hypothesis – the Christian faith, where morality is ensured by Him who is the Good, meaning and purpose are ensured by the One who created us in His image, and love is ensured by Him who is Love and was willing to demonstrate it in the ultimate form. You can now present the Gospel message in all its beauty, culminating in the sacrifice on the cross as a solution to the human condition.
What have you done so far? You have removed the false obstacles that made him dismiss Christianity at the outset. You’ve then personalized the approach by deconstructing his worldview and presenting him with an alternate hypothesis that has far more appealing consequences to him. You have brought out what is attractive about Christianity, making him “wish it were true.”
But it is imperative to note that the truth of a set of propositions is independent of their emotional appeal or ethical consequences. Why couldn’t nihilism be the ugly truth and the real world be one without morality, meaning, purpose, and love?
It is time to proceed to our final step, showing that while Christianity is rational and attractive enough to make us wish it were true, it is actually true for a completely different reason.
Finish reading over at growingdeeperroots.org