RESPONDblog: the Warning of Atheism

risk management

There  is a popular caricature of Christianity around today. It states that people with faith in Jesus Christ are lazy and – frankly – pretty stupid. Faith heads aren’t willing to do any work – they are happy just to point to a magic man in the sky and confidently smile – God did it. Faith is simply belief in the absence of any real evidence – its lazy.

 

Interestingly, the people pushing this picture are not Christians themselves. So they don’t necessarily have direct experience of what the Christian’s faith is all about. Rather – they have decided that Christianity is outdated, irrational and therefore dangerous.

Where has the Christian caricature come from?

 

It could be that they have seen a tendency in other religious traditions towards a sort of fatalism. Muslims have a term that tends towards this default thinking; “Insha’Allah” they say, or “What Allah wills.” Maybe the atheists are mistakenly projecting this Islamic tendency onto Christians?

 

Or it might just be that there is a grain of truth in what the vocal atheists and skeptics observe in the Christian church today? They might not realize it – but they are presenting a helpful warning that real Christians everywhere would do well to listen to.

 

What warning are they giving?

 

Well – if I claim to be a Christian but I do not actively trust Jesus Christ with everything in my life – then how can I be described as a person of faith at all? Its so easy to become a church goer that never actually lives life like God is real; never to embrace risk, never to throw myself into his hands saying – God if you aren’t there…I don’t know how this is going to work out!  How am I ever going to grow into a person of real faith in a real Saviour…if I never do the real work of trusting him?

And further – if I don’t spend time exploring the true, rational and historical underpinnings to Christianity – feeding the ample available evidence into my Christian life – then I am vulnerable for the whole thing to collapse when arguments and intellectual challenges come my way.

 

You see being a Christian actually cannot work as the atheists say it does. It cannot operate in a vacuum (an absence of evidence). Because real Christianity is about knowing Jesus. It’s about knowing his good work and his activity in my life – and for that to happen I’ve got to trust him enough with my life to allow him access to it. To lead my life, my words, my choices…everything.

 

In other words –  we need funds in our faith account so we are ready for the time when we are going to withdraw from it.

 

Bill Foster says it this way.

When we face one of life’s truly difficult situations – maybe the death of a loved one, or a big life choice –  it is a bit like going on a shopping spree with your Credit Card. We go on the shopping spree to make ourselves feel better  by buying some stuff that I have always wanted! (Retail therapy never works long term, btw) Now – what if my Bank Account was empty to begin with? What if I never had any funds in my account to begin with? Well – eventually the nice stuff I bought will be repossessed because I didn’t have the money to pay for it. The emotional lift I felt when buying the items – will crumble into despair once they are taken away from me again.

 

This is a picture of how Faith in Jesus Christ works. How does the picture work?

In life – if I am not growing in my personal practical experience of Jesus Christ as my Lord, as the one I look to first when the going gets tough – then it is like I am not feeding funds into my faith account. In the same way – if I don’t spend a bit of time studying and learning about the historical and rational underpinnings to Christianity so I can make a case for Jesus Christ to my not-yet-Christian friends and family…then again I am not feeding funds into my faith account.

 

When the hard times in life come – it is then time to make a withdrawal from our faith account…will there be anything there to withdraw?

  • When a friend gets really sick…and it comes out of the blue and we are surrounded by people who are in a state of emotional meltdown.
  • When we are speaking to an opponent of Christianity and they throw some arguments that are really devastating to us that challenge us to the core.

 

In these situations – we need to have a healthy faith account to fall back on. If the account is empty (as our atheist friends want it to be…blind faith, and all that) then we will be tempted to despair! But if our account is healthy – as it should be – then we won’t just come thru the testing times but our faith account will grow further as a result. And other people around us will be encouraged too in their faith.

 

The atheist is right – blind faith, or a Christian with an empty faith account – IS dangerous!

 

But there is no need for an empty faith account – he gives himself to anyone who calls on him. And if we have been thru a difficult period in our lives…and our faith reserves are pretty depleted right now…then help is on the way from Jesus….

 

“Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen. He is my Beloved, who pleases me.
I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
He will not fight or shout or raise his voice in public. He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. Finally he will cause justice to be victorious. And his name will be the hope of all the world.”  Matthew 12:18-21, NLT

 

For the LORD grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:6, NLT

The LORD is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18, NIV

 

RESPONDblog: The Persecution in Iraq is NOT about endings – but Resurrection

There’s a staggering human rights crisis erupting in Iraq, right now. The Islamic terror group ISIS announced thru their Mosques last Friday that all Iraqi Christians are facing a choice.

Either – convert to Islam, or pay the exorbitant Jizya tax (in the West we call this protection money), or face the death penalty.

They are not kidding either – Fox News is reporting that …

they (ISIS) have beheaded, mutilated, raped, stoned and even crucified those whose behavior is “unIslamic” or whose religious convictions displease them.

There has been a church in Mosul since the 1st century. And yet today, the vast majority of the Christians there are fleeing for their lives.

It is an ironic truth that – in the years since the toppling of the dictator Saddam Hussein – religious extremism has been on the rise. Fast forward to today – Iraq is one of the most dangerous places on the planet to be a Christian.

As a Christian living in the UK – I pray for the safety of these brothers and sisters. I am also under no illusions – religious freedom is increasingly being eroded in my country. There are regular reports of Christians being fired from their jobs because they have persisted in exercising their Christian freedom + faith – maybe by wearing a cross or talking to colleagues about Jesus. This is serious…tho the thin end of the wedge in comparison to Iraq!

Having said all of that I am aware of the following

1 – We are talking about CHRISTIANS
What is being a Christian all about? Well it is about being a CHRIST-ian. A person who bears the name of Jesus Christ. Who suffered and died as a result of the stand he took over the truth of God’s identity and His plan for the world. It is about being his arms and his legs, his hands and feet on planet earth. Of facing challenges in serving men and women. If Christ suffered and died – why should my Christian experience be devoid of suffering?

Of course – this is no justification for the criminal activity unfolding in Iraq.

2 – Jesus Christ died – yet he rose from the dead
The eyewitness testimony of the 1st century gospel accounts are unanimous that Jesus died on a cross on the Friday – but he returned from the dead on Sunday.

And as Christ-ians we can be sure that when people seek to stamp out the church of Jesus Christ – they will ultimately fail. Because resurrection is always to come.

Just look at the history of the Christian Church in China. It was thought for decades that the church had been stamped out in that nation – and yet thru the rise of technology and social media – we find that persecution has led to a phenomenal growth in the underground Church. Death cannot hold the church – resurrection follows.

I can only pray that this encourages my suffering friends in Iraq right now. This is not the end. The Church will be back – bigger and stronger than ever before.

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