Insights through Illusion for Daily Living

Christian Living

2013

This was such a great year for us as a ministry. God took us all over the country and let us share the Gospel with over 30,000 people. I had the opportunity to take the Bryan Drake Show to Guatemala which was a great experience.

My favorite thing about 2013 was seeing hundreds of students come to know Jesus. My 2nd favorite thing though for 2013 was looking forward to the birth of our daughter Harper. At the time of writing this, she isn’t here yet, but we can’t wait.

Thanks for making 2013 an awesome year. Pray with us for an even crazier 2014 (except without looking forward to another child…2 under 2 I don’t think so lol)

Check out this great Flipagram Karla made for us.

 http://flipagram.com/f/8i0BU0vscW


The Prodigal Atheist: Borrowing from God to Disbelieve in Him

Funny enough I was listening to a pastor preach on the parable of the Prodigal Son tonight. I noticed something in the story that I have never really thought of before. The younger son when leaving his father basically tells him that he’s better dead than alive. He tells his father he can’t wait for him to die, but rather wants his inheritance now.

Funny enough the father is a clear picture of God, and something I haven’t pieced together before is that the younger son is much like the atheist or naturalist who claims outrage at evil in the world, who clings to logical truths, yet doesn’t believe that God exists. They want the things that God has to offer. Justice, love, reason, morality, good, etc. but don’t want to grant that the source exists.

You say so what? The point is that the son wants all the riches of the father, yet wants nothing to do with him. In fact the son would live as if the father is dead. This is how the atheist cuts his own feet out from under himself. By showing outrage at injustice they are automatically asserting that there is some form of objective justice or morality. This however cannot come from a naturalistic worldview. After all science alone can only tell what is, not what ought to be. Therefore when the atheist makes a claim such as, “Slavery in the Bible is immoral” he has no ground to stand on. He has taken from the father the riches and things that benefit him, yet chooses to live as if the father is dead. On naturalism there is no basis for morality, for justice, for reason. Things just are.

So to say that something ought to be a certain way after all is just one higher primates molecules firing one way or another without any true dignity of humanity. However if the Father does exist…if He is alive, then all of these things have a purpose and a meaning.

Borrowing from theism to try and refute it is just like telling the father you want his riches, but want him dead.


Standing Strong

Attack

One of the trends that I’ve noticed lately for atheists, mainly the FFRF, to do is to attack a small town usually in the South, for “violating the 1st amendment.” The problems with this are multiple, but let’s deal with just the glaring one.

As they say here in the south, “They don’t have a dog in that hunt!” We are talking about a group based out of Wisconsin who’s entire purpose is to wipe religion (gee I wonder which one…) off the map. They don’t just want an equality of viewpoints, but merely a complete and utter obliteration of Christianity. They attack a small town over some trumped up “complaint” and threaten to sue either a school district, or city council. They use this tactic not because they have any legal legs to stand on, but because they know it’s an effective fear tactic. They know that most of these targets would rather quietly bow to their wishes than have a media backlash.

Behind the Scenes Goliath…

Now I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence if I never even looked into what they claim or profess. However I have. I listen to numerous debates between atheists and Christians. One such popular opponent in these debates is none other than Dan Barker, a very prominent member of the FFRF.

The problem with using him as your go to debater…he’s not very good. I don’t say this in a biased way, but in all fairness he is a terrible debater who basically says the same thing over and over ad nausea. I don’t mean by this he sticks to his guns, but rather he pulls out an irritating and easily defeated point, yet trumpets it about like it’s some unheard of wisdom granted just to him, but when confronted with a more learned Greek student (by many years)…he’s right every time and they are just mistaken every time.

Really? That’s the best argument?

Alabama

Anyway back from that rabbit trail. I mention all of this to say this. Yesterday Todd Starnes posted a story about a school district in Cullman, Wiscon….no wait that’s wrong, Cullman, Alabama (right in the FFRF’s back yard….) being threatened by the FFRF for what’s known as the prayer caravan. Basically private citizens on their own volition go to each campus during the summer and stand on public outdoor property and pray for the students. How hideous! How vile!

Here is the story:

http://radio.foxnews.com/toddstarnes/top-stories/atheist-group-demands-school-stop-prayer-caravan.html

Yeah that’s it. That’s all they do, yet somehow that’s a violation against the 1st amendment?

Anyway the Superintendent is not caving, is not backing down from these tyrannical atheist bullies, but rather saying, “get over it.” Now that’s what I’m talking about! Stand strong. Yes we are going to be persecuted, and mocked for His namesake, but we are also called to be salt and light. Salt in a wound is not comfortable. Light shined into the darkness hurts people’s eyes at first, but when adjusted to it, that light can grow!

Stand strong when the enemy attacks, don’t back down. Paul, Peter, James, and the others stood strong even unto death. Do I think that’s where we are headed in the near future? No, but if we live with the mindset of, “I’m not backing down” we can do great things for the kingdom.


Hypocrisy on Both Sides of the Fence.

To start off I need to be fair. The reason that I wrote part 1 of this series was out of a response to athiests on twitter and Facebook espousing one thing with their mouth, yet living out a completely separate idea. At its core, this is hypocrisy no ifs, ands, or buts.

Check out part 1 here

Now here’s where I have to be fair. The only reason that I am even able to notice this hypocrisy is not because it’s only on their side of the fence. No in fact quite the opposite. The problem generally occurs on our side of the fence. On one hand we espouse the love of Christ, yet don’t live it out. We talk about one thing and live another. I am not saying Christianity is about being sinless (completely different theological discussion), but it is about keeping the flesh at bay on a daily basis. The second we’ve “beat” the flesh in one aspect of our life, is the second it sneaks in for another chink in our armor. Like Amalek in the OT would attack the weak rear of Moses’ people, our flesh will never rest, never sleep, and never stop fighting for dominance in our life.

That is why we have to be diligent in being the face of Christ, not just the words. What good are empty words without hands and feet?

So yes there is hypocrisy on the side of the atheist, which we will dive in to more next time, but before we can do that we have to make sure our flesh isn’t the one in the captain’s chair. We have to make sure that our flesh isn’t driving our Apologetic either.

Grace and love. That’s what has to come through, or there is no point in even starting the discussion. We aren’t doing Apologetics to win a fight or points, but to lead people to Christ.

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Update for June

Just wanted to catch everyone up on what’s been going on with us lately. This spring we had a chance to be in front of 20,000 jr. high students on the Presence Tour. It was awesome to see God move through so many lives all across the country. Apart from the tour we’ve seen over 120 people come to know Christ. That is the fuel that keeps us moving ahead.

Lately some of my first students I taught when I was a jr. high pastor have been coming over to talk all things apologetics/theology/anything else. It’s so awesome to see the passion that these students have for God’s word. Starting at their age as early adults, they are in a position to turn the tide in this dark world. After all we are the light of the world, a city set on a hill. We have to keep shining no matter how dark or occluded it gets.

Last but not least we are super excited about our new promo video and can’t wait to show it to you. Hopefully you should be the first to see it next week if all goes to plan. The rough draft looked great! It’s the vision that Karla, Gresham, and I had in order for it to be used as promo for us yes, but also as a ministry tool for pastors and youth pastors. So stay tuned to find out more.

 

Check out SmashMagic.com to see how you can bring us in next year for the 3rd year of the Smash Magic Tour!

 

Apologetics tuesday will continue this week! Sorry for the lull.

We also have some very exciting news that I can only tease right now….

 

Hmmmm…..what else? Oh yeah the nerd side of me is about to burst at the seems because of Man of Steel this week. Not gonna lie I’ve watched the previews waaaaay too many times ha ha. It’s gonna be fun.

 

Well anyway check out the new video and keep up with us on facebook and twitter to see where we will be!

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Apologetics Tuesday: What questions do you have?

Your Turn

So I have been doing a weekly series about apologetics for the last few months. If you look back at the previous posts you’ll see the different variety of subjects discussed, but what I want to know is what kind of tough questions have you been faced with? Maybe in talking with friends or family you have been hit with a statement or an argument that throws you a little bit.

What questions have you heard? What we will do is take some of the questions you guys send in and address them as they come in. Don’t be shy or think your question may be too easy or too hard or too crazy, anything is on limits. This is an opportunity to strengthen your faith and better equip yourself to defend your faith!

Let us know!

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Is the Idea of Sin Outdated?

Political Correctness…

…rules the culture we live in. Any opinion you have can easily be called offensive by someone else. The word tolerance has had a drastic redefinition by those wanting to harness your opinions. Used to the word meant that you clearly disagreed with something, yet “tolerated” a viewpoint that wasn’t your own. Today tolerance means that if you don’t agree with a certain view you are hateful and intolerant.

Sin?

A lot of this attention is aimed at Christians and our goal to be more like Christ and be less like this sinful world. But there is the word, sin. That’s the one that sets the internet ablaze by armchair atheists looking for an emotional axe to grind to support their chip laden shoulder against God. They begin to quote verses (albeit very out of any historical or even sequential context) like they were Sunday school teachers. Verses about stoning your neighbor for working on the sabbath, or verses about permission to own “slaves”. NOw I’m not going to get into these issues today on this blog, but if you want a quick and awesome  read that can help you with some of the most difficult passages in the Old Testament, check out Paul Copan’s Is God a Moral Monster? You will love it!

But back to the buzzword, sin. In this cultural and political landscape should we even be talking about sin anymore? Isn’t that an outdated notion that people came up with to scare their children into being good, like Santa? This is what a relativistic culture would like us to believe. If you are able to denounce the idea of objective morality, then you can basically say that only Hitler, murderers, and rapists, are sinners and everything else is just a matter of opinion. This idea of acting like sin doesn’t exist is an absolute rebellion against a loving God. Ironically the fact that we identify our sinfulness and evil in this world is actually some of the best evidence that God exists, and that we need Him.

Keep it Fluffy Keep-em Coming

The fear comes though from many pastors and youth pastors in the form of, “Well I shouldn’t talk about sin because I don’t want to run anyone off.” To some that notion sounds just fine because hey why would you want to run anyone away from God? This is an absolute red herring. Yes I agree your first step in evangelism shouldn’t be the Westborough Baptist approach, that’s not winning anyone to the kingdom, but what tends to happen is this mindset, “I’ll get them involved wit church and then start to breach the topic of sin and redemption.” Also a great notion that is following Jesus’ own example with the woman at the well. We sometimes forget the fact that Jesus pointed out her sin, but it was after showing compassion and His true nature of Messiah. What happens though is that we take the mindset above, yet we never quite broach the subject of sin. We talk about the love of God, but never His justice. Truthfully though we see the ultimate demonstration of Christ’s love for us while we are sinners, its when we are aware of our sinful nature. Romans 5:8 clearly says this.

If we are spoon-feeding a sugary sweet gospel of, “God loves everybody and wants you to be the best person you can be no matter what situation you’re in now” without a call to change and repentance clearly seen in the apostle’s, John the Baptist’s, and Jesus’ ministry, we are doing students a huge disservice.

Power Over Sin

For it is God who has the power to break the bonds of sin no matter what they are. God in his awesome power can forgive and change any heart willing to follow him. 1 John 1:9 tells us so. Don’t get caught up in the notion of, “they’re born that way, so maybe they can be the best gay Christian, or adulterous, or drug dealing, or partying, or lying Christian they can be.”

God can and will change us, temptation will always be there which is why serious discipleship needs to take place. Matthew 28, the Great Commission doesn’t stop with making disciples and baptizing them, but the last part is the part we stop with too often.

20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you [b]always, even to the end of the age.

We have to continually study the word together and learn how to be like Christ more and more everyday. Our first response to this culture should in fact be the unconditional love of Christ, followed by a call to repentance as seen in Christ’s own example.

Have you heard others water down the gospel beyond recognition?

How do you feel about the idea of sin?

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Minimal Facts Approach?

Bare Minimum

That idea sounds kind of strange when using it as an argument to convince someone of something. However when you unpack the idea and understand what the minimal facts approach is, it changes how we can relate to unbelievers. If you are going to have a debate with someone, or even try to share Christ with someone, you need to stand on some sort of common ground. If you are trying to quote scripture after scripture to someone who doesn’t believe the New Testament is even credible, then you are going to lose your breath doing so. But if you can find some sort of common ground that the two of you agree on, then you can build a foundation from there into a conversation that lets you present your case in a way that will be paid attention to.

The Minimal Facts Approach.

Think of it like a common denominator in math. When adding and subtracting fractions, you have to find the common denominator before you start working, you break it down to it’s simplest form. That is what is done with the Resurrection of Jesus using what’s known as the minimal facts approach. Depending on who is presenting these facts, there are generally 3 to 4 facts that are agreed upon by virtually ALL credible New Testament scholars. That includes ones who are very skeptical, and even atheistic in their worldview, yet they still agree that Jesus was:

-Crucified in the First Century by Pontius Pilate

-Left an Empty Tomb

-His Disciples had experiences of an appearance of what they thought was from Jesus, that changed them

-Paul and James both “enemies” of Christianity had experiences that changed them.

These facts are all agreed upon by virtually all New Testament scholars, given the background historical information from sources in antiquity, not just the New Testament. These are facts that can be used as common ground for people who doubt the credibility of the New Testament Documents, because these are clearly seen with or without them. Josephus and other ancient historians write about Jesus’ crucifixion under Pilate, Paul’s writings clearly show that he had an experience that changed him. The disciples willing to die for a very un-Jewish notion of a resurrected Jesus before the general resurrection all show that they had some kind of experience.

These facts provide the groundwork for a very convincing case that the best explanation for these facts in that God raised Jesus from the dead.

Tomorrow, I will quickly look at 1 Corinthians 15 and it’s impact as a very early source.

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Apologetics Tuesday: Trusting the New Testament Part 4

https://i0.wp.com/alphastoredesign.com/search-images/www.holytrinitystore.com/images/st-mark-xlg.jpgEarly Testimony

Over the past few weeks you know we have been looking at notion of being able to trust the New Testament as an accurate source. Last week I introduced the idea of different criteria we can use to trust if what The New Testament reports is accurate. Some of those criteria were early testimony, eyewitness testimony, embarrassing testimony, and enemy testimony.

All of these are very important in their own way of showing the accuracy of the NT documents. For the most part we will deal with the Gospels since that is where most of our info about Jesus’ life is. However we will look at one other piece of the NT to show some of the earliest writing we have.

Dating

Before we look at “Early Testimony” we need to know when the Gospels were written. Most conservative dating puts them at 30-40 years after Christ’s death for the time of writing. Others date them up to around 60 years after the events happened. I find the earlier dating fits better because we have one solid concrete piece of historical dating that we know happened in A.D. 70. The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. This is undeniable. The Gospel being Jews would most likely have mentioned something about the Temple being destroyed, but none of them did, even thought they reported the words Jesus spoke about No stone will be left unturned in Mark 13:1-4. If you read the passage in Mark it’s clear the writer didn’t know about the destruction of the Temple because it hadn’t happened yet.

To compare how 30-40 years after the events compares to other ancient sources make sure to look at the chart from Week 2.

Source Material

Now the interesting thing though is that looking at the Gospel of Mark (Which is the earliest Gospel account) and 1 Corinthians 15 (One of Paul’s letters which was written before the Gospels) you find two very peculiar passages that bring light to how early these stories about Jesus go. Even if “legends” about Jesus were created by the time of the Gospel writing, (which scholars agree is not probable because of the short time period and availability of live eye-witnesses to refute any false claims) these two passages stand out.

First is the Passion Narrative (last week of Jesus) in the Gospel of Mark. Here is what Dr. William Lane Craig says about this Pre-Markan story from the Gospel of Mark.

First and foremost is the Passion source which Mark used in writing his Gospel. Whereas most of Mark’s Gospel consists of short anecdotal stories strung like pearls on a string, when we get to the final week of Jesus’ life we encounter a continuous narrative of events from the Jewish plot during the Feast of Unleavened Bread through Jesus’ burial and empty tomb. The events of the Last Supper, arrest, execution, burial, and empty tomb were central to the identity of early Christian communities. According to James D. G. Dunn, “The most obvious explanation of this feature is that the framework was early on fixed within the tradition process and remained so throughout the transition to written Gospels. This suggests in turn a tradition rooted in the memory of the participants and put into that framework by them” (J. D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered, 2003, pp. 765-6.) The dominant view among NT scholars is therefore that the Passion narratives are early and based on eyewitness testimony (Mark Allen Powell, JAAR 68 [2000]: 171). Indeed, according to Richard Bauckham, many scholars date Mark’s Passion narrative no later than the 40s (recall that Jesus died in A.D. 30) (Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 2006, p. 243). So we’re dealing here with an extraordinarily early source.

So you can see that we have incredibly early attestation of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Tomorrow I am going to show you why this is so important along with the early testimony in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians using what’s called the “Minimal Facts” approach.

What are your thoughts on the dating of the NT?

How does that change opinions?

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Apologetics Tuesday:Trusting The New Testament Part 2

Background

Critics try to discredit the NT based simply on the information behind its writing and the amount of manuscripts we still have. One of the most popular criticisms is that the NT was changed over the years. People willingly believe this too even though the background information clearly shows this to be not true. For instance the same people who discredit the NT will gladly put stock in Caesar’s writings or the manuscripts of Homer, Tacitus, Plato, and the great Greek historian Herodotus.

They don’t really give a reason for why they are not nearly as harsh on these other sources than on the NT. I can tell you though, what it boils down to. The fact that these are secular sources automatically gives them more credibility in the minds of critics. The funny thing is though, there is no merit for this view. The only reason for this is because it fits closer to their world view. You’ll always find that “Free Thinkers” and “Open Minded” people are always the first to try to shut down opposing voices….not too tolerant eh?

How does the New Testament stack up with these other ancient sources?

We need to look at two things to determine how much we can tell about our current version of the NT is from the original manuscripts. First is time, and then number of manuscripts.

Here is the time gap between the original writing and the surviving copies.

Homer—500 Years

Herodotus–1400 Years

Plato–1200 Years

Tacitus–1000 Years

Caesar–1000 Years

Pliny–750 Years

Pretty big gaps right? These are our most reliable historical sources right? So a gap that big is not that big of a deal right? Wrong.

The New Testament–25 Years. Yep that’s it. 25 years. Less than the amount of time that it takes for legends to form.

What about number of Manuscipts

Homer–643

Herodotus–8

Plato–7

Tacitus–20

Caesar–10

Pliny–7

Not very much right? So you see how few copies we have for our favorite ancient sources.

The New Testament?

5,686 Copies. Yup you read that right. 5,000 copies more than the next source.

That’s a huge amount! What does that do for you though? Think about it this way. With that many surviving copies, you can sit them side by side and look at where they are the same and where they differ. This helps you realize what the original manuscripts said. So not only is the New Testament a reliable historical source, but it is the most reliable historical source in antiquity.

How does that affect us?

Think about why people reject the New Testament now. Not on its historical merits, but because they realize the implications of what it means for the NT to be true, and how it changes everything.

The God of the Bible is real and loves us, and that our sin separates us from God, that we are not good in our nature, but need redemption from our savior.

That’s what the world is afraid of, but what we have to convey to everyone.

What do people tell you about the NT?

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Inspiration from the past

If you have seen our show, you know that at the beginning I like to open up with some card manipulation. Making them appear and vanish from mid air. Truthfully this is what got me in to doing magic as a kid. I saw this on tv and wanted do it. I spent years practicing every time I got my hands on some cards. These classic effects really never go out of the style.

Here is a glimpse of how people used to do manipulation in the past. This is already one of the hardest skills in all of magic, but this performer, Cardini, does the sleights with gloves on. This is nearly impossible for most magicians, but he mastered it. The story is why he wore gloves is that in World War I, he was in the trenches. His hands were cold being from outside for nearly 15 hours of the day everyday. So to keep himself entertained he practiced with cards, with his gloves on. Making him one of a kind, and one of the best performers ever.

This goes against the paradigm so popular today that anything old is stupid and outdated. Our culture looks at any old idea as antiquated and barbaric even if it is sound and healthy logic. One such pastor recently got up in MO and (in my opinion) made a fool of himself by standing up for a non biblical stance because people used to use similar arguments for slavery. The problem is, his argument, although compelling in passion and emotion fell completely flat when it came to logic and sense.

As Christians we can’t get caught up in the mindset that traditional biblical values are bad because they are old. That simply doesn’t follow.

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The New Great Awakening

The Times they are a’changin

When you read this, the election will be over, but at the time of writing this, the 2012 election has not yet occurred. Here it is 24 hours before what could be a huge shift for our country no matter what happens. As Karla and I travel across the country, we see all sorts of different things. Mindsets, opinions, worldviews, whatever you want to call them. What I do know though, is that no matter who wins the election tomorrow night, our country is in need of serious revival.

End Times?

I have heard too many people talk about America like it’s a done deal, like it’s never going to change or get better, or turn to Jesus. This got me thinking though. Every group of Christians since the disciples have thought that their generation was living in the end times, and guess what they were all wrong. We are called to live in such a way that we are sharing Christ through our lives whether He is coming tomorrow, or in 10,000 years. I look back over our history at the events of the Great Awakenings. I’m willing to be that there were voices saying, “Ah what’s the use in trying to change this country, Jesus will be coming back soon and that’ll take care of it.” But you know what? People didn’t just sit on their hands and wait, they prayed. They sought God, and they became active in reaching the world they knew for Christ, and look at the impact it had.

What our country needs, what our world needs is another Great Awakening. “Well I wish someone would start it…”

What about you?

The seeds of an Awakening start with you. You are the catalyst this world needs to wake up. I’m sure people thought the world was too far gone until Charles Finney, and other leaders of the Awakenings started bringing the Word. When they did, unashamed and unapologetic, peoples lives were changed. We have to live the love of Christ so boldly in such a way that draws people to Him. We are the light of the world. It’s time for us to wake up and shine into the rest of this dark world.

We need an awakening, and it starts on an individual level from our knees and spreads outwards.

Wake up, and shake this world.

How can you be the seed of a New Great Awakening?

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Apologetics Tuesday: Shouldn’t a magician be a skeptic?

I would think that magicians, of all people, would be the least likely to believe in divine miracles. It just seems that beyond the spectacle, they are trained that there is science or logic behind everything — no matter how awe inspiring. And please note that I say that not in condemning your beliefs but just as a sociological observation.

Random Facebook comment on another Magician’s Page

So because I do what I do, naturally I should be a skeptic and chuck all of the evidence I have out the window? That’s the problem. Anytime someone makes a faith claim, the atheists assume it is without evidence. The late Christopher Hitchens said,

“If one must have faith in order to believe something, or believe in something, then the likelihood of that something having any truth or value is considerably diminished.”

That sounds great on paper, but the problem with that is that Christopher often made faith claims that were directly contradictory to this statement. After all the claim that one believes in their own existence…greatly diminishes their own existence.

Blind Faith is not what Christians claim to have. If anyone tells you that you should just have blind faith in something, run!

I’ll speak to my own experience since the question was posed about magicians. I don’t question things that I have evidence for, or maybe I do, but the evidence silences my questions. Outwardly and to atheists I appeal to Cosmology (the study of the origin of the universe) or the fine tuning of the universe to provide evidence for God. Further, I look at the claims of Jesus about Himself, and the evidence of His resurrection, and conclude that God revealed Himself through the Resurrection of Jesus validating all of Jesus’ teachings, including the opportunity for eternal life, answered prayers, and yes miracles.

That’s all outwardly. Inwardly I have the most assured evidence of the testimony of the Holy Spirit living in me. I don’t need any further evidence to continue convincing myself. I have all that I need in the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit.

My favorite Apologist, Dr. William Lane Craig has this to say on the matter,

By that I mean that the experience of the Holy Spirit is veridical and unmistakable (though not necessarily irresistible or indubitable) for him who has it; that such a person does not need supplementary arguments or evidence in order to know and to know with confidence that he is in fact experiencing the Spirit of God; that such experience does not function in this case as a premiss in any argument from religious experience to God, but rather is the immediate experiencing of God himself; that in certain contexts the experience of the Holy Spirit will imply the apprehension of certain truths of the Christian religion, such as “God exists,” “I am condemned by God,” “I am reconciled to God,” “Christ lives in me,” and so forth; that such an experience provides one not only with a subjective assurance of Christianity’s truth, but with objective knowledge of that truth; and that arguments and evidence incompatible with that truth are overwhelmed by the experience of the Holy Spirit for him who attends fully to it.

So to say that I should be skeptical of anything miraculous is absolutely absurd because the miraculous happens everyday. The fact that there is a universe that Genesis 1:1 is true provides a backbone for all things miraculous.

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One Thing

This is without a doubt one of my favorite magic acts. Why? because of its simplicity. There is one technique involved here, yet everything is done to perfection with art. Omar Pasha, knows his strength, and uses them to the best of his ability. This guy does one thing, but he does it with absolute excellence.

Each and every one of us has certain gifts and abilities given to us by God to use for His glory. It’s our choice whether we are going to accept the gifts and abilities that we have, or if we will be like the third servant in the parable Jesus told burying it in the sand.

I know at the end of my life, I want to hear Him say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

I don’t want to be the guy that disappoints God by wasting my gift.

Use what He has given you to make an impact for Him today.

What gifts do you have?

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Update From the Road

Karla and I have been gone since mid September touring different dates around the country. From CO to GA to VA to CA to TX. The coolest thing about getting to do what Karla and I do is that we get to see people come to know Christ from all over the place. Now that’s not to say that there isn’t opposition form the enemy.

Friday night we were in Lynchburg, VA at Thomas Road Baptist Church. There were about 700 students from the community in the room, packing it out. All of the sudden as soon as I got to the meat of the Gospel presentation, the entire sound/video system shut off.

Now if you’ve read some of my posts about hecklers and dealing with issues from the stage, you know how this could easily derail an entire show, but God is bigger than the opposition. I decided I was going to just continue and pray that I was able to project my voice loud enough that everyone could hear.  The miraculous part was that in a room of 700 students, you could have heard a pin drop. It was silent, giving me the perfect atmosphere to continue and share the Gospel without the mic.

God moved, and changed lives that night.

It’s something that Karla and I will never forget. Sometimes we rely so much on making sure that the sound and video are working properly so that everything hits at the right time, that when something like that happens, it reminds us that no matter what I think is going on, God is bigger than this world. That when I feel like even from the stage things are going crazy, Jesus has overcome this world, and I can put my trust and cares on Him, and He will carry us through.

Nothing fires us up more than seeing lives changed for Christ. Pray with us, and for us that God will continue to open doors and give us new strategies to reach people with His message that this world so desperately needs.

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A view from the Rocky Mountains.

See You At The Pole

SYATP

This is it. This is your chance to really impact your area for Christ.

Right now, think about the people you know who sit beside you in class or that you pass in the hallway everyday. Maybe sometimes you talk to them, laugh with them, or completely ignore them. Here is what all of those people have in common, no matter how vastly different the appear.

They all need Jesus Christ.

Romans 3:23 says that we will always fall short of the glory of God. That on our own, there is nothing we can do to ever be good enough to go to heaven. Our sin separates us from God. Romans goes on further in 6:23 to say because of that sin, we deserve to die.

Death

Death? That seems harsh right? I mean God is supposed to be all about love right? Here is the thing though, the verse doesn’t end there. It goes on to say that we have a free gift in Jesus Christ if we put our faith in Him.

So the breakdown is, we all sin-we all deserve death-Jesus died for our sin in our place-Jesus rose from the dead-we put our faith in Him-He gives us eternal life.

Simply put. Jesus Christ loves all of us so much that He died for us and wants us to be with Him. Your world needs to hear this. Your friends family and people you barely know that are in your circle need to hear this.

Tell someone today about Christ. We all need it.

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Why do we settle for passing out milk?

Time to Eat

Eventually a baby has to stop drinking just milk, and be weaned by the mother. We know how incredibly bizarre it is when women get on Dr. Phil talking about nursing their 6 year old.

It’s a basic and simple thing that as we grow as humans, we require more than just milk for us to grow. If your entire diet consisted of just milk you would be so weak and feeble you couldn’t function. Our bodies require much more.

There is a reason the Bible compares spiritual teaching to food. Our spirit requires nourishment for us to grow. As youth pastors and pastors, and anyone else in a leadership position much like a shepherd, a requirement to nourish your flock. The problem that I have seen too many times over the past several years is that sometimes we are trying to ask people to grow and flourish on just spiritual milk. The problem comes that when they encounter their first sign of disagreement, they cave in to whatever the opposing side is because they have no muscle to hold them up and give them wisdom through the situation.

Flipside

Now obviously there is another side to this same coin. I’ve also seen people trying to force feed Fois Gras and Filet Mignon to spiritual babies. Their systems can’t quite handle it, and it wrecks them.

They don’t need more best friends…trust me

This feeding of weak food is often glossed over by  the “being your youth’s best friend” mentality. This is not a job description of a youth pastor. They don’t need someone to be their best friend. They need someone they can trust who they can go to, who will feed them a spiritual meal to help them to continue growing.

There is clearly a fine line to walk seeing that you preach to a mixed crowd of growth levels each Wednesday night. Here’s an idea though. Try instead of catering to the most new-born babies of the group and expecting that to be enough for the rest of your crowd, setting the bar a little higher.

The greatest problem that our future culture awaits is the entitlement mindset of students who have had the bar constantly lowered and lowered until we expect nothing but the worst from students and are proud and “tolerant” when we get those results. You students will never strive to go higher over the bar if it never gets raised.

Try it out tonight. Try raising the bar, upping the ante a little tonight in your message. An “everything is about love and fun” message isn’t going to cut it anymore. Fire up the grills and let’s get started serving these students some real spiritual food.

What do you find is the greatest hindrance of growth in your students?

Sound off in the comments below!


Update for August

Thought I’d take a minute today to just give you guys an update into our ministry and all of the things going on.

God has opened up a lot of great doors for us this past year, and has allowed us to work with some truly awesome people in our effort to share the Gospel all over the world. We have revamped and added all kinds of new material for the show, and have been debuting some newer stuff ever so slightly over the past few months. On the illusion end of things, right now I am working on revamping the bed of nails into something that has literally never been done before by anyone. Hopefully I’ll have more news on that in the next coming weeks as I start putting it together.

We have just gotten in our newest t-shirts, which will be available for sale on the merch store next week. Here is a picture of the two versions of the shirt.

Guys

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And here is the girls version.

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So be sure to check out those at the merch store

We had a great weekend this past week in Owensboro, KY. They were originally expecting about 150 people, but nearly 700 showed up. It was a great night, great people to perform for. The best part of everything though was the response to the Gospel. It’s always so cool to see God move.

Today is going to be a bit short because unfortunately Hurricane Isaac decided to just hover and sling rain on us all day long. So here is an interactive trick that you can try that will remind you of sunny and brighter days.

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Is there really good or evil?

 

That’s the question everyone has to answer before they start arguing their worldview on moral issues.

For instance when someone claims that Christianity has committed many vast “evils” over the centuries, you would have to assume that they have some system of morality that they are basing it on.

Atheists can’t do anything good?

Let me clarify a point that is very easily and too often misconstrued and misquoted by atheists.

The idea is that Christians believe that people who are atheists can’t live moral lives.

What is Absolute or Objective Morality

Now it doesn’t take very much effort to see that this notion is absolutely wrong. Of course people who don’t believe in God can live in a “moral” way. There is nothing preventing them from choosing to do something good or evil. That’s not where the crux of the argument really lies. Even the most diehard atheist, like Sam Harris, will tell you that absolute morality exists. that is, to quote Dr. William Lane Craig:

“To say that there are objective values is too say that something is right or wrong independently of whether anybody believes it to be so.”

They see from looking around in the world that certain things are right and certain things are wrong regardless of what the regime or government or people in charge say. The idea of murder is wrong regardless of whether someone such as Hitler thinks it was right.

They go to great lengths to point out all of the “evils” that religion has caused over the years, but there is a fundamental problem with this argument that is touted in lockstep.

The problem is that on an atheistic or naturalistic (the view that there is nothing beyond the natural) worldview, there is no reason for absolute morality to exist.

Fundamental Problem

What that basically means is that if there is no God to give us a moral law, then everything we know about morality, right and wrong, good and evil, is just subjective. Your view is no more important than anyone else’s. Your view is no more right than anyone else’s. What that basically boils down to is that if there is no absolute morality than we cannot call the actions of Hitler, Stalin, or anything else that seems evil or wrong in the world.

If morality is a subjective  mindset, then there is no reason not to charge forward and do everything in your power to better yourself and only yourself, leaving everyone else in the dust behind you. Even talk atheist by Richard Dawkins and Bertrand Russell knew this to be the case.

So yes without God you can act and be moral, but there is no foundation for morality other than God.

What responses have you heard to the moral argument?

How would you respond?

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It’s not fair…

But we knew that going in to it.

One thing that irks me more than anything, are blatant double standards…especially when I’m on the other side.

When it comes to Christianity and embracing the culture there is a clear double standard between reason and emotion. Christians are not allowed to argue anything except for concrete fact. In fact the standard for using the Bible is miles higher than any other ancient text. Secularists ask the impossible of the Bible, while taking Caesar or Josephus or even Homer as “gospel”.

Also don’t dare try to use a personal experience or even mention an emotion or you will be lambasted. But when the same accuser launches into a speech about how mean God is for pain in the world, what is he appealing to? That’s right emotion.

The secular world likes to take Christianity and poke fun at it and throw blanket statements around about how Christians overuse the word faith. The problem is though, that these same people don’t understand what it is to have faith, but even more glaring is how guilty they are of committing the same intellectual crimes they accuse us of.

For instance if you were to watch a debate between William Lane Craig and any atheist, what you find is not the “rational reasoned and open minded arguments” that Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, or the late Christopher Hitchens claim to use. What you find instead are insults and attacks at red herrings that sound great to college students for a good laughter inducing sound bite, but hold no substance on their own.

It’s easy to get angry and sink to a nasty level, but Christ has called us to live above that. He told us that following Him is no cake walk.

“Take up your cross and follow me” not “Sit in your recliner and watch it unfold”

Embrace the culture in love. Dislike the double standard, but rise above it.

What double standards do you see?

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Theater Fire

Blackstone

At the time, Harry Blackstone was considered the world’s greatest magician.  To this day, his legacy lives on not only through his extended family in the business, but through his legendary effects like the one seen above. Blackstone was also one of the few magicians able to bridge the gap from the vaudeville stage to the tv camera.

However to an audience full of people in Decatur, Illinois in 1942, he not only became the greatest illusionist of the time, but saved their lives as well.

Blackstone got word that the theater had caught fire midway through the act. As you and I know the one counter to freedom of speech that people always mention is, “Yelling fire in a crowded theater.” Knowing the pandemonium and danger that this would have caused had he stopped the show to tell the audience, Blackstone came up with a plan on the spot.

He told the audience that the conclusion to his show was something brand new that. Something no one had ever seen before. He said that it was so large that it must be viewed from outside the theater. The people in the audience naturally excited to see something like this, filed out of the room in a neat and orderly fashion row by row, at Blackstone’s instruction. No one tripped or trampled like they would had they known it was a fire.

Platform

Blackstone used his platform and his position to save hundreds of lives that day.

If you think about that, what influence do you have that people heed your advice? Perhaps at work or school? Do you just relay information when it comes to the Gospel, or do you invest your talents and your platform wisely into a unique way that causes people to stop and really listen to what you have to say?

The Gospel speaks for itself. The Spirit is the one who changes, but if we just throw the message out there like a ton of bricks, people are going to want to run. They aren’t going to care if they aren’t engaged. This is a sad but true fact of our entitlement and instant gratification culture.

Use your gifts and abilities to reach people today. That may be music, speaking, athletics, the list goes on and one. It may be something that doesn’t appear to be a gift at all. Use whatever God has blessed you with to reach others for him. The focus is on Christ, the goal is to bring him glory through our gifts and abilities. Start today. Don’t be afraid to use what God has given you for him.

 

What gifts do you have?

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Broken

How many times have you had that feeling? Maybe you feel less than useful, or worthless? You look around at the rest of the world and they seem to be happy, but you are sitting in brokenness.

The beautiful thing about being broken though is letting God put the pieces back in the way he planned on. God’s plan for you is so incredible that if you just listen to him, it will be like you were never broken to start with. We despair and think there is no way that our situation can get any darker, until we let go and let God do amazing things.

The most evident way to see God is when we allow ourselves to get out of the way and see the amazing things he can do, but sometimes it takes us being broken to do that, but hold on. It’s always darkest before the dawn, and Joy comes in the morning.

 

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Great Scam Revealed

You can’t win

This is a classic example of one of the oldest scams around.  The idea is seen in many forms from cups and balls to nutshells and peas to three cards.  The idea never changes though.  The person controlling the items makes it seem as if you have a chance to win, but you don’t.

The idea is the same with any deception. You feel like you are doing right. You feel on top of the world, until the rug is pulled out from under you.  Your walk with Christ can be the same way.  If we take our eyes off of Jesus, we begin to fall. We begin to put our faith and trust in other things that will guarantee us failure. Satan would like nothing more than for you to feel like you are on top of the world only to be completely away from God.

Justified?

This is sad, but this is how Christians wake up one day and can all of the sudden “justify” leaving or cheating on their spouse. The same way that any sin can be justified. We believe that it’s right, we believe that if it feels right than it must be right. That is a very dangerous mindset that only leads to bad.

Proverbs 14:12

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

Wise words.

Don’t be fooled, keep your eyes on truth. The truth of Jesus Christ as mentioned in Hebrews 12.

How have you been fooled?

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Choices

Real

You climb out the window safe and sound, maybe a few bruises or scratches, but other than that you are just fine.

It’s no joke that the choices you make today will affect you for the rest of your life. It’s not just about making choices between where you will go to college, or if you will study hard or who you will hang out with.

…Because on the other side of street from where you just climbed out of your car, there sits the end of an entire families world. The idea of drunk driving looks so glorified in movies and tv, but truth be told when you make a choice like that, you are basically saying that your “night of fun” is more important than anyone else’s life.

I’m not trying to scare you, I’m just being real.

It’s not just about drunk driving.  We talk about the fact that “It’s my life and my choices and it doesn’t affect anyone else.” That’s the problem with our world.  We have this me-centric view about everything that we don’t even take time to stop and think how our choices can affect others. Drugs, alcohol, sex, all of these choices can seem totally harmless, but the consequences can change your life or the lives of complete strangers.

Longer Term…

Put that on its side for just a second. Not only do those choices affect your life, but when it all comes down to it, there is really only one choice that carries the most weight of anything. It’s the choice between Christ and the world.  Jesus came to this earth and died for us so that we can be forgiven for the choices that we have made. We tend to think that no one loves us in this world, but God loves you so much that he sent his son Jesus to die and rise from the dead because he loves you. No other reason.  You are joy when it comes to Christ according to Hebrews 12.

This is the greatest choice you can make in your life. Not only will it change your life, but it changes eternity.

Understand something very important. The choices you make affect you and perhaps others for the rest of your life. Take a second today to make good choices.  Tell others about the freedom that’s in Christ, and the choice they have to follow him.

What choices have you made?

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