Where’s God When I Fear Death?

Is death the #1 fear people have? The simple and complicated answer is: It depends. Fear of dying is a BIG fear in those that statistically are the least likely to die: the young. But fear of dying is very LOW for those on death row, the elderly, and the terminally ill.

I hope to convince you of a fourth group that shouldn’t fear death. It’s a group that all of us can be a member of: Those who understand that physical death is not the end. 

In the Garden of Eden, God planted one tree that was off-limits, and He said that the penalty for eating from this tree was death (Genesis 2:16-17). satan tried to get Adam and Eve to doubt what God said, and after they ate the fruit, it appeared satan was correct—they didn’t die. At least not physically.

But their sin did something far, far worse—it separated them from God’s presence. Now when God appeared, Adam and Eve hid in fear. In fact, Jesus even told His followers that the greatest fear wasn’t physical death but spiritual death (Luke 12:4-5). 

Jesus came to lift our hope to something beyond this physical world. He said, “God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not die, but would have eternal life” (John 3:16). 

Famed atheist Bertrand Russell said, “I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.” 

On the other hand, Jesus DID die for His beliefs and proved He was right by His resurrection! 

Friend, listen to me—We’re definitely not living our best life now. We are all terminal. Unless Jesus returns, the chances of our physical death are 1-in-1. 

But physical death is not the end! Death of the body means freedom for the soul. Jesus has defeated Death once for all! “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades,” Jesus said (Revelation 1:17-18) 

Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57) 

Invite Jesus into your life right this moment!! 

Once you have invited Jesus into your life, and your sins have been forgiven, and your destiny following your physical death is assured, this is how you should now live: 

  1. Live in joyful hope. Not optimism—that’s just the belief in what you think you can do. But hope is the belief in what you know Jesus has already done!
  1. Live free of all anxiety and the fear of death. Because nothing can separate you from God’s love and presence (Romans 8:38-39).  
  1. Live telling others about your Risen Savior. It’s the most loving thing that you could do for anyone. 

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that to be a Christian and to be fearful of death is a sin. A fearful Christian gives God no praise, robs Him of glory, and paints God in a bad light. A happy, secure Christian knows the Lord is his strength, his comfort, his supply. A happy Christian lifts God high and invites others to know this All-Good, All-Happy God too! 

We can live this way because Jesus died to pay the penalty for your sins that separated you from God, and He was resurrected back to life to assure you that your eternal home in God’s presence is secure!

The Case For Christ Daily Moment Of Truth (book review)

This is a fantastic study guide from Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg. It was originally published with the title Today’s Moment Of Truth. 

Most Christians will tell you they love God “with all my heart.” That’s a good start, but according to Jesus, there needs to be more. Jesus told us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. It’s especially these last two areas that concerned Strobel and Mittelberg enough to put together a wonderful book: The Case For Christ Daily Moment Of Truth.

Strobel and Mittelberg were concerned (and rightly so) that Christians were engaging their heart and soul in their Christian witness, but not developing their mind and strength to the same extent. As a result, when someone challenges them to explain why they believe what they believe, many Christians struggle to answer convincingly.

Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg are both top-notch Christian apologists. They don’t just present solid evidence for the Christian faith, but they do so in a winsome, inoffensive way. And through 180 different lessons, they train all who read The Case For Christ Daily Moment Of Truth to do the same.

Each day you will read a quote from a notable atheist or Christian skeptic, and then be trained in solid apologetics to refute their claims. You will be given Scripture verses, proofs from all disciplines of science, and some good old-fashioned common sense. This book will expand your spiritual muscles and your mental muscles. Each day’s reading will only take a couple of minutes, but you will be well-prepared for any challenges to your faith. A must-read for all Christians!

I am a Zondervan book reviewer.

Cold-Case Christianity (book review)

From Perry Mason and Dragnet to Blue Bloods and Law & Order, I’ve always been a fan of watching detectives and attorneys sorting through all of the evidence to find the truth. I’m also passionate about Christian apologetics, so Cold-Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace is totally in my wheelhouse! 

Wallace is a cold-case detective and he’s also a Christian, but criminal investigative work was a part of his life long before he had a relationship with Jesus. In fact, Wallace grew up as an avowed atheist and openly mocked Christians for their “faith.” That is until someone challenged him to investigate the claims of the Bible regarding Jesus as he would investigate one of his cases. 

The similarities are fascinating. In most cases, Wallace cannot interview eyewitnesses, but has to rely on other evidence. Slowly, diligently, he tracks down each lead to come to the most reasonable conclusion. It was exactly the same with the biblical claims about Jesus: the eyewitnesses have long since died. Using his talents for successfully solving crimes which had been left unsolved for years and years, Wallace one day told his wife, “I think it might be true. I think Jesus is who the Bible says He is.” 

Wallace now shares with his readers how they too can use the same skills to explain to skeptics why the biblical case for the authenticity of Jesus is reasonable. He takes us out to the crime scenes as we look for evidence, into the interview room to talk to witnesses, and into the jury box to weigh all of the evidence. 

Skeptics of Christianity will find this book eye-opening, and Christians will find this book informative and helpful to them as they become Christian case makers. This book reads like a detective story to me, and I think others will be just as fascinated with the content as I was.

Albert Einstein On The Library Of The Universe

“I’m not an atheist, and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations.” —Albert Einstein

A.L.I.V.E.—The “L” Is For Lives Changed

A man named Paul was visiting Athens. While he was in the marketplace, he began to talk with people about Jesus Christ, specifically how Jesus had been crucified and then raised back to life.

His comments caught the attention of two groups of philosophers: the Epicureans who thought all religions were made up and were simply a crutch for the weak-minded and superstitious, and the Stoics who said that a divine power was in everything but wasn’t a Person that could be personally known. These groups said to Paul, “You are presenting some new teachings and strange ideas that we have never heard before! Would you come and address our next meeting?”

In 2004, renowned atheist Anthony Flew announced something that was a “strange idea” to the ears of his followers. Flew presented one of his first papers on atheism at the Socratic Club at Magdalen College, where the Christian literary giant C.S. Lewis served as the chairman. Over the years Flew had sharpened his rhetoric to become one of the best known and most outspoken atheists on the worldwide stage.

Yet in 2004, an 81-year-old Anthony Flew remarked, “I simply had to go where the evidence led,” as Flew announced to the world: there IS a God.

“My discovery of the Divine has been a pilgrimage of reason and not of faith,” wrote Flew in his book There Is A God, which is why last week I shared the first way we can know Jesus is alive in “A” is for apologetics. Today I submit to you the second way one can know that Jesus is A.L.I.V.E.: Lives changed.

Paul, who was asked to speak to the philosophers in Athens about his “strange ideas,” had been given the name Saul by his parents. When it came to religion, Saul took a backseat to no one! He was a purebred Israelite from the tribe of Benjamin (which gave Israel its very first king, who was also named Saul). Saul called himself a “Hebrew of Hebrews” because he kept the Law of Moses and the strict rules of the Pharisees absolutely faultlessly.

When he heard about Jesus (who claimed to be God), and about the followers of Jesus who claimed He had been resurrected from the dead, Saul persecuted these Christians so vehemently that he not only had many of them thrown into prison, but he had many of them killed as well.

That all came to a complete stop when Saul met Jesus for himself! You can read how Saul retold this story in Acts 22:1-16. After this encounter, Saul’s life was 180-degrees different! He even changed his name to Paul to signify his new outlook. Now he was just as adamant to tell people about Jesus as he was previously to harass and persecute Christians.

Paul’s conversion came at a steep price. The Jews with whom he used to associate now turned violently against him. Numerous times they attempted to kill him. In addition, Paul’s newfound faith in Jesus caused him to be persecuted by the Romans as well. The Roman Emperors wanted people to say, “Caesar is lord” but Paul and the other Christians were declaring, “Jesus is Lord.” Paul ended up being executed under Emperor Nero.

Paul had numerous opportunities to recant, but he never came close to doing so. His life was one that was under constant duress and distress and danger precisely because he refused to back down from his claim that Jesus was alive!

Paul isn’t alone. Millions of people around the globe have come to know Jesus as their personal Savior. Many, like Paul, have been harassed for their faith and some even violently persecuted and martyred, and yet they so firmly believed that Jesus is alive that they were willing to go to their early grave with “Jesus is my Lord” still on their lips!

What about you? Have you met Jesus for yourself?

Check out this video where my friend Scott tells his personal story of how an encounter with Jesus has completely changed the trajectory of his life.

Join me next Sunday as we continue with our 5-part series I can know Jesus is A.L.I.V.E. because of… where we will be looking at the letter “I.” You can join me either in person or on Facebook Live. If you missed the previous lesson, check out “A” is for apologetics by clicking here.

Saturday In The Psalms—Don’t Be A Fool

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God” (Psalm 53).

You can choose this paradigm if you like. But if you do, here’s what you can expect—

Corruption … you will reap from others the corruption you sow

No one seems trustworthy … you will live your life untrusting and not being trusted

Limited understanding … “without God we’re just a lucky convergence of matter and energy, and after death there’s a vast nothing,” says the fool. But anyone who’s ever fallen in love knows there is something more than just matter and energy.

Everyone seeks his own self-interest … no one does good just to do good (we’re back to the untrusting lifestyle again!)

Fear and terror of the unknown … these lurk constantly in the back of your mind

Missing out on eternal blessings … what if you’re wrong? what if there really is a God who wants to be in relationship with you? If that’s true, you are squandering your life. You are living for the moment, and about to miss out on an eternity of pleasure in God’s presence.

A fool sticks his fingers in his ears, closes his eyes, and refuses to even consider an alternative—“There. Is. No. God!”

Don’t be a fool!

Will you at least be willing to consider the possibility that this Universe was created on purpose? Will you at least be willing to consider that the Creator made you to have a relationship with Him?

The fool tries to make all of life fit into his tiny box. The wise person knows there’s so much more.

Don’t be a fool!

Evidence That Demands A Verdict (book review)

The Apostle Peter wrote a letter to Christians in which he called them “aliens and strangers” because of their belief in a personal Creator and Lord. In this letter, he tells Christians to “always be prepared to give an answer” to those skeptics who want to know about their faith in God. In Evidence That Demands A Verdict, Josh and Sean McDowell have given Christians a key component to help them be prepared to give sound answers.

This book is massive (at just under 900 pages)! But it is an encyclopedia of evidence that will prepare Christians to respond to any argument that an atheist or skeptic may bring up. To be honest with you, the Table of Contents is usually one of the first places I study in books I’m reading, but I usually end up skimming through it pretty quickly. But in Evidence, I was pleasantly surprised at the layout. Not only will you find a listing of the chapters, but a brief description of the contents. At the opposite end of the book, the Subject Index is also quite extensive. I know these are not things usually bragged on in a book review, but for a book this size—and for the numerous times you undoubtedly will be returning to prepare to answer a skeptic—these two reference points are extremely handy!

The first edition of Evidence (written by just Josh) came out nearly 20 years ago. If anything, the evidence for the beliefs that Christians hold has been further validated through research, archeological discoveries, and the like. So it was time for this classic book to be updated. The additional apologetic insights from Sean in this edition is a very nice addition.

Whether you read Evidence when it was first released or not, every Christian that wants to answer Peter’s directive for preparedness needs to get this new edition.

I am Thomas Nelson book reviewer.

More Than A Carpenter (book review)

more-than-a-carpenterHolidays are usually really good times for Christians to start up a conversation about their faith. Especially Christmas. C’mon, Christ’s name is the main part of CHRISTmas, right?! But I realize as well that some folks are reluctant to begin such a conversation because they think they might be at a loss as to what to say. This is where More Than A Carpenter by Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell will be an excellent ally.

Christians and atheists alike found More Than A Carpenter compelling reading when it was first published nearly 40 years ago. Now the book has been given a makeover, incorporating new discoveries that have further validated the book’s content, and adding a new chapter by Sean McDowell specifically addressing the “new atheists.”

Jesus is an historical character. He actually lived and walked and died and was resurrected in places that are verified by historical records. And yet Jesus was so much more than merely a person in history. His life impacted history in ways that are still being discovered today. His life is still changing the trajectory of people’s lives today.

Clearly Jesus was much more than merely a first century carpenter! 

In easily-readable language, Josh and Sean arm you with all of the evidence you will need to have compelling conversations about Jesus.

  • You will learn about the historical accuracy of the authors who recorded the details of Jesus Christ’s life.
  • You will learn what science, philosophy and archeology verify about His life.
  • You will get insight into the arguments that some atheists use to deny Christ’s deity, and how you can offer alternative facts to counteract those arguments.
  • And you will hear about Josh’s personal life-changing encounter with this Carpenter from first-century Israel.

This is a phenomenal book for you to read as we head into this CHRISTmas season. This is also a great resource for you to put into the hands of someone who is skeptical or even antagonistic toward the claims of Christians. In short: you will be better prepared to have meaningful conversations with others after you have read More Than A Carpenter!

I am a Tyndale book reviewer.

If you would like to access a ton of great resources associated with More Than A Carpenter, I highly recommend you check out the Josh McDowell Ministry’s store by clicking here.

40 Questions About Your Religion

The Mathematical Proof For ChristianityDan Delzell wrote a very thought-provoking book—The Mathematical Proof For Christianity—which gives skeptics a lot of evidence to contemplate. As I said in my review of this book (which you can read here), this is a good book for Christians to read with a skeptic as a great conversation-starter about the Christian faith.

Dan also presented this list…

“The true religion is a match to all 40 questions:

  1. Which religion was started by a prophet who never did anything wrong?
  2. Which religion produces scores of people who speak out against injustice and work hard to correct it?
  3. Which religion fulfills hundreds of prophecies that were written down hundreds of years before the prophet fulfilled them?
  4. Which religion produces followers who have established thousands of hospitals, orphanages, and homeless shelters?
  5. Which religion, when practiced correctly, empowers followers to turn the other cheek when being mistreated?
  6. Which religion began with a leader who died, but then came back to life?
  7. Which religion, when practiced correctly, produces followers who do not judge others or look down on them?
  8. Which religion produces a tender love for God in heaven, rather than lingering fear and trepidation?
  9. Which religion do people turn to in tough times and when disaster strikes?
  10. Which religion has done the most to advance the rights of women?
  11. Which religion details historic events that are supported by plenty of archeological evidence?
  12. Which religion is based upon documents that are better preserved and more numerous than any other ancient writings?
  13. Which religion began with a prophet who is loved and even worshipped by millions of followers?
  14. Which religion has been around for thousands of years and continues to expand around the world?
  15. Which religion teaches that eternal life in paradise is a free gift through faith in its prophet?
  16. Which religion has millions of followers who experience tremendous peace as a result of their prophet?
  17. Which religion, when practiced correctly, produces followers who are quick to forgive rather than to seek vengeance?
  18. Which religion offers the forgiveness of sins based solely on the goodness and sacrifice of the prophet?
  19. Which religion, when practiced correctly, produces genuine humility before God and man?
  20. Which religion teaches that you cannot earn your way to heaven?
  21. Which religion produces men and women of justice who speak out when others are committing atrocities?
  22. Which religion, when practiced correctly, lines up with the humble and compassionate attributes of the prophet?
  23. Which religion seeks to bring help to the hurting, comfort to the sorrowful, and encouragement to the downcast?
  24. Which religion, when practiced correctly, produces genuine love, joy, peace, and patience?
  25. Which religion requires divine revelation in order to understand it?
  26. Which religion rules not by force, but by love, as demonstrated by the prophet?
  27. Which religion has produced the most freedom of religion in the world?
  28. Which religion turns man’s body into a temple where the Spirit of God comes to reside?
  29. Which religion, when practiced correctly, has done the most to advance the rights of minorities?
  30. Which religion gives followers the grace to say ‘no’ to ungodly passions?
  31. Which religion produces people who long to improve the lives of those from other religions?
  32. Which religion cares as much for the unborn and elderly as it done for the youthful and strong?
  33. Which religion has done more than any other to help turn communities into places of freedom and safety for all?
  34. Which religion provides a personal assurance of salvation based solely on the sacrifice of the prophet?
  35. Which religion has a prophet whose name is used by many as a curse word?
  36. Which religion, when practiced correctly, produces followers who focus on their own sins rather than the sins of others?
  37. Which religion can turn a terrorist into a loving peacemaker?
  38. Which religion teaches that your works become ‘good’ in God’s eyes only after you accept the prophet through faith?
  39. Which religion will you wish you had followed on Judgment Day?
  40. Which religion is the answer to all 40 questions?”

To read some of the other quotes I shared from this book, please click here.

Confession: I Struggle With Being An Atheist

ITLWYou see, I love my day to be highly organized. I like to get to all my meetings on time, and then have them run smoothly and efficiently. I like to setup my To Do list, and then methodically check off each item as I go through my day. I like to be in charge of my day.

I am an atheist.

I’m the one calling the shots. I set my agenda. I determine my day. I decide who to see and what project to accept.

There was a guy that Jesus talked about who did the exact same thing. This guy thought to himself and talked to himself all about his plans. Seriously, in just three verses he says me/I/my a dozen times (Luke 12:17-19)!

But God said, “You fool!” The word for fool means without mind. He didn’t mind his mind. He thought the thoughts he wanted to think, without ever consulting anyone else. Not even God.

Jesus made prayer a priority every day (Mark 1:35). What do you think He prayed? Do you think He said, “Here’s what I’m going to do today, and I want You to bless it, Father”? No way!

When Jesus taught us to pray He said, Your kingdom come, Your will be done” (Matthew 6:9-13). Not only did Jesus pray this way, He lived this way too. He didn’t do a single thing unless His Father directed Him to do it (John 6:38), and He didn’t say a single word unless His Father directed Him to say it (John 12:49).

The problem is not going into my prayer closet to meet with God in the morning, the problem is thinking I can leave God in the closet as I go about my day! That is atheism!

The Apostle James gave us this sound counsel: Instead of making my plans all on my own, I should say, “If the Lord wills, this is what I will do today” (James 4:13-17). And wise King Solomon said I shouldn’t lean on my own thoughts when planning my days, but lean onto God, and then watch to see how He will direct my life in the right way (Proverbs 3:5-6).

I’ve begun writing I.T.L.W. on the top of my daily calendar. It’s my reminder to say, “If The Lord Wills” this is what I will do today. And if something else comes up, I quickly acknowledge that God is directing my path where He needs me to go.

Your Kingdom come means my kingdom has to go. Your will be done means my agenda takes a distant second.

If you’re feeling stressed about your schedule, that should be your reminder to pray: “God, what do you want to have done here.” Silence the atheistic thoughts that sound like, “I have to get my list done.” Stop and pray right there on the spot.

Here’s the full video of my message on this topic—

We will be continuing our series called Practical Prayer this Sunday. If you don’t have a home church in Cedar Springs, please come be our guest. Or you can tune into our live broadcast via Periscope.

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