Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Heart Whisperer

"What do you feel God is leading you towards?" "Pray and wait for God to give you an answer." "What is God speaking to your heart?" Do these sound familiar? These are popular jargon within Christian circles and they are all mostly based on the idea of God speaking to one's heart. However, this speaking of God is rarely ever loud, clear and precise; rather, it's tiny, gentle whisper done by God that can be missed by the hearer if he isn't completely in tune with the Spirit. Many have characterized this notion as a "tugging of the heart." Sincere believers have bought into this notion and they all face the same problem: this idea is not biblical.

Greg Koukl put forth a thought provoking question on his radio show one day. He asked, "Does God ever try?" That is, if God wants to accomplish anything, can he make an attempt and ever fail? Most Christians would say no (I realize this relates to theological issues, such as limited atonement but that's a different issue I won't address). So if it is the case that God accomplished whatever he desires, could it be possible he's trying to speak to any particular person and he's not able to get through to him? Definitely not.

All throughout Scripture, God has spoken clearly and precisely to all of those he wanted to communicate with. None of his spokesmen needed to be spiritually in tune with God or have quiet daily devotions in order to "hear the still small whisper." If God had a message, he would get it through to the person(s) he wanted to communicate with. He even got through to individuals who were killing Christians.

The Apostle Paul wasn't searching for Christ. He wasn't having his morning quiet time, praying and asking God if Christ was indeed the way, the truth and the life. The man was actively seeking Christians in order to execute them. What happened? God wanted Paul to become his messenger to the Gentiles and spread the gospel throughout the nations. Did God whisper to Paul and hope Paul would feel the gentle tugging on his heart? Absolutely not! The Lord knocked him off his horse and struck him blind. Then he audibly communicated with Paul so that there was no confusion regarding what Jesus wanted.

Many today are sadly mistaken when they think they need to "hear" from God in order to make decisions. This idea is not only misleading, it's potentially harmful for those who buy into it. I know of one man who had devoted years of his life to becoming a missionary to China. He spent years trying to learn the language and prepare to head over there; however, it never happened. Even though he "felt" Gd calling him to go there, he had too much difficulty learning the language and never went. Others have put themselves and their families at risk because of the supposed "still small voice."

God can speak to anyone he so desires to choose from; however, I don't believe it is the norm and it ought not be expected. Read God's word. Learn from it and live according to it. In all other areas not addressed, there is liberty.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Richard Dawkins? .....Who Cares?

When many Christian Apologists are discussing contemporary issues relating to unbelief, Richard Dawkins seems to be the most widely and frequently mentioned individual. Articles, lectures and books are presented and his name is so often mentioned. One must think he is THE champion of unbelief and its most capable and intelligent proponent. As I've listened and read various Christian scholars and pastors talk about this man and the assertions he makes, I couldn't help but constantly think........who cares?

This man may be an expert in his area of expertise (biology?) but he's a buffoon when discussing topics which are completely out of range of his expertise. It's not uncommon for non-believers to do such things. I'm reminded of the debate Dr. Greg Bahnsen had with Gordon Stein in which Dr. Bahnsen mentioned during the debate that "...for some reason Dr. Stein has, over the last decade, left his field of expertise and given his life to a campaign for atheism." Dr. Stein and Dr. Dawkins both made the same move by leaving what they know and attacking that which they know very little.

Dawkins' comments regrading Christianity are shallow and ignorant and don't deserve to be treated seriously. I believe it's only because the man has such a wide following and his book was so popular that many Christian scholars felt the need to render a response. The man is a disrespectful, rude, indecent, inconsiderate and loathsome individual whose weightless claims and assertions regarding Christianity are childish. Please stop allowing this man to believe he's actually doing any damage to the faith than he really is. His foolishness has been addressed numerous times and most likely nothing more substantive will be forthcoming. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Talbot School of Theology (MA Philosophy): Is It Worth It?

I attended Talbot right after I completed my undergraduate degree. I took off one semester, worked full-time then flew across the U.S. to begin my MA Philosophy studies there.

The reason why I chose Talbot was mainly because of my love for apologetics and since one of the most intelligent and formidable proponents of Christianity is a professor there (i.e., William Craig), I believed I would receive the best training in order to engage in apologetics.

After completing two semesters, I decided to withdraw from the program. It was a difficult decision but I honestly wish I had made it sooner. I would like to share some important factors for those of you who are considering entering the MA Philosophy program so you can make a wise decision.

First, be aware that Dr. Craig only teaches at Talbot during the summer and winter breaks and his courses last around two weeks; they're intensive seminars. I, along with other students, believed Dr. Craig taught at Talbot more often than he actually does.

Next, is graduate work in philosophy really for you? This is a critical question you should ask yourself. If you're not at all familiar with contemporary philosophy then go to the library and read as much as you can before deciding to attend Talbot. Just because you enjoy apologetics does not mean you'll enjoy reading academic philosophy. I made the mistake of entering the philosophy program with very little exposure to contemporary philosophy and discovered that I really had very little interest in it. It was extremely boring and difficult to even begin to understand what an author of an article was even saying. I recall having to read one scholarly article at least ten times before I even began to slightly understand what the author was saying.

Something else which you should consider is the cost. Talbot is part of Biola, which is an expensive private university. Tuition has increased since I attended and it's now at $538 PER CREDIT! The MA programs require students to complete 64-66 credits. Do the math! That's A LOT of money for a degree which is virtually useless in today's job market. Are you willing to drop almost $40k for a philosophy degree which most likely won't increase your job prospects or salary? That's crucial to consider.

The cost and low interest in contemporary academic philosophy are the two main factors with contributed to my withdrawal; however, I realize there are others out there who love that sort of stuff. As a student at Talbot, many of my classmates seemed to greatly enjoy the philosophy classes and readings. I certainly didn't.

The program is great for people who want to possibly go on for a PhD in philosophy or for anyone who truly enjoys contemporary philosophy. The professors I met were great and helped me a lot but even if I actually enjoyed the subject, I couldn't get over spending so much money for such a degree. The return on your money, in most cases, will be terrible.

Feel free to leave any comments or questions.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Before you say it...

Why don't people cringe when they hear God's name blasphemed? Why don't most people feel disgusted when they hear Jesus' name used as a curse? I began pondering this question after I first started watching Ray Comfort's evangelism encounters.

He often questions the person he's speaking with whether they blaspheme God's name. Most people say they do but seem not to think much of it. Mr. Comfort assures them it is serious (because it is) and it is a violation of one of God's commandments.

While I was watching Mr. Comfort's "Noah" movie, he asked people why no one ever uses any other person's name as a curse word. Who has ever heard anyone use Buddha, Confucius, Hitler, Stalin or any other name to express anger? Would anyone use Mohammed's name as a curse word? DEFINITELY NOT! Hollywood blasphemes the name of Jesus countless times in its movies; they would NEVER.......EVER blaspheme Allah or Mohammed. Perhaps its out of cowardice.

Anyway, the point is blaspheming the God of Scripture is serious and ought not to be done. It ought not be condoned. People have gotten so used to it that most don't even realize what they are saying.
As Christians, not only should we not engage in blasphemy but we should be more conscious of what we appear to condone by our actions.

Do we pay (last time I checked, movie theatre tickets were $13 each!) to watch movies which blaspheme God's name over and over again (e.g., The Wolf of Wall Street)? Do we buy and listen to music which does this?

It may not be easy changing one's movie watching and music listening habits; however, we live for a God who loves and cares for us and has given us the Holy Spirit to work within us. We have not been left to change on our own. Our Father is always present.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Word to the Wise

I was speaking with a close friend of mine a few weeks ago about a situation she was facing. She's an older woman who recently retired and wanted to attend Bible college. The problem was that the particular school she wnated to attend was chariging almost $1000 per credit. She considered taking out a loan in order to attend. She was conflicted regardign what she shoudl do. To go or not to go; that is the question. She spoke to a few Christians about this issue and they gave her some advice. What was the typical advice? Pray and God will give you the answer.

This is only partially good advice. Of course believers should pray always and especially while facing a major decision. However, no one offered her anything more than this. Where were the words of wisdom? Where were the words of guidance? They were nowhere to be found.

When her and I spoke, I told her plainly and flat out, "Don't do it." She would have spent thousands of dollars for a degree that is useless in the world of invbestment. She wanted the degree so she could work more in youth ministry. I told her she didn't need a degree to work with youth, which she doesn't. If she was seeking to understand Scripture more, she could simply read more Christian theology books or she could even apply to an unaccreditted school and learn there.

After I gave her my advice, she decided she wouldn't go thousands of dollars in debt for the school. She thanked me and was grateful that I gave her my input. She lamented how other Christians simply didn't offer any real guidance. All they said was to pray.

Unfortunately, this is very common among believers. Because many follow their emotions and wrongly attribute them to the Holy Spirit, they make decisions based almost entirely on how they feel. This is a disastrous way to make decisions. Believers need wisdom during the decision making process. We need sound counsel from those with insight and wisdom.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Going to College: Think Twice

College isn't for everyone. Let these words sink deep into your mind; they're true. College also isn't necessary for everyone. Why do I say this? Well, after attending 5 different colleges and universities and earning a bachelor's degree, I think I have some insight. In addition, I attended graduate school for 2 separate programs but didn't complete them. I have been researching careers and education for a couple of years and I have learned some valuable information which I would like to pass on to others.

Before you even apply to college, know what career you want to pursue. This is crucial. Granted, some people change careers one or more times throughout their lives; however, one should have a pretty good idea of where he wants to go regarding a career.

If you're unsure of what your talents are or you would like to gain a better understanding of what career paths might best suit your personailty, I strongly reccommend taking some assessments. The interest inventory and MBTI personality assessments are two useful ones.

Once you have an idea of where you want to go, figure out what it will take to get there. Some career paths require college (e.g., physicians, lawyers, optometrists, engineers, etc.); howveer, plenty don't. Research the career in and out. Find out as much as you can. Reach out to people already in the position you want to be in and ask questions. Try to gather as much information as you can in order to make a wise decision.

Don't dismiss trades. Plumbers, electricians, mechanics and others make a decent living especially if they are running their own business. These trades are often overlooked by high school graduates; this is unfortunate. Many people are naturals at fixing things and competent workers are always needed in these areas.

Distinguish between profitable and non-prfitable interests. I made the mistake of entering a graduate program because I had an interest in the field but no expectancy of how I would get a job with the particular degree. Bad idea! If you enjoy philosophy, literature, photography, marine biology, etc. seriously consider what you will ultimately do with the degree. If you major in literature as an undergraduate student, do you want to teach in schools? Do you want to go on for years of more study and debt in order to complete a PhD and teahc at the college level. Some degrees are pretty much worthless if one stops at the bachelor's level. Count the cost.

Don't spend years of your life and thousands of dollars on a degree that will not be profitable in the end. The subject may interest you but remember college is a money and time investment. You want more opportunities and money for your investment. Your don;t have to dish out thousands of dollars to learn philosophy; go to a public library and simply read the works of the world's most notable philosophers. You might end up getting an even better education this way than at the university. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

It's "Think" Not "Feel"

When I was living in California, I pointed out to a friend of mine there that so many people substitute the word "think" for "feel." For example, this particular friend would very often say statements, such as "I feel this isn't the right way to go" or "I feel like you would play better if you hit the ball this way." What my friend really meant was that he thought these things. How does one "feel" that a particular answer to a question is right or wrong? How does one "feel" that in order to improve at a particular sport or task, one must change certain bad habits? This is nonsense.

In a day where feelings are paramount to most other things, people have largely replaced the correct word "think" for "feel." I mistakenly thought (or should I say "felt") this was only occurring in CA; I was wrong. Now that I'm back living on the east coast, I see this frequently. Typically, it's common among white yuppies but others do this as well.

I suspect this is the case because our culture has inundated us with notions of sentimentality and emotionality. This is why we see policies put forth at colleges, workplaces, etc. that care so much about offending people. This is the cardinal sin of our time. Our society has preoccupied itself with making sure no one feels offended at any time or in any place. Actually, it's a one way street. It is only certain types or groups of people who are worthy of being protected from offense. Homosexuals, blacks, Muslims and others are among these protected groups of people.

Indeed it is sad that we have come to this point in our day but the reality is we are here. But perhaps the next time you hear someone incorrectly using "feel" for "think" you can ask him what he means by that. Generate a discussion and point out his incorrect usage. Some people are so enmeshed within their surrounding culture that they don't even realize they do this.