Apologetics Theology/Spirituality

The Good News

We will all die. Mortality is a fact of life with which all of humanity must reckon. Every single person living today will most likely die within the next 100 years. Our hearts will stop beating, and our lungs will stop breathing. We will die. Most individuals within western civilization spend our comfortable lives trying to forget our mortality, but this does not change the fact that death will happen – likely sooner than we wish (I promise this gets better so stick with me).

Generation Z is likely the most anxious and depressed generation to ever walk the face of the Earth, and for many, reading that first paragraph probably induced incredible panic and anxiety. So why do I say this? Why bring up that depressing fact that we all know but try so hard to forget? I bring it up because I do not think death has to be depressing at all. In fact, I believe that we can hope in our death and no longer live in fear of the unknown.

Is there a solution to our inevitable death? Does God exist? If so, which one? Is there an afterlife? I hope to provide some answers to these questions to the best of my tiny pea brain’s ability in the coming paragraphs. To start, I believe that God exists. I will give a more exhaustive list of reasons and resources as to why I believe in a benevolent Creator in another post. For now, I will cite the Kalam Cosmological Argument, the Teleological Argument, the Moral Argument, the historicity and consistency of the New and Old Testament texts, the many recorded near-death experiences that closely reflect what the Bible teaches, and my own experience of the Holy Spirit as my main (but not sole) reasons for believing.

I will expound a bit on the Moral Argument for the existence of God today which reads as follows:

1. If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.

2. Objective moral values do exist.

3. Therefore, God exists.

It appears within society that there is a law of morality that we expect everyone to know about. There have been moral differences within societies, but never a total difference. Men have never been respected for running away in battle, betraying those closest to them, or selfishness, and anyone who claims they do not believe in an objective morality will still be indignant if you break a promise to them. There is an expected behavioral standard for all of humanity. We may have mistakes in our understanding of morality, but an objective right and wrong do exist.

The second fact about the moral law is that we all expect others to keep this law, but none of us keep it perfectly ourselves. We don’t live up to standards we set for ourselves and others, but as soon as this fact is pointed out, we come up with a laundry list of excuses for ourselves. However, you may notice that when someone else doesn’t keep to your expectations, the blame is often immediately placed upon them instead of accepting their excuses.

I will finish this section by quoting a passage from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (which I recommend to get a clearer picture of this argument):

“If we do not believe in decent behaviour, why should we be so anxious to make excuses for not having behaved decently? The truth is, we believe in decency so much—we feel the Rule of Law pressing on us so— that we cannot bear to face the fact that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to shift the responsibility. For you notice that it is only for our bad behaviour that we find all these explanations. It is only our bad temper that we put down to being tired or worried or hungry; we put our good temper down to ourselves. These, then, are the two points I wanted to make. First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in…If there was a controlling power outside the universe, it could not show itself to us as one of the facts inside the universe-no more than the architect of a house could actually be a wall or staircase or fireplace in that house. The only way which we could expect to it to show itself would be inside ourselves as an influence or a command trying to get us to behave in a certain way.”

If there is no God, then rape is not objectively wrong. If there is no God, then the holocaust was not evil. If there is no God, then what we call good and evil is merely a personal preference and not an objective standard. If we state that there is a worldview or society that has a better morality than another, we are measuring it by some standard and stating that one society adheres to that standard better than another. The consequence of believing in objective morality is that some transcendent consciousness outside of us must provide that morality.

Now, how do we get from a vague, transcendent consciousness to the Christian Godhead as we understand Him? The Christian faith centers around the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. From this single event springs all Christian theology and traditions. Therefore, if one can disprove the resurrection, they can disprove the Christian faith as a whole. However, if the resurrection proves true, then it logically follows that expressions of Christianity as we know them today must at least be close to the truth. Scholars (even secular ones) generally agree that Jesus was a real, physical human being who walked the earth, that Jesus died on the cross, and that Jesus’ disciples and dissenters such as Paul and James saw him after his death. The secular scholars attempt to explain the resurrection by claiming that the over 500 eyewitnesses (1 Cor. 15) who saw Jesus after raising from the dead all hallucinated (and other naturalistic explanations), but I think these explanations are far more unlikely than what the Bible claims. I implore you to research the strong historical evidence for the life, the resurrection, and the deity of Jesus.

The general reasoning given by those who refuse to believe in a bodily resurrection of Jesus is that a miracle is not a reasonable explanation for anything, and to that, I say: is it not entirely possible and reasonable that if there is a God who created the laws of nature, he could break them to reveal Himself to us? After all, God is not subject to His creation, or He would be a very weak diety if such were true. Therefore, it follows that believing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is perfectly logical. I also tend to believe that there are a large number of individuals who would rather ignore the evidence for Christ’s resurrection because of the personal consequences of acknowledging it as true. For Jesus says in Luke 16:31, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”

How does all of this pertain to us in the twenty-first century? What does this have to do with our eventual death? What does the resurrection tell us about God? Well, I’m so glad you asked! From here on out, I will assume that Christianity is true for the sake of space and attempt to explain why I believe what I believe Biblically and rationally.

Given that God is good and just, He must judge us according to our deeds. Ecclesiastes ends by stating that “God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Therefore, we can understand that God must punish every sin, or he is not just for a judge who pardons a guilty defendant is considered a terrible judge.

Most people generally have this idea that we are “good” people and that God would not punish us because we have done good deeds. To that I say: A judge does not pardon someone based on the number of good deeds they have done, but they punish each injustice individually. Our good deeds cannot outweigh the blasphemy we have committed, and evil must be punished.

If I have come off as self-righteous at all during this, I must let you know that I am a terrible sinner. I have no grounds to be self-righteous, and I do not write this to puff myself up but instead to hopefully point you towards what I believe to be the truth. According to Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount and the ten commandments, I am a lying, adultering, fornicating, blaspheming, prideful wretch just to name a few. I have hurt people that I care about significantly in the past, and I have hurt myself significantly. I regret many things that I’ve done, but hurting people and myself, though very painful, is not primarily why my sin is wrong. My sin is wrong because it blasphemes our holy and righteous God. When we sin, we are choosing ourselves as god over our lives instead of the living God who reveals Himself in the Bible.

Think of the severity of sin this way: If you take a quarter and scrape the cement in your street with that quarter, there will be no punishment. If you take that same quarter to a car junkyard and scrape an old beater, you likely will face no punishment. If you take that quarter to a used car lot and scrape a used Volkswagen, your punishment increases significantly. Now, if you take that quarter to a Lamborghini showroom and scrape a Lamborghini, your punishment becomes very, very severe. You see, the crime itself remained the same, but the object of the crime became more valuable as we went along. How much more valuable is our holy and righteous God than that Lamborgini so that when we sin against Him it is seen as high treason!

How should we atone for this sin? How can we make ourselves right before God? The Bible states that God is love in 1 John 4, and Jesus commands us to love God and our neighbor with all of our heart, soul, and mind as the chief commandments in Matthew 22. We can understand from this that God’s nature is love, and because of this, He seeks to make a way for fallen man (Genesis 3) to be reconciled to Him (Isaiah 52 and 53). However, because God is just, He must punish every sin, so He sent His Son to live a perfect, sinless human life recorded in the Gospel accounts. Jesus died on the cross at cavalry, absorbed God’s wrath for humanity in our place, and rose from death on the third day (Matt. 27-28). Because of this sacrifice, we have the option to be justified before God (Romans 3:21-36). All that we must do to be saved is “believe in the Lord Jesus” as Paul tells the jailer in Acts 16. We are justified when we put our faith in Jesus Christ alone. When Jesus says to “repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” in Matthew 4, the word he uses for repent is metanoia, and it translates “to change one’s mind/to change directions.” This mind change that Jesus refers to is such a deep shift that the way one sees the world and treats people often completely changes. We are reborn during this change of mind in a way that is difficult to fully put into words. This rebirth is open to you if you will accept it so that you may glorify the only One worth praising and thereby experience a deeper joy than previously known to you.

There are only two religions in this world. There is the religion by which we attempt to make or declare ourselves righteous or good through our abilities and sets of rules. Then, there is the true religion that allows the atonement of Jesus to work for us in which we can live out of loving obedience and not fear. We will all stand before a righteous and holy God one day who will judge us justly, and the Bible also makes it clear that Heaven and Hell are both very real (Luke 16:19-31 as one example). I don’t say this to scare you but to hopefully place a real reverence for God in your heart. Do you want it to be your feeble works that attempt to justify you, or will you be made right through the sacrifice that God’s own son made for you? The Bible says in Isaiah 64:6 that our works are like “filthy rags” before the Lord. We deserve to go to Hell for our sins, so we must allow Him to redeem us.

This is the cure for our mortality and death. God gifts us eternal life through His Son that we may spend an eternity in relationship with Him. Jesus loves you and wants a relationship with you that will last forever. So I will ask you the same question that Jesus asked Peter in Matthew 16: Who do you say that Jesus is? Will you accept him as your Lord and Savior and realize your spiritual poverty? I am always open to grabbing coffee or talking on the phone. Please reach out if you have any questions or would like to talk, and I pray that God’s blessings and peace would be upon you during this trying season.

I’ll leave you with this quote from C.S. Lewis’ sermon titled The Weight of Glory (I’m really loving some Lewis this week y’all):

“The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It’s a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations…There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals with whom we joke with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”


2.5 Miles Per Hour

Soccer Fields in Quiriman de Nicoya, Costa Rica
Soccer Fields in Quiriman de Nicoya, Costa Rica

As Americans, we live in a culture of sprinters. Each person is running as hard and fast as we can towards the “next thing” that might fulfill the brokenness in our hearts. Some of us run towards addictions, lust, or gluttony. Some run towards our own pride and create gods out of ourselves. And others run simply out of fear of what might happen if we stop. It’s far easier to remain hidden and avoid being known when we’re running.

The average speed of walking is about 2.5 Miles Per Hour (4 KPH). This is the speed at which God moves, and it’s terrifying to us Americans. We cannot fathom slowing down the rapid, technology-filled pace of our lives because that’s usually all we’ve ever known. However, if you want to live like Jesus, you must understand that Jesus walked. Jesus lived his life at a slow pace, being vulnerable and investing in people’s lives, and that’s how He changed the world. This may not seem like a monumental revelation to you, but the realization that Jesus spent His time here moving slowly and intentionally changed my outlook on life. If we want to live like Jesus, we must walk like Jesus. That means slowing down (a lot).

We must slow down to catch up with what God is doing in our lives. God moves at His pace and does things in His time, and if we continue our rapid sprint, we’ll blow right by God's plan for us without batting an eye. Slow down.

It’s very difficult to grasp this concept while only observing the dysfunctional organism that is American culture. I was finally able to put a finger on what “slowing down” really meant after my first mission trip to Quiriman de Nicoya, Costa Rica. I observed a culture built around presence and relationships. Costa Ricans live their lives at a different pace than that of Americans. The people of Quiriman usually spend the entirety of their lives in this farming community, and they know the names, faces, and stories of every person in the town. True community can only form at 2.5 mph, and Quiriman is the definition of a true community.

I’m a strong 2 on the enneagram, and this means my purpose for existing is essentially to be in relationships. I’m passionate about imperfectly helping and loving on the amazing men and women in my circle, and I gain deep joy and fulfillment from being in deep community with people. However, fostering deep relationships means I have to put myself out there and risk rejection, embarrassment, and disappointment. Vulnerability, or what I call “letting myself be seen,” is terrifying, to say the least. One of my core fears is that, if I let myself be seen with all my scrapes and bruises, no one will want me. Getting over this fear requires me to slow down my sprint, sit down with the individuals around me who do care for me, and be vulnerable with them. Ministry is not just sharing the Gospel with someone and disappearing from their life. Ministry means being a part of people’s lives and being present for all of it.

So how do we actually do this? My challenge to you (and myself) is to take time to learn the people’s faces, names, and stories who you encounter this year. Pay attention to God’s voice in your life. Spend time simply talking and getting to know the stories and testimonies of your trusted circle. Risk rejection to dive into relationships and be vulnerable. Be a present part of people’s lives and allow them to be part of yours. Know that you are a beloved sinner, and give yourself permission to be broken. There is freedom in slowing down and being known. Live life at 2.5 miles per hour.

I will leave you with the lyrics to Not In A Hurry by Will Reagan and United Pursuit, which I think is an appropriate meditiation:

Lord I don't want to rush on ahead

In my own strength

When You're right here

I'm not in a hurry

When it comes to Your spirit

When it comes to Your presence

When it comes to Your voice

I'm learning to listen

Just to rest in Your nearness

I'm starting to notice

You are speaking

Lord I want to love like You

I want to feel what You feel

I want to see what You see

Open my eyes, I want to see You more clearly

Open my ears, I want to hear You speak

Tell me your thoughts, what's on Your mind

I'll be your friend, I want to see through Your eyes


God’s Glory

Sunset in Nicoya

Many Christians believe that the purpose of our religion is so that God can give them everything they want (hence the prosperity gospel). They may not put that into words, but their prayers and the way they live their life reflect that reality. Every prayer begins and ends with requests of God for what He can do in our lives instead of marveling in His Great Name and asking how we can be used to contribute to the growth of His Kingdom. When life centers around us, it creates a place where sin thrives because "I deserve everything I want, and life has to go exactly the way that I planned it because ultimately it's about me!" This is a broken perspective which contorts the gospel and God's purpose in our lives because ultimately, God is for his own glory. Not ours.

I'm not saying that God doesn't love each of us even more than we could imagine, and I'm not implying that Jesus didn't die for the purpose of eradicating our sins. However, what I am saying is that the purpose of God's work in our lives is not so that you can be lifted up and glorified, but it is so that He can be lifted up and glorified. God is concerned with the things of God and rejects those of the flesh.

God's glory is mentioned 58 times in the NIV Bible, and my favorite example is in in 1 Corinthians 10:31 which states " So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." This verse sounds great in theory, but if you've ever tried to actually do every single act in a single day to the glory of God, you understand how difficult this really is. We're inherently selfish and prideful beings, and that's contrary to God's purpose for our lives. When we live in the way that He originally designed us to live, avoiding lust, pride, gluttony, greed, sloth, envy, and wrath, we honor his name above all else and are capable of experiencing true joy in Christ.

A specific topic I wanted to address that's been coming up in my conversations a lot lately is the selfish roots of insecurities and depression and how neither of those things glorify God. The heart of insecurity is essentially saying that what God has gifted me with in this life is not good enough and I require more to become the "best" version of myself. This is selfish not only because we're focusing on the physical and social imperfections of ourselves instead of God, but we're also rejecting the amazing gifts that God has given us. The glorification of God is not occurring in situations where people are violently insecure because they're choosing to be ungrateful for the amazing gifts that are present in their lives, and they're rejecting the abundant life that Jesus Christ died on the cross for us to have (John 10:10).

God is for God, and I could argue that if we attempt to make God about us, we're actually depriving ourselves of joy. C.S. Lewis writes that "I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment." The point of this amazing quote is God doesn't command us to glorify him because He needs it, but He commands us to glorify him because that will expand the Joy we experience in this lifetime. The key to the entire idea of the glorification of God is that the enjoyment will be incomplete without that delight being extended to the heavens in praise.

God loves us enough to instruct us to praise his name because that will complete our enjoyment of Him and get our eyes off of ourselves. The solution for most dissatisfaction in life is simply to train our vision on the amazing qualities of the God we serve and stop focusing so much on our own issues and insecurities. God is worthy of our praise and worship, and we can only achieve the abundant life He's set out before us by making much of his name instead of our own.


The Power of Human Connection

Being honest with ourselves and vulnerable with others is at the root of all human connection, and building relationships with others in Christ drives finding our own godly purpose and also helps us grow in our faith. Being seen as you truly are is one of the most courageous and difficult acts that anyone can accomplish, but it is absolutely necessary for us to develop as Christians.

Over spring break, I had the privilege of going to the town of Quiriman de Nicoya in Costa Rica and serving the local church and community. What I saw there was a group of people who had almost nothing compared to us, yet they displayed a level of hospitality and overall joy that is rarely seen in the States. They opened their arms to us and loved on us in a way that is almost shunned in countries and areas of affluence. It’s almost as if their focus was solely on the people with them in that moment and not on any of the monumental issues surrounding them.

Contentment in Christ is something these people have mastered. They don’t wish for more things, a better life, a nicer house, or a newer car because these people understand that won’t bring happiness. The people of Nicoya, in all of their poverty and struggle, understand something that a large portion of us Americans may never.

Happiness will never come from more of anything except Christ and Christ-centered relationships. An example of this connection in Christ could be seen through the group who went to help one of the church members demolish a concrete floor and move nearly 10,000 pounds of dirt from inside of her house. The house was only partially covered by a tin roof, and it had a very uneven part-cement, part-dirt floor. It also had open sewage draining from the yard and only 4 relatively small rooms to house a large family. Despite this, she completely opened up her home to us with all of its flaws and imperfections, and we accepted the challenge to improve it as much as we could. Because of our work, we developed relationships with a few of the natives who came to work alongside us and the family who lived in the house, and through them, we were able to experience a people who are full of integrity, character, and immense resilience.

A final and fantastic example of building lasting relationships through vulnerability was when, after a long day of work at the church in Quiriman, the foreman in charge of coordinating all of our work at the church gave his testimony during the service later that night. He talked about his mother dying in childbirth and dealing with his anger towards God, and he shared his issues of growing up with 18 siblings without a mother. This testimony moved most of the crowd to tears and some to the verge of losing it, and it gave many of us a different perspective on the people living in this town. We were able to understand these faithful and strong people through their willingness to be vulnerable and seen despite the language barriers.

The work that we did, though it was important, was not the most important part of our mission trip. The relationships we built throughout our work in the community matter far more than any amount of issues we could have solved. We were able to experience a beautiful culture centered around simply being present, connecting with others, being content with the present situation, and centering life around faith instead of material things. I learned a large amount during this amazing week through deep-bellied laughter, heartfelt testimonials, back breaking work, and amazingly faith-centered people. #concretecrew out (mic drop).