Not So Far-Fetched: Is the Bible Believable?

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Today we’re going to follow where the evidence leads as we ask: Is the Bible Believable? Before we look at the Christian view of scripture, whether you’re a believer or not, here are 4 observations we can all agree on concerning the Bible.

1. It’s old.

The oldest sections of scripture are from 1500 BC making it the oldest writings in existence. The most recent writings were around 100 AD. Even the newest parts are old.

2. It’s big.

The Bible is a big book. The Bibles we carry around are deceptively small, holding multiple columns with small type, printed on tissue paper. It’s about 800,000 words, while the average non-fiction book today is 50,000 words.

3. It’s popular.

Not only is the Bible the best-selling book of all time, it’s the best selling book in the world every year. No book has ever outsold the Bible in a single year.

4. It’s powerful.

It’s the most outlawed book ever and it just keeps going because it’s powerful. People’s lives are transformed from reading the Bible.


The Christian view of the Bible is, God wrote it.

If God wrote a book, you’d expect it to be a best seller. If this came from God, it explains everything listed above. It’s why the Bible is so powerful and survives so many attacks.

A Christian is one who believes the Bible is the inspired Word of God and it is the basis for our faith. 

That’s not to say you can’t doubt the Bible as a Christian or have questions. To be a Christian means believing certain things that you can only believe if you accept that the Bible is supernaturally trustworthy. That’s the Christian view of scripture.

Let’s look at what Christ himself said about scripture. Let’s take a look at Jesus at one of his weakest, most human moments and how he responds.

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.”  Matthew 4:1-11

When the Devil came gunning for Jesus, Jesus used scripture as His defense.

The Devil even tried to use scripture against Jesus and He wouldn’t have it. That’s why Paul called it the sword of the Spirit. We are in spiritual warfare because it’s a supernatural battle. The Bible wouldn’t have any power if it were just sayings of a man. But they’re the inspired words of God. Let’s jump a little bit forward in the text and continue to see what Jesus says about scripture.

“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:1-2,17-20

It says every letter, the whole Bible is from God. The whole thing is supernatural. Every word is from the pen of God. That’s the Christian view of scripture.


Objections to the Christian View

  1. God or humans?

We say God wrote it, but we also know it was written over hundreds of years with 40 different human authors. Which is it? Did God write it or did humans write it?

We say both. This is where the Bible stands apart. For instance, the book of Mormon was written by Joseph Smith and he says there were gold plates that no one has ever seen, except him and he learned to translate from those plates and learned the language for the purpose of translating, and then he forgot. Now set that next to the Bible where you have actual manuscripts from actual authors in the original language. So we have the human record, but what about God?

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Think about a bridge. Specifically, the Brooklyn Bridge. A guy named Washington Roebling built the Brooklyn Bridge. His father came up with the plans and then died, so Washington carried it through but then he got sick, so his wife carried it through to the end.

Now we know the architect behind the bridge, but what about the people who laid the bricks? There were people who laid the stones, and the whole thing was completed during Washington Roebling’s lifetime. It was one plan that he oversaw. He oversaw the laying of every brick.

God is the architect, or author. He’s overseen it now for 3500 years now. We know this because there is the remarkable internal coherence of scripture that is impossible to explain otherwise.

For a book with multiple authors to stand, like the Bible has, there has to be one mastermind behind the whole thing. That’s how it was with the Brooklyn Bridge. It was built for horse-drawn carriages, but now it withstands semi trucks. That is a testament to the designer and the person who built it.

The Bible stands majestically and with power. All of these people cobbled something together that is so unified, written by different types of people, speaking different languages on different continents and countries at different times.

So, was it written by God or humans? The answer is: both. God built it with humans. So you might agree that God wrote the text, but humans put it together and the assembled the canon of which books are considered and which ones weren’t. That’s another popular objection:

2. Determining the canon.

How do we know we have the right books? If you have this objection it might have come from reading The DaVinci Code, a fiction book that some people believed like it was truth. The story he tells is that it was a political, a power play that some writings were included and some weren’t.

Only when some other books tried to weasel their way in did the church counsels say, these are the books that everyone has agreed on for hundreds of years, and all they did was make official what was already known. It’s overseen by God. If he can write the words, he can oversee the process of assembling it.

3. Copying and Translating.

Maybe you can see how God wrote the words and we have the right books, but your objection is that it has been copied and translated so many times, how do we even know if that’s what the original authors even wrote?

Every Bible that you have, has been translated exactly one time. It’s been translated from the original language to the language you speak. It wasn’t translated from Greek to Latin to German to English.

It has been copied. No one is claiming we have the original manuscript that each author wrote. What you have in your Bible is the same text as the page of the person who wrote it. There were 24,000 copies of this text preserved. The Bible has a paper trail unlike any kind of ancient document. How does that happen unless God is at work?

4. Parts I don’t like.

Maybe you read the Bible and there are things that contradict your basic values. So, you can’t possibly believe it’s the word of God because it says things you don’t agree with or you find offensive. The logic of this objection is, because it upsets you, it can’t possibly be true. 

If the Bible really is a supernatural book, it’s not a product of any culture. It will have to contradict every culture at some point. The fact that it contradicts your cultural values doesn’t cut against it being the word of God, that proves even more so that it is in fact the word of God.

In 2004, there was a remake of a 1975 movie that was a book before that, called the Stepford Wives. It’s about these husbands that got tired of their wives arguing with them and not doing what they say, so they put chips in the back of their heads to make them perfectly sweet all the time.

People want to do that with God. People want a Stepford God.

They want him to stop saying stuff they don’t like and only say things they agree with. If you have a God that agrees with you on everything and never agues with you, you know one thing for sure, you don’t have a real God. Your god is a product of your imagination.

If your god never disagrees with you, you might just be worshiping an idealized version of yourself. — Tim Keller

If you don’t believe the parts you don’t like, how can you really believe the parts you do like? The Bible says some amazing things like “you are fully forgiven, completely loved and a child of God.” But because you don’t believe the Bible as a whole, you can’t fully believe those things are true about you.

In the original version of the Stepford Wives, it was more of like a horror story. They didn’t put a chip in their heads, the husbands actually murdered their wives and made robots, instead. The husbands didn’t like their real wives so they killed them to make one that was better.

What’s the point of this gruesome illustration? It’s remarkably similar to what we and did with Jesus. We were waiting for a savior. Then, the real Savior shows up and at first we’re so excited, but then he does all this stuff that we don’t like and says all these things that make us angry. We feel cheated. This isn’t the God we signed up for. Let’s kill this Savior and maybe we can make up a better one for ourselves. That’s what happened with Jesus.

We do that today. We have the option to kill the real God and invent a God of our imaginations. If you do that, initially, this new God you make up for yourself, will have a lot more in common with you and be a lot easier to get along with than the real God. What you miss when you do that is warmth, love, relationship and salvation. The only way you get those things, is if you take Him as He is. That’s what God does with you, He takes you as you are. That’s what the Bible says, anyway.


What Now?

So what do we do now? We can be under the Bible’s authority.

In the book of Nehemiah we see that the wall of the city of Jerusalem was in ruins. Their city was in ruins, their faith was in ruins and the people of God were in ruins. Nehemiah had a vision to rebuild the people of God and he knew that it started with rebuilding the wall. So he rebuilt the wall against great opposition and regathered the people. Once the people were regathered a tower was built in their midst and a scribe by the name of Ezra went up to the top of the tower.

“Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.”  Nehemiah 8:5-6 NIV

Now think about that for a moment. God is resurrecting the hope of his people. It would be like if the gospels were taken away from our city and all the churches were shut down and rotting and then the gospels were opened after a generation of being kept from us.

When this happened, all the people who could see Ezra stood up in honor of the word of God and then everyone praised God and there wasn’t even a message yet. It was just an honor and respect for the word of God.

When we take the Bible in our hands we don’t have to physically stand up, but we have to stand up in our hearts and recognize that it is above us and we are under its authority.


Check Back

Does anyone have any thoughts from their daily devotions or from reflecting more on the message on life after death? Did anyone pick up the book “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

Look over the message outline together. 

Take some time to dig into God’s word. Read Matthew 4 & 5.

Application

  1. What do you believe Jesus believed about scripture after reading those two chapters?
  2. Growing up, what was your family’s belief about the Bible?
  3. What stood out to you from the message?
  4. What kind of Bible do you read? (What translation? Do you read it on an app, online or a printed Bible? Is it a Study Bible? A red letter Bible?)
  5. Of the four objections to the Christian view of the bible, which one have you wrestled with the most, personally? Which objection do your unbelieving friends or family hold?

Tell Someone Else

Who do you need to share this message with? Is there someone you’re better equipped to have a conversation with because of this message?

Do you consider your life being under the authority of God’s word? What would that look like?

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Not So Far-Fetched: Is There Life After Death?

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What actually happens when you take your last breath and your heart stops? It’s a big question, one we maybe don’t think about enough.

What you believe about death and eternity will determine how you live now. 

So many people believe different things which answers a lot of questions on how they conduct life. Some believe that at death, it’s over and there’s no reason to live with an eternal motivation. Some people believe in purgatory, that once you die, people can pray you out of purgatory. Islam teaches that at the end, Allah will judge the works of those who have gone before and weigh your good and bad deeds to determine your eternal destination. Some people believe in reincarnation and think, depending on how you live, you come back as a higher or lower life form.

None of that is what the Bible says though. Let’s look at eight evidences for life after death. These are pulled from a variety of sources. No single one of these are a slam dunk proof. But they do build a case.


8 Evidences for an Afterlife

  1. Nature

There is a pattern and cycle in nature. There’s winter where there’s death, but then it turns to spring. Seeds go into the earth, die and then bring forth life.

There’s a cycle in nature that’s obvious to us all… I’m not sure what is after death but nature seems to give us a picture of what it will be like. Some kind of new life after death.  -Plato

2. Anthropology

Anthropologists say that every culture on earth, from those who live in primitive parts of the Amazon, the Himalayas, to urban cultures, all believe in some kind of afterlife. Most societies treat death not as an end into nothingness, but as a transition into some unknown state. It seems that there is something built into the human soul that not only transcends culture, but intuitively knows that physical death is a door, not a dead end.

3. Psychology

We have a sense that there has to be more than this. The human experience is one of seeking fulfillment. What we know is, as soon as you get the thing that you think will satisfy, it doesn’t quite do it. We’re made for something this broken world cannot provide.

If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.  -C.S. Lewis 

4. Ethics

The reasoning of ethics says that to have morality there has to be justice. When all of us look at what’s going on in the world, we often see people do bad things, but good can still happen to them. We also see good people experiencing bad things. The reasoning from ethics is that things have to get leveled out somewhere. For justice to occur, it doesn’t always occur in this life so there has to be some judgement of good and evil.

5. Philosophy

Justice doesn’t always occur in this life, so there has to be another time of judgment or reconciliation of good and evil.

If there is a good God and there is morality, there has to be an afterlife for any of life to make sense.  -Immanuel Kant 

6. Science

Scientific research, specifically the study of near death experiences continually suggests an afterlife. In 2014, the largest medical research study ever conducted on cardiac arrest patients was released. The UK-based team spent four years analyzing survivors’ interviews. Nearly 40% experienced some form of awareness during the time they had been declared dead. The experts held a belief that once the heart stops beating, the brain ceases functioning within twenty to thirty seconds and awareness is no longer possible. The results of this study contradicts this belief.

Research, published in the Journal of Resuscitation, included 2,060 patients in fifteen hospitals in the US, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Of those who survived their cardiac arrest, 46% experienced a broad range of mental recollections, 9% had what was called a “classical near-death experience,” and 2% had an out-of-body experience.

7. Jesus

We think the greatest evidence is in the only person who has died, come back to life and came from heaven, Jesus. Take a look at last week’s post, about the proof of the resurrection. Jesus was alive for 40 days in a resurrected body with over 500 eye witnesses in 12 different locations here on earth before ascending to heaven.

8. The Bible

We believe in the authority of scripture and what it says about life after death. Normally we’d just start with Jesus and the Bible and go from there, but consider that,

The cumulative evidence from nature, anthropology, psychology, ethics, philosophy, science, the Bible and the testimony of Jesus make belief in an afterlife the most rational, plausible, and intellectually defensible conclusion to the question “Is there life after death?”

In short, it’s not a far-fetched leap of faith to believe in life after death. So what do we know about death and the afterlife?


What Do We Know About Death?

  1. Death is certain.

Death can be sudden, it can be too early, it can be tragic, but it’s never a surprise. Scripture says it very simply,

“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”  Hebrews 9:27-28

What will happen at judgment depends on what you did with Christ in your lifetime.  Jesus is so important in our spiritual destiny, because we are born with a sin nature and that sin separates us from a holy God. The Gospel says “for God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, Jesus…”

Jesus was born of a virgin, therefore, not inheriting the sin nature, but lived the perfect and sinless life. Jesus shed His innocent blood, died on a cross and He didn’t stay dead. On the third day, He rose again, and because of His perfect sacrifice, by faith, when we believe in Him, we are called righteous by God and we are adopted into the family of God by our faith in Christ. Scripture says that anyone, no matter what you’ve done, no matter how dark your life has been, anyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus will be saved. Your sins, can be forgiven and gone. And then, when you die a physical death, you will not die eternally, you’ll live with God in heaven.

2. The soul and the body separate.

You are not your body, your skin and flesh is not the real you. Your body is called a tent.  It is a house for the real you, but it’s not the real you. When you die, your heart stops beating, but you continue to live.

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Matthew 10:28

One day, when your physical body dies, you will be as alive as you ever have been. In fact, Jesus said this way in John 11 when He has resurrected a man named Lazarus from the grave. Lazarus died physically, and Jesus called his name and raised Lazarus physically, and then Jesus took the opportunity to make a much larger point about life and death…

“…He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”  John 11:25-26

3. You will face judgment.

Hebrews 9:27

“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…”  Hebrews 9:27

The thought of being judged by God is very sobering. After you die, you will face judgment and there will be two different judgments.

  • The Great White Throne Judgment

Only non-believers will be at this judgment to determine where they will spend their eternity.

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it…And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”  Revelation 20:11-12, 15

At the Great White Throne Judgment, there’s the Book of Life and other books which evidently contain our deeds and maybe even our sins. If your name is not found written in the Book of Life, you are judged by your works to see if you were good enough by your works to qualify for Heaven.

Scripturally, we know that no one is. The Bible says very clearly that we are only saved by grace through faith in Jesus. So, if your name is not written in the Lambs Book of Life, you are judged by your works and will be thrown into the lake of fire. This is everlasting destruction and separation from God in a very real place.

  • The Judgment Seat of Christ

This judgment is for believers. Their eternal destination is not judged here. That was already determined on earth, when they responded to the grace and the work and the love of Jesus. Instead, their works are judged to see whether or not they are worthy of rewards in Heaven.

“For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.”  Romans 14:10b

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”  2 Corinthians 5:10

Just imagine, being face to face with Jesus, and he comes to you and says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Then, He will ask you to kneel slightly as He puts a crown upon your head. We’ll wear crowns in God’s Kingdom.


The Bible tells us about five crowns in heaven. There may be more, but we do know about these five.

Incorruptible Crown: for those seeking maturity in Christ. They desire to know Christ more. They fast and pray and stay consistent in their pursuit and desire of Him and His Word. They also help other people know Him better.

Crown of Righteousness: for those who know that this world is not their home. These people know that true joy doesn’t come from possession of things, but they long for the return of Christ.

Crown of Rejoicing: for those who care for people who don’t know Christ. This is the Soul Winner’s Crown. Their heart breaks for anyone who has not heard the gospel. They look for opportunities, not just to talk about spiritual things, but to show people spiritual things.

Crown of Glory: for those who care for others. The pastors, shepherds, leaders. These people serve and lead in kid’s ministry. They are the parents who points their kids to Christ.

Crown of Life: for those who endure trials and hard times and yet, hang on to Jesus. Today, around the world, there are people who will die the death of a martyr. Today, there will be people who embrace Christ, even unto death, and they will receive this crown.

“(A person’s) work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”  1 Corinthians 3:13-15

Believers, one day your work or your lack thereof will be judged. Many will be rewarded so handsomely, because they are amazing servants.

Others, who are also believers, have done hardly anything but receive from Christ. They have received Christ, but have done almost nothing with it. On judgement day, they will be filled with regret when they get into Heaven, as only one escaping through the flames. These people would give anything to do it over when they see just how real and just how good He is.


Take a look at this final observation. Note how many of these verses have to do with life. It’s even called the Book of Life.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 6:23

When you read about philosophers and other religious writings, there is some truth to them. If Jesus was just wisdom, He’s not that unique. We wouldn’t desire to worship Him, we’d just be learning from Him. We worship Him because he’s full of truth and He’s full of wisdom, but we also worship him because he can raise the dead.

Only our God can raise the dead and give life.

If all you’re looking for is some lessons that you can apply to your life or if you are just trying to be better, there are many places to go for that. But if what you’re looking for is resurrection and you want your name written in the Book of Life, then there’s only one person who does that and who can do that. There’s one name you can call to be raised to life again.

Your physical heart is still beating blood through your veins, but is your spiritual heart stone cold? God can take a heart of stone and give a heart of flesh.

You owe Jesus Christ your life, your future, and every ounce of energy. Ask God, “What do you want me to do? This is your life, and I don’t want to just narrowly escape the flames, I want to do what gives you glory, I want to be crowned.”


Check Back

Check back on your week. Did anyone have any thoughts from their daily devotions or from reflecting more on what you discussed last week about the resurrection?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

What you believe about death and eternity will determine how you live now.

The cumulative evidence of nature, anthropology, psychology, ethics, philosophy, science, the testimony of Jesus and the Bible make belief in an afterlife the most rational, plausible, and intellectually defensible conclusion to the question “Is there life after death?”

What do we know about death?

1. Death is certain. (Hebrews 9:27-28)

2. The soul and the body separate. (Matthew 10:28)

3. We will face judgment. (Hebrews 9:27)

  • The Great White Throne Judgment. (Revelation 20:11-12, 15)
  • The Judgment Seat of Christ. (Romans 14:10, 2 Corinthians 5:10)

Application

  1. What was your family’s perspective on heaven and afterlife growing up?
  2. How can ones belief about eternity affect the way they live today?
  3. Did anything in this message change your perspective on eternity?
  4. Spend a little time studying the crowns. Look up these verses and read aloud.
  • Incorruptible Crown      1 Corinthians 9:25-27
  • Crown of Righteousness   2 Timothy 4:8
  • Crown of Rejoicing     1 Thessalonians 2:19-20
  • Crown of Glory      1 Peter 5:4
  • Crown of Life     James 1:12, Revelation 2:10

Which of the five crowns stood out to you the most?

  1. Reread 1 Corinthians 3:13-15. If you died today and stood at the judgment seat of Christ, when your works and motives are revealed, would you feel good about your life? Why or why not?
  2. Since you still have an opportunity to change, what is God showing you to do differently?

Tell Someone Else

Who do you need to share this message with? Is there someone you’re better equipped to have a conversation with because of this message?

For more on what the Bible has to say about life after death, the theology of Heaven and hell, and living in light of Heaven, see “HEAVEN” by Randy Alcorn

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Not So Far-Fetched: Is Jesus Alive?

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Two thousand years ago, a man named Jesus lived in ancient Palestine and was executed on a Roman cross. Shortly after, a group of his followers went out into the city of Jerusalem and all around the Mediterranean and spread the message that Jesus was crucified, but three days later, He rose again. The core of Christianity is the Gospel message, that Jesus died for our sins and rose again. If the resurrection didn’t happen, then our faith is empty but if it did, then it changes everything.

This post is for those of you who need a faith check-up. You believe, but sometimes you wonder, “Is this thing for real? Can I trust this?” Maybe you watched a documentary on the history channel and you’ve got some questions. And you just need a faith check-up.

For others of you, you’re just checking it out. Maybe you didn’t grow up in a religious home and you don’t really care one way or another. Your philosophy of life is, “I’m just here to have a good time and when I die, then I’ll deal with whatever comes next.” 

Then there’s a third category of people, you’ve already decided that you’ve checked out of faith. Perhaps you grew up in a Christian home and you were handed a childhood version of faith. But then you became an adult and what you experienced in the real world didn’t match the version of faith that you grew up with. Perhaps you experienced a tragedy or someone close to you did, maybe a prayer went unanswered or a college professor said something that made you question everything you believe in. So you decided to check out of the whole faith thing.

But today, maybe we can help remove one potential stumbling block to faith and perhaps provide a bridge that may help you consider believing again. Today, you can have incredible confidence that the resurrection is a historical reality. 


The primary argument against the resurrection is that it’s a myth. That the written accounts of the resurrection are far too removed from the actual events to be accurate accounts of actual events. This belief states that over a period of a few hundred years, the story got exaggerated and by the time that anyone had written anything down, the story became so exaggerated and there were no eyewitnesses around to dispute it. If we look at New Testament scholarship today, it will show that theory isn’t even possible.

There’s a college textbook titled, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction To The Early Christian Writings. In it, the non-believing author, Bart. D. Ehrman, agrees with Christian scholars about the timeline of the New Testament writings on the life of Jesus.  Ehrman has his PhD in New Testament documents and is also an atheist. Atheist scholars don’t believe the bible is inspired, they don’t believe in the resurrection. They try to find some other explanation as to why the New Testament authors believed in the the resurrection and study the New Testament documents like they would any other ancient text.

Scholars, including non-Christian ones, believe the New Testament is not just a book but is a collection of biographies and letters written in the first century. Biographies were written of the life of Jesus by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. There are also letters from Paul, James, Peter and John. Here’s a timeline, pulled directly from Ehrman’s textbook:

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These dates mean that the idea of the resurrection as a myth isn’t even possible. The Gospels are the four earliest accounts of the life of Jesus ever written. They all talk about the death and resurrection of Jesus.

You may not trust the Bible, but even if you don’t believe the Bible is inspired by God, you still have to wrestle with the fact that these are first century texts, written by different people, at different places, with different perspectives, yet they are all talking about the resurrection of Jesus.


Scholars know that Paul lived in the 1st century and was incredibly intelligent. In the New Testament, there are 13 letters with Paul’s name on it. Not all scholars agree on all 13 letters, but they do have a list of 7 letters they call the undisputed letters of Pauline.

  • Romans
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Galatians
  • Philippians
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • Philemon

All scholars agree Paul wrote these letters around 50-60 AD. In every single one of these letters except Philemon, Paul explicitly mentions the resurrection.

In the very first sentence of Galatians 1 written around 55 to 57 AD, Paul says:

“Paul, an apostle, sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead”  Galatians 1:1

Now, obviously atheist scholars doubt that the resurrection actually happened. They try to find another theory to explain why the New Testament authors came to believe in it. Whatever theory they come up with, it has to match evidence. Even if the Bible is not inspired, the resurrection cannot be the result of legend because within 20-30 years Paul was already writing about it.


Scholars believe that preserved in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, which he wrote in 55 ad, is a creed of the earliest Christians. The first century church created creeds in order to transmit important information. A creed is a carefully crafted, usually memorable series of statements, used to insure accurate transmission of important information. Because at that time, very few people could read or write. People would create these creeds as an easy way to memorize important information.

 

1 Corinthians 15 Creed

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.”  1 Corinthians 15:1-5

No one debates that Jesus was executed, even crucified sometime between 30-33 AD. It’s the resurrection that brings up the disagreements. Notice the word, appeared. He appeared to Cephas (Peter) and the twelve disciples. Then he goes on to tell about other people Jesus appeared to:

After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”  1 Corinthians 15:6-8 NIV

When Jesus appeared to people it meant they saw the resurrected Jesus with their very own eyes. It wasn’t just something they heard about, but they saw Him directly.

What this creed means is that Paul, and others, believed Jesus rose from the dead within 22 years after the event. More than that, they  believed that the resurrected Jesus appeared to many people. In terms of history, 22 years is nothing. The earliest documentation that we have for Alexander the Great was written 400 years after his death. And historians consider it reliable evidence.

We know quite a bit about Paul: he was a persecutor of the church and then 1 to 3 years after the crucifixion, he converts to Christianity on the road to Damascus. Some scholars think Paul received the creed then, in Damascus. Others believe he received it 3 years later when he visited Peter and James in Jerusalem. In Galatians 1, Paul tells us that 3 years after became Christian he visits Peter and James in Jerusalem to learn the gospel story from them. 

Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother.”  Galatians 1:18-19 NIV

The word Paul uses to say ‘get acquainted is the Greek word στορσαι (historeo), which means to inquire into or to get an historical account. Paul visits Peter with the purpose of hearing the Gospel from his perspective. 

Paul must have received the 1 Corinthians 15 Creed between 1-6 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. This is extremely early evidence. What scholars agree on, is that this creed and Paul’s letters prove that the followers of Jesus believed in resurrection just a few years after the event.

The primary point, is that the resurrection was the event that launched Christianity. It’s at the core of our faith.


What’s A Witness?

Luke says it this way, in Acts 2 that on the first day of the church, Peter walked into the crowd and said:

“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.”  Acts 2:32 NIV

The idea that these men and women saw the resurrected Jesus gave them boldness to tell everyone they knew about it even in the face of suffering and death. Most of the apostles died for their faith in resurrection. Don’t miss the word witnesses.

Do you know the difference between a witness and a believer?

A believer can believe something and not know whether they’re right or wrong.

A witness bases their belief on what they directly experienced.

Someone may willingly die for what they believe to be true, but people won’t die for what they know to be falseWhen it comes the the resurrection of Jesus, a whole group a people all claimed to have seen the risen Jesus.

If the resurrection was a lie, then all the people who said they saw appearances of the risen Jesus wouldn’t be willing to die for it. But they did. They lived lives of poverty while traveling around the Mediterranean so that they could spread the message of the resurrection. Even in face of death, to tell anyone about the resurrection of Jesus.

Now, this doesn’t prove the resurrection with 100% certainty, but we don’t know anything from history with 100% certainty. There is really good evidence and the best explanation of the evidence is: it really did happen!

For those of you who have checked out of faith, you just can’t believe anymore, now that you’ve read the evidence, what do you do with it? You can come up with another theory because typically, when people die, they usually stay dead. Even if you don’t believe the Bible is inspired, even if can’t answer every question about faith, no matter your theory or worldview, it has to fit the facts. The fact is, that within 1-6 years, followers of  Jesus believed He was resurrected from the dead because they had seen Him. They boldly spread the message that Jesus is alive. Scholars don’t debate that. Look for yourself. Look up the undisputed letters and the 1 Corinthians creed.

Maybe you are thinking, “If there’s so much evidence that even the non-believing scholars agree too, then why don’t they believe in the resurrection?” The answer they would give is, “It doesn’t matter how much evidence you show me, because resurrections are impossible. Miracles, by nature, are impossible. No matter how much evidence you have or how short my alternate theory falls. It still outweighs the evidence for the resurrection because miracles just don’t happen.”

If that’s your worldview, we will tell you, of course resurrections are impossible, that’s the point! If resurrections happened every day, what would be special about Jesus? Because it’s impossible, we know Jesus is real deal. If you can’t believe in the resurrection because you can’t allow miracles into your worldview, that’s fine. But what you can’t say is that there’s no evidence for it.

We believe that the resurrection is the most important event in history. It changes everything, it changes everything about you, everything about your life and it says that there is a God out there who loves you. He loves you enough that He’d be willing to send his Son to die for you and then 3 days later, He came back to life.

Jesus can bring you back to spiritual life as well.


Check Back

Check back on what you discussed last week. Does anyone have any more thoughts on what you discussed last week about the goodness of God?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

This week we looked at the question, “Is Jesus Alive?”

The Resurrection of Jesus is the event that launched the Church into existence. According to the apostle Paul, if the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ isn’t true, then our faith is empty. However, if we look at the first century documents that make up the New Testament, we can have incredible confidence that the resurrection is a historical reality. 

Read: 1 Corinthians 15

Application

  1. What stood out to you in the message? What did you hear?
  2. What was your family’s perspective on the resurrection and Christianity growing up?
  3. Have you ever heard any objections or arguments against the resurrection?
  4. How did some of the evidence Zach presented change how you think about the resurrection historically?

Tell Someone Else

Who do you need to share this message with? Is there someone you’re better equipped to have a conversation with because of this message?

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Not So Far-Fetched: Is God Good?

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No matter who you are, everyone experiences difficulty. The degree of life’s severity differs from person to person. Right now, many people around the world are experiencing heartbreaking realities. In every season of our lives, in every place of our existence, there is this tension. The tension around our pain asks, “Is God good?”

Before we go any further, you need to know that this message may not be for everyone in this moment. If you’re right in the middle of personal pain, a post on good and evil and why we experience suffering and pain is not always the most helpful thing. When you’re in the middle of it, this kind of message can even be seen as offensive. The goal today is not to offend you. The heart behind this post is to offer help and to offer compassion in the midst of your pain.

People have wrestled with the question of pain and God’s goodness for centuries. The greek philosopher, Epicurus, in 300 BC posed the question this way:

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The problem of pain is very personal. It may have started at a young age through divorced parents or maybe you’ve lost someone. And you’re left asking, “Why is there pain?”

Today, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why we experience pain.

1. We experience pain because the world is broken.

What we’re seeing and experiencing is not the way it is supposed to be. This isn’t the way God wants it to be. Everything began with a Creator.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  Genesis 1:1

That’s a big statement, we devoted an entire post to answer the question Is God Real? There, we talked about why we believe God exists. You don’t even need to read the Bible to know God is real. Just look around and you can learn a lot about God. Wherever there is creation, there’s evidence of creation. Wherever there is design, there’s evidence of a designer. Wherever there is moral law and obligation, there is a moral law giver.

Romans 1 says, look around and you’ll learn a lot about the goodness of God. So when God created the heaven and earth, it was perfect. But then, creation rejected the Creator and as a result, nothing is as it should be.

“Cursed is the ground because of you…”  Genesis 3:17

Life is made more difficult. We are all to blame for this brokenness because we have all rejected God and his goodness. God’s plan to restore the world to perfect includes us. The good news is, that God desires for us to join him now in making his plans for restoration, unity, and peace a reality. We find this in Colossians.

“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God   in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.”  Colossians 1:15-20

So through the work of Christ, the creation that rejected the Creator can now be at peace with God. This is good news. Why, because verse 21:

“This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it.”  Colossians 1:21-23

A lot of us are pinning our pain on God. It is not God’s Will that there be earthquakes, typhoons,  hurricanes, tornados and natural disasters. He doesn’t want cancer, disease or death for anyone.

Jesus suffered for this suffering world so that we would find renewal in Him, a renewal that will be completed when Jesus brings heaven and earth fully together in the end.

We’re just not there yet. God’s final plan is not simply that we all go to heaven and everything is fine. His plan is to come back to earth and fix everything. Ultimately, we don’t go up to heaven, heaven comes to earth. He’s going to kick out all sin, all rebellion, and that’s how we’ll live forever. God is rescuing all of creation. That’s what every story in scripture is telling us.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  Revelation 21:4

Life is hard because the world is broken, and we experience pain because the world is cursed, but Jesus is restoring all things from the brokenness of the world by his power and through his people. This is temporary. This is not what God has for you forever.

2. We experience pain because of ourselves.

Sometimes we experience pain because we are sinners. We make bad decisions — accidentally and willfully — and these choices make our lives a lot harder.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”  Romans 3:23

Often, life is hard because we not only do evil things, but we don’t respond well when the consequences come.

“People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord.”  Proverbs 19:3 NLT

Life is hard because of us. Not all the time, but it is a lot more of the time than we care to admit. No matter the sin, it is vital that we do not simply say, “This is just who I am,” and fail to pursue renewal. In this case we must confess sin and repent. In Jesus we find true wisdom, righteousness, and redemption from our sin. We experience pain because of ourselves, but Jesus graciously forgives us when we confess that our sin has dishonored him and made life complicated and difficult.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  1 John 1:9

3. We experience pain because of someone else.

Sometimes life is hard and we experience pain and suffering because others sin against us. We see this throughout scripture in the parable of the good Samaritan where the man is left for dead, Joseph in the Old Testament who’s abandoned by his brothers and David who’s fleeing for his life. It’s also in Job’s story.

“So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.”  Job 2:7

We experience pain because of someone else, and many times that someone else is the great enemy. We don’t live in a playground, we live in a battleground. Where we’ve got to put on the armor of God. Every day there’s a battle for our heart, attention, focus and worship.

If you are experiencing pain because of someone in your life or even because of the enemy, you are not alone. Jesus didn’t stay far away from this battle. He came and experienced it. He came and received the brunt and the judgement that was sentenced. Jesus responded to the great need of humanity by allowing himself to take the position of a victim and bearing the sins and folly of the entire human race.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”  Isaiah 53:5

Therefore, when we are victimized, we should remember that Jesus not only can identify with us in our unjust treatment. He put shame to shame on the cross, we also find power and cleansing in Him.

When we cry out to Jesus, we’re crying out to someone thoroughly acquainted with our pain. 

“If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”  1 John 1:7

God can heal you from the harm that has been done to you. And through the power of the cross he can heal your pain.

4. We experience pain because it makes us more like Jesus.

Not everything bad in life is ultimately bad for you. Pain is not without purpose. You see, there is a built in assumption that in order for God to be good, He must never allow evil. But there’s fallout from that way of thinking. It means either God would create nothing or God would create beings with no possibility for moral free will. 

The great paradox of free will is that in order for God to create beings capable of love, He must also create a world where evil and suffering can exist.

He could create a universe with no pain. But also devoid of mercy, love, compassion, true peace, significance, forgiveness or happiness. This is where God stands alone and, amazingly, no other worldview deals with pain the way our God does.

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Through suffering we are more and more acquainted and formed into the image of God’s Son. As you embrace suffering you also grow in hope.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-11

Our perishable bodies are subject to sin and suffering, but God never abandons us. Paul would say the things that happened to him, the pain he experienced, was there to further the gospel.

Our weakest moment may be when we’re the strongest. 

“…Indeed we suffer with Him, so that we may also be glorified with Him. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”  Romans 8:17-18

You’re not suffering alone. We suffer with Him. We will be glorified with Him. To those who love God, the suffering doesn’t compare to the glory we have in Christ Jesus. When we look at the character of God and look at the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, it tells us what the answer is not. The answer cannot be because He doesn’t love us, that He isn’t for us or because He isn’t working all things together for good.

God is good. We experience pain. This changes our perspective on life. Have you ever looked at things in your life and said, “Why does this have to be so hard?” Things should be easier. This job should be easier. This education should be easier. This marriage should be easier. Walking with God should be easier. Faith should be easier. This perspective makes you miss so much of the goodness of God. Now, try flipping it around and say, “Life is hard, but God is good.”

Life is hard, but God is good.

When you start with life is hard, then you’ll find blessings along the way. Life is hard, but God is good. Life is hard, but look at God over here being faithful. Life is hard, but you’re going to make it anyway. You may be at the end of your rope, but you’re not at the end of your hope. You may be hard pressed on every side, but God is good – you’re not crushed. You may be perplexed or don’t understand it all, but you’re not in despair.


Check Back

Check back on what you discussed last week. Does anyone have any more thoughts on Noah and the flood? Did anyone have any exciting conversations or times studying God’s Word?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

This week we looked at the questions, “Is God Good?” We ask this questions because of the pain we see around us, and because of the pain we see in the world. It leaves us asking, “How could a good God allow pain?”

Spend some time in the word of God together as a group. Read Colossians 1:15-23. (If you have time consider reading the entire New Testament book of Colossians. It takes about 15 minutes.)

We learn from God’s Word that we experience pain because of four main reasons.

1. We experience pain because the world is broken.

Things are not the way God created them to be, because creation has rejected the Creator. (Genesis 1:1, Genesis 3:17, Revelation 21:4)

2. We experience pain because of ourselves.

Sometimes we experience pain because we are sinners. We make bad decisions – accidentally and willfully – and these choices make our lives a lot harder. (Romans 3:23, Proverbs 19:3, 1 John 1:9)

3. We experience pain because of someone else.

Other people cause us pain. The enemy, the devil, also causes us pain. (Job 2:7, Isaiah 53:3, 1 John 1:7)

4. We experience pain because it makes us more like Jesus.

Sometimes we experience pain because God is good. When we embrace suffering, we become more like Jesus, who suffered for a suffering world. (2 Corinthians 4:8-11, Romans 8:17-18)

Application

  1. What stood out to you in the message? What did you hear?
  2. What pain are you experiencing because the world is broken and the way life was supposed to operate is fractured?
  3. What pain are you experiencing that you brought on yourself?
  4. Are you carrying any pain because of another person? What pain do we see as a result of our great enemy, the devil?
  5. How can pain conform us more into the likeness of Christ?
  6. Based on the life, death and resurrection of Christ, does the existence of pain mean there is no God?

Tell Someone Else

The world says, ” God is hard, but life is good!” The reality is, “Life is hard, but God is good.” How can this change our perspective and attitude toward life for the better? Who needs to be reminded of God’s goodness through you?

 

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Not So Far-Fetched: Is Noah and the Flood True?

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We remember Noah and the Ark as a Bible story from Sunday School. The cute little ark in the shape of a bathtub and animals that barely fit on the boat. But as we look into God’s Word, the Bible reveals a much different picture. The epic journey of Noah and his family was not just a bedtime story, but a real event involving a real boat.

In 1961, The Genesis Flood was written. This book was a turning point in how Christians viewed the story of Noah, the Ark and the Flood. Henry Morris and John Whitcomb gave a scientific explanation for a worldwide flood and the Ark that survived that global disaster. Dr. Whitcomb still continues to lecture and teach on this subject. The Genesis Flood has been powerful in taking something that seems too hard to believe and making you say, “That’s not so far-fetched.”

Whitcomb and Morris showed the world that the Biblical Ark was large enough to hold all the land-dwelling, air-breathing animals. They also established that the dimensions of the Ark given in the Bible gave the Ark the needed proportions to make it a truly sea-worthy craft. The dimensions of the Ark are recorded in Genesis, in cubits.

“This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high.”  Genesis 6:15

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From those three dimensions, you get a rectangular shape. God didn’t record in the text what the Ark looked like. That is left for us to figure out. We don’t know the exact shape. We just know it’s size. There are statements that the Bible plainly says, things that we stand by that we don’t change and other things that we need to be prepared to be flexible about man’s models that are built on the Bible.

The ark in the shape of a box gained popularity in 1976. There was a documentary called In Search of Noah’s Ark. This film presented the shape of the Ark as box-like and there were unsubstantiated eye-witness accounts of a structure on Mt. Ararat. It’s important to understand that there is no solid evidence to support the claim that Noah’s ark has been found and that it is box shaped. There are many who believe that the Ark still remains unfound.

“…Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  John 20:29

The design was exactly what was needed for the destruction it survived. The ark delivered Noah, his wife, their sons (Shem, Ham and Japheth) and their wives. When they left the ark and entered a whole new world, imagine the exciting stories they passed down to their children and the generations that followed. The stories were told over many generations But sometimes the stories were distorted.


Flood Myths and Legends

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There are stories recorded all over the world of a great flood. They fall under the category of ancient myths and legends even though they are partial descriptions of the actual event. The bits of truth they do contain, match dramatically with the real story. The Australian Aborigines have Dream time Legends of a man who built a boat. He had three sons on the boat and there is a rainbow at the end of a global flood. The reason you see so many different legends in so many different cultures around the world is because they have a basis in truth. Noah’s ark happened before Genesis was written.

The Babylonians wrote about a great flood in the Epic of Gilgamesh. It was discovered on cuneiform tablets. Those tablets say that the ark was built in seven days by Utnapishtim. It was a cube, 180 cubits on each side. There is a contradiction when you claim that the Bible got its Noah story from these other legends, because these other legends have lots of mistakes in them. The Ark proportions in the Bible are very realistic. So realistic that the proportions happen to match modern cargo ships.

blog cargo.001You wouldn’t expect a made up story to accidentally choose 300 x 50 x 30 as the proportions of this imaginary vessel. Cargo ships have a typical proportion of 50 x 30, because it give the right stability. The Bible is specific on the ark’s dimensions, but it doesn’t go into detail about its shape. The only description in the Bible is the Hebrew word TevahSome say the definition of the Tevah is “box,” but that’s not necessarily true. Tevah only appears in the Bible twice. There is Noah’s Tevah and then there is the Tevah for Moses’s baby basket. In any language, the meaning of a word is understood the more it’s used in different contexts but when it’s only mentioned a couple of times like that, it’s difficult to know for sure.

We can be thankful for a God who gives us imagination to fill-in details for words we don’t understand. So Tevah doesn’t necessarily mean “box,” because Moses’s baby basket was a little basket. If it’s not a box, what should we picture? How would the ark even be built? What was the technology like before the flood? There are clues in the Bible.

First of all, the long lifespans of the people who built the ark give us a better understanding of the feasibility of taking on such an enormous projectIf a person lives for centuries, they are going to be very experienced and skilled in a lot of different areas. Also, they were very healthy. To live that long it implies that you were very healthy. With a healthy body, you are very capable and able to do a lot of work.

The Bible also makes it clear that the first people on this Earth were brilliantEven when technology was not like it is today, we see how Tubal-cain, long before the flood was a brilliant in creating tools to do difficult work.

“Tubal-cain, who is the father of every maker of cutting instruments of brass and iron”   Genesis 4:22

God gave Noah technology, tools and help to build this ark over 120 years.

Noah was perfectly capable of building a gigantic ark that wasn’t just any shape. The dimensions, 300 x 50 x 30 is a big clue. Those dimensions look like a ship with a long hull. That is not what you would expect. If you’re going to build something that floats on the water, you wouldn’t make it so long. It takes more work to build it long and it takes more wood. It is in more danger as it crosses over waves too. The fact that they built it at that size means the ark was built for comfort, strength and stability. A balance of those three things comes in a vessel that is 300 x 50 x 30.

The other thing that seems far-fetched, is the construction of the ark. How could such a large wooden boat hold together in rough seas? It bothers people when they wrap their mind around how large the ark was. One argument against the authenticity of the Bible is that you can’t build a wooden ship that big and in the same breath they usually pick ships from 100 years ago and say, “They had trouble building ships longer than 300 feet so it’s impossible for ancient people to build Noah’s ark.”

Ancient ships were constructed different than modern sailing vessels. The edge jointed planking design that is seen in ancient ships takes claims that it can’t be done and blows them out of the water. It’s not so far-fetched.

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That’s a lot of work and not a quick way to build a ship. In the 18th or 19th century, they did not bother with that extensive construction. That’s why ships would loosen up. The  phrase “a tight ship” comes from a newly built ship that had tight joints. Over time those joints became looser. The ancient Greeks had much higher quality of hull. They built the hull with planks that were mortice and Tenon The hull was strong enough to ram another ship, and light enough to be carried onto a beach by the crew. It doesn’t take more technology, it just took more labor.

The Bible teaches that the flood was a real historical event. Often when you open up a children’s book and see the ark, it looks like an overloaded bathtub with giraffes sticking their head out the chimney. It looks as if it could sink at any moment. It makes sense in a children’s room to paint Noah’s ark in a cartoon style, but there is a dark side. These children grow into adults and if all they can remember is this cartoon picture of the ark, we have whole generations who have grown up in the church looking at everything they’ve been taught in the Bible as a group of stories.

The Bible describes the flood account as the time God saved humanity so that you could be born.

“The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water.”  Genesis 7:18

Was it really a global flood? Sadly, there are many Christian colleges that teach that it was only a local flood. We’ve seen lots of localized floods. What we haven’t seen again is a global flood. The rainbow isn’t a reminder that God will not send another localized flood, it’s a reminder of a promise that God will never flood the entire earth again.


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Wikipedia says this about the Grand Canyon: “Nearly two billion years of Earth’s geological history have been exposed as the Colorado River and its tributaries cut their channels through layer after layer of rock while the Colorado Plateau was uplifted. While some aspects about the history of incision of the canyon are debated by geologists, several recent studies support the hypothesis that the Colorado River established its course through the area about 5 to 6 million years ago.”

That’s one hypothesis.

Is there another way the Grand Canyon could have formed? Is there an observable way the Grand Canyon could have formed?

Mount St. Helens erupted in the 1980s. It was a small volcano in Washington state. A tiny mountain, in a small location. Nothing compared to a global event and it had a huge destructive force that changed the landscape. The result of that eruption formed miles and miles of what they call a little grand canyon.

So what do you do when it comes to the flood not being so far-fetched? You can:

Read up: We don’t have all the information about Noah, the Ark and the flood in one blog post, so you need to read more so you’re educated. When you educate yourself, you can make better decisions and help your friends wrestle through difficult questions too.

Listen upListen to what teachers are saying or what your friends are talking about. The Bible makes it clear that God wants us to question things that we are being taught. Figure out if what you are being taught lines up with God’s Word.

Speak up: Be willing to share your opinion with other people. Ask questions that show the other side of the coin a little bit. If you’ve read up and you’ve been listening, you can  speak up with a little bit more confidence.

Be willing to speak up when God gives you those opportunities. 


Check Back

Check back on what you discussed last week. Does anyone have any more thoughts on God being real after reflecting further on that message? Were there any conversations with others about existence of God?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

This week we looked at why the biblical account of Noah and the Flood is not so far-fetched. This message can be heard at rockbrook.org or on the Rock Brook Church podcast.

The full account of Noah and the flood is found in Genesis chapters 6-9. Now would be a great time to pause and read those chapters together.

Application

  1. What stood out to you in the message or as you read the Genesis account?
  2. The account of Noah and the flood has been wildly misunderstood and misrepresented in our culture. Was there anything in the sermon, or in Genesis 6-9, that surprised you? (Maybe you’ve forgotten it said a specific thing… or never heard an accurate account of the flood before.)
  3. What’s been your experience with the topic of Noah and the flood? Have you ever had a conversation about it? Ever studied it in school? Ever watched anything about it? What did they say?
  4. The account of the flood ended with a promise to never flood the whole earth again. God’s promises are true. There are many of them. What promise are you relying on from God right now?
  5. Pastor Andrew challenged us to read up, listen up and speak up. “Be willing to speak up when God gives you those opportunities.” A great resource for more information about this topic is http://www.answersingenesis.org

Tell Someone Else

Who can you share this practical message with about a major part of your faith? You could send them to rockbrook.org/sermons. More importantly, who do you need to encourage with these truths? How can you lovingly “speak up?”

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Not So Far-Fetched: Is God Real?

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On the historic Apollo 8 mission, astronauts, for the first time, were outside of earth’s orbit, circling the moon. They were looking back at the earth from space. During this mission, they were able to speak back to earth. Do you know what they said to the people on earth?

They opened a book that they packed. A book they made sure went on board with them, when they had to consider every ounce of weight, they intentionally packed a Bible and read the creation account from Genesis and prayed a prayer for the planet of people they were looking down on. (see Genesis 1)

Today, many years later, the reality of God and creation, seems like a far-fetched leap of faith. We’re constantly bombarded with different ideas and views claiming to have the answers to life’s big questions. It’s tough to find satisfying answers, and we end up asking ourselves, “Can we ever confidently know the truth? Does it all come down to a far-fetched leap of faith?”

That’s the idea for this next series of posts. We’re going to tackle six big questions over the next six weeks.

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It won’t come as a surprise to you that we believe the answer to each of these questions is YES! It’s not a hesitant yes or reluctant yes. It’s a bet the farm, give your life, burn the ships kind of yes. You can have a remarkable confidence and remarkable faith in the answer to those questions.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God…”  Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)

We believe these things on faith, but that doesn’t mean it’s not also reasoned. We didn’t come to these conclusions by not thinking or just blindly making some kind of far-fetched leap of faith.

It’s not as far-fetched as you might think.

Now just because you believe in Jesus, doesn’t mean every assumption or thing you believe about God is true, so lean in these next 6 weeks. Part of the human condition is that we want to base our beliefs around feelings.

Many people in our culture shape their beliefs around how they feel.

If you know someone with an addiction, they justify their behavior and create a belief system. They don’t feel like their behavior is hurting anyone and create a belief system that makes it okay to live the way they are living. This is an extreme example, but we all do this to some degree. We all justify the way we live or justify our life based on what feels good.

Instead, shape your beliefs around what’s real.

Follow where the evidence leads, not where you hope it leads.


Is God Real?

So what does the evidence say about the existence of God? There are a few different choices before us.

  • The atheist says, “No”

The atheist considers all concepts of god as human inventions. The definition of an atheist is one who believes God does not exist.

  • The agnostic says, “Maybe”

The agnostic says “I don’t know, so I’m going to investigate it” or “no one can know, so I’m going to decide not to believe anything.”

  • The advocate says, “Yes”

The advocate says, God exists. That doesn’t necessarily make them a Christian, it just makes them an advocate that God exists.

All three of these are a belief system.

To believe there is no God, is a belief system. Theism vs Atheism, it’s not like one believes and another doesn’t. Both walk away believing something. We believe God exists. We believe God is real, because the evidence says He does.

There’s a creator. There are times we all feel like God is not there. There are times when we struggle to connect with Him. There are times of disappointment because He didn’t answer a prayer the way we wanted Him to. It’s okay to wrestle with those things. 

In the midst of all of that, there are some things to come back to, that can’t be explained without God.


Why We Believe God is Real

Here are three reasons or evidences why we believe God is real.

1. The evidence from the universe.

This is called the cosmological argument for the existence of God. This argument says that every effect must have a cause. For a long time, the prevailing thought was that the universe always just was. Then a scientist by the name of Hubble came along, and went against that way of thinking.

Hubble came up with a theory that has grown into the big bang theory. It says the universe has a beginning and it’s expanding. So the universe had a beginning and as the energy that propels it in motion wanes, it will have an ending. Hubble’s discovery doesn’t contradict scripture, it aligns with it. Everything has a cause. Something never comes from nothing. Something always comes from something.

It’s not so far-fetched.

“For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”  Romans 1:20 (NLT)

2. The evidence from design.

This is called the teleological argument. When we look at creation, it’s ordered and designed. What we know about our world, living organisms and humans DNA is incredible.

The leading scientist who mapped the human genome the first time, Francis Collins, says if you took the DNA out of a single cell amoeba, there’s enough information in the DNA code to fill 30 encyclopedias. That’s how complex living organisms are. That doesn’t just happen. It’s not so far-fetched to believe there is an intelligent designer who did that within us and designed a place for us to live in the universe, to sustain life.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”  Psalm 19:1-4 (NIV)

3. The evidence from morality.

This is the moral argument. The dignity of humanity. We refer to it as human rights. It’s the idea that every person, just by virtue of being a person, has inherent worth and value that can’t be trampled upon and shouldn’t be violated. Even if you don’t always live by it, every person believes humans have worth just by virtue of being human. How do you explain that?

There is no debate, regardless of what you believe, that each life has worth. The idea of worth and dignity came from the Bible. The civil rights movement was based on the “imago Dei” concept. That’s latin for the image of God. That’s the basis for human worth, because God made you!

“God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”  Genesis 1:27 (NLT)

We don’t think robbery is wrong because we dislike it. We dislike robbery because it’s wrong. There’s something in us that is repulsed by certain things. Things like murder. The people who think murder is okay, we call wicked or sociopaths. They have a moral construct that’s not connecting with what human beings believe is right and wrong. This is what makes us different than animals and why evolutionary theory doesn’t have a good explanation for morality. If there’s such a thing as moral values there has to be a moral law giver. God stitched right and wrong into your heart and mind.

Evolutionary thinking says our moral constructs come from decisions we made when we were animals. But when a cheetah kills a giraffe, we don’t call that murder. When a shark forcibly copulates with with another shark, that’s not called rape. If our species is supposed to be the most advanced animal, where did we come up with the idea that those things are now wrong?

If all of our morality was developed through evolution, you would never come to the conclusion that the things you hate, like racism and genocide, are wrong. They are all just illusions if there’s no God. We’d never even get that category in our minds if our morality was a conclusion of nature. Genocide wouldn’t be a bad thing, it’s just nature. It’s the strong eliminating the weak. That’s the belief that fueled the holocaust. That’s the reason we’re repulsed by it. If your morality was a product of nature, there would be no reason to be repulsed.

“How could that trait have come down by a process of natural selection? Such people would have been less likely to survive and pass on their genes. There is some supernatural standard of normalcy apart from nature by which we can judge right and wrong.”    -Tim Keller

There’s something aside from nature that came in and said you don’t get to decide these things based only on nature. If mankind is only a biological creature, why do we have a sense of moral obligation? Theism gives us the answer. God gives us the answer. We have an inner, moral witness placed there by God. 

When outsiders who have never heard of God’s law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes God’s yes and no, right and wrong. Their response to God’s yes and no will become public knowledge on the day God makes his final decision about every man and woman.”  Romans 2:14-16 (MSG)

The Christian faith is not just about believing something, it’s about knowing Someone.

It’s about knowing God. The goal of this series is introduce you to someone. God wants to be found. God wants to be out in the open.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”  Hebrews 11:6

It’s believing something, but it’s more than that. It’s seeking and being rewarded by finding God himself.


Check Back

Check in on some of the next steps each other have taken. Maybe there are new people in the group. Get to know each other. Maybe you haven’t met in awhile. Get to know each other again. What’s life look like right now?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

Those who believe there is a God, believe in Him by faith, (Hebrews 11:6) but it doesn’t have to be a far-fetched blind leap of faith. It’s reasoned. There’s evidence. The invitation laid out in this series is for each of us to follow where the evidence may lead, not where we hope it leads or how we feel it should go. Many people shape their beliefs around what they feel. It’s wise to shape your beliefs around what is real.

1. As a kid, were you quick to question things or did you generally believe whatever was presented to you? How has this tendency evolved for you as an adult?

2. What was the attitude toward God in your house growing up? Did you parents lean you toward faith or away from it?

3. How did you arrive at the place you’re at today spiritually? Are you an atheist, agnostic, advocate, Christian?

This week we looked at three of the many fields of study that present rational arguments and point to a place of reasonable faith.

Cosmology Argument:​ This is what we know about our universe. It had a beginning. We know we live in a cause and effect world. Something can’t come from nothing. (Romans 1:20, Job 38.)

Teleological Argument: ​There is a strange and mysterious complex design to the universe, our planet, and our human bodies. The complexity it takes for our planet to sustain life, the complexity of living organisms, and what we now know at the DNA level make the step toward a God, an intelligent designer, a relatively small leap of faith. (Psalm 19:1-4)

Moral Argument: ​This is the philosophical argument around humanity’s sense of right and wrong, justice and injustice. This argument also considers how nearly every culture and people group throughout history has felt there is a greater being above them or around them. (Genesis 1, Romans 2:14-16)

Application

1. Of these three arguments, which one jumps out the most?

2. While some people don’t find themselves wrestling with big questions of faith, what good might come from a Christian who embraces questions? How might an informed faith, enhance and enrich someone’s beliefs?

3. Tell us about a season of your life when you wrestled with the question “does God exist?” If you are in that season now, you can be honest about that.

4. If morality, cosmology and the design of the universe do not point toward a creator, what do you think they point toward?

Tell Someone Else

Who can you share this life-giving message about the existence of God? You could send them to rockbrook.org/sermons, our iTunes podcast channel or Google Play. More importantly, who could you have a conversation with about the existence of God?

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Taking Next Steps

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Salvation is not the goal of the Christian life. Salvation is the start of the Christian life. Once you become a believer, that’s when your journey of spiritual growth begins.

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

Coming to Christ is turning onto the right road and the next thing to do is to walk on it.

We are headed into a season of spiritual growth at Rock Brook with a new small group semester and new sermon series called Not So Far Fetched. As we head into this amazing season of spiritual growth you should be warned that you will face predictable resistance.


Predictable Resistance 

We have a Savior in Jesus Christ, but we also have an enemy in the Devil. Just as Christ wants you to grow during this season, the Devil wants to stunt your growth.

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 (NIV)

Yes, we get eternal life when we die and go to heaven, but Jesus also offers us a full and abundant life right now.

At Rock Brook we’re not just concerned with getting you into heaven. We want you to live a new, full, productive life right here on earth. You don’t have to wait till you get to heaven to enjoy Christ.

The Devil is working overtime to keep you from experiencing that new, full life that Christ offers you. Once you’ve trusted Christ, the Devil can’t keep you out of heaven. If the Devil can’t keep you from trusting Christ, he will try to keep you from living for Christ.

“The thief comes only to kill, steal and destroy…”  John 10:10 (NIV)

The thief will try to:

  • Steal your identity with shame

The Devil lures us into sin and then heaps shame on us when we succumb to it. The Devil tries to get you to focus on the shame of your past. If he can get you to find your identity in the sins of your past, then he can freeze you in that sinJesus Christ frees you from the sins of your past.

Our spiritual growth is rooted in our new identity in Christ, not our issues from the past.

  • Kill my potential with guilt

Too many of us live with the guilt about our past. We’ve all done things we wish we hadn’t done. The Devil is all about your past, Jesus is all about your potential. It is essential for our spiritual growth that we get our eyes off our past and focus on our potential in Christ. You won’t find the new, full, abundant life Christ offers you by looking in the rear view mirror. Address and confess those old sins, hurts, habits and hang-ups and let Jesus Christ forgive and forget them.

  • Destroy my hope with fear

We all struggle with fear at some level. There’s fear of the future, fear of failure, the fear of dying… So many people struggle with the fear of man. We can be driven by the desire to please other people. The Bible says the fear of man is a trap. It’s a fear that drives us to make bad choices. But God does not want us to live in fear; He wants us to live in hope.

God offers us the hope of heaven, but He also offers us hope for the here and now.

Don’t let shame, guilt and fear rob you of your opportunity to grow. Instead, take your next step of spiritual growth and replace shame, guilt and fear with:

your identity in Christ.

your potential in Christ.

your hope in Christ. 


Taking Next Steps

How do we take another step on our spiritual journey? 

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”  Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV)

These next steps are about taking off the old and putting on the new. Taking next steps isn’t just about you. Don’t do it to just start ticking off boxes and complete a to-do list. If that’s all you are doing, you are missing the point.

A couple of weeks ago we posted about how to have Gospel Conversations with the people in our lives. Take a look at that post and the chart that explains how sharing the gospel isn’t just about getting someone saved. Everyone is in a different spot in their spiritual journey. Salvation is only the beginning of the Christian life. A gospel conversation is anytime you encourage someone to take ONE STEP from where they are, to where God wants them to be.

Once you understand this roadmap to spiritual growth, not only can you apply it to your own life, you have a pathway to encourage other people to follow.

When you start doing that, you unlock the power, purpose and potential God has for you. That’s when you begin to live a new, full, abundant life that Christ offers. You might think your spiritual life is an individual journey, something private and personal, but that is the exact opposite of what the Bible teaches.

We are in this thing together. We are a family, a flock and a body. We are an army of God fighting this battle together.

Here are four areas you can start taking next steps in.

1. Declare God’s salvation 

Some people believe that your relationship with Jesus is personal and private. But the first act of obedience that Jesus calls a believer to do is a very public event, your baptism. When you ask Jesus Christ into your heart, that’s a personal decision. Then, Jesus commands you to go public with that decision. The Devil wants you to hide it or keep it to yourself. That’s not what Jesus says to do. Jesus says… “Let your light shine before men!”

Why do people face such a spiritual struggle over getting baptized? Because there is something very powerful about making a public declaration of our faith in Christ.

Peter says, “In baptism we show that we have been saved from death and doom by the resurrection of Christ; not because our bodies are washed clean by the water but because in being baptized we are turning to God and asking him to cleanse our hearts from sin.”  1 Peter 3:21 (LB) 

Jesus not only commanded us to do it in Matthew 28, He also modeled it in His own baptism. Maybe you have been a believer for years and haven’t been baptized. It’s time for you to take that next step. You don’t have to wait till you’ve stopped all your bad habits. You don’t have to wait till you’ve grown spiritually.

2. Cultivate God’s presence 

Cultivate is a farming term that means to stimulate growth. You have to break up the soil, fertilize it, water it, mulch it. You have to disturb the status quo of the soil if things are really going to grow. There are things in your life you need to weed out.

“Come near to God and He will come near to you.”  James 4:8 (NIV)

Take a step toward God, cultivate His presence and God will show up.

Here are three ways to cultivate God’s presence in your life:

  • God’s Word
  • Worship
  • Prayer

[Take a few minutes to hear to a story of one man’s devotion to God’s Word, Worship and Prayer listen online. (start at 15:25)]

Those three things will cultivate God’s presence in your life no matter the struggle you face or the prison you are in.

“You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.”  Acts 2:28 (NIV)

Joy isn’t found in your circumstances. Joy is found in God’s presence despite your circumstances.

3. Connect with God’s people

“You are a member of God’s very own family… and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian.”  Ephesians 2:19 (LB)

If you, as a believer, are going to grow spiritually, you need to be a member of a local church. There are 58 commands given in the Bible that you cannot obey if you aren’t a member of a local church. The way to become a member at Rock Brook is to take StepONE of Growth Track. It’s offered every first Sunday of the month. At StepONE we will lay out the 5 purposes that God has for your life and explain how being a member of Rock Brook will help you fulfill those purposes. We explain salvation and baptism. We will walk you through our Membership Covenant and put you on the pathway of spiritual growth for your life.

The world promotes independence and self-reliance. God promotes community and fellowship and belonging.

God knows that growth and health are found in relationships. That’s why He created the church, the body of Christ. That’s why He wants you to be a member of a church. That’s why you need to belong to a small group to grow.

Too many Christians are chasing information, they want more knowledge. But they don’t need more information, they need transformation. Transformation comes through relationships.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)

4. Discover God’s purpose

“It is in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.”  Ephesians 1:11-12 (MSG) 

If you are going to grow to be all that God wants you to be you’ve got to pursue with passion the purpose that God has for you. That’s what our Growth Track process will help you do.


StepONE become a member 

This is to get you connected with Christ through salvation, declaring Christ through baptism and connecting with the Body of Christ through membership.

StepTWO essential habits 

Here you will learn how to develop the essential habits of the Christian life. Getting into God’s Word every day, worshipping God every day and praying to God every day.

A disciple needs to practice the disciplines that Christ lays out for His followers. A Christ follower needs to follow the pathway that leads to purpose and joy.

StepTHREE discover your design

This event helps you discover your design, your personality, your spiritual gifts and your passion for ministry.

God has shaped you for your place in the church. You were made for this, so you need to discover your design and purpose.

StepFOUR join a team

He we get you plugged into a Dream Team. Our Dream Team are the people who make ministry happen at Rock Brook. The Dream Team is the engine that drives this church.

Which step is the next step for you?

Which step can you encourage someone else to take?

Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now!”  1 Peter 1:4-5 (MSG) 

The key to your spiritual growth is to take your Next Step and take it now.


Check Back

Check back and review what we talked about last week. Have you made a commitment to be involved in a Small Group this semester? Who can you encourage to join the group with you?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

Read: Ephesians 4:22-24

Application

1. Declare God’s salvation

Water Baptism

  • Have you been baptized by immersion as evidence of your faith in Jesus Christ? 
  • If not, what is holding you back from being baptized?
  • How can your group encourage you to take this next step?

2. Cultivate God’s presence

God’s Word   |   Worship   |   Prayer

  • Which of these three have you built into your life?
  • Which one do you need to work on?

3. Connect with God’s people

Join a local church   |   Commit to Small Groups

  • Have you taken Growth Track Step One?
  • Have you joined a Small Group?

4. Discover God’s Purpose

Attend the 4-step Growth Track   |   Join the Dream Team

  • Have you completed Growth Track?
  • What Dream Team are you serving on?

The key to my spiritual growth is to take my NEXT STEP and take it NOW.

Tell Someone Else

Have you had any Gospel Conversations with anyone in the last two weeks?  Have you written the person’s name on a ping pong ball and dropped it in the Go & Tell wall?

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