VIDEO Handling Argumentative People Invited to Easter Services

More non-Christians and guests attend church services on Easter than any other time of the year. What a wonderful opportunity to reach out to family, friends and neighbors to experience God’s Presence and the transformative gospel message.

Yet today in our polarized and hyper-politicized culture, many people joining us are not shy to express strong opinions regarding sensitive issues of our day. Some are hankering for confrontational interaction so we need to be ready.

Fake news and deception abounds and Scripture tells us:

“always be ready to give an answer for the hope we have” (1Pet.3:15).

We need to be equipped so we’re confident and convincing when we engage others in conversations.

In past interactions with Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban, Ellen DeGeneres, Anderson Cooper and others, the Lord has helped me handle questions and issues in a winsome way.

Do you know how to “take the heat” when you courageously stand up for the truth in today’s pop culture? Topics like radical Islam, illegal immigration, abortion, gun control plus thorny questions like “Is Jesus Christ the only Way?” require preparation and clear answers.

Listen to this stimulating interview.

 

By Larry Tomczak
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An MIT Professor Meets the Author of All Knowledge

I used to think religious people were ignoramuses. Then I got smart and took a chance on God.

 

An MIT Professor Meets the Author of All Knowledge
Image: Ken Richardson

As early as grade school, when I was a voracious reader and a straight-A student, I identified with being smart. And I believed smart people didn’t need religion. As a result, I declared myself an atheist and dismissed people who believed in God as uneducated.

In high school, I led a classroom debate team arguing for a godless form of evolution, confident my side would win because “this was science.” When the class voted and awarded victory to the creation side, I was dumbstruck. Most people didn’t understand science, I figured—either that, or they were unduly swayed by the most popular girl in class. She had a swimming pool in her backyard and threw fun parties.

At the time, I babysat to earn money. One of my favorite families was a young couple; both the husband (a doctor) and the wife were really sharp. One night, after paying me, they invited me to church. I was stunned—people this smart actually went to church? When Sunday morning came around, I told them I had a stomachache. They invited me again the following week, but once more I came down with another phantom stomachache. The more they persisted, the more I struggled to invent convincing excuses. (You try faking an illness to a doctor.)

Just a Phase?

Eventually, the couple tried a different tack. “You know,” they said, “going to church is not what matters most. What matters is what you believe. Have you read the Bible?” I figured that if I wanted to be an educated person, I needed to read the best-selling book of all time. The doctor suggested starting with Proverbs, reading one chapter daily for a month. When I first opened the Bible—this was the King James Version—I expected to find phony miracles, made-up creatures, and assorted gobbledygook. To my surprise, Proverbs was full of wisdom. I had to pause while reading and think.

I quietly bought a modern translation called The Way and read through the entire Bible. While I never heard actual voices or anything to justify summoning a neurologist, I felt this strange sense of being spoken to. It was disturbing yet oddly attractive. I began wondering whether there really might be a God.

I decided to work my way through the Bible again, thinking that perhaps my experience was common for first-time readers. This time I would step back and read it more carefully, the better to debunk it. I also vowed to learn more about the Bible’s origins and to study other religions. Maybe, I thought, my culture—in which most people were Christians or Jews—was conditioning me to find Christianity attractive.

A favorite Jewish teacher at my high school ran a “gifted” program that let me devote one class each semester to whatever I wanted. I studied Buddhism, Hinduism, and several other faiths. I visited temples, synagogues, mosques, and other holy places.

More than anything, I wanted to get past this “religion” phase, because I knew I didn’t want religion. But despite my wishes, an internal battle raged. Part of me was increasingly eager to spend time with the God of the Bible, but an irritated voice inside me insisted I would be happy again once I moved on.

There were two passages I found especially troubling: Matthew 10:33 (“But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”) and Matthew 12:30 (“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”). I resented what felt like an unwelcome ultimatum. I didn’t want to believe in God, but I still felt a peculiar sense of love and presence I couldn’t ignore.

During my freshman year in college, I reconnected with a friend I had met at a summer honors program. He was a straight-A student and a star on both the basketball court and football field—I had never known anyone so smart and athletic. He helped me with difficult physics homework, and then he invited me to his church. This time, I felt fine.

The sermon prompted many questions. I started to raise my hand while the pastor spoke before realizing that everyone else was sitting quietly. I nudged my friend: “Can we ask questions?” He hushed me. How do we learn if we can’t ask? After the sermon I tried getting answers, but people mostly wanted to socialize. I started coming to Sunday School classes because the teachers let me ask questions. I also kept reading.

One Sunday, the pastor talked about the difference between believing there is a God and following God. I knew Jesus claimed to be “the way” to God, but I had been trying to avoid anything Jesus-related—I couldn’t help hearing his name with the word freak attached. But the pastor got my attention when he asked, “Who is Lord of your life?” He discussed what happens when “you, a human being, put yourself on that throne.”

I was intrigued: I was the captain of my ship, but was it possible that God would actually be willing to lead me? From there, I came to a deeper understanding of what it meant to have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus. It seemed silly to pray about this—after all, I still had doubts about God’s existence. But in the spirit of Pascal’s wager, I decided to run an experiment, believing I had much to gain but very little to lose.

After praying, “Jesus Christ, I ask you to be Lord of my life,” my world changed dramatically, as if a flat, black-and-white existence suddenly turned full-color and three-dimensional. But I lost nothing of my urge to seek new knowledge. In fact, I felt emboldened to ask even tougher questions about how the world works. I felt joy and freedom—but also a heightened sense of responsibility and challenge.

Learning and Exploring

Have you ever tried to assemble something mechanical, and it only kind of works? Maybe the wheels spin, but not smoothly. Then you realize you were missing a piece. When you finally put it together correctly, it works beautifully. This is how it felt when I handed my life over to God: I thought it had worked fine before, but after it was “fixed,” it worked exponentially better. That’s not to say nothing bad ever happened to me—far from it. But in all things, good and bad, I could count on God’s guidance, comfort, and protection.

Today, I am a professor at the top university (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) in my field. I have incredible colleagues who have helped translate my lab research into difference-making products—including a smart watch that helps caregivers save the lives of people with epilepsy. I work closely with people whose lives are filled with medical struggles, people whose children are not healthy. I do not have adequate answers to explain all their suffering. But I know there is a God of unfathomable greatness and love who freely enters into relationship with all who confess their sins and call upon his name.

I once thought I was too smart to believe in God. Now I know I was an arrogant fool who snubbed the greatest Mind in the cosmos—the Author of all science, mathematics, art, and everything else there is to know. Today I walk humbly, having received the most undeserved grace. I walk with joy, alongside the most amazing Companion anyone could ask for, filled with desire to keep learning and exploring.

Rosalind Picard is founder and director of the Affective Computing Research Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

An MIT Professor Meets the Author of All Knowledge

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/april/rosalind-picard-mit-professor-meets-author-knowledge.html

God’s Voice Then and Now

Genesis 12:1-7

To understand how God may be speaking to us today, we should first examine how He spoke in the past. What made His voice so clear to the heroes of faith?

In the Old Testament accounts, one of the primary ways God spoke to people was by direct revelation. That is, He communicated one-on-one, directly to their spirit. This is what we see in His conversations with Abraham, for instance (Gen. 12:1-3).

Then, of course, the Lord also spoke through His Word. This included the Ten Commandments and the law of Moses, which made it possible for people to know and obey the divine will (Ex. 20:1-26).

Another way that God communicated was through circumstances. For example, think about His interaction with Gideon, who was frightened and needed some extra encouragement (Judg. 6:36-40). The Lord graciously answered his request for a special physical sign of divine presence.

The New Testament mentions more of God’s communication methods. His message can come through angels or the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:19-21; Acts 8:29). There were occasions when God spoke audibly, such as at Paul’s dramatic salvation experience on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1-19).

Through these various methods, the Lord has continually reassured His people that He cares for them and is present at their side. This is certainly much-needed encouragement for our lives. Yet God may not choose to convey a message in the same way He’s done in the past. However, we know His voice is always clear in His Word when we’re willing to listen.

All the real Lonely People

“I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.” (Psalm 142:4)

This is one of the saddest verses in the Bible. To be all alone, not knowing where to find refuge from problems that bear heavily at times—this is the lot of many lonely people.

Sometimes, of course, one’s feelings of loneliness may be because of unconfessed sin, as when David lamented after his crime of adultery and murder: “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me” (Psalm 32:3-4). Outwardly silent, but inwardly roaring—that’s the way it is when a believer tries to rationalize and hide his sin from God and man. The remedy in such a case is obvious: “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah” (Psalm 32:5).

When the problem is not one of unconfessed sin, the Lord is always there to comfort and guide, if we ask Him. Following the sad complaint of our text, David made a statement of hope and faith. “The righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me” (Psalm 142:7).

There was a time, in fact, when the Lord Himself was all alone. When He was arrested, “then all the disciples forsook him, and fled” (Matthew 26:56). But that was not the worst of it. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Jesus died all alone on the cross—the loneliest and most forsaken person in all human history—as even His heavenly Father had to abandon Him when He took our sins and died for us. Thus, He understands our own need and is always there. “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted [or ‘tested’], he is able to succor them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). HMM

File-Card Mentality

My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times…. Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors.

—Psalm 119:20,24

When religion loses its sovereign character and becomes mere form, this spontaneity is lost also, and in its place come precedent, propriety, system—and the file-card mentality….

The slave to the file card soon finds that his prayers lose their freedom and become less spontaneous, less effective. He finds himself concerned over matters that should give him no concern whatever—how much time he spent in prayer yesterday, whether he did or did not cover his prayer list for the day, whether he gets up as early as he used to do or stays up in prayer as late at night. Inevitably the calendar crowds out the Spirit and the face of the clock hides the face of God. Prayer ceases to be the free breath of a ransomed soul and becomes a duty to be fulfilled. And even if under such circumstances he succeeds in making his prayer amount to something, still he is suffering tragic losses and binding upon his soul a yoke from which Christ died to set him free.   OGM079, 081

Oh, Father, I pray that prayer might never become for me “a duty to be fulfilled.” Fill me with freedom in my times with You. Amen.

 

There are of those who rebel against the light

They are of those that rebel against the light; they know not the ways thereof, nor abide in the paths thereof.—Job 24:13.

Thy people shall be willing in the day of Thy power.—Psalm 110:3.

 

See, in Thy hands I lay them all—

My will that fails, my feet that fall;

My heart that wearies everywhere,

Yet finds Thy yoke too hard to bear.

Katharine T. Hinkson.

 

The way may at times seem dark, but light will arise, if thou trust in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him. That light may sometimes show hard things to be required, but do not be distressed if thy heart should rebel; bring thy unwillingness and disobedience to Him, in the faith that He will give thee power to overcome, for He cannot fail. “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world,” so keep close to Him, and the victory will be won. But do not, I beseech thee, neglect anything that is required, for disobedience brings darkness; and do not reason or delay, but simply follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit, and He will guide thee into all peace.

Elizabeth T.King.

 

All Must Turn to Holiness

“In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, holiness unto the Lord.” Zech. 14:20

Happy day when all things shall be consecrated, and the horses’ bells shall ring out holiness to the Lord! That day has come to me. Do I not make all things holy to God? These garments, when I put them on or take them off, shall they not remind me of the righteousness of Christ Jesus, my Lord? Shall not my work be done as unto the Lord? Oh, that today my clothes may be vestments, my meals sacraments, my house a temple, my table an altar, my speech incense, and myself a priest! Lord, fulfill thy promise, and let nothing be to me common or unclean.

Let me in faith expect this. Believing it to be so, I shall be helped to make it so. As I myself am the property of Jesus, my Lord may take an inventory of all I have, for it is altogether His own; and I resolve to prove it to be so by the use to which I put it this day. From morning till evening I would order all things by a happy and holy rule. My bells shall ring -why should they not? Even my horses shall have bells — who has such a right to music as the saints have? But all my bells, my music, my mirth, shall be turned to holiness, and shall ring out the name of “The Happy God.”