Archive for the ‘General Christian Teachings’ Category

Book Plunge: Prayer by Tim Keller

February 11, 2015

What do I think of Tim Keller’s book on prayer published by Dutton Adult? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

prayer

Tim Keller’s book is an anomaly in some ways. I loved it in many ways, and I was in great pain about it as well.

You see, to be totally honest, prayer is very hard for me. Why is that? Well part of it I think is I’m a guy and men tend to be more action-oriented and when we pray, we don’t feel like we’re doing much. Second for me is I’m an Aspie. Because of that, relationships with other humans can be difficult. It is all the more so difficult when it comes to one as different as God. Third, there is so much stuff I consider to be nonsense such as prayer being described as a two-way dialogue and listening for the voice of God.

So wanting a good book, I asked my pastor who knows my intellectual bent and is himself quite solid and knowledgeable about the Bible. He recommended Keller’s book.

As I started the book, I was so surprised with what I was seeing. Keller spoke about how important it is to be grounded in Scripture for prayer. He talked about how your intellectual life should inform your prayer life and then in turn, your prayer life will inform your intellectual life. While these are simple concepts, they were explained in such a way that brought them home to me. In fact, there were some nights that I went to bed really excited about prayer.

Which gets to why I had great pain over this book.

As I read through, Keller hits hard on the ways that we do things wrong with not having devotion to prayer and not caring about the attitudes of our heart. We often go and ask forgiveness of our sins and more often, we’re just wanting to avoid the consequences. We lose sight then entirely of the attitude of the heart that led to that sin. When we resist the forgiveness as well, then we are also being just as guilty. Those who often resist forgiveness think they are not being contrite enough, without realizing their resistance to forgiveness is not being contrite enough.

Keller takes us through great writers of the past like Augustine, Calvin, Luther, and Owen to see what the church has said about prayer. As I read, I realized many ways that I need to improve and at this point of writing, I am trying. One thing I have had for some time is a mentor who holds me accountable and who I email every night. I recommend that everyone find someone like this. (I also think it’s important men have male mentors and women have female mentors.)

Still, it was excellent to have a book that gets to the deep realities and doesn’t have any of what I call fluff. This is now the book I will recommend on prayer. Keller is an excellent writer and I’ve already told my wife that she needs to read this book as well. It’s hard to think of a Christian who would not be blessed in the reading of this book.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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Book Plunge: Two Views of Hell

January 16, 2015

What did I think of Fudge and Peterson’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out!

twoviewsofhell

My wife got me this book as a Christmas gift just going through my Amazon wish list I suppose. (And God have mercy on her since I have two just for books and one of them is completely full.) So naturally, I went through the book as soon as I could. I will admit my bias. I hold to a view of Hell that would be closer to traditionalism, although most traditionalists I think would not really hold to my view.

The book starts with the view of Fudge who holds to annihiliationism. I think Fudge would prefer it not be called that and today it’s more often called Conditionalism or conditional immortality. To be fair also, Peterson would prefer his viewpoint not be called traditionalism since it can look like one believes just because it is a tradition. I think it’s best for us as we consider the merits and problems of the book to look at the claims of the positions and not just their titles as we might just have to stick with those. Such is the nature of the beast.

The book starts with Fudge’s case. I found it in many ways an interesting look. I do agree with the criticism later on that a number of passages I do not think really are talking about what I prefer to call the after-death. I think Fudge did put forward a good argument and he did try to stay focused on the Bible. I do understand that as he went through each section of Scripture with an emphasis on the NT understandably and tried to cover as much ground as possible.

Peterson’s critique I thought of this section was good, but lacking in some areas. I do think too often Peterson had relied too much on a more futurist eschatology. I also did think it was problematic to say that Fudge went too much into the Greek. I understand the fear of writing to laymen, but the thing to do on Peterson’s side is just answer what he considers a bad usage of Greek with a good usage of it. I happen to think Peterson and Fudge neither one did well on their critiques.

Then Peterson made his case and he made his slightly different, but I understand why. He started off from a historical position. Many of the greatest minds in church history have denied annihilationism. Of course this isn’t a slam dunk. Peterson himself would not say it is. What it does mean is that if you are going against that kind of consensus, you had better have some good evidence for it.

Next Peterson makes his case from Scripture. In this, he goes to ten passages and tells the time frame and setting of each one and responds to the annihilationist interpretation, namely that of Fudge. I found this section to be quite well-written, though again there were times I think a more futurist interpretation was included in the text, but few if any texts depended on that.

Finally, Peterson shows how this impacts other doctrines and the best case was in Christology. What happened to Jesus on the cross when He died? Did He cease to exist? Did His humanity go away. These are questions that have to be answered and if Fudge holds that Jesus ceased to exist after He died, then I think that we are entering into some very serious issues at this point.

After that, we get to Fudge’s reply and honestly, this was for me the low point of the book. I have admitted my bias at the start, but when I read the text, I was trying to keep in mind that in some ways, Fudge was critiquing the view that I held. How would he do?

It didn’t help when the first sentence is “Robert Peterson now has done his best to defend the notion that God will keep sinners alive in Hell forever to torture them without end.”

Is there really any need for this? You would get the impression from Fudge that Peterson is practically roasting marshmallows watching unbelievers burn and celebrating it. I suspect Peterson would say that even if he thought Hell was a literal furnace, and he doesn’t, that he gets great sorrow from this. Fudge’s first sentence then in his reply was a let down for me and brought motives into play rather than dealing with the arguments.

Fudge also did this in pointing to how Peterson has to hold to the tradition that he is in and Fudge does not. His denomination is one that says Scripture is the final authority. That applies to Peterson as well I’m sure. If you asked him which was the final authority, he would no doubt say Scripture. The problem when we get often to just the Bible is that it is not just the Bible. It couldn’t be. The Bible is not a text in isolation. We have it translated and we have to interpret it with the works of the leading scholars. I seriously doubt Fudge has done all the textual work and linguistic study and such to translate and interpret every passage in the NT. He too relies on the minds of others. To not do this is to in many ways make us our own Popes.

This also troubled me when I read Fudge talking about Peterson referring often to uninspired writers. This is the kind of thing that I see from fundamentalists on the internet and it is troubling. What matters to me is the claims. It is not if the author is inspired or not. Jesus in his own culture used language from the Wisdom literature of the intertestamental period and some of which we find in the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was not inspired, but so what?

And of course, the claims of being influenced by pagans is something that I would like to see more research on. Color me skeptical of this since I regularly see claims about Christian ideas being influenced by pagans be it from the Christ-myth camp or be it from Christians who want to say that holidays like Christmas have borrowed heavily from the pagans. It’s too easy to just throw out the idea of “pagan.”

So like I said, I think Fudge just did not do well in his critiques of the traditionalist position. There was too much emotional content that frankly I think does not belong in a debate like this. I realize this is difficult, but it just doesn’t. Too often too many times I see the ideas presented with speculation on what is better. Conditionalists will say “We do not have God keeping people alive forever just to punish them. Unbelievers get turned away by this.”

Well if an unbeliever is going to be turned away and not look at the evidence for a claim like the resurrection just because of something they don’t like, it’s their own fault frankly. You do not say “I do not like the claim, therefore the evidence behind the claim must be false.” One investigates the claim. If one finds that Jesus did not rise, then who cares? It’s not going to change my mind if Muslims change their doctrine of the after-death concerning unbelievers. I don’t care either way.

Meanwhile, on the other hand, traditionalists can say to conditionalists that you’re just giving unbelievers what they want. They just cease to exist. It looks like they get off easy. Again, I understand the sentiment there as well, but so what? The evidence for the resurrection changes because someone gets off easy? Conditionalism is false because it is believed that someone gets off easy? We end up speculating on this point and miss going with what the text itself really says. Now if we become convinced of either view in the text, then we can ask “Why did God do it X way instead of this?” That can be a fascinating way to learn, but it should not be used as a debate point.

In looking at the book as a whole, while both sides were interesting to read about, I think the book could have been better served with a more point-counterpoint position. To have each side present their whole case and then one counter to that is a bit overwhelming. It would have been better I think to have perhaps discussion on history and then on interpretation and then on ramification. It could have been longer had this been done, but I think the content would be better.

This is still an interesting read to see both sides of the issue and I can recommend it there.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Do We Care For Our Own Any More?

August 29, 2014

How can the church be the salt and light to the world if its abandoning some of its chief responsibilities? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

This is about a friend.

This is about a friend who is in need.

This is about a friend who is in need and the church is silent.

I wish I could say that this kind of thing is an anomaly, but it’s not.

When you go to church, part of worship is giving some of your tithes and offerings to the church. Now why do you do that? Is it because the church is full of money-grubbing people and that’s all that they want? No doubt, this is true of some churches, such as in the case of a lot of people you will see on a station like TBN, but I have hopes that most churches are not really like this. Most churches have ministers that are trying to do the right thing. Of course, I think too many of them are unequipped and have no business being in ministry, but that does not mean they’re in it for the money.

What all does a minister have to do? Off the top of my head, here are some duties.

Preaching a sermon.

Preparing for a sermon.

Personal study to learn about what to preach.

Church administrative duties.

Counseling.

Visiting people who are in the hospital.

Attending church events.

Could possibly be teaching some classes.

Remaining on-call for anyone in the congregation in need.

And from there, the list goes on. Keep in mind a good minister also has to have his own personal time for prayer, Bible study for himself, and if he’s married, he has to have time for his family. Furthermore, no minister can remain working 24/7. He’ll burn himself out. He needs to have some time to relax and enjoy himself in leisurely activity.

When you pay your pastor’s salary, what you are essentially saying is that the work he does is so important that you don’t want him to have to work elsewhere so that he’s not capable of doing all of that. You are pretty much paying him so that he can be there full-time in order to help meet the needs of the body.

Ideally also, a good pastor will be training others under him to be leaders and thus giving him less that he absolutely has to do, consider the example of Moses in the wilderness who trained others under him to answer questions and left all the really difficult matters to Moses. Had Moses not done this, he would have burnt himself out and been unable to lead the people.

Now what else is your money going towards?

It could go towards other staff members as well, but also, your money is going towards the maintenance and care of the building or the place that is rented and to getting materials such as Bibles that can be used for purposes of evangelism. A church has to make sure that it is taken care of after all.

Beyond that, what?

Good question.

These can go into a savings for when the church has an emergency, which is just fine, and they can also go to ministry projects, which are feasible and can be carried out, but another need of these funds is to care for those who are in need.

And in this last one, we have failed big time.

I am one who has been unable to find work in this economy for a long time. That’s the way it is. What do I do in the meanwhile? I do work for my in-laws and they help provide for us in return and we do have some government aid.

Hello. Did you hear that?

Yes. Government aid. Ideally, Christians would be giving this kind of support, but they too often don’t. Instead, it becomes the job of the government. The government should not be in the charity business and the fact that the government is the organization taking care of the poor, especially the Christian poor, is proof that the church has failed in an important aspect of its mission.

I said this was about a friend at the start. Let me use that as an example.

Meet Marc.

Marc is a friend I know through the Christian Apologetics Alliance where we are raising up funds for him. I would love to donate, but seeing as I have no real income, I’m incapable of doing that. Yet as I thought about this last night, it just got me angry. 

Now I’m not one of those people who condemns the rich. If you are wealthy, you have a gift from God if you use it right. It is no sin to have money. It is a sin for money to have you. If you have the money and can afford it, there’s nothing wrong with buying a Mercedes or going on a nice vacation or living in an expensive house or enjoying many of the finer things in life.

Of course, if you’re doing all of that and you’re stingy with your money towards the poor, that is a problem.

There are too many Christians who are like that.

Note also in this that I am not making a message of socialism. I am a capitalist. I don’t think the role is that government should force you to give your money to the poor. Rather, God loves a cheerful giver. It should be that you will want to give to the poor because they are people in need of your support.

So let’s go to my friend Marc. What’s his story?

“Not long ago my car needed to be repaired for a leaky transmission. Since I’ve been out of work I couldn’t afford the work. Some people offered to pay for the work, and so my car was towed (because it was not running) to a local dealer. The mechanic there drove the car and blew the engine, then the dealeship said they don’t do replacement engines and that was that. The dealership took the $1600 for the work they claimed they did. I was desperate and took some bad advice that I could get enough money through a student loan. That didn’t happen. So now I owe a different mechanic $3414 for a new engine plus labor plus lot fees, and he’s filed a mechanics lien. So I will lose my car that I had already paid for. Since becoming unemployed I’ve ran through all my savings, and just recently (after the whole car mess) became homeless. I won’t even have my car to sleep in. If you can help, please do. The money goes to Dave’s Automotive in Carbondale, Illinois

Plus, having a car again GREATLY expands where I can apply for jobs.”

This Christian has been going through a hard time including doubt and anger. It’s been a real struggle, and I think one of the biggest struggles is that Christians are not helping out.

And sadly, this is common.

You see, I happen to have a great interest in math. Let’s suppose you have a church of 200 people. That’s a fairly decent number of people to be in a church. Let’s suppose this church wanted to help Marc out. One Sunday, everyone in the church gave $20. Now it’s quite likely that no one will be breaking the bank, but you know what they will do?

They’ll break Marc’s debt.

Can’t do it that way? Okay. Picture a month with four Sundays. Each Sunday, every person gives $5.

The same result happens.

You see, most of our money in the church is really wasted. My ministry partner wrote an excellent article on this here. Churches get started in huge elaborate building projects and never finish them. That’s money that could have been used for the Kingdom of God gone to waste. Following the principle of Luke 14 and counting the cost before you start something, that’s also an embarrassment. 

We also spend money on projects that aren’t worth the investment. Again, another example of that is here. I have seen so many churches with these Family Life Centers and I can’t help but wonder how many of them are really being effective in ministry. Looking at the way the church is going in the world and how many people are falling away, I’d say they’re extremely ineffective. 

Let’s compare that to a ministry like this one here, the ministry of Deeper Waters, an apologetics ministry.

Now I’m not one who really cares about having a lot of money. I care about having enough. In fact, if I generally have extra money, aside from buying books, the main thing I’m thinking of is how can I do something nice for my wife. Can I take her out to dinner or buy her something that would put a smile on her face? We also would like to be able to give on our own to ministries like Voice of the Martyrs.

So here is pretty much what I’m doing most of the day. I wake up and I check my emails and Facebook and see what needs to be done. Then, I go about writing the blog. The rest of the day is spent in many cases reading and studying and often times, answering questions that come in from various people. Throughout the week, I’m also preparing for the weekly podcast where I hope to bring the best information to people. Also, I am regularly sent books by groups like IVP to review and in addition to that, many people will come to me asking about a book and if I can find it at the local library or if they’re willing to send me a copy, I will read it for them and tell them what I think. They can send me web sites or YouTube videos or things of that sort that they need addressed. Lately, there has been more public speaking going on for me too.

None of these I am paid for generally. Some people do donate, but not money.

Just like ministry in the church, when you donate to an apologetics ministry, what you are telling the person is “I value the work that you give so much that I want you to continue doing it.” Often times, I think apologists are seen as villains in the church because we do that wicked “debating” and “arguing” and we are so caught up in the life of the mind that we are missing out on the true essence of worship which is all about our passions.

Supposedly….

Just ignore that little part about loving God with all our minds.

Sometimes, I think it’s like being the police force. The apologist shows up and the church members are like “Oh great. Here comes that guy who wants to make sure we’re all walking in line and that all of our beliefs add up correctly.” In some sense, we are. We want to make sure the church is not straying into heresy. This doesn’t mean eliminating every wrong belief. It means eliminating those that are so serious they put someone’s salvation in jeopardy.

At the same time, we’re also like a military force. You know why many of you can sit safely in church and worship? It’s because people like the apologists among you are out there in the front lines and are busy taking bullets on your behalf. We’re the ones that are engaging the atheists and cultists and such in the hopes that they will leave you alone. (Of course, we also hope they will come to Christ, but many are just not open yet.)

Unfortunately, the church has had a habit of neglecting the apologists in its community and the work they do and supporting those that are parasites on the community. Think of how many people pay to go see Joel Osteen for instance. I have said before that when Michael Licona, N.T. Wright, William Lane Craig, and Alvin Plantinga are names every Christian knows and Joyce Meyer, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, and others of that ilk are out there trying to get support, we will have a much more equipped church ready to handle the challenges.

The question is, do you really value the apologetics work that is done or not? When you see people who are serving, do you want to help them with preparing the ground for harvest, or do you just want the fruit of the garden? Now some people are unable to donate, and I understand that. If you’re in that camp, offer prayers and support. This includes your own pastor too. If your pastor does a good job with what he does, let him know. Pastors often go extremely unappreciated. For us, we pray for our pastor every night. We want our church to be prepared to fulfill the Great Commission.

This also doesn’t just apply to Deeper Waters. I do hope you will donate to us. (If you do, just click the donate button and then email me or Mike and Debbie Licona and let us know that you want the donation to go to us.) There are several several other ministries that could use your support. Of course, there are major ministries like Risen Jesus, Reasonable Faith, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, and others that need your support. There are also several starting up that need your support. J. Warner Wallace has gathered a list of tent makers and they could use your support. That list can be found here.

Also, I am certainly not saying to support only apologetics ministries. Support ministries that give to the poor of your community. Support ministries that are doing overseas evangelism. Just don’t lose sight of the ministries that are right outside your front door. These ministries involve people who are giving their lives to the kingdom in service.

With people like Marc being among us and in desperate need of help, it is a scandal for the church that we are unable to care for them. It is certainly true that we will always have the poor among us, but if we abscond our responsibilities to the government, what message are we sending? We’re giving the government the go-ahead and saying “The church of Jesus Christ is incapable of meeting the needs of the people around it and ask that you in the kingdom of this world help us out.” 

If we are to show the love of Jesus to the rest of the world, we have to be able to show it to those who live among us. While the passage is written to Israel, I do think it applies to us. In Malachi 3, God asks the people of Israel to test Him. Can’t He rain down blessings so they will not contain it? If God loves a cheerful giver, is it not likely He will enable that person to keep giving? No. This is not prosperity Gospel. This is not give to get. This is give so you can keep giving. 

Remember also, start with your local church. That is the immediate body that deserves your help. If your local church is not worth giving to, then you need to find a new local church. In our day and age, it can be hard to find a good church that really seeks to uphold the truth of Scripture and encourages discipleship. Keep looking. They’re out there.

From there on, move to other ministries that you think are worth supporting. Think Deeper Waters is worth supporting? Then support us. If not, then don’t. Remember, this is not just me. There are several others. I linked to Wallace’s article with some. There are also ministries like that of my ministry partner, tektonics.org, and ministries like Adam’s Road, a ministry to Mormons that gives all of their music away for free. 

Also, please help out someone like Marc. If anyone among us is fallen and in need of help, we are obligated to help him. Remember, if any one of our body suffers, we are all suffering. It would be awesome to have Marc get this taken care of as soon as possible and know that the body of Christ was behind it all. 

Another point that needs to be made is I am in no way telling you to give what you don’t have. I’m not interested in grandma cashing in her Social Security and sending it all in. You must take care of yourself and if you don’t have the resources, you can always pray and encourage. That is more of a blessing than you know.

I wrote this because Marc is a friend in need, and Marc is an example of the way the church is failing to do its job. By all means, we must continue our ministries of reaching people who have not heard Christ and tending to the sick and feeding the hungry, but we must also help those in our own household who have fallen and can’t seem to get up. We must also support those out there who are doing the work that not everyone is capable of doing or has the time and resources to do so the rest of us can rest easy at night knowing the Christian faith is secure.

If you have the resources, please consider being generous with them and helping out those who are seeking to do what they can to help the Kingdom.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Demon-Haunted World?

August 9, 2013

How is a Christian supposed to reply to the demonic? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

One of my good friends is Jeff Harshbarger, who wrote two books on the occult which include personal testimony of his involvement with demonic powers and how he came out and is now a Christian. He is now the head of his own ministry, Refuge Ministries, where he uses counseling to help people get out of the occult.

But here’s something I really like about Jeff. He’s someone who admits the reality of demons, but he’s not someone who sees demons every where and despite having personal experience in the past with demons, he warns Christians to not spend too much time thinking about demons and not to worry about them.

Now keep in mind in all of this, I am indeed affirming that yes, I do believe demonic activity is real. I’ve heard too many accounts from people who I know to be intelligent and reliable that are firsthand accounts that I cannot deny that it has happened. I also have of course, as a Christian, biblical testimony to the fact.

Yet we must approach this realistically. As C.S. Lewis said in the Screwtape Letters “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

I have written plenty of times about my problems with a materialist view of reality, so if you’re on that side, this blog is not written to argue against you. This blog is written to deal with the problem that Jeff sees as well, and that’s Christians having too much of a fascination with demonic activity.

In fact, these Christians in having this can often take a view of Scripture that I consider to be occult. Scripture is treated as if it was a magic book and if you say this passage, you will ward off any demons that are in your presence. Now do I deny that there is power in the truth of Scripture? Not at all. What I have a problem with is its careless usage without a proper understanding of what is going on in a text of Scripture.

For instance, how many times have I seen a Christian use the passage about “My word will not return to me void.” When saying it, these Christians take it to mean that if you cite a passage of Scripture, it will be used and it will come back with results. I don’t think this is a Christian view of Scripture but an occult one.

For one thing, the passage is about the pronouncements of God Himself and what He’s saying is “If I make a statement, you can be sure that I will deliver on it.” It does not mean that we are the ones who can always deliver on His statements. God is not obligated to do our bidding. We are obligated to do His.

Furthermore, we often see people misuse Scripture, such as the devil in the temptation of Jesus, groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, and of course groups like the Word of Faith community that think faith is a force whereby they can shape reality.

When we have this fixation on the occult, it will not keep us away from it, but will in fact draw us into it. Up and coming apologists. I make this warning to you. There are many areas in apologetics I try to at least have a basic knowledge of. This is not one of them! I have been warned by those much greater in the field than I and much more skilled NOT to even touch this stuff. In fact, they themselves don’t do it because the occult has such a drawing power. That’s why I leave it to people like Jeff.

We will also have undue fear in our lives of anything that could seem to be “occult” when we have this focus. I have interest in many activities that I’m sure a lot of Christians with this kind of fixation look at as occult. I play the Final Fantasy games regularly. (In fact, one of the songs played at our wedding was from Final Fantasy) I have every Harry Potter movie that there is and I’ve read all the books. I make it a point to know the difference between fantasy and reality.

Here’s something more important. I make it a point to know Scripture even better. It is in knowing the true God that I am supposed to be drawn to Him more and more. It can be good and helpful to have a good angelology and that includes knowing something about demons and any student of Scripture should know something about them, but that is as a metaphysical topic and not an occult topic and is not meant to be a fixation.

When we live in fear of everything around us and constant worry about the occult, we also have the sad condition of making ourselves look ridiculous to the world around us. Most of the world around us already thinks we’re crazy. We don’t really need to do anything to add to that.

Also, our culture has a fixation on end times. Most readers of this blog know that my view in end times is that of orthodox Preterism, but I’m happily married to a dispensationalist and I have several good friends who are dispensationalists.

If you want to be one, be one, but this is a problem I often warn against for dispensationalists. Make your fixation be Christ. Some are unfortunately so caught up in knowing the identity of antichrist that they do not pay as much attention to the identity of Christ, the one who they are to stake their whole identity in.

Now in all of this, there is no saying that Christians should be reckless, but do not let your Christian walk be defined by paranoia of anything that could have a negative reputation. Take the time to examine each issue and be settled in your own mind. If you disagree with your brother, feel free to make a case, but listen to his case back on why he doesn’t have a problem with what he does. It could be you’re wrong. It could be he is. Follow the admonition of Paul. Let each be convinced in his own mind.

And overall, remember to focus on God and His revelation in Christ. Christians are not to live their lives in fear, and that includes fear of the demons.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Bible College For You?

July 26, 2013

Do you have to go to Bible College to get a good apologetics education? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Recently, a comment on a blog I wrote was by someone who had a passion to be an engineer and was studying to be one, but wanted to know apologetics as well seeing as to how important it is. This person, named Michael, admitted to not being solid in faith or having 1,000 Scriptures memorized.

Yet they thought the only way to go was Bible College. Is this the case?

Let me state at the start that I did go to Bible College. Bible College is great, but it is not for everyone. When I went to Bible College, I did not know a thing about apologetics. I found out there. Much of my learning then came from my own reading as I sought to devour everything I could. To this day, I still regularly go down to the college and go to the library and get some books. I say, and I’m afraid it’s true, that I use the library more than most of the students.

While I was a student, my classes would sometimes touch on apologetics matters, but I only took one class that really looked at the issue much and that was a class on worldview thinking. In many ways, I have been largely self-taught, though I did get some invaluable training in Seminary, especially on Thomism, a background I think that will shape me for the rest of my life.

I am glad that Michael sees the importance of apologetics and knows that this needs to be done, but Michael, if your passion is to be an engineer, then I encourage you to please stay in school where you are and seek to be an engineer. God’s program with the Kingdom calls for engineers after all. You can use your ability in engineering in various ways for the kingdom.

Now am I telling you to not study apologetics at all? Not a bit. I encourage you to do so and if this is a drive of yours, then keep it up. If you want, get a degree in engineering as high as you can and want to and then, you could consider going to Bible college as well and getting a degree there.

Yet you might not want to go that route. That’s fine. If not, you have more access to information than has ever been possible. You can go to ITunes and download college and seminary courses on various matters and learn from the best professors. You can go to the library at a Seminary or Bible College still and set up an account so you can use the books there.

Also, you can find someone in your area who is trained in apologetics and have them be a mentor for you. Note that this is also an encouragement to those who are mentors and helps them to do their own study knowing someone else is depending on them.

The main thing is to try to do the best you can to manage time, something we all have difficulty with. Set aside a bit of time each day to do some studying and remember at the same time, it’s not all studying. If you’re married, you’ll need to spend time with your wife and if you have them, your children. Remember, all work and no play…

Apologetics is important after all, but not everyone is meant to do full-time apologetics. We need Christians who are teachers. We need Christians who are doctors. We need Christians who are scientists. We need Christians who are garbage pick-up men, janitors, bank tellers, cashiers, police officers, soldiers, etc.

Also, we need good Christian pastors and counselors. These should have some basic understanding at least in apologetics, but I also think that a pastor should be able instead to point to someone in his church who is highly skilled in apologetics to leave him the freedom to focus on pastoral duties. He should answer basic questions, but pass tougher ones on to an expert. A counselor should have basic information such as helping with the problem of evil, but he needs to focus on what he needs to be a good counselor and be also able to refer to an expert.

Ultimately, we could all be blessed by learning more about God and our faith system, but we should not think that that means everyone is meant to do that full-time. The reason a church pays a pastor is so the pastor can be able to devote his time to study and then be able to share with the congregation what he has found. The reason someone should support the apologetics ministry, like this one, is because we are out there doing the same kind of work. (In fact, I find our work is much more dangerous than that of your average pastor. We’re the ones out there taking bullets on the front line.)

Michael. Stay in engineering. Be the best engineer that you can be. If someone is in apologetics, they should not seek to be mediocre. They should seek to excel. Excel as an engineer. Get the best degree that you can and do the best work that you can do! When you have time to yourself, learn something about apologetics. Read this blog. Read others. Download podcasts and listen to them on your commute to and from work and school. Before getting a book, look over a number of reviews of it and see if it’s one you really want to invest yourself in.

Remember finally what Paul said, whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31.) My recommendation is that you follow your passion while still doing what else you can otherwise and let God bless your service in engineering to his glory.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Is Buying A Sword About Self-Defense?

July 23, 2013

Why did Jesus tell his disciples to buy a sword? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Recently, a friend of Deeper Waters sent me a statement to comment on concerning the Zimmerman trial. What it was was the person saying that a man has a right to defend himself he used Luke 22:35-38 to make that point.

“35 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”

“Nothing,” they answered.

36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’[b]; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”

“That’s enough!” he replied.”

There are some times when a preacher is said to have a good message but to have the wrong text. This is the same case here. I do hold to a person having the right to defend themselves. In the past, that was a sword. Today, a gun would be more appropriate. Therefore, my contention is not against self-defense.

However, to say I support self-defense does not mean that I support every Scriptural argument given for self-defense. I don’t think this passage is talking about that at all. After all, let’s consider that Jesus would have eleven men by his side since Judas betrayed him. These eleven men would have two swords between them to fight off a crowd? (And why would Jesus want the crowd to be fought off? In the text, we see him surrendering to them and condemning Peter for getting a sword out in the first place!)

What Jesus is talking about is the future coming time when the disciples will face great peril and they need to be men of courage, men that would be the kind who would normally use a sword. If Jesus had literally meant for them to buy a sword, then it is a wonder we do not see the disciples engaging in hand-to-hand combat anywhere throughout the book of Acts!

When Jesus says “It is enough”, do we really take him to mean that the two swords the disciples have will be enough for them to be prepared when the Roman army comes? Of course not! Instead, it is a matter of exasperation. Jesus regularly has a problem with the disciples taking him in a wooden literal sense. (Please keep that in mind many of you today who think that the best way to take Jesus is always the wooden literal sense unless there are other reasons not to. Jesus himself has several problems with that approach.)

The best lesson to get from all this is that the right message does not mean the right passage. I am not saying the Bible condemns self-defense. I am just saying that this is not the right passage to go to and when we go to the wrong passage, we end up causing harm to our position as we make it look foolish and have it so that some think when they dispute our false interpretation, they’ve shown the Bible does not teach this at all. Not only that, the worst part is whenever we have a false interpretation, we miss the true interpretation we are to get out of Scripture.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Poythress, Science, and the Bible

May 14, 2013

What are we to think of the debate on Adam? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

A friend of Deeper Waters recently sent me an article wanting a response. It’s written by Vern Poythress and can be found here. My problem mainly with how to approach this is that I am not a scientist. I do not speak in scientific terms and if I have no reason to think that someone has not done strong scientific study, I question their statements. Theologians, philosophers, and historians who wish to speak on science as science should study science as science.

Unfortunately, those in the other camp don’t often follow that advice as well. Atheists who are authorities on science seem to think they’re automatically authorities on history, philosophy, theology, morality, etc. They could be if they have also done sufficient background study, but all too often, they have not.

So let’s deal with some concerns.

First off, what about evolution? Here’s my response. I don’t care.

“What? Did I read that right?”

Yes. Yes you did. Christianity relies on the truth that God raised Jesus from the dead. Everything else is secondary. If we can establish God raised Jesus from the dead, then it would not matter if we are here due to a long evolutionary process. It might mean we have to change our understanding of Genesis, (and quite frankly, even if evolution is false, I think we need to change it) but we still have Christianity. Christianity stands or falls on the resurrection and not the creation.

What about Adam? Recently in my reading of Genesis, I noticed something. I cannot recall God naming the man Adam. The word simply means, according to what I’ve studied, man. So many times in the text is says “The man.” It seems quite likely that a man showed up at one point, however that came about, that we are all descended from. Personally, I lean more towards God acting in a divine way to make man, but if I am wrong, it will not shipwreck Christianity at all.

Part of the problem with the emphasis on creation is that we have this idea that if God did not create the way we think He did, then He is inactive in the universe. If God is not active, then we could be deists, but if He did not even create, then we might as well be atheists or agnostics. I find this idea problematic right at the start since it has this implicit idea that God’s chief activity is creation.

Creating, as it is, is nothing essential to the nature of God. God could be God even if He never created anything. What must God do? God must exist and what He does with that existence is up to Him. He has chosen to create, but the property of existence is the main feature of God.

Picture stepping outside your door and seeing a huge pile of money one day and your thought could be “What brought that about?” In other words, “What is the cause of the existence of what I see before me?” Now picture stepping outside and instead hearing a strange sound that isn’t ending and asking “What is the cause of this sound?” In this case, you are not likely looking for what brought it into being, but also what is keeping that sound going.

The point to make is that the same can be said of the pile of money on the front porch as well. Does it contain within itself the principle of its own existence? The answer is no. Only God has that. God is the only one that must necessarily exist. Everything else exists by the power of God. That means that God’s work with the universe is not just creation, but sustenance.

“Well is that biblical?”

Yes. Profusely so.

1 Cor. 8:6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

Note that all things come from God and all things are through Jesus. The Godhead is sustaining our existence.

Col. 1:16-17 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Note in verse 17 that all things hold together in Him. God in Christ is sustaining all that is.

Hebrews 1:2-3 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high

The same pattern emerges again with Christ upholding the universe.

Job 34:14-15 If he should set his heart to it
and gather to himself his spirit and his breath,
all flesh would perish together,
and man would return to dust.

Again, if God removes His being, we cease to exist.

The study of existence is metaphysics and it cannot be touched by science. Science deals with a type of existence, namely material existence, but it cannot deal with existence as existence. Note also that each branch of science deals with a different type of material existence as well. None of this is to lower science, but it is to point out that it is not the supreme study.

What do we do with creation then? We could keep in mind what a writer like John Walton has said. For the ancients, something was not said to really exist until it was given function. The creation account is not creation as we understand it, but rather God giving purpose to things. Does this go against material ex nihilo creation? No. Walton tells us that Genesis is not asking the question about scientific creation because Genesis doesn’t care. Genesis cares about giving God glory through the temple of the cosmos He has created.

Does this mean I oppose scientific apologetics? Not entirely. It means that it should only be done by those skilled in science. If you don’t know scientific terminology, then don’t argue science. Now if only our atheist friends would follow the same pattern with Biblical studies, philosophy, history, etc.

If we are people of truth, then we must accept whatever is found to be true. We also must make sure that our modern thinking that is scientific is not the paradigm by which we read Scripture. We should seek to understand it the way the ancient reader would have understood it and not the way someone from our culture would.

If there is something we must not do, and we do it just as much as atheists do sadly, it is to make science and Christianity seem opposed negatively to each other. People of truth must accept all truth. If it turns out that evolution is true, we must accept it. If it turns out that it is not, we must accept it. If we wish to argue against evolution or any other scientific hypothesis, which the scientific community should welcome by the way, then we must do so scientifically. This is why you will not see me joining this argument. I am not a scientist. I will stick to my strengths and let others stick to theirs.

In conclusion, we must remember that creation is not the doctrine by which the church stands or falls. It is resurrection. It is quite concerning some Christians are better at defending their views on creation than they are on resurrection. We must also not limit God to just creation. God is responsible not just for the beginning, but every point in the timeline, including where we are right now.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Triumph of the Christ

March 25, 2013

What happened on Palm Sunday? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Yesterday we celebrated Palm Sunday. This is to acknowledge the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem. While we state that this is the start of what we call the Passion week, I’d like to instead look at it as the Triumph of the Christ. For those who don’t know, a triumph was a celebration held for a Roman general after a great victory. To be sure, this isn’t an exact parallel with Jesus, but there is no doubt He is getting a king’s welcome.

Also, I will be looking at this in the gospel of Matthew mainly. Right now, I’ve been spending the past month or so focusing on this gospel. I’m using it then to show how it works with an overall thesis I’ve been developing. Of course, the other gospels have valuable information, but I’d like to look at the presentation in Matthew.

I am also using the BibleGateway web site and the NIV translation.

“As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” ”

In Matthew 8, we saw Jesus as Lord in healing a centurion’s servant from a distance. The centurion realized Jesus has under His authority sickness and even from a distance. In Matthew 14, we saw Jesus’s authority over the waters as He is able to walk on the sea. Regularly, it has been stressed Jesus has not just the authority to interpret the Law, but the authority over nature. He is the rightful ruler of the cosmos. When He comes to Jerusalem then, He is able to give the orders just as much. What is the reason? The Lord needs them. That is all that needs to be said. The king wants what He has a right to.

“4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

5 “Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your king comes to you,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’””

Fulfillment is a huge theme in Matthew. Regularly, one reads about how Jesus is fulfilling an OT Scripture. Note that this one is about kingship. The king of Israel is coming, and not just the king of Israel, but the king of the cosmos.

“6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,”

The disciples are good servants of the king. Now here, we come to a question. Did Jesus sit on two animals at once? I say no. The “them” refers to the cloaks. There’s a simple reason I don’t think Matthew intended for us to think that Jesus sat on two animals. Here it is:

Matthew is not an idiot.

Matthew grew up and lived in a society where people rode animals. He was likely an eyewitness to what happened. He knew darn well that one person could not ride two animals at once. At worse, we have an ambiguity here. For some interested in Inerrancy, I could understand attributing an error to Matthew at some part, though I don’t think there is one. I cannot understand attributing idiocy to him.

““Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!””

All of these are cries or praise and highly Messianic. Deliverance has come for Jerusalem! The Messiah is here! For the people in the city that day, they were likely anticipating the Davidic Kingdom was coming back. Jesus has a far greater Kingdom in mind, and unfortunately, it will be one that the people do not see. We must always remember that when God acts, we accept Him on His terms, not ours.

“10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.””

Once again, the question comes back to who is Jesus. This is the question Matthew wishes for us to ponder. He wants us to ask who Jesus is. The answer of the people is that He is the prophet. Matthew sees much more. Matthew sees the king coming to His people giving them a last chance to accept or reject Him.

As passion week goes, we will see how they responded.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Holy Spirit Laziness

March 1, 2013

Is it possible to abuse the Holy Spirit? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Yesterday was an interesting day of debate for me. Regular readers of this blog know that I’m an orthodox Preterist. As it stands, I saw someone on Facebook with a comment on end times and I figured I’d jump in. To be clear at the start, I have nothing against dispensationalists. In fact, I’m married to someone who does hold to the rapture at this time. When my wife asks me a question about end times, I do give my perspective, but when she asks “What would someone from my perspective most likely say?” I try to give the best answer. It would be easy to give a weak answer to make that side look dumb. It would be easy, and I think it would be wrong too.

So here I am debating and before too long, what card do I see played? The holiness card. The idea that there is an orthodox Preterist seems nonsensical and yes, I see the “heresy” word tossed out. Am I given an argument against my view? Nope. Instead, I’m told “The Holy Spirit leads us into truth” and “We read our Bibles so we know what you are saying is not true.”

Because obviously, anyone who disagrees is someone who wants to go against the Holy Spirit and doesn’t read their Bibles.

Later, I have a comment on my blog from someone who doesn’t like what I’ve said about some texts not being authentic. What am I told?

“Jesus said to follow the Holy Spirit to the truth (John 14 & 16) yet too many scholars and pastors, etc., ignore that command and follow secular ideas instead. The Holy Spirit will tell you which words are authentic or not as He knows the complete and original Bible whereas earthly mss. can be corrupted very easily and omit key passages for whatever ulterior purpose the writer had at the time.”

Even this morning, a friend messaged me showing a thread he was in with him asking hard questions to someone and the person responded by tossing out Bible verses that had nothing to do with the question. “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” “You shall know them by their fruit.” These are good and true statements properly understood, but they do not answer the question being asked.

The common connection in each of these is the idea of what the Holy Spirit is supposed to do. Each of the persons involves believes that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to make sure that they do not believe anything that is untrue. What does that eliminate? If you said “personal responsibility” move to the head of the class.

There are a lot of people who think holiness is an argument. Christian apologist Francis Beckwith has said that if someone can’t win with logic, they will trump with personal holiness. Of course, we are not against being holy. We are not against living devout lives. We are against using that as an excuse. In fact, that is quite unholy.

If you are losing an argument and the facts are not on your side, it will not change that to mention that you pray an hour every day. It will not matter if you say that you have the book of Ezekiel memorized. It will not matter if you say you give 90% of your income to the poor. There’s only one thing that can work in favor of your argument. That is the evidence itself.

On the other hand, your opponent being a filthy hypocrite does not make his argument false. If your opponent is cheating on his wife, it does not make his argument wrong. If your opponent could not even quote John 3:16, it does not make his argument wrong. If your opponent is more miserly than Ebenezer Scrooge, it does not make his argument wrong. Only one thing can work against his argument. That is the evidence itself as well.

If you want to win a debate on what the Bible teaches, you have to study. The Holy Spirit is not meant to be used to excuse your lack of study. There are several Christians who also live holy and devout lives and disagree with you. Why should they be discounted automatically because of you? How do you know that you are not in the wrong and that anyone else who disagrees is not “listening to the Holy Spirit.”?

Let’s also face it. The position is pride.

There’s also the great danger that you are setting yourself up for blasphemy. You are having it be “God has said you are wrong” when God has not said. Now even if it turns out the person you are arguing with is wrong, that does not mean that God has specifically told you that they are wrong.

Another great danger is this sets us up for embarrassment in the eyes of the world. Yesterday, I listened to last Saturday’s “Unbelievable?” broadcast. In it, there was an email about a recent program where the destruction of the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15 was discussed. An atheist wrote in saying what Christians should do is pray hard for one month to Christ for an answer. If Christ answers, their replies should be identical or similar. If not, then Christ is not helping with study.

Wrong argument? Yes. The sad point is I can understand why it was made. Too many Christians do give this impression. It is the idea that study is unneeded. God will tell you what to believe.

“Well that sounds good, but John 14 and 16 do sound convincing.”

Keep in mind John 14 and 16 are also spoken to the apostles and are we to think that all truth means every single belief? If you think the Holy Spirit leads you into all truth, are you willing to not go to a doctor and just diagnose yourself? Are you willing to let someone work on your car who is not a licensed mechanic but is just a devout Christian? Are you willing to fly on a plane with someone who is not a pilot but is a devout Christian? Do you want your children to go to a college where the professor has not studied the subject they teach but is a devout Christian?

Why shouldn’t you? Isn’t this included under all truth?

Or could it be you want people to study for these matters? Do you think it’s arrogant to think the Holy Spirit will just give you the knowledge of medicine? Why is it different for the knowledge of God and Scripture? What you end up doing is making the Holy Spirit not your teacher, as a teacher teaches students, those who study, but rather your servant. The Spirit does not help you know the answers to the questions. He writes them out for you. What kind of teacher teaching a lecture will fill in the answers on the test for the students?

Does this mean you have to buckle down and do the work? Yes. If you want to know if your eschatology is correct or not, you will need to go out and study and read both sides on the matter. If you want to know what the original manuscripts said of the Bible, you will need to study. If you want to know how to answer a question that challenges you, you will have to study.

If you have not studied, instead of using the Holy Spirit to excuse your laziness. Try something else. First, you could consider admitting you need to go off and do some study and then get back to your opponent. The second suggestion is to just be quiet. You can use the Holy Spirit to excuse yourself, but it will be hard to excuse yourself for saying “The Holy Spirit says” if you have not been told later on, and there is no excuse for doing something wrong.

And perhaps if we all study, we can have better debates anyway and let our iron sharpen each other’s iron.

Doesn’t that sound much better?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What Are The Gospels?

February 19, 2013

Do the gospels tell the gospel? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

With the Inerrancy debate going on, a lot of people are getting introduced to the idea that the gospels are Greco-Roman biographies. I have no desire to challenge that idea. I even agree with it. I’d like to come from a different perspective. Are the gospels really meant to teach us the gospel?

If you mean the idea that we have today that you need to believe in Jesus Christ for forgiveness and turn to him, then I would actually say no. That is not the point of the gospels. A possible exception could be at the end of John of course, but I’d like to suggest a different purpose that could include that and yet goes beyond it.

In Mark 1, right off the start, we have Jesus after his baptism and temptation saying the the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news. If good news there means “gospel” as we often take it to mean, then this is strange because there is nothing in there about turning to Jesus for forgiveness or believing in Him as God and Messiah.

The same happens in Matthew 4:17. In neither of these cases, Jesus has not preached a sermon yet. We have no idea what His message could be, but I’d like to suggest a different approach.

N.T. Wright wrote about how in Josephus there is a reference to someone telling someone else to repent in the meaning of “Come over to my side.” I find this to be a fascinating consideration. Jesus is telling Israel to repent, Israel that already believed they had forgiveness.

In fact, Jesus doesn’t really speak out against the system of forgiveness. He speaks against its misuse. He tells the people what God really desires more is mercy and faith, but He never goes against the system as a whole, which is interesting since Jesus was very quick to point out other areas that he thought the Jewish system was deficient.

Let’s suppose this isn’t about forgiveness per se. What could it be about? The connection with both texts is the Kingdom. Jesus is telling people that the Kingdom is here. In Matthew, we have more clues. Matthew starts off with Jesus being seen as “God with us.” Matthew has prophecy being fulfilled left and right and John the Baptist showing up marks this as a time of high eschatological fulfillment. God is doing something and He is doing it in Jesus.

When Jesus is doing His ministry, it is not just a ministry but a political statement as it were. Let us compare it to modern campaigns. There were several Messiahs running around town. Jesus was another claimant and Jesus had to show He was the real deal. Not only was He showing who He was, He was also showing what the Kingdom was like. What is the Sermon on the Mount? It is a message about what people under His reign are to be like. What are the miracles? They are showing what the Earth will be like when Jesus is fully in charge.

We have just gone through an election cycle. We should know what this is like. Each candidate goes out to the masses and presents Himself. Jesus is presenting Himself to the people as the person that they should “elect” as their Messiah and in saying repent, He is saying “Identify with me and recognize me as your Messiah.”

This is also why He tells his disciples to go to only the lost sheep of Israel. It doesn’t make any sense to go anywhere else to proclaim yourself as Messiah. What good would it be to go to a place like Greece and say “The Messiah has come!”? The people would wonder what exactly that meant. It only makes sense in Israel. Israel gets the first vote as to whether or not Jesus is the Messiah.

Unfortunately, Israel votes no.

What is the resurrection? God votes yes. Note the resurrection does not mean Jesus is the Messiah because He rose again. He is the Messiah because He claimed to be and the resurrection is God’s stamp of approval on His ministry. It is God saying “Yes. I support Jesus as Messiah.”

And the one vote of God counts as a majority.

It is after the resurrection then that all authority is given. Israel may have decided they did not want to participate in the reign of Jesus, but He still reigns and now the Christians are to go out with a new message. Jesus is the king of the world. Jesus is the ruler of all. It’s no shock the Romans weren’t happy with this message.

What does this have to do with forgiveness of sins? For those who are concerned about it, as I’ve said elsewhere not everyone was, forgiveness is found by recognizing Jesus as king. If you recognize Him as the one to trust in, you get the favor in that He forgives your crimes against Him. This trust is what we call “faith.”

The good news does include forgiveness, but not just that. The good news is that Jesus is the king right now and we are to prepare ourselves for His total reign one day. When you are evangelizing, you are campaigning for people to recognize Jesus as king. Make a good case.

In Christ,
Nick Peters