An Open Letter to Graduates

Dear Graduates,

Excitement. Anticipation. Eagerness. Anxiety. Fear. My guess is that these emotions, and many more, are going through your heart and mind right now as you prepare to leave high school for the “real world.” Not too long ago I was in the same boat. I have since learned some powerful lessons I would like to share with you. Will you allow me to share some personal encouragement and insights to help you succeed in college? I want nothing more than to see my own students flourish as followers of Jesus in college. And I want the same for you. If you read this two-part series you will be miles ahead of many of your peers. Prayerfully take these words to heart and I believe they could make all the difference for you.

Yogi Berra is famous for creative one-liners. For example, he said, “You better go to other peoples’ funerals. Otherwise they won’t come to yours.” He also said, “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.” And one of my personal favorites: “There is a restaurant in L.A. that is so busy no one goes there anymore.” He once quipped, “If you don’t know where you are going you will probably end up somewhere else.” So true!

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Bin Laden Was Not Insane

The news coverage since the capture of Osama Bin Laden has been fascinating. And yet a number of questions remain: Did Pakistan know his whereabouts? Has the death of Osama hurt Al Qaeda or emboldened them? And yet still an important question remains that few have asked—Was Bin Laden a homicidal maniac? After all, could any normal person call for the death of over 3,000 people? He must have been insane, right?

The day after the news of his death, Bill O’Reilly twice referred to Bin Laden as a “homicidal maniac” during the opening comments of his show on Fox News. The first definition of maniac is, “an insane person, especially one who suffers from mania.” Whether or not O’Reilly meant for maniac to be understood in this way, others have said Bin Laden is “mentally imbalanced,” “insane,” and “wired wrong."

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How Can We Say Jesus Is the Only Way?

I’m asked the question all the time: How can Jesus be the only way? It’s a universal question that comes from Christians and non-Christians alike.

And it’s a question for which we have to have a clear answer—shared with the right motive—because the answer is the foundation of our faith.

New Twists on an Old Question

Pluralism and competing religious ideas have been a problem for the Christian church since its inception. People wouldn’t have had a problem with Christianity if early Christians had just said, “We follow Jesus, one god among many.” But Christians were persecuted and killed because they took seriously the Scriptures and the words of Jesus that He is the only truth and the only way to get to heaven.

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Archaeological insights from the Holy Land

For the past week I have been on an apologetics study tour of the Holy Land with 25 high school students. Along with visiting the Dead Sea, Masada, the Sea of Galilee, the Garden of Gethsemane, and many other remarkable sites, we had the special treat of hearing a lecture by filmmaker Joel Kramer. He is the award-winning producer of The Bible vs. Joseph Smith as well as many other films. He is currently working on a PhD in archaeology at Hebrew University.

Here are some highlights from his presentation that I trust you will find as fascinating as I do:

  • Jerusalem is the most archaeologically excavated city in the world, but only 1% of the entire city has been excavated. The sites that have been excavated (even though they are a minority of all possible sites) consistently confirm the biblical record.
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When Kids Question Their Faith (Part 2)

This is the second post of a two-part series of articles aimed at answering one of the most common questions my father and I receive—“How do we help kids who are questioning their faith?” This article first appeared in the March/April, 2011 Thriving Magazine, a Focus on the Family publication.

You're now a father and have a thriving apologetics ministry of your own. What advice would you give to parents whose kids express doubts about Christianity?

Sean: First, I'd tell them not to panic. I generally see kids doubting their faith as a good thing. As a teacher, I spend much of my time and energy trying to convince kids that their beliefs about God really matter. When young people say they doubt their faith, I know that they are at least thinking about important issues, and they want to know the truth. This is a good start!
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When Kids Question Their Faith (Part 1)

For the next couple weeks I am going to post a two-part series of articles to answer one of the most common questions my father and I receive—“How do we help kids who are questioning their faith?”

This article first appeared in the March/April, 2011 Thriving Magazine, a Focus on the Family publication.

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Most children raised in Christian homes enter a stage — often during their teen years — where they wonder if their parents' faith is right for them. After a time of questioning, some embrace that faith, making it their own. Others turn away to walk another road.

For Sean McDowell, that wondering phase came during his first year of college, when he began to wrestle with a number of questions about the truth of Christianity and the existence of God. As he struggled with these questions, he knew there was one person he needed to be honest with: his dad. But when your father is renowned Christian apologist Josh McDowell, that discussion can be a difficult one to initiate.

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Learning From Mormons

Last Friday I invited a local Mormon leader to speak to my 11th grade theology class. This is the first time I have ever done this. Typically I take my students on trips to visit other people, but some students don’t go on those trips so I wanted them all to hear from a Mormon firsthand. He was thoughtful, kind, prepared, and very articulate. In fact, I was very impressed by how well he knew his stuff and how confidently he portrayed it. He even quoted from C.S. Lewis, although he took him out of context. I wish more Christians had his poise and confidence.

I learned a couple things from this encounter that Christians may consider taking to heart.

First, the higher degree of education a Mormon receives the higher is his/her participation in the church. And yet the exact opposite is true for evangelicals. Even though the Mormon faith is essentially built on a subjective experience (see Moroni 10:4), Mormons have come to value the intellect and education. Mitt Romney and Glenn Beck are good examples of leading Mormon intellectuals who are having a positive impact on culture. Why is it that a faith built on subjective experience produces many leading thinkers?

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Rob Bell on MSNBC

This is a must-see video for those following the discussion surounding the new book "Love Wins Out" by Rob Bell. The interviewer does a phenomenal job of holding Bell's feet to the fire and clarifying exactly what theological and personal assumptions drive his writings. I don't think Bell saw this coming.

This is a must-see video for those following the discussion surounding the new book "Love Wins Out" by Rob Bell. The interviewer does a phenomenal job of holding Bell's feet to the fire and clarifying exactly what theological and personal assumptions drive his writings. I don't think Bell saw this coming.

A Bible Study Plan That Works--Part 2

In my last blog post I shared the process I took my students through to come up with a theme statement for the book of Ephesians. It took us an entire week of class, but it was well worth it!

For the second week, I had them work in groups to break down the book into chapters, sub-chapters, and to come up with a heading for each of them. Rather than simply accepting the existing divisions of Ephesians, they came up with their own analysis of the structure of the book. Below is a sample of their work. Once they broke down the book into their own divisions, they used the existing chapters and verses to communicate how they believed it should be organized. As you can tell, their outline is very similar to the existing outline in the Bible!

Chapter I: Salvation Through Christ (1:1-23)

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A Bible Study Plan That Works

One of the most disconcerting trends of 2011 is the continued lack of theological knowledge among the church, as demonstrated in the Barna 2010 Trends. As Christians we simply don’t have theological depth or know how to relate it to our lives. And we spend little time studying the Bible, despite Paul’s strong admonition to Timothy (2 Tim. 2:15). Even though we claim to believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, it tends to take a back seat to other priorities in our lives.

Why is this? Many possible reasons come to mind. One reason is that we are simply busy. Are lives are filled and studying the Bible takes time and effort. Another reason is that we simply don’t know how to study the Bible. I’m convinced that if more people in the church truly knew how to study the Bible, and saw the fruits of increased understanding, they would make time for it.

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About
Sean McDowell is a teacher, author, speaker, husband and father. He is an avid fan of college basketball, ping-pong, and his favorite superhero is the Amazing Spiderman.