Lee Strobel and The Case for Grace (Part 1)

Lee Strobel almost died before his own story joined the pages of his newest and most personal book, The Case for Grace: A Journalist Explores the Evidence of Transformed Lives (Zondervan, 2015). 

In this captivating book, the bestselling and award-winning author of several “The Case for” books shares his own personal transformation alongside seven real-life tales of men and women whose lives have been revolutionized by God’s grace.

These grace-filled stories are contrasted with world religions focused on earning divine favor. Only Christianity reveals a God who showers humanity with unmerited favor...amazing grace.

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The First Book You Need to Read in 2015

A disclaimer: Frank Turek, President of CrossExamined.org and author of I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist is a friend of mine. More than that, I consider Frank one of my closest friends and a true partner in ministry. But that’s not why I’m writing about his new book today. If I didn’t think Frank had written something important and special, I wouldn’t use my platform to tell you about it (regardless of my relationship with him). But Frank’s written a book you need to read and give to your friends. In fact, Frank’s new book, Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case, is the first book you need to read in 2015. When Frank shared the concept of the book with me over a year ago, I will admit I thought, “Dang it, why didn’t I think of that book?!?” After all, doesn’t it sound like something written by a police detective? If you’ve enjoyed my approach to Christian Case Making, you’ll relish Stealing from God. It will help you understand why the Christian worldview is unique in its ability to explain (and make sense of) our world, even as it demonstrates the fatal weaknesses of an atheistic worldview.

What if your best reasons to doubt God actually proved He exists? Frank examines claims critics of Christianity (and theism) typically offer to make the case against God’s existence, and shows how these aspects of reality actually require God’s existence in the first place. Frank’s book is brilliantly concise, including six chapters examining C – Causality, R – Reason, I - Information & Intentionality, M – Morality, E – Evil, and S – Science. As always, Frank presents the material in a memorable way, demonstrating how “…in order to construct any valid argument for atheism, the atheist has to steal tools from God’s universe because no such tools exist in the world of atheism.” Frank’s arguments are pointed and supported by many illustrations and examples. He demonstrates how theism forms the foundation for reason, morality and science, and how it best explains the causality, information and evil we see in our universe. These aspects of our existence are typically offered by skeptics as evidence against theism, but as Frank often says in his talks and presentations, “Atheists must sit in God’s lap in order to try to slap Him in the face.” Unless theism is true, none of these features of the universe could actually exist.

I’m encouraging you to read Frank’s book for two reasons. First, as Christians, we need to master the arguments and evidences described in Stealing from God. These broad categories of reality are under direct attack from critics of Christianity and we need to be ready to give a defense (and help our young people master their response as well). Stealing from God is yet another important resource to help all of us become better Christian Case Makers. But there’s another reason I am recommending Frank’s book: I believe in Frank’s ministry and approach. When I first met Frank, I knew right away we would hit it off. His “New Jersey” approach to the evidence for God’s existence (and the truth of the Christian worldview) is desperately needed in this age of “New Atheism”. There are times when Frank takes a “gloves off” approach to the issues, and his “apologetics with an attitude” approach seems perfectly suited for the time in which we live. Look, for example, at the titles of Frank’s books: of I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist and Stealing from God. These are provocative titles, perfect for the provocative climate in which we live. I speak at college campuses all over the country and I can tell you students (especially atheist students) respond to Frank’s messages because they are appropriately provoked by the titles. Frank has written yet another book you can give to skeptical friends, and I bet the title just might provoke them to read it. Frank has written a great book, and he’s written it with a great approach.

Frank gets right to the task at hand and systematically works through each of the six points skeptics typically use to argue against God, showing how these aspects of reality are all dependent upon God’s existence. Frank then reviews the four-part case for Christianity he first presented in I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist (Does truth Exist? Does God exist? Are miracles possible? Is the New Testament historically reliable?) So if you’re looking for a book to strengthen what you believe as a Christian or a book you can give to a skeptic, Stealing from God will achieve both goals. To top it off, Ravi Zacharias even took time from his incredibly busy schedule to write the book’s foreword.

If you read my blog often, you know I don’t typically take time to write book reviews or offer endorsements of this nature. But there aren’t many books I wish I’d have written, so Stealing from God has earned a spot here at Cold Case Christianity. It’s an important book written by an important Christian Case Maker, and it’s the first book you should read in 2015.

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Preston Yancey Q&A (Part 1)

Preston Yancey is a lifelong Texan raised Southern Baptist who fell in love with reading saints, crossing himself, and high church spirituality. He now makes his home within the Anglican tradition. He is a writer, painter, baker, and speaker. His debut book, Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again (Zondervan), chronicles his faith journey while in college—from the one he was raised to believe, to a faith he could call his own.

Michael Summers, a senior business major at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, interviewed Preston in a café near Baylor, Preston’s alma mater. Michael asked some great questions, which encouraged Preston to offer some thoughtful answers that are longer than the usual “sound bites” you normally encounter in Q&As. Your commitment to read the entire unedited interview will be well rewarded.

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Prepare Him Room

One of the great joys of the Christmas season is the arrival of special guests. It may be a son or daughter who has been away at college or in the military. It could be a favorite aunt or uncle who has flown in for the holidays. Friends might be coming to share a holiday dinner. Whoever it is, you anticipate the arrival of your guests and prepare yourself and your home for their coming. And finally, when you hear the knock or the doorbell, you jump up, eager to welcome your loved ones into your heart and home.

That spirit and emotion are at the heart of Advent, a way of celebrating Christmas that may be new to you. Perhaps you’re aware of Advent but don’t know a lot about what it means or what you’re supposed to do about it. When you hear the word, you probably think of candles and calendars. While those are often involved in the celebration, they are merely symbols of what Advent is all about

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Life, Death, and Dignity

People are destined to die once.

Hebrews 9:27

People have funny ways of dealing with death. Some laugh at death, or at least make jokes about it. I love Woody Allen’s take: “I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Others try to cheat death, although I don’t exactly know how that’s done. It’s not like death is a final exam. Oh wait, it is the final exam. So how do you cheat? Copy off someone else’s exam? What if the person you’re copying dies before you?

Some of those who aren’t into humor or cheating try to confront death by exercising so they’ll live longer. But that seems more like an exercise in futility. The gym I frequent is filled with older people who apparently are trying to make up for 60 or more years of potato chips and inactivity by riding a stationary cycle while reading the newspaper. Is this helping to stave off the grim reaper? Hard to say.

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Addicted to Busy

We are all spread too thin, taking on more than we can handle, trying to do so much—almost as if we are afraid that if we were to take a moment of rest, we might discover that all our busyness is covering up an essential lack in our lives.

But God never meant for us to be so busy. God desires for us to have rest and peace. In Addicted to Busy: Recovery for the Rushed Soul, Brady Boyd, lead pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, shows you how to live a life that embraces stillness and solitude, so you can find the peace that God wants for you.

Brady took some time to answer a few questions about his new book.

Q: This book reflects your own journey from “chaotic, busy living” to a more restful and rhythmic life. How bad was your own busyness addiction?

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How Christian Case Making Turns “Free Riders” Into “First Responders”

I’ve been part of a first responder family my entire life. I was born while my father was in the police academy and grew up during his law enforcement career. Prior to his retirement, I entered the academy and my son was born. He watched me serve as a first responder as he grew up and then entered the academy as well; he’s been serving as an officer for several years now. I’ve listened to the stories of first responders (or told my own) for the past fifty-three years. I’ve learned an important truth about law enforcement first responders. There are no “free riders” in a police patrol car. When two officers are working together in a unit, there are no passengers. Each has a job to do. The driver obviously guides the unit, decides where the tandem will patrol, and is responsible for safely navigating the car, even during incredibly tense and difficult situations. But the officer sitting in the passenger seat is just as active and engaged as the driver; he’s not just along for the ride. He’s responsible for all radio communications with the station, is primarily responsible for the reports written during the shift, and is often the best set of eyes in the unit. First responder “passengers” can teach us something about our lives as Christians.

If you’ve been a member of a local church for any period of time, you’ve probably noticed twenty percent of the members serve actively while eighty percent usually enjoy the benefits of this service (the old 20/80 principle). There are many “free riders” in the church who are willing to attend but don’t seem to be engaged in much more than this. Well, I want to confess something to you: I am now part of that eighty percent. With my speaking and writing schedule, I am seldom at home on Sundays and when I am, I am usually unable to help out at church. I often feel lucky to be there at all. And there’s something else you probably already know: the twenty percent who are working hard to help out with the weekly service may still be unengaged in what they believe as Christians. Even though they are working hard, they still may not know much about Christianity. You can be a “free rider” even though you appear to be working hard.

So, what makes the difference between those who are coasting and those who are engaged? How can “free riders” become “first responders”? It all comes down to case making. Let me return to the analogy of first responder “passengers” to make the point. These officers may look like they are along for the ride, but they have an important role to play, just like those of us who may appear to be sitting in church pews:

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Is the Church A Cruise Ship Or A Rescue Boat?

When describing the difficulty in creating a more thoughtful version of Christianity in America, I sometimes describe the Church as a large ocean liner. If we, as Christian Case Makers, hope to have a significant impact on what appears to be a sometimes uninformed (or apathetic) Christian culture, we must turn this large ship one degree at a time. The Church is not a jet ski we can turn on a dime; it is a large, established institution requiring gentle nudging from the tugboats amongst us who want to change its direction. I love the Church. I’ve been a pastor and church leader myself, and I’ve come to respect the role of pastors and shepherds. It’s an incredibly difficult job, requiring special gifts. As Paul says in Ephesians Chapter 4 (verse 11), only some of us have been given by God to be pastors. Most of us are not gifted in this way, and the more I work with local churches, the more I respect those who are in a position of leadership, especially those pastors who recognize the importance of Christian Case Making. As I visit with these pastors around the country, I’ve heard them describe how difficult it is to raise up congregations who are capable and ready to defend what they believe, especially in a hedonistic culture such as ours. When they describe the Church at large, it sounds a lot more like a cruise ship than a rescue boat.

I’m using this analogy to help us think about the nature of the Church in America so we can be more focused in our efforts to make it better. I believe the Church is our best and last hope. It has been the often unrecognized foundation of our culture, the unsung (and maligned) hero responsible for much of what we take for granted as a nation and a people. As skepticism, hedonism and nihilism grow in our country, Christianity has the opportunity to meet the challenge or shrink from the fight. I believe we must renew the life and role of the mind in Christendom if we expect to have a continuing impact on our culture. And that’s where I think my analogy may illustrate the nature of the challenge we face. Let me describe two kinds of ocean vessels and you tell me which one sounds more like the Church today:

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Tips for Studying the Bible

As Christians, we have a lot of questions that we don’t always know how to investigate on our own, and we’re grateful when somebody will come in and give us the quick answer. But if you’ve raised kids, you know that when your kids have a question and ask you to sort something out for them, they come away with one kind of knowledge. When you allow your kids to work through, and find, and research the answer for themselves, they come away with a completely different kind of understanding. I can remember when I first came to Christianity out of atheism, I really needed to examine the issues for myself. And let’s face it, there are lots of times when it’s not so much an understanding of the truth; it’s not so much that the truth is out there and I just can’t grasp it; it’s that I hold some type of prerequisite, presupposition, that prevents me from seeing the truth clearly.
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Ebola and the Call of God

It’s a life-and-death-story for the ages, one that vividly shows us what it takes to respond to the call of God, and what’s required to follow Jesus.

You know the story because it involves the deadly Ebola virus, but you may not remember the names of two Americans who brought the story home in dramatic fashion. Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol are medical missionaries who contracted the virus while helping treat victims in Liberia. In the middle of the summer they were flown back to the U.S. to receive treatment at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Both should have died, but they survived, recovered and were released just a few weeks ago, whereupon Dr. Brantly acknowledged his care in Liberia and the treatment he received at Emory. “God saved my life—a direct answer to thousands and thousands of prayers,” he said in a statement.

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