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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Why “Closure” Requires A Christian Worldview

Two weeks ago the jury came back with a Guilty verdict in my most recent cold-case homicide investigation. As I began to read the press clippings and reports related to the case and the verdict, I noticed several reporters wrote about “closure”. One article cited a police official who said, “We sincerely hope that this verdict brings a moment of comfort and closure to Lynne’s family as they continue to cope with the loss of their loved one (emphasis mine).” The families of the victims in my cases often start off hoping they will experience “closure” of some sort, only to find this sense of resolution elusive. As a result, I usually try to prepare the families I work with to be cautious in their expectations. Even if we are able to convict the killer, it’s likely these families will never experience “closure”. This expression is typically defined in the following way:

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Is Religion the Cause of Violence?

Is religion behind all the violence in the world? Is the cause of all fighting somehow rooted in religious beliefs? Some say it is.

For example, God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected that of Cain. “This,” the Bible says, “made Cain very angry” (Genesis 4:5). Later Cain killed Abel. The first act of violence among humans that the Bible records was rooted in a religious issue. Many more acts of violence have followed throughout human history that are directly or indirectly related to religion.

Author and professor J. Harold Ellens’ 2007 book The Destructive Power of Religion points to religion as the cause of violence in the world. The following web post introduces the book:

Whether they fly airplanes into the World Trade Center or Pentagon, blow up ships, ports, and federal buildings, kill doctors and nurses at abortion clinics, exterminate contemporary Palestinians, or kill Israeli soldiers with suicide bombs, destructive religionists are all shaped by the same unconscious apocalyptic metaphors, and by the divine example and imperative to violence.

What Does Christianity Say About the Nature of Humans?

After speaking at a church recently, I was approached by a woman who identified herself as a defense attorney and a Christian. She told me she struggled to understand how some of the suspects I’d arrested for cold-case murders had been able to live law-abiding, uneventful lives for thirty years (or more) following their crimes. She seemed to believe these men and women should not have been unable to live amongst the rest of us without giving themselves away. Her surprise is common amongst those who live and work with killers. When I eventually take a murderer to jail years after he or she committed the crime, their friends, family members, neighbors and co-workers typically express disbelief: “There’s no way Jack could have committed that murder, I’ve known him for twenty years. He’s the sweetest man I’ve ever known!” When a suspect is finally convicted of the crime (and eventually confesses to the murder), those who knew him or her are typically shocked. They shouldn’t be. My cold case murderers were not serial killers. They simply committed one horrific crime and then spent the rest of their life living just like you and me. Nothing in their demeanor ever gave away the fact they were capable of such a thing. They looked like the rest of us. Why? Because they are just like the rest of us; capable of greatness, but fallen to their core.

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Three Simple Rules for Apologetics Multimedia Presentations

I’m getting ready for the 2014 CrossExamined Instructor’s Academy (CIA) from August 14th to 16th in 3th in Mathews, North Carolina. This will be my second year as part of the faculty and Frank Turek is graciously trusting me to lead a session on “Tent-Making Christian Case Making”. My goal is to collaborate with other Christian Case Makers so we can become the best “One Dollar Apologists” we can be. Part of my session will focus on important strategies to increase our cultural impact, while another section will focus on making better visual presentations. If you haven’t yet signed up for CIA, don’t delay. The admission process closes on July 1st, and this experience is far more than simply classroom teaching; it’s three days of saturation training in which each and every participant becomes part of the larger case making community. Today, I’d like to preview part of what I plan to teach related to apologetics multimedia presentations:

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Why Would Anyone Get a Degree In Apologetics?

I feel honored to be a very small part of the faculty at Biola University (where I serve as an Adjunct Professor in the Master’s Degree program in Christian Apologetics). Two weeks ago I taught a class covering the material in Cold-Case Christianity and began by asking the seventy-four students in my class why they wanted an advance degree in apologetics. Thirty of these students said they were taking the class to grow in their faith. The remaining forty-four said they were either teaching apologetics locally or planned on teaching apologetics in the future. This latter group saw the Biola graduate degree as an important step of preparation. Not everyone agrees.

In fact, some people in the Christian community think an advanced degree in apologetics is largely a waste of time. Two people I deeply admire have come out publicly with this assertion: Max Andrews (of the Sententias Blog) and Glenn Peoples (of the Right Reason Blog) both wrote blog posts this year entitled, “Don’t Get a Degree in Apologetics”. Andrews and Peoples believe an academic degree in an advanced, specific discipline (i.e. biblical studies, history, historiography, theology, philosophy, physics, chemistry, etc.) is a far better choice than a broad degree in apologetics. Andrews writes:

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Ten Insights About Millennials

Last week I had the chance to speak alongside David Kinnaman to the Biola University Staff about reaching Millennials. Along with the fact that I have been working with Millennials for the past decade, I did a ton of research to understand this generation. Here are ten key insights about Millennials, typically defined as those born after 1980 (although these trends apply most pointedly to younger Millennials). Please keep in mind that these are generational trends, and certainly not true of every Millennial.

Millennials are very quickly moving into positions of influence and leadership in our culture, so we better be prepared!

1.      DIGITAL: Teens 12-17 send an average 167 texts per day, 18-24 year-olds send 110, and 25-34 year-olds send 42.[1] 83% of Millennials say they sleep with their smartphones.[2] 

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Love and the Woman in 13F

The large woman was sitting in seat 13F on the Southwest Airlines flight from Austin, Texas, to Los Angeles. Her seat was by the window and she was trying not to make eye contact with the passengers filing by. On Southwest there are no assigned seats. People board by pre-assigned priority, and once you get on the plane you can take any open seat. The seat next to the woman in 13F remained empty for a long time. I should know. I was sitting in 13D, two seats over. The problem with 13E and why it was still vacant, even though most of the passengers had boarded, was a matter of space. For all intents and purposes the woman in 13F was also sitting in half of 13E.

I’m embarrassed to admit this to you, but I’ve got to tell someone, and it might as well by you. I sat in 13D because I thought 13E might remain vacant due to the size of the woman in 13F, giving me extra room for the long flight. Then, the unexpected happened. A young hipster woman (there are lots of them in Austin) walked down the aisle, stopped next to me and pointed to 13E. She wanted to sit there. I don’t know what kind of person I expected to take the “charity” case of sitting next to the woman in 13F—a nun perhaps?—but I would not have expected this young lady with a flowing white dress and several tattoos to be the one. Yet there she was, and I was suddenly feeling very small, especially when she sat in 13E and immediately began to engage the woman in cheerful, respectful conversation.

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The Importance (and Early Use) of Creeds

Creeds (formal statements of Christian belief) have fallen on hard times. Many Christians are uncomfortable with such objection proclamations of the exclusive Christian truth claims. But, the Christian worldview has always been a “confessional” worldview. It has been grounded in the reliable record of eyewitnesses who confessed what they saw related to the person of Jesus Christ, advanced by believers who repeated the testimony of the apostles, and continues to flourish based on the confession of those who believe. Christian Scripture reiterates the importance of confessing the truth about God and the truth about Jesus:

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