Why Students Should Still Study Abroad

 

Why Students Should Still Study Abroad

Since the academic year started, both beheadings from militant groups and the coverage of Ebola have gone viral. This week, shootings in Paris covered the airwaves. Concerned parents want to know if their son or daughter will get a disease or if life outside the United States is safe. Judging solely by the cable news outlets, one would remain almost paranoid as one crisis after another seems to get around-the-clock coverage.

 

Yet, nearly 300,000 U.S. students will study abroad in a given year and that is still a good thing. And yes, students should still consider study abroad and there are many reasons, but let me briefly explore three of them.

Why Are There Four Versions of the Sign on Jesus’ Cross?

It’s not uncommon for skeptics of Christianity to point to differences between the New Testament Gospel accounts as evidence of corruption or unreliability. I’ve discussed many of these alleged contradictions in my talks around the country, and I’ve written about many of them here at ColdCaseChristianity.com. One example sometimes offered by critics is the sign posted above the cross of Jesus. The simple, brief message of this sign is recorded by all four Gospel authors, yet none of them record precisely the same words. How could these four men fail to record the same sign, given the importance of the moment and the brevity of the message? Look at the variations offered by the Gospel authors:

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Monaco,

I have been to Monaco once and was there a couple days.
The whole time I was homeless.
Meaning this: I didn't have the money for hotels and I slept outside, in parks, alleys, out of sight, but out in the elements. The pictures I have are quite fun; the reality, though, is a stark reminder as I start a new year. The reminder is this: it's possible to be in a place of beauty, but not belong to it. It's possible to be able to take photos, but never close the distance between photo and reality.
And I am more and more convinced that closing the distance is a big part of what it means to be engaged culturally and what it means to love another person relationally. Do you draw closer to those you care for or do you keep them at a distance? And if you're at a distance, do you refrain from being anyone's critic, because you're just too far away to see clearly?
Now, let's go to the other part of my experience in Monaco. I didn't belong. That was obvious by how I was dressed, by what was in my wallet, by a host of things. And scores of people in our world are wondering daily where they belong.
David Whyte, in his poem "House of Belonging" instructs us with this:
"This is the bright home
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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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Wichita, Kansas

In 2011, my wife and I attended a conference in Wichita, Kansas, on the campus of Friends University. Part of the draw was to learn from men like Scot McKnight and Dallas Willard. The latter is perhaps as well known for his books as for his influence as a person. But, it's the latter that sticks out as we begin a new year. Why?

Because even a few years later, I remember the respect he received, the calm, quiet demeanor Dr. Willard conducted himself with and the wisdom he shared. I recall his discussion the vision, intention, and means outline (VIM) to spiritual life on a daily basis. Yet, for a brief time, in a weekend in Wichita, I remember that Dr. Willard was a peaceful, quiet man who seemed to embody well what has always bugged me about Jesus. It's actually possible to be busy, but not in a hurry.

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Resources to Help You Defend the Virgin Conception (Free Bible Insert)

During the busy Christmas season, it’s easy to get caught up in the cultural trappings of the holiday and forget the real reasons for the season. While most of us, as Christians, take the nativity narrative for granted, many of our unbelieving and skeptical friends reject the miraculous, virgin conception of Jesus altogether. The following articles will help you understand why the virgin conception is so important to Christianity and help you defend the virgin conception against those who argue against this miracle of God:

The Essential Nature of the Virgin Conception
The Virgin Conception is an important piece of evidence, fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy initially given by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14). It also explains an essential aspect of Jesus’s nature, retaining Jesus’ sinlessness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

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Unbroken film review

In the opening shot of Unbroken, Roger Deakins camera pans across a beautiful open sky, finally landing itself into one of the approaching warplanes.  In the tight space of the plane, where every incoming bullet is a few inches away from every crew member, Louis Zamperini and his crew are carrying out a harrowing mission from the sky.  The scene (as with the other plane scenes) is shot perfectly – it is tense, the sound mix is perfect, and the general sense of dread is enhanced by the claustrophobia.  In this opening sequence, Angelina Jolie’s reverent interpretation of the story of Louis Zamperini’s life begins, taking us into the too wild to believe true story of Louis Zamperini. 

This includes being stranded at sea, POW camps, and Olympic dreams.  Those who read the book know what to expect.  As for the rest of us – it’s best to just sit back and watch as spoiler free as possible.  The film documents Zamperini’s incredible life, ending with an emotional punch that reserves itself from the rest of the film.  Between there and the beginning, Unbroken (which credits Joel and Ethan Coen as 2 of the film’s 4 screenwriters) bounces between multiple parts of Zamperini’s life, as though we are skipping from chapter 2 to chapter 7 to chapter 3 – and it mostly works.  The timeline comes to a halt and the majority of the last half is spent in the Japanese POW Camp where Zamperini faces off against notorious Camp general, The Bird (played with a bratty menace here by Takamasa Ishihara).

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Cambridge, England

When I was a student, living in the United Kingdom, I was asked by a family friend to track down the gravesite of one of their relatives. The site was located in the World War II cemetery, right outside Cambridge, England.

After an hour or so, I found the site. I then knelt down and took a photograph, so that I could send the photo to the family friend (for which they were grateful). But, as I was kneeling in front of this site, I paused to look and up and suddenly noticed that I was kneeling amidst a sea of white crosses, all with someone's name on them, and all a reminder that sometimes loved ones sacrifice their life for kin and for country.

You may not think of visiting a cemetery, if you happen to be in England, but every single name is connected to another name that is not known and not written on the gravesite. In other words, someone lost and someone loved and often it's a both/and. When we love, we will get hurt. Why? Because real love gets dirty and messy and under one's skin. And that visit to the cemetery remains a vivid memory because part of it got to me.

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The Incarnation: Amazing Grace

For all the amazing aspects of God’s being, character, and personality—His infinite power, knowledge, wisdom, love, grace, and mercy—the most amazing of all just might be the Incarnation. It is staggering to think about a perfect God taking on imperfect human form, the infinite becoming finite, the immortal taking on mortality, the invisible God becoming visible through His Son, Jesus Christ.

God coming to earth in the form of a lowly human being is such a profound mystery, and so unexpected, that even today, two thousand years after it happened, people still struggle to understand how it was possible. Even followers of Christ often fail to grasp the significance of the Incarnation. Once a year they, along with the rest of the world, are reminded of this event when they celebrate Christmas, but the true implications of what the birth of Jesus means are generally lost amidst the pageantry, decorations, and gift giving.

John Newton a former slave trader, understood what it all meant when he composed the world’s most popular hymn:
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The Fact the Other Side Can Make a Case Doesn’t Mean It’s True

I’m sometimes surprised to see how quickly young Christians are shaken when they first encounter a well-articulated objection (or opposing claim) from someone denying the truth of the Christian worldview. When we first started taking missions trips to the University of California at Berkeley, I watched my Christian students to see how they would react when confronted by impassioned atheists. Some were genuinely disturbed by what they heard. Protected by their parents for most of their young Christian lives, it was as if they weren’t even aware of alternative explanations. Now, as juniors and seniors in high school, they were hearing the “other side” for the first time, and the atheist ambassadors we placed before them were eloquent, passionate and thorough. Many of these students wondered how these atheists could be wrong, given the length and earnest (even zealous) nature of their presentations. But after sitting in hundreds of criminal trials of one nature or another, I’ve learned something important: The fact the opposition can make a case (even an articulate, robust and earnest case), doesn’t mean it’s true.

Last Friday, I attended the sentencing hearing for my latest cold-case murder investigation. Douglas Bradford killed Lynne Knight in 1979 and we convicted him of this murder in August of 2014, nearly 35 years (to the day) after the murder. The investigation and trial appeared on Dateline (in an episode entitled, “The Wire”). I arrested Bradford in 2009 and he retained Robert Shapiro (famed attorney from the O.J. Simpson case). Shapiro and his co-counsel, Sara Caplan, presented a robust defense of Bradford, and he thanked both of them during the sentencing hearing.  Along the way, Shapiro and Caplan articulated the opposing case thoroughly and with conviction. In addition, Bradford made a short, emphatic statement of his own at his sentencing, saying: ““The murder of Lynne Knight is a terrible tragedy. I want you to hear me very clearly now. I did not murder Lynn Knight. I am an innocent man, wrongly convicted. I’m mad as hell. I’m paying for somebody else’s crime. This is a horrendous, horrendous miscarriage of justice.” That’s a pretty direct (and perhaps convincing) denial, and these were the first words any of us heard from Bradford during the entire investigation, arrest, and trial (Bradford refused to talk to us and did not take the stand in his own defense). His attorneys were even more passionate and direct in their statements to the jury during the criminal trial and the sentencing hearing. They spent hours articulating the many reasons why the case against Bradford was deficient and inadequate as they continued to proclaim his innocence.

My cold-cases are incredibly difficult to investigate and communicate to a jury. Remember, these cases were originally unsolved, and for good reason. There were no eyewitnesses to any of my murders and none of my cases benefit from definitive forensic evidence like DNA (or even fingerprints). My cases are entirely circumstantial. Defense attorneys love to argue against these kinds of cases, and I have seen many attorneys present compelling alternative explanations over the years. Jurors have sometimes been moved by these defense presentations. But none of them have been fooled. I never lost a single case in my career as a cold-case detective, in spite of the robust arguments of the defense attorneys involved.

A few years ago I investigated another cold-case (this time from the early 1980’s). Michael Lubahn killed his wife, Carol, and disposed of her body, telling her family she left him. This case also went unsolved for over 30 years. Lubahn’s attorney whole-heartedly believed Lubahn was innocent and passionately defended him in front of the jury. Unlike Bradford, Lubahn actually took the stand during his defense and repeatedly denied he was involved in any way. Lubahn and his attorney articulated their case ardently and earnestly, and Lubahn’s attorney presented a lengthy closing argument in support of his position. But, like Bradford, none of it was true. At his sentencing hearing, Lubahn eventually confessed to killing Carol. His attorney was dumbfounded. He truly believed Lubahn was innocent and had crafted a through defense. But Michael Lubahn was a killer all along (this case was also covered by Dateline in an episode entitled “Secrets in the Mist”).

I’ve come to expect the opposing defense team will present a well-crafted, earnest, engaging, and seemingly true argument. But an argument isn’t evidence. Since that first trip to Berkeley, I’ve been teaching this to my students. Don’t be shaken just because the other side can articulate a defense. This happens all the time in criminal trials, even when our defendants are obviously (and even admittedly) guilty. Be ready in advance for passionate, robust, articulate, alternative explanations. But remember, the fact the other side can make a case doesn’t mean it’s true.

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