Have you ever come to that point in your life when you look around and say what is this world all about? You or a loved one might be going through some painful experience in your life (think work, health or personal relations). On the other hand, you might think all the worldly things in your life are on track: you’re in pretty good physical and/or mental shape, you have strong family ties, you’re a hard worker for your work, family and community, you own a good amount of material “stuff” (you worked very hard for), you’re charitable towards others, you “like” other people’s Facebook and Instagram posts YET you still lack the joy and wonder you had as a kid! What you might be experiencing is NOT a lack of emotional or material satisfaction but a paucity of spiritual nourishment! This blog denotes my 83rdfor Drtobler.com, yet it is only the 2ndaddressing spiritual nourishment. However, I’m now discovering that above all, spiritual sustenance (I know, better late than not at all!) is a crucial foundation for that estatic joy and wonder we all pursue!
Let me backup a little on that foundation reference for my faith. When I started Body of Health in 1999, giving presentations with advice for holistic well-being, I always listed the pillars of health as being the well-spring for a good life, they were: nutrition, movement, recovery (sleep and stress reduction) and finally spirituality. Well I’ve rethought that advice. I still believe the pillars of health are three out of those four, but now I truly believe it is imperative that my Christian faith’s foundation has to be the solid rock, just like any physical structure, before any of the other three could have any truly positive impact on my life.
And on a personal note, I’m satisfied with my current weight and size and the place I’m at with my nutrition, movement and recovery (ok, sometimes my stress response needs a little tweaking-LOL). It took many years to say that, but that part of my life is good, BUT I still want to share health information with you (that is one of my passions!). On the flip side though, my personal Christian faith growth is still in it’s infancy. I know my Christian foundation will continually (until the day I die) need spiritual nourishment AND buttressing to respond to whatever circumstances life dishes up. But what’s so cool about our foundation of faith is that we, unlike man-made physical structures that cannot be altered once the concrete is poured, we are allowed an unending supply of spiritual rebar, only by God’s grace, to continually educate ourselves to reinforce our faith until the day our bodies leave this Earth.
So…. I’d like to share a “mountaintop” experience that Randy and I recently had:
Along with new things we learned about our Christian journey that might further strengthen your faith walk, help you re-think some of your beliefs, give you tools for evangelizing to others, allow you to start in earnestly embarking on a serious search if you currently don’t believe and if you are a follower, allow you to step back in WONDER at the Christian faith you hold so dearly.
This journey all started out just to be Randy’s 2018 Christmas gift. I gave Randy the gift of a trip where Ravi Zacharias was slated to be the main speaker at his ministry’s summer summit (and guess what, I just happened to be going on the journey with him too, lucky me!). Ravi is a world-renowned Christian Apologist (which I’m going to describe to you in a minute) who speaks on college campuses across the globe, answering those big questions that parents usually aren’t equipped to answer about the Christianity like “What makes the this one more special than any of the other faiths?” or “How can God allow so much pain and suffering in this world if he is a loving God?” Randy and I have both heard him on Christian radio for years and were always amazed at his highly intellectual yet humble and respectful method of illustrating his faith through his stories and answers to students. One of the requirements for me picking the venue was that it had to be folded into a vacation that would give Randy enough time to receive the spiritual nourishment he needed (I’ve been so fortunate to have more time to get into a regular Bible study since 2010, with a wonderful Bible mentor, as I describe in A Graduation In Faith) yet give him a little rest and relaxation too. So we ended up in beautiful Nova Scotia, Canada this past month, because that was the only time Ravi and his international team called RZIM (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries) would be in one place for an extended experience.
Here is just a couple of pics of the beautiful vineyards, nature hikes and ocean views we were lucky enough to see before the summit:
The multi-day event was appropriately titled “When Nature Sings”, a theme in total harmony with the beautiful venue.
First things first though. I must give you the parameters of what an apologist is and what a Christian Apologist does to understand the tone and tenor of what I’m going to share with you:
I. What is an Apologist and what does a Christian Apologist do?-An Apologist practices Apologetics which is the practice of defending a religious doctrine through discourse or debate. Apologetics derives from the Greek word “apologia” or “to give an answer”. Now, Apologetics is not a type of religious denomination within the Christian faith (i.e. Catholic, Lutheran) but strictly a method of defending a given belief system. So, for example, there are Islamic, Mormon, Humanist, and Christian Apologists, among many others .
A Christian Apologist uses a tri-fold tool of philosophy, natural theology and Christian theology to present their case in defending the faith against misrepresentation and objections. The Apostle Paul was one of the first Christian Apologists when he was “defending and confirming the Gospel” in his Letter to the Phillipians (Phil. 1:7):
During Christian persecution under the Roman Empire, Nero blamed the Christians for not only burning down Rome but charged them with incest (based on Christians addressing each other as “brother” and “sister”) and cannibalism (twisting the Eucharist interpretation into a literal one). Paul again came to the fore as a Christian Apologist to defend these misinterpretations.
Foundational Bible passages that Ravi Zacharias and his entire RZIM team utilize in their Christian Apologist stances is 1 Peter 3:8-9, 15-16:
“Be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing….. In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience.”
And in my humble heart of hearts, this stance of defending the Christian faith with gentleness and respect is a win-win in this globally politically charged environment we all live in. Equally important is actually living a life that reflects Christian values. There is no need for the “last word” in defending the faith; it only causes an air of antagonism. However, gently defending the faith with solid Biblical answers definitely has a better chance of planting the Christian seed God wants us to plant, for God will take it from there.
II. Big Questions With Some Apologetic Answers-Here is just a mere sampling of the some of the top questions that were both asked and answered Apologetically:
A. How Did This Earth of Ours Materialize?: Was it the Big Bang Theory or is it like a Biscuit Recipe?-Fazale Rana-holding a Ph.D in biochemistry, formerly employed by a Fortune 500 company, could only explain the complexity and of our immense universe, all the way down to it’s tiniest cell forms as being the work of a Creator:
I became a Christian as a graduate student studying biochemistry. The cell’s complexity, elegance, and sophistication coupled with the inadequacy of evolutionary scenarios to account for life’s origin compelled me to conclude that life must stem from a Creator.
Fuz (as he likes to be called) is now Vice President of Research and Apologetics at Reasons to Believe where he writes and speaks internationally in support of the Biblical connection between biochemistry, genetics and human origins design.
Dr. Rana started his talk by making a connection between the creation of the universe and baking a biscuit. For a biscuit to have all the important qualities to make it delicious, a recipe must be followed fastidiously, there is no room for error, with just the right amount of ingredients with just the right mixing qualities for just the right amount of time at the just the right amount of oven heat.
He likens this “biscuit theory” to the Anthropic Principal of needing just the right “ingredients” to make a “just right” universe:
1. Just-Right Dimensionality– 3 spacial dimensions and 1 dimension of time. Think about it, could we humans take on one more dimension of time? God knew what he was doing!
2. Just-Right Expansion-the universe’s expansion rate must be fine-tuned to 1 part of 10 to the 55thpower.
3. Just-Right Force Constants-The gravitational, electromagnetic, strong nuclear and weak nuclear constants are on track with the ratio of gravitational and electromagnetic force constants remaining steady.
4. Just-Right Sub-Atomic Particles- The ratio of matter to anti-matter, the number of protons to electrons and the number of protons to electron masses.
So how does all this fine-tuning of the universe happen? That would be the Strong Anthropic Principal, supporting God’s handiwork as being the master-mind. The Weak Anthropic Principal (A/K/A The Big Bang Theory) of the universe’s creation, which has no Creator, just the randomness of the universe creating it’s own perfection is not as plausible because of the fine-tuning aspect.
B. Is Environmentalism Part of God’s Plan for Us?- Andy Bannister is an adjunct at RZIM, having a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies and an accomplished author with a wicked sense of humor, directs the Solas Centre for Public Christianity in Scotland. He led the discussion that environmental concern for our Earth is Biblical. God made the heavens and the Earth and everything on it, including humans.
The environmentalists appeal to our emotions with stances like: the pesticides are killing the honey bees, we owe it to future generations, the natural world has rights and we are closely related to the animals (i.e. apes).
But we (humans) are the top dog of all creation, right? So Christian persecutors have painted Christians as uncaring about environmentalism. Andy reminded us that early environmental leaders were Christian, reasoning that if we love God, it follows we should show gratitude by loving what God loves. In addition, Environmental concerns challenge our materialistic and consumptive tendencies which are definitely not Biblical. And for those who meander into current politics, wouldn’t it make sense that if as Christians we are “pro-life”, shouldn’t we also be faithful stewards of the natural world made by God, and entrusted to us?
Randy and I thought about this and yes, we need to work harder at looking out for our environment. We do carefully cultivate our land to sustain and maximize it for wildlife habitat. But we can do better. Moreover, we are thinking twice about our buying habits. I buy too many groceries that end up going bad. Randy is working on his online “great deal” buys that don’t always get used. We know that’s wasteful and we’re really going to work on it. In addition, we are now doubling down on repurposing all empty plastic containers in our household to decrease the amount of waste we have. We have a heightened sense of our place in God’s creation, and we are willing to grow our environmental awareness in the future!
C. Is there a formula for Apologetic Evangelism that has a greater chance for success? Andy Bannister again led this discussion, and he emphasized this from the outset of the discussion: “All we can do is plant the seed of the Christian Faith with the Gospel. God is truly in charge of doing the rest, only God can truly convict someone’s heart of The Truth.” I knew this in my heart but at the same time I didn’t practice it with my brain. I always thought there was an outside chance I could personally do ALL the converting; WRONG!
Andy did share an insightful formula that can at least intelligently (and remember, with gentleness and respect) open the discussion when those big questions of faith that are asked, like “If Christianity is true, then why are there so many religions” or “Why doesn’t God show he exists?” or “How can a loving God send someone to hell?”
Utilize the 5 “Rs” in these discussions: Re-late, Re-flect, Re-frame, Re-tell and Re-source.
1.Re-late-Have a personal relationship or at least inquire where the questioner is coming from personally with the inquiry.
2.Re-flect-Delve into what God’s purpose is with this question relating to the human world.
3.Re-Frame-Let’s turn this question around with God’s perspective.
4.Re-tell–What does the Bible tell us about this question.
5. Re-source-References to look into to further delve into the answer to the question.
Let’s put it into action with answers for this question: “How can a loving God send someone to hell?”
1. Re-late-“Yes, I understand where you are coming from with that question, it seems counter-intuitive.”
2. Re-flect-“So what is God’s purpose for hell in the first place?”:
Romans 12:17-19:5:”Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
So justice for others wrong-doers is not our job. God seems to be saying, “I’ve got this”.
3.Re-Frame- In God’s eyes, Hell is reserved for those who willingly divorce themselves from the will of God.
4.Re-tell–The Bible lists the word “hell” less than 100 times, yet lists “heaven” close to 500 times. So God really wants us all to join him in heaven, but he must have a place for the justice He promised for those who want to turn their back on His gift of salvation!
5. Re-source- A great resource is the book “Is Hell for Real?” and “Why Did Jesus Have to Die”.
This first question is weighty for sure, but don’t stress yourself out if you don’t have all the answers right away. I told you from the start, while I’ve studied the Bible in earnest for nearly 10 years, it often feels like I’m still in an apologetic infancy. But, I do have a passion to share the Gospel when questions like this give rise to the opportunity. What you can do first is lead a life that truly reflects Christian values, then make an effort to develop those personal relationships, finally (if you don’t have all the info) letting the questioner know you don’t know the answers and will follow up with a resource like RZIM that can help provide those answers.
III. Recapturing the Wonder With The Truth- To wrap my husband’s Christmas gift with a beautiful bow, Ravi spoke to a sold-out crowd that night on our final full day of RZIM’s Canadian summit “When Nature Sings”:
He started out humbly and confessed he must be looking like his passport picture that night. He then told us had a truly whirlwind week. He was giving a talk in Singapore when he received a call that his mentor in California was deathly ill. He completed that talk and was then told his mentor passed away and was asked to give a eulogy for him. He flew immediately to California, gave his remarks and immediately departed for a scheduled question and answer sessions in Washington D.C. with our U.S. Senators. In that Q & A he was asked what Biblical insight he could give on how to fix our broken U.S. culture. On his way to this talk he was held over with a plane delay and thankfully, arrived just 15 minutes before his scheduled talk that night!
He then tapped into the thought that we all should be filled with a true sense of Wonder at God’s handiwork, as so beautifully penned by King David:
Psalm 8:3- O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!… When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
He then brought it back to the ugly realities of this world we live in, like the rising rates of suicide. In the U.S., from 1999-2016, suicide rates have increased in every state but one (Nevada). And according to the CDC, suicide is the leading cause of death.
Ravi then addressed the possible cause: a loss of meaning and purpose that underlies these morbid statistics. He cites the Bible as a source of awe and wonder, for it gives us the moral law. He recounted how he himself tried to take his life as a teenager. His Indian family’s ancestors came from the highest castes of Hinduism in India’s deep south. He confessed that he had lived a failed life and wanted to end it all. “It was on a bed of suicide that a Bible was brought to me, and in a cry of desperation, I invited Jesus Christ into my life.”
He then went on to describe how we can capture the Wonder and awe of God. He describes the Bible as a source of supreme awe because it gives us the moral law. He then went on to describe the path of a life without that sense of awe and Wonder of God. By losing Wonder, your next step is to lose gratitude and “it will ultimately denude you of fulfillment!” So the Bible is that source of knowledge that will yield the ultimate Truth. The Truth is “motivational because it takes you beyond the propositional to the relational to relationships with others.” The Greeks had a failed society, not because they weren’t highly intelligent, but they lacked the moral law the Bible yields. And that Truth leads to the Love of God, AGAPE, the highest form of love. It’s not the erotic type of love, but true love.
He then had a Q & A session and the two people that asked questions, as you can see, were really troubled. The first was a man that said he had four children with his wife:
He and his wife worked many hours and were very faithful to God and their family. He wanted to know when he could start enjoying life because it was so tough and full of pain.
The next question came from a young mom, who had happened to sit by me that night:
She was really upset when she asked Ravi what she could do to school her children the best way she could with Biblical teachings in her current atheist culture. As a teacher in the public school system, she was not allowed to wear a cross. She had told me privately that night that her province in Canada had a heavy-handed religious history of the clergy expecting their young moms to have many children (a number of grandmas she knew had 15 children) and with that, ongoing donations to keep the church alive. This lead to to the current widespread rejection of organized religion, thus yielding empty and boarded up churches in certain provinces of Canada.
Both questioners were actually drilling down on a word that we all hate experiencing, PAIN! And note, the pain we all experience in this world is one of the top reasons atheists point to for not believing. Ravi pointed to the fact that pain is not just a signal of loss, but of actual VALUE. He pens words about the necessity of pain so wonderfully in his new book, The Logic of God:
“Who decided that pain is immoral? Why have we blended the fact of physical pain with the demand for moral explanation? Indeed, almost every atheist or skeptic you read names this as the main reason for his or her denial of God’s existence. In the Judeo-Christian framework, pain is connected to the reality of evil and to the choices made by humanity at the beginning of time. The problem of pain and the problem of evil are inextricably bound. So when we assume evil, we assume good. When we assume good, we assume a moral law. And when we assume a moral law, we assume a moral Lawgiver. You may ask, Why does assuming a moral law necessitate a moral Lawgiver? One reason is that because every time the question of evil is raised, it is either by a person or about a person-and that it implicitly assumes that the question is a worthy one. But it is a worthy one only if people have intrinsic worth, and the only reason people have intrinsic worth is that they are the creations of ONE who is of ultimate worth. That person is God. So the question self-destructs for the naturalist or pantheist.”
So Ravi ended with saying we all can recapture the Wonder, just by reading The Word and then living The Truth about The One!
As far as Randy and I were concerned, this truly was a Mountaintop Experience that we, in real time, can apply to our lives to significantly enhance our relationship with God. I hope you enjoyed this recounting because I really enjoyed sharing this with you!
I hope this has inspired you with your walk with God as much as it did us. Please share if it did for we all can be Christian Apologists if we are armed with The Truth. and that Truth will help us Recapture the Wonder!
RECAP OF- A MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCE:Recapturing the Wonder
I.What is an Apologist and what does a Christian Apologist do?
II.Big Questions With Some Apologetic Answers:
A. How Did This Earth of Ours Materialize?: Was it the Big Bang Theory or is it like a Biscuit Recipe?
B. Is Environmentalism Part of God’s Plan for Us?
C. Is there a formula for Apologetic Evangelism that has a greater chance for success?
III. Recapturing the Wonder With The Truth
In closing, I wanted to share this picture of some wonderful people we met that we plan to keep in contact with in the future, from left to right, in the back, Randy, John and Glen and the front, me, Mary, Shirley and Dottie.
Randy and I were truly blessed to meet such great people that have a heart for The One!