Christian Apologetics Alliance

Christian Apologetics Alliance
Member: Christian Apologetics Alliance

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The most wonderful time of the year? Really?

It's easy to get lost in the Christmas rush.

Traffic is de rigeur and the malls are packed.  Everyone's rushing and deep inside the recesses of my mind, I'm singing: "It's the most..horrible time of the year".

Even if people chide me for what appears to be a cynical thought, I have always made it a point to ask people to reconsider why we celebrate Christmas.   Invariably, they point to Jesus as the Reason for the Season. 


Well researched scholarship has pointed out the following:
  • the Lord Jesus was born during a summer in 6 B.C.
  • He was laid in a corn crib in cloths as a sign to visiting shepherds, who were told by a heavenly host of angels that Israel's Messiah was born in Bethlehem. 
  • And yes - Joseph and Mary, contrary to what's been told traditionally, were accommodated by their relatives in Bethlehem as they were there for the census ordered by Quirinius and the "wise men" visiting him were not kings, but rather, ancient astrologers from the kingdom of ancient Persia, who saw the heavenly bodies align in place to indicate the arrival of an incredibly powerful king (read the article on this link:
What I find relevant though, is not the discrepancies in the time of the year that it happened, but the circumstances surrounding the birth and death of Jesus - and how He fulfilled the proclamation of being the "Lamb of God" to the detail.

Bethlehem, apart from being part of prophecy and the hometown of Joseph, was also one of the villages outside Jerusalem where the lambs for the sacrificial offering in the temple were being raised.

The significant thing of that particular summer evening, when the "shepherds were watching over their flocks" was that it was lambing season - the time of the year when the new lambs were being born. The very same lambs that were going to be slaughtered as atonement sacrifices.  The very same time when Jesus was born. Coincidental?

Notice also, the day of His death on the cross.

It was the Friday of the Passover sacrifice.  And He died at approximately the time when the sacrifices of the passover lambs were to take place at the temple.

And in this holiday break, we lose out the significance of this detail: Behold, the Lamb of God, who comes to take away the sin of the world!

God in the form of a man - His very own Son, coming to be born as a man with one purpose: to die a cruel death in our behalf, in order that we may become sons of the Living God.

If anything - that, is the real reason for what we now celebrate as Christmas.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A year or so later: A mind constantly renewed, and a newly sensitized heart

I bless the day that I was challenged online to refute an allegation that what I believed in was corollary to believing in fairies and other superstitions.

Because then, I realized that I had no logical position to counter those points and I knew that what I had was substantive, so I began on my quest to discover the substance of what we believe.

And what I found was rich, factual, even more substantive and bolstered what faith I had then to a much stronger faith that I hold now.

Going against the grain of what I've encountered in most Christian groups, which have labelled what I pursue to be "preferential knowledge" or "head knowledge that doesn't improve your walk with God" (which it actually did!) and "theological hairsplitting" - my studies in Christian apologetics, theology, Greco Roman historiography and philosophical thought have broadened my theological and spiritual horizons and allow me to approach the vastly incomprehensible knowledge of an eternal, Almighty God.

Contrary to what I expected I would turn out to be if I walked this path ( become nitpicking, bookish, argumentative and traditional) my continual learning has led me to become more innovative in my thinking - with much clarity, focus and comprehension, as I revert to the thought that should have remained orthodox, classic and immutable concerning the unchanging God who created the universe, and the reality of the Kingdom that His Son, the historical Jesus of Nazareth, proclaimed of during His three year ministry here on earth.

The Kingdom IS real. It's here. Now. And we must proclaim it as well.  And in order to do so in a comprehensive fashion, we must begin with loving the Lord God with all our hearts, with all our soul, strength and our MINDS. (Matt 22:37)

To be sure, there is much yet to be read, much to be thought of and think about, much more to process in order to understand and finally, to be able to give a rational explanation and defense of the faith that we have come to embrace.

But this enterprise starts with a quest for wanting to know the reality of the God of the Bible, getting to know the Living King and Messiah, and the operating Kingdom that He has said was already open to everyone.

I like the version used by Dallas Willard, in his book "The Divine Conspiracy" where he used an appropriate paraphrase of the first message that Jesus proclaimed: Rethink your life in light of the fact that the Kindom of the heavens is now open for all" - Matthew 4: 17.

Not a bad take off point for innovative thinking!

But sadly, the majority of the Christian world today has stopped being introspective, and have become content with emotions and feeling, relying on nothing more than parroted phrases to carry on with their spiritual journeys, and often to the point where their definitions of faith must have nothing to do with reason altogether!

No wonder why there are many among the younger generation in culturally Christian families that depart from the faith when they leave home.  

Because they don't get the answers they need from the people that they look up to for authority, they find the wrong ones elsewhere and worse, their parent's cannot provide the better ones because they don't know them in the first place!

When people began to notice that I was beginning to take my studies in Christian apologetics more seriously than they had anticipated, they were asking me who I was going to be debating with.

I replied then, as I do now, that it is not or ever will be, my intent to be a better debater.

After all, no one ever reasoned himself into the Kingdom of God.  It still has quite a bit to do with believing.

But better explanations to displace an incorrect worldview provides a better platform for belief.

And it also starts with a sincere wish to discover what is true.  And not find more reasons to refute what can be believed in as true knowledge.

There is a hidden life in this invisible Kingdom, and the way it operates is nothing like how we do so in this two dimensional world that we can perceive with our senses. But it is more real than the world that we regard every waking moment of the day.  And we can find out for ourselves how it works, and more importantly, how we figure into this invisible Kingdom as we come to know and behold our presently invisible King.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Reporting from the Fringe

"Fringe theory", in a very broad sense describes ideas that depart significantly from the prevailing or mainstream view in its particular field of study, as characterized mainly by media reporters, ascribing this to extremists, radical groups as well as other people including evangelical Christians, who ascribe to an eschatological worldview.

It's become common to apply this label to people, whom - in their view - can be characterized by beliefs that do not fit within the acceptable notions of science, which they insist is the orthodox view.

And therefore, Evangelical Christians, as a rule, are "ignorant", "superstitious", "biased", "intolerant" and "bigoted". Naturally. They don't accept the view of gay marriage, stem cell research, abortion and as far as they are concerned, Christianity is the exclusive way to salvation.

While on the surface, the majority of mainstream Christianity is at a loss on how to refute these labels that are unjustly foisted on them, they do have valid reasons for maintaining their position. And the sad truth is, the majority of followers of Jesus Christ do not know how to explain why their worldview is valid, except to point at Bible verses that even they have a difficulty explaining.

The reality is that a large portion of current mainstream Christianity is ten miles wide and less than an inch deep. And largely because of a prevailing notion that anything requiring deeper study of the Scriptures and theology is merely "head knowledge" and supposedly does nothing to make the believer a better person.

This disguised laziness has resulted in an effective "dumbing down" of the majority of the present body of believers who now are marginalized in society, and more so because they themselves don't know why this is so.

And they ascribe this to persecution.

Well, yes - persecution is consonant to the life of the believer. It was that way in the first century, and there's no reason why it has to be different in this day and age. There is a supernatural conflict that we do not see that's going on and we in the two dimensional world that we exist in are caught in the crossfire. But the good thing is, we know that the war has been won already. And we're on the winning side.

But many of those who had been persecuted previously in that early church period were able to make for a sound defense of what they believed in, and acquit themselves before their accusers because of their refutation. They were executed, nonetheless, but in the study of this history, we see that they were innocent of the charges hurled against them.

There are reasons beyond Matthew 5:11-12 for persecution. And largely it's because of a belief in a supernatural God who created the universe, and through the conquering of death by His Son's execution and resurrection, the supernatural battle over evil has been won.

While that statement may seem plausible for most, when going into detail, it then harbors on the “fringe” - and these include the miraculous, the predicted ending and other views that have mainstream humanity raising eyebrows to the possibility of those events occurring.

And what's sad is that most of Christianity has succumbed to this worldview, effectively reducing Christianity into a code of ethical conduct and teaching for the life we live now - completely forgetting that the life we were meant for lies beyond the parameter of time as we know it.

Consider for instance, this very real report from what mainstream media would now describe as "fringe".

On September 15, 2010, the 85 year old father of a very dear friend succumbed to a deteriorating condition brought about by the ravages of time and old age, and was pronounced clinically dead at six in the evening of that day, by their family physician who had been monitoring his condition for over a month.

At 9 in the evening of that very night, the group of family and friends gathered around him were startled to hear him call out to ask for a cup of coffee.

He had come back to life.

While this occurrence may appear very much within the realm of possibility, there are other facts to consider in this particular case of revivification.

First of all, his medical history documented a case of paralysis from the midsection downdue to his spine, causing a numbness in his body which compelled him to be bedridden before his death. Next, his left lung had collapsed, and was incapable of ingesting food. He was urinating through a cathether and blood was constantly present in the urine discharges and he was always being sedated due to the pain of failing internal organs.

His lungs have since started functioning normally, and the cathether has been removed due to normally functioning kidneys and he is now capable of eating food, including ice cream without it spilling out of his mouth. Sensitivity and pain are now back in the previously numb and paralyzed areas. And the family doctor can attest to this while being bewildered at the same time.

However, what makes it even more significant is that he knew that he had died and had been away from his body for what he felt was three days.

Dr. Gary Habermas, the foremost authority on the Resurrection at Liberty University, has documented records on incidents such as these that he files under "Near Death Experiences" and the circumstances are similar to a number of accounts that he had recorded in that study.

When his attention was called to the fact that he was absent from his body for only three hours, he insisted that he was away for three days. Because he “had a conference” with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Please keep in mind that I am repeating a report from two former Army officers, that had seen combat: engaging in running gunbattles, survived them and were bemedalled because of their encounters and successful missions. They had brushes with death staring them in their faces and they were no strangers to hard nosed realities. These gentlemen have no reason to embellish anything of this sort. More so now, as they are both believers in Jesus and had been praying for this man before his succumbing to death and returning from there.

They also report that my friend's father returned because of one major message that he had to relay to the whole world - that the “people of the world must repent, because the second coming of the Lord Jesus is very, very near.” (his actual words, written on a sheet of paper)

This is also significant because the revivified patient was not a committed believer when he passed on to the afterlife. Things were very different with him after he came back.

Now that, as far as media is concerned, is fringe. No matter that that has been the theme of the New Testament since the last chapter of Matthew, and this recent report merely serves as one of those reports (as a near death experience) that could validate it. But then again, it's not science as they know it.

Of course, it's his word against that of mainstream media. And we know whose words should be believed. (The tongue is on the other cheek.)

But what if it's true? Read up on Pascal's Wager.


30 September 2010

As of this writing, I am updated of the account by text message: "My father was subjected to a series of medical tests these past few days. The doctor declared him completely cured as of yesterday. All of the disease/sicknesses are gone. I pray that they are not mistaken this time. All he needs now is therapy for his legs. He will soon start with rice porridge for his food. Praise God."

That very day, I called him and he informed me that for the first time in almost two months, he was able to be brought to the bathroom to defecate.

Complete medical history will be brought in soon and I will be posting these for examination.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Scriptural studies online: my virtual discussion group

After spending several months trying to get an apologetics discussion group jumpstarted, I've quit trying hard to get it done.

It's not the easiest thing to do to get a few people interested in what seems to be a difficult conversational approach towards building one's faith. It truly is a challenge to get people to think, and to think Christianly or biblically is a completely different ballgame altogether.

These days, I've resorted to sharing and comparing faithviews with two very good friends - they've spent more time than I have in ministry and kinda have a pretty good idea of what we're "talking" about online. I come in as a dwarf among giants - something like Luke Skywalker discussing the skills of a Jedi with Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda.

Discussing these matters face to face would be quite desirable but it would be quite an ordeal to meet halfway between Cebu City in the Philippines and Midwest USA to do that regularly.

So, sharing these views online by email is a suitable and quite a viable option. And it also gives us a chance to organize our thoughts after pondering the subject and then putting them down online.

In a recent exchange, Jim Crews - a Bible scholar (Yoda), John Ricards (Obi Wan) - an American Missionary to the tribes in Mindanao with a thick Visayan accent, and myself were discussing two particular verses in the New Testament, involving the explanation for the thief on the cross who sought Jesus' favor and was granted Grace, and another involving appearances of the righteous dead in Jerusalem after the death and resurrection of Jesus.

We had a very good discourse online, finding suitable answers for the questions from two different perspectives - Jim's, through an understanding involving enlightenment from the Holy Spirit, and mine - through an intellectual probing of the circumstances surrounding the Gospel account and finding a suitable explanation.

The bottom line is that we both arrived at the same destination, though we used quite different paths. They were both valid approaches, and we still arrived at similar conclusions.

It is these kinds of conversations that help bring about a good understanding amongst us who attempt to see though the glasses, though darkly. Because when we open the eyes of our hearts wider, we may be able to see better and understand more. Not all of it, by any means. But much better than we had previously understood it.

I appreciate the admonition by Dr. Clay Jones of Biola University that we, as Christians need to listen to each other. In his words: "Christians, whether leaders or not, need to listen to each other." And included that in his blog post, which I follow - his link is here:

In light of this, I find that I have found my discussion group that I've been searching for, and in the comfort of my own home - though miles apart, it's almost like we're finding God together over our favorite hot beverage, without having to go halfway around the world to do this.

Perhaps, one day we would be able to come together with likeminded believers that seek God's truths in real time, through technologies that will allow this. But for now, this suffices - and thankfully, it suffices very well.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Substitutionary Execution: Death by proxy

At this time of the year in Cebu, most people are making preparations for a long weekend out of town, catching some sun and doing anything else except being industrious. And you can't blame them. Five days of closed offices, banks and government offices don't leave you much to do except read or get out of town.

It's also at this time of the year when teachings in church services tend to become more reflective than usual, focusing on the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus and what it means to all of us. In some extreme cases, this time of the year is the time when they literally share in the agonies of our Crucified Lord by their partaking of His pain - some by depriving themselves of their usual diet, to those who inflict pain on themselves by literally whipping themselves bloody.

I am not sure if those that made it a self imposed pact to have themselves literally crucified on an actual cross will do so again this year, but it's become a tourist attraction to those that travel here to watch these people subject themselves to that self inflicted agony and take digital pictures of the event to show to their friends back home.

The best is reserved for what everyone knows as Easter Sunday, when the glory of the Resurrection is discussed at length as well.

My good friend and Pastor, Les Tilka of Quest Community Fellowship, started it early when he began to expose some of the facts surrounding the crucifixion last Sunday, getting people to rethink their preconceived notions surrounding that execution on Golgotha.

For a non academic, the teaching was quite a shocker, as Les detailed the difficulty that our Lord Jesus went through from the time he was arrested following the Passover Seder that he shared with the twelve. The continuous events, following the arrest at night, going into what transpired the next day - trials by three different courts and judges and subsequent lashing by Roman guards as well as other painful tortures, and finally carrying the heavy crosspiece to the place of execution and being nailed to the stake - caused some in the congregation to squirm at the thought of what had actually happened on that fateful day in history.

Les went on to describe how painful the death must have been, as the crucified persons would have to raise themselves in order to breathe and in the case of the severely whipped Jesus, He had to rub his severely wounded skin against the rough wood, causing more pain to Himself for at least six hours before He finally succumbed.

To an apologist in training, to be sure, there were more gory details available for study that were not mentioned in that teaching that Sunday. But it was enough to jolt the people into rethinking their concepts about the crucifixion.

What got me that morning was the realization that the Lord God actually took on the accusation and condemnation for our crime - in a literal sense - when the Lord Jesus answered appropriately and truthfully to the question: "Are you the King of the Jews?"

When He replied: "Yes, you say that I am" (Mark 15:2), the footnote of the Apologetics Study Bible that I continually refer to reveals much more: the context by which He answered meant that He said: "Yes, but not in the way that you think".

While innocently telling the truth of His claim to the throne, He Himself acknowledged the crime of rebellion against the state (Rome) by doing so. And in so doing, dying by execution for a crime that humanity had committed against His Father - rebellion by disobedience in Eden. An execution that He went to, voluntarily, in behalf of the humanity that His Father redeemed through Him.

And in the most horrible way imaginable.

To be sure, there were many Roman executions by crucifixion at that time, starting from the time of Alexander the Great down to the Third Century. Yet this crucifixion stands out as the most significant one to this day. A substitutionary death of one man, executed in the place of billions of men and women throughout time. God going where He had never gone previously - down the road of Death, so that we would all live.

Small wonder why there is a consistent, militant effort to discredit, or throw doubt on this One significant Life, the Substitutionary Death, and more importantly, the seeming incredibility of the Resurrection which He Himself had proclaimed would happen - and did, following a hasty entombment by Joseph of Arimathea- after dying on the cross, because it was against Judaic law to bury anyone during the Sabbath, which followed the day of the execution.

Les has reserved the best news for Sunday. May there be more who will understand it better - and decide to live because of it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Innovation in the Kingdom

I was invited to engage with some friends on the matter of providing a Strategy and Innovation service to corporate groups that seem to get stuck in a rut, and cannot get their people to think beyond the confines of their walls - or so they think.

After a while, I realized that it was going to be a difficult thing to do in the hometown where I work and live, where people are generally hesitant to tread new waters or explore newer territory (that despite their claim of being a trailblazer city - though I must admit, their claim can withstand the challenge).

My own retreat from that endeavor and subsequent immersion into the apologetic realm reoriented my thinking efforts and I have no regrets. The enterprise of understanding what we believe is far more enriching, rewarding and has brought me to a surer footing on matters of theology.

However, with all the reading and observation of the studies involving the various aspects of Theistic apologetics, I've come to see a different aspect of it, in light of innovation and strategy.

There is much being said about the new church movements being spearheaded by Erwin McManus, and to a degree, Rick Warren and the other megachurches - which have rankled many a traditional church organization because of they way that they conduct their congregational activities. Though I must say that they have succeeded in part by attracting many people who would have otherwise not considered attending church services, I honestly think that they've merely managed to repackage the entire enterprise and just made it more appealing.

A close examination of the way that Jesus of Nazareth approached the traditional mindsets of congregations of His time would have my innovating friends pointing to Him as a true innovator in that respect.

However, on examining the approach even further, far from innovating, He just made it a lot simpler for the Israelis to come to the God that they regarded as far and fearful. And better yet, He also made it possible for ordinary people who believed in Him to do exactly as He did, and He made sure that His followers knew it.

The book of Acts and church historical accounts up to the 4th century attest to it being true. Augustine's "City of God" point to at least 75 particular incidents, with one he witnessed with his own eyes.

However, somewhere along the way, we all lost it.

In my readings of the Kingdom Triangle of JP Moreland, the possibility for a revivification of that approach towards expanding the Kingdom is made even more real. Dr. Moreland, through his book and his lectures which can be downloaded and listened to from his site ( points to the three essential factors that caused the outbreak of believing followers in the first century following the resurrection and ascension of the risen Jesus: a life of the Christian mind and of thinking biblically, spiritual formation and it's disciplines, and the exercising of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit by believers manifesting the power of the Kingdom.

I come across a great many believer friends that point an accusing finger of possessing "head knowledge" that can't be as relevant as the practical wisdom of Christian conduct - which I feel could use a bit of empowerment, if they'd let the Holy Spirit take part. The case of Peter/Cephas, the supposed simpleminded fisherman, always arises, and somehow when the matter of his mental development between the time of his first hand education at the feet of the Master to his writing of 1st and 2nd Peter arises, they fail to realize that a good thirty years of spreading the good news of the Kingdom had passed - and in that time, his reasoning skills and ability with doctrinal discourses had developed considerably.

But sadly, to propound on this and be an active proponent of this thought to the majority of traditional church leadership would almost certainly result in controversy. First of all, to mindsets that have succumbed to a near naturalist worldview, this will appear as "weird" and it won't surprise me if the more influential among the conservatives would label this as heretical and cause yet another division in an already very divided body. I can imagine our Lord already rolling His eyes because of it.

Yet, I can't help but observe that this is exactly the kind of reaction that He had experienced in His ministry. His message was too controversial among those that had already established a status quo, that could not AND must NOT be challenged or revised. They were comfortable with it, so why fix what ain't broke?

In that light, the Innovation proponents possess the advantage in explaining why the box must be broken first before they can be free to think out of their boxes. But to do that, they must first study the way that the King first broke down the message of the Kingdom to those He proclaimed it to, and how He demonstrated it to them while incarnate and after He conquered death. The Kingdom Triangle does this very well.

You put those innovators within the worldview of the Kingdom Triangle and spread THAT message of the Kingdom - I have no doubt that the spirit of the Acts church will live again. And yes, there will be persecution - from both the traditional church groups and the forces of darkness. But that's part of the package.

Friday, March 5, 2010

My salute to Mosab Hassan Yousef: Son of Hamas, and a child of the Most High God

“Whoever, then, acknowledges me before people, I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. Matthew 10:32

For some people, to acknowledge followership of the Kingship of Jesus of Nazareth as Savior in a social setting can be an awkward moment. However, if pressed, and on recall of this passage, they eventually do so.

In an environment like a "democracy" where people move about with a liberty to express their thoughts freely, this is not unusual.

However, in this day and age, in the liberal democracy that is the United States of America, where all forms of ideologies are allowed - including the dangerous ones - it can be very dangerous. Most specially if you converted from Islam. And more so if you converted, coming from a radical Jihadist movement of Islam.

The danger that Mosab Hassan Yousef has placed himself in, by the writing and publication of his testimony and of his collaboration with Shin Bet, to save Palestinian lives including those of potential suicide bombers, is hardly the most sensible thing to do.

However, in doing so, Mosab makes the loudest statement among his people, the Islamic world, and the Arab world who are probably livid with his revelations. The most painful consequence occurred just hours before his book "Son of Hamas" was released publicly - his father, a founder of the Hamas movement, denounced and disowned him publicly.

Starting with a riveting interview on CNN's Amanpour, Mosab has gained the attention and admiration of many a believer in Jesus Christ. More so, when his turnaround from an active member of Hamas to a genuine follower of Jesus, and assisting the avowed enemy of his people, the Palestinians, by foiling at least 1,000 plots to assasinate, sow terror and murder is probably causing much fury among them, and there may be quite a number of them already plotting to assassinate him as well.

Mosab makes it clear that he does it to make a statement among his people, who he is not against, but rather, what they believe in.

In the study of apologetics, the discussion of the veracity of the claims of the Qur'an can very well be dealt with using facts. However, in a case like this, facts will not be sufficient. Emotions run high, and the threats to Mosab are quite real.

It is true, that the exponentially growing number of followers of Jesus among the Arabs and former muslims who converted to Isa (Jesus) face the most danger in their home environments. This is still by far, the largest unreported story in the world today. There are many reports online that are available to attest to this.

However, the act of this one brave man has done more to gain the attention of the secular media than the reports of the appearance of Isa among villages of muslims in various parts of the muslim world in dreams or actual apparitions. To the point where most media are now focusing on the danger that Mosab has exposed himself to.

Despite this, Mosab remains steadfast in his decision. And to him, spiritual death is more a matter to be concerned with than a physical death.

Truly, should he survive despite the dangers he faces now, what matters more will be that he will be acknowledged before the Almighty Father in Heaven by the Son, and because Mosab acknowledged Him publicly. And in a really big way.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Debunking the traditional misconceptions about Jesus of Nazareth

In my continuous study of the historicity of the resurrection and the historical Jesus of Nazareth, I find that there are many misconceptions that have been held on to through the years and we've never really quite bothered to correct our perceptions about Him all this time.

First of all, we find that the first message that Jesus proclaimed was not that of salvation, but rather, of the Good News of the Kingdom of God. And He went on to demonstrate it's power by exorcisms, healing the sick, making the lame walk and the revivification of at least three recorded dead persons in the Gospels among many other events that we refer to as miracles.

Second, we fail to recognize that in the gospel narratives, Jesus was carrying a message primarily for the House of Judah, and in doing so, He was assuming the role of an Old Testament prophet to them - as the New Covenant had yet to be fulfilled with His own predicted death on the cross. In the later portions we see that the Gospel was taken to the heathen (the proper translation for "gentiles", as it has become known in most translations), however the primacy of the message's importance has not been diminished for the target that it was originally intended for.

Ben Witherington III gives a very good insight into the circumstances surrounding Jesus' birth and death - things we normally took for granted as correct, yet we actually need to take a second look in order to appreciate the circumstances. First of all, His birth and death circumstances fall nothing short of scandalous. A possibility that Joseph's child sired out of wedlock would have certainly done more than raise the eyebrows of the families of the two that were betrothed to each other, both in Nazareth and in Bethlehem, where they went to be registered in the census ordered by Quirinius. The fact that they travelled to Bethlehem from Mary's hometown Nazareth meant that they were going to be with family in Bethlehem, and considering that they were yet betrothed and her, "great with child" was anything but acceptable in that culture.

Though we assume that there was "no room at the inn" for them, it was quite a common practice to house visiting relatives in parts of the household where they could be accommodated, and having nothing more than a manger to serve as a crib was simply making do given those crowded circumstances.

More so, at the point of death on a Roman cross. Jesus was executed as a criminal. To say it was scandalous would be an understatement. It was nothing less than shameful for both friends and family to be associated with such a person who deserved a punishment such as that at the time.

To have born and died in less than normal circumstances wouldn't quite bode well for a group of people seeking to follow Him under the usual conditions.

Yet, we see a group of frightened followers following the trial, torture and finally the execution of this charismatic person turn bold, insistent and persistent advocates of His divinity because they had seen Him alive after He was entombed in Jerusalem by no less than one of the Sanhedrin at that time. To the point of their own painful deaths, they insisted on repeating the same message - that the historic Jesus of Nazareth returned from the dead and lives, and through believing in Him and His resurrection, anyone will be granted eternal life. Simply by believing in Him.

The thief executed on the same day with Him merely requested Jesus to remember him when He entered into His Kingdom, and for that, he was granted grace for eternity. Without preconditions of a life repented. Just like that.

And as recorded by a Roman historian, the movement took on a new life once again not long after a brief pause following His death by crucifixion. And it never stopped growing since.

Through the centuries, we have managed to complicate the simple message of the synoptic gospels and confuse ourselves with various doctrinal persuasions, but if we bothered to examine the facts and evidence, we see a very simple message: God, who condemned humanity to a death sentence took on a human form to do something He had never done previously, and that was to die Himself. But happily, it did not end there at death. Because He was bodily raised from the dead and lives eternally as King of the Universe, for His selfless, redeeming action of obedience to His Father.

No, Jesus did not come to make bad people good. (I thank Ravi Zacharias for this one.) He came to give all of us with death sentences a chance to be alive again and never to be separated from the God who created all of us , who seeks to have us address Him as Our Father.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The difference between Theology and Faith

In the quest to understand the perspectives put forth in the continuing theological discussion, it becomes a continuous process to understand the various views and positions taken by the many schools of thought that embrace the faith surrounding the resurrection of the historic Jesus of Nazareth.

The work is by no means tedious, and requires a corollary diligence to understand the principles of philosophy, logic and historicity, among others, to keep pace with the thoughts of the theologians through the years and finally take a position to believe in, most specially because what we believe will have a very important part in the way that we conduct the way we live.

The high concepts, the language and the level of discussion can be very enlightening, and at times, intimidating, most of all if there was no previous diligence that was exercised in studying the disciplines to be able to engage in these enterprises.

However, in light of an encounter with what may very well be considered as a spiritual onslaught from the other side, a careful reconsideration of these views would be very valuable in order to take a closer look at what seems to be positions that can't quite be cast in stone.

Take for instance, the discussion involving the matter of a verse in Jeremiah which quite a lot of believers have drawn strength from: Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.'

Some theological positions argue that this cannot be construed as a message meant for anyone else, except for the Jews in exile in Babylon, as this was a message relayed to them through Jeremiah, in the midst of their exile, and therefore cannot be used as a message for anyone else, regardless of the sentiment felt while they read the verse.

I sometimes wonder whether these theologians ever venture beyond the sterile environs of their desks in their first world homes and having to contend with more real difficulties that the majority of the lesser fortunate believers in the less developed portions of the globe have to deal with on a day to day basis, without the kind of sustenance or support that they enjoy (at an exchange rate skewed in their favor at that!) in order to make such decided pronouncements that cannot be called into question, as what separates them from the rest of us are their Masters or Doctorate degrees in Divinity or Theology.

I recall that that was the same situation that Jesus had found himself in, when dealing with the theological issues of His day, while contending with the PhD's in Divinity of His time: the Pharisees and the Saducees.

Sometimes, what can make a huge difference in a less cloistered environment is a verse from the scriptures just like that, and to take it away, simply because it doesn't make formal theological sense can be mean the difference between hope and desperation for those who have considerably much less to hold on to.

After all, Hebrews 4:12 does describe the Word of God as "living and active" after all. Perhaps these formally trained theologians would do well to consider this remote possibility, after all, the words DO inspire and outline a character of the merciful, Everlasting God who Jesus had portrayed as wanting to be Our Father.

In troubling circumstances, one cannot be choosy with what one can use or read to draw hope from.

In my own experience, I have found that the verse that had come true for me not just once, but twice, was the verse outlined in Isaiah 65:2. Before they even call out, I will respond; while they are still speaking, I will hear.

In the book "The Kingdom Triangle", JP Moreland starts the first chapter with the story of Dr. Helen Roseveare ( the story can be found in this link: , who recounts the way that this came true in a very real experience that she had as a missionary in Africa.

Many a skeptic has gone to great lengths to discredit this story as nothing but a rumor or fable but even has acknowledged it's veracity.

As a young believer (and some times at present) I had faced many serious financial challenges. Having put my new found faith in Jesus some twenty six or so years ago, I found myself with just enough money for bus fare one day, to be able to go home and as it was just a few days away from payday, I was struggling with how to get by in the days ahead.

Fortunately my wonderful mother was going my way that day and had offered to let me hitch a ride going to the Makati area in Metro Manila that morning, where I was working at that time. As we were making our way through the metropolis, she told me that she would have to stop by a common friend's office to make a design modification for a requirement for the food company she was working for. Since the person she was meeting was a good friend, I agreed to stop by as well.

We sat down, and chatted for a while and she did her business and we were done in less than thirty minutes. As we arose to leave, my friend asked me if I had come to pick up my check. I was clearly taken aback, as it was obvious I wasn't expecting anything. He told me to go up to accounting and pick up the check that he had just signed. As it turned out, I had done a speculative project for him and was paid a token fee that I didn't know I was going to get.

Happily, my mother allowed me to do so and we went to the bank together to have it encashed and I had a few hundred pesos at that time to tide me over till payday.

Up to today, that remains a very significant high point in my walk with the Lord God most specially as I try to remember how He prepares these things in advance to provide for all of us.

This type of experience manifested itself yet again, just a few days ago, after our recent spirtual onslaught, challenging every fiber of our being to remain true to the qualities of the Spirit's fruit in the face of severe testing.

Having resolved that difficulty and still reeling from the repercussions, our family faces yet another financial challenge of answering for our own needs as we had to give up what we had to answer for the needs of another, who needed the financial support immediately and had nowhere else to go to for that assistance.

Throughout that whole time, there was no business coming in, no payments and just prospects for some business to be done being discussed, and we had no way of being able to meet obligations that would present themselves in a matter of days.

Just a day ago, I had the opportunity to speak with a client that had previously engaged me for some services, and I inquired if there was a chance that I would be paid anytime soon. She said that she would check and get back to me.

Later that night, in an email, she informed me that the check had been issued and the amount had been deposited into my bank account at the beginning of the month. And true enough, it was there, when I checked online. And all this time, I did not know about it. It was as if the Lord God withheld it while we were helping this person who was relentlessly asking us for financial assistance while behaving in such an ungrateful and inconsiderate manner, despite our taking her in, feeding her and housing her and helping her with a problem that we had nothing to do with in the first place.

It may be true that we have yet to find the rest of the resources that we need to make good on our remaining obligations. But the strength of heart that I have now, drawing on these experiences show that the Lord God prepares everything well in advance - over and beyond what we hope or expect.

Small wonder that the Hebrew equivalent for the word used as "faith" in the New Testament is "trust". Substituting the words make a whole world of difference in understanding the scriptures as you read them all over again.

It is these kinds of experiences that I would hope these theologians in their ivory towers would come down and see for themselves - to "taste and see, that the Lord is good", for no amount of doctrinal discourse can ever convince me otherwise of the validity of the truth that the God who stands outside time is interested in our individual affairs, and intervenes in a manner that we cannot ever come to understand or comprehend.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Supernatural Skirmishes

Ephesians 6:12 does well to outline the battleground in which we are to do battle in on a daily basis. Yes, it's a relentless fight.

Some twenty or so years ago, my classmates who joined the Armed Forces used to gather together after a prolonged assignment in the field and many a story would be told of their "encounters", wherein "firefights" and "running gunbattles" would result in "scores" or getting "walloped" - though these were told with such youthful exuberance and a sense of elation of being able to gain a victory over a treacherous enemy, forgetting the fact that the alternative consequences would be quite grim. And we weren't spared from instances when we would hear of a classmate that fell in less fortunate circumstances. These days, we remember them in moments of silence during our infrequent reunion gatherings.

However, we as believers in the King and His Kingdom, have yet to realize that we have been targeted for ambuscades and spiritual harrassment, and if we allow it, destruction, by the more treacherous, and invisible forces of a parallel universe that seek to delude humanity from attaining knowledge of the Almighty God and His Kingdom as proclaimed by our Savior, Jesus of Nazareth.

This is why Paul details this supernatural battle as well in his second letter to the Corinthians, in the tenth chapter.

It is not the power of the Lord God that these dark forces can fight against, it is the knowledge of God that they can dissuade humans from attaining.

And this is why I continue to remain befuddled as to why the large majority of the Christian body chooses to believe ineptly, marginalizing the power that the Lord Jesus Himself had said that His followers would be able to use, and in a greater way.

However, the reality is, a large majority chooses NOT to follow through in that respect as some in the body - people with a high Christology yet - insist on a worldview that is reduced to that of a code of conduct for believers to follow and the unsuspecting majority of us in the body, have been deluded into thinking that this is all there is to the Kingdom, and all we can do is wait for His Coming.

Frankly, I feel that He will be sorely disappointed as He may truly not find faith as He wondered aloud as attested by the gospel narratives.

Happily, there is a growing group of believers in the body that is digging out the truths of the Kingdom and practicing the use of the power that the Holy Spirit imparts in healing the sick, among the many things that the Lord Jesus would want His followers to do.

In coming through a recent test wherein all our mettle and resolve to believe was put through a crucible, I had a sneaking suspicion that my recent quest to add to my knowledge of the Lord God and the Kingdom was being challenged and severely.

I would love to say that we passed that test, though I would have to admit that we were bordering on failing that one, and that there were many moments where our character flaws reared their ugly heads more than once. These storms are not easy to go through.

However, I realized that this also compelled me to pray more, and more intensively. And surprisingly, I have been praying for more people and more intentions as well.

We are in a continuous "running gunbattle" with an enemy that does not run out of ammunition, strength or resolve.

We have no other choice but to fight and fight back with just as much resolve, and though we are guaranteed trouble in this life, He has also assured that He has overcome the evil that has been cornered in what seems to be the last stand.

Yet, how many are aware of this need to bear arms and do battle constantly? And worse, there are those that are convinced (and continue to convince others) that there is no need to fight back.

Studying the gospel narratives, it was when the Lord Jesus was subject to attacks that He fought back in a different manner. Upon learning of John the Baptists beheading, He healed, exorcised, and fed the multitudes. How was that for effective strategy?

Our struggle is definitely not against flesh and blood, "but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.". We would do well to choose the right weapons and revise our strategy and tactics. The war continues. Happily, we already know how it ends.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Other Gospel that Jesus proclaimed

Chronologically, the Gospel of the Kingdom was the very first public message that was proclaimed by the historic Jesus of Nazareth.

Through the years, though, the Gospel has always been considered to be the message of Salvation through faith in Him and His redeeming work through His death and resurrection, as detailed in the last message in the synoptic gospels, the best of which is reported in Matthew 28:18-20 - All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 28:20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

However, a closer look at the four narratives of Jesus' life, death and resurrection show the highest incidences of mentioning the supernatural as recounted in the scriptures: the existence and exorcism of demons, the healing of the sick, the revivification of dead people and other miraculous works.

The most quoted incident involving the devil is aptly detailed in Job, but other than that, it's mostly inter nation conflict, as a result of Israel's disobedience to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Paul was right on the button in describing the Kingdom in 1 Co 4:22 as best demonstrated in power.

And power they did have, as this is outlined in the book of Acts, all the way down to the 4th century, long after the apostles had been martyred and John dying on the island of Patmos. There is much documentation to this effect, including Augustine's laying an account of at least 16 miracles that he had known about, including one that he had witnessed of his own.

Sadly, this is a view that is either argued against or hesitantly examined by a greater portion of the body of Christian believers today, as if it was almost anathema to want to avail of this Kingdom power that the Lord Jesus had wanted believers to avail of. In the book of John, Jesus Himself had declared that: I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

Truth to tell, in this day where we are fast approaching the day of His return, He may yet validate His own doubt about returning to find His disciples not working within the operational guidelines of the Kingdom that He sent them out to proclaim, simply because most of them argue against it. He may truly not find the faith He would have wished His followers to have when He returns, if that remains to be the case.

However, I take comfort in the teachings of several scholars that are beginning to recognize the truth of the Kingdom's power available to the body of believers and nowhere is it more detailed than in the book written by Prof. JP Moreland, in "The Kingdom Triangle". Since I bought the book, I've been reading, contemplating and renovating my perspectives on my own walk so as to better my spiritual formation and perhaps, one day, exercise the operational power of the Kingdom, given the opportunity to do so.

There is a coming Kingdom, that is true. However, the Lord Jesus also said that the Kingdom is here. Now.

If we seek it, we will find it. With all of our hearts and minds.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Adjusting the sights of your worldview

As a soldier, one of the very first things you learn is to adjust the sights of your weapon so it can fire accurately. Note that this adjustment is not done in the heat of combat, but during the lull times in between drills and lectures, when you have the leisure to do so and to test in a firing range for accuracy.

Studying the facts and substance of our faith may be likened to that adjustment, as it allows the student to review the many facts and opinions regarding the Christian worldview and allows him the chance to accept the worldviews that are cogent and cohesive to the messages that were put forth in the historical recount of the nation that the Almighty God chose to send His salvation through and reject those that are questionable.

Note that there are many persuasive scholars that miss the point and continue to remain adamant about their worldviews despite obvious evidence that tend to nullify their theses.

In the heat of a firefight, they may regret their choices but then again, who are we to question their choices of poison. Sometimes I wonder why they insist on reducing the power of Christianity to that of a mere code of conduct. Whatever happened to the Kingdom that is not demonstrated by talk, but by power?

My own experience has allowed me to validate an experience that I can only attribute to that of supernatural, and I can not deny that it happened, even if Doctors of Philosophy in cessationist doctrine argued with such locquacious language that their comparatively weakened worldview is the only valid one. Never mind if my spiritual encounter was for real. It just cannot be possible in their worldview because that's what got them their PhD's.

Countless reports of supernatural causes of visions and dreams of Isa to muslims in various places, resulting in mass conversions, the sick being healed, revivification of clinically dead people in the name of Jesus (and not Allah or Buddha) and of recent, body parts being made whole - these incidents only serve to validate the Kingdom that the risen Jesus of Nazareth was proclaiming. And it's power is working in the age of Obama.

This is probably why we as elements in the Army of the King, are often sent to skirmishes to fight battles. Not just to recover from enemy territory, but also that we become better skilled fighters to do battle for the Kingdom until He comes.

The time to adjust our sights is now, and who better to learn from except from the battle tested veterans of previous engagements. And there's a way of telling who's really been in combat. Their instincts remain sharp, despite their combat fatigue.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Doing the Drill

All the facts can add up but...

In this continuing endeavor to learn about the substance that support the faith we have embraced, I have learned one very important thing.

A recent crisis not of our doing, yet we as a family had to be very much involved in finding solutions for, is challenging our mettle in terms of believing in the goodness of the Almighty God that we believe in despite the bedlam it has imposed upon us.

It's wreaked havoc on our family finances, is stretching our individual patience and is pushing us to the brink.

The matter of substance and fact flies out of the window in the face of this adversity.

And there's nothing left but a sheer will to believe despite all the darkness that we face.

I can only attribute this to a process that is renovating our character as a couple, my own and my wife's and the character makeup of our family. But it is not an easy ordeal. And the worst part about it is, there is more that is to come in the years ahead.

Yet I maintain my position that though the subject matter can appear quite trite in the face of all this difficulty, I find no other recourse but to push on and pray more. My mind maintains that the Creator of the Universe, who stands outside time, can and may intervene in the order of these affairs, yet for now, chooses not to for a reason that I and my dear wife cannot see or comprehend.

When will this pass? Only the Intelligent Designer knows. I've held on long enough to know that it will.

I can only take comfort in the advice of my dear, dear friend, Col. Michael Morales, (ret.) Ph.D, whose wisdom helps in dealing with this depressing moment: Do the Drill.

We of course, are familiar with fire drills - or any other drill, which we do during the times when the emergencies are not there, that we may know how to react when the emergency does arise.

This drill is quite simple. Count your blessings.

In his case, he writes down everything that he has known our Almighty God to have blessed him and his family with through the years and at a certain point, his attitude changes to that of gratitude. It may be simple, yet very effective.

I know. Because when I do think of the times when the Lord God just did something over and beyond what we hoped or expected, my despondency vanishes into a mute acknowledgement of His Goodness. These days, I find myself doing the drill quite often. And for that, I'm thankful.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The process of Renovation

Having been blessed with a wonderful wife and partner, I've become quite familiar to the process of renovation pretty well. Rearranging pieces of furniture, throwing out what's deemed as unnecessary, debating on the quality of the trash - you name it, it's a continuing process.

However, with the complicated issue of the mind, it's not as simple as plan, redesign, dispose and acquire.

There are the issues of replacing habits, displacing what we've been accustomed to, accepting what was once unacceptable and being transformed to a point of view which, to the madding crowd, can be quite revolting. And yes, there are the psychological baggage issues to deal with yet.

But more importantly, it's because of renovating (or "renewing" as we've been accustomed to thinking of it) the mind, that our decision making processes are changed and our lives become transformed - apart from spiritual regeneration and formation, lest I be accused of being self sufficient.

The wondrous thing of this day and age, thanks to vast improvements in communications technology, is that what was once reserved as the domain for the academics and the intellectuals, the mass of men can now have access to materials and resources to help renovate their minds and transform their spiritual lives, depending on the intensity and diligence that they put in to this enterprise.

If you want your life and worldview to change, you can seek and you will find, if you seek with your keyboard and mouse. Try Google. It helps you do that.

These days, I've bookmarked Apologetics 315. (Thank you, Brian!)

Truth to tell, renovating the mind is not as easy as rubbing a blackboard with a wet cloth and erasing all the garbage you've absorbed through the years.

I've long since wanted to find a way to "reformat" my mind and reinstall everything selectively with what I know now.

However, it's not to be.

Just like my friends who golf, and having discovered the proper way to swing their clubs, it takes years to change their approach to the ball to get it to where they want it to lie. (Don't get me wrong. The only thing I do with my friends who smack golf balls on the course is walk with them and talk. I have no intention of acquiring my own set of clubs and pray for an expensive membership to an exclusive golf course.)

Renovating the mind is a difficult process. But it's possible.

And the sooner you begin, the earlier your life transformation process will happen.

These days, I wish the internet and access to the likes of Dr. William Lane Craig, Dr. JP Moreland, Dr. Gary Habermas and Dr. Mike Licona was available when I started walking with the Almighty God some 22 or so years ago.

But, as the saying goes - everything happens for a reason.

A Mind Renewing Decision

Let's get one thing straight.

I'm turning 50 this year, and am starting on a separate business project that hopefully will keep me occupied in the next three to five years.

And the chances for me to get my basic and advanced credentials in Theology, Divinity or Christian Apologetics are just as remote as winning the lottery in this part of the world, considering that most bible colleges on this island don't give the subject matter much emphasis, and quite a lot of them hardly espouse the worldview I've absorbed through the writings of JP Moreland, among many other brilliant apologetics authors.

However, this will be a continuing recount of the adventure I've undertaken and have come to enjoy very much - that is to discover the substance underpinning the belief I have been granted to accept and a spiritual life that I've harbored for 22 odd years, and yet I find that I'm only beginning to discover much of in just the past few months.

The study and art of Christian Apologetics has always been thought to be a contentious enterprise, with accompanying images of debating philosophers discussing arcane subject matter, fit only for academics, intellectuals and philosophers to appreciate.

As I've discovered, it's hardly the case. The whole enterprise logically explains a worldview of a Kingdom that is and that is to come as well. And it's readily available for anyone with a heart, a will and a purpose - and mind open enough to want to discover it by first believing in it's King.

Of course, it's not that easy to understand immediately. There is much reading that is required and with the abundance of available information these days, you will hardly know where to start once the wealth of resources are discovered. However, as I have also found out, the Resurrection of the historic Jesus of Nazareth is a good place to begin, as I will attempt to explain why, moving forward.

I must say, however, that this is by no means, a resource page. However, I will point to the more adequate resource pages where those so inclined may ferret out the books and links that they need to help them in their homework.

There already are more adequate pages on the internet that offer more substantive, and more accurate information. It's all been done before and there's no need to reinvent the wheel.

All that this blog hopes to do is to recount my own experiences in discovering these truths and how it impacts my own life as I begin to renovate my mind and transform, by the Grace of God, and thankfully de-conform (if there is such a word) from the system of this present age.

As I continue in my quest to secure a certificate in Apologetics Instruction, a program of which I am happy to say that I have been accepted to already - it is my purpose to chronicle my personal experiences in this endeavor so that those who seek to do the same may glean yet some more learning, that they may be spared the pitfalls that I've encountered - or should they not be able to avoid them, so that they may extricate themselves in a quicker and less messier way.

Reason is compatible with faith. May we all see that together someday.