Monday, November 9, 2015

A Word from Uganda

I recently returned from my teaching trip to Kenya and Uganda. As I am recovering from jet lag, I wanted to share with you a recent email from our dear friend in Uganda who set up a radio interview for me and all my teaching opportunities in Uganda. 

Dr. Stewart,

Please forgive me for delaying to communicate with you since the end of your visit to Uganda. So many disruptions but you have been in our minds and my our prayers.

Your ministry was very impactive and a blessing to us! All the people were amazed at your great knowledge yet you are able to present simply and humbly! If you remember my adopted son Moses, he commented, "am surprised I could understand your professor! I thought his material would be too hard for me". Moses completed High School last year. You simplified your teaching so nicely that even the illiterate people in the villages understood and were blessed!

Dr. Stewart, am blessed to have met you. I loved your class, I love your ministry and godly life style. You have since become my mentor. Am proud of you as a Christian intellectual that is sold out to God. You are even willing to go to my audience in the villages and we were so blessed to have lunch with you in Makanga! The Lord will surely bless you, for you are like Him, reaching the poor and teaching the truth of His Kingdom.

My wife Esther was so blessed to host you in our humble home. Your visit really blessed us as a family. May be we will get time to go fishing next time you are in Uganda. We are praying that you come back next year. This time you will speak to bigger audiences and meet many people. Please extend my sincere appreciation to the donors.

Extend our love in Christ to Laurie and your daughters.

Your fellow servant of Christ,
Arthur Magezi.

Rev. Arthur Magezi, President, Christ Transformation Ministries

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Report from Uganda

Wednesday—(Oct 28) Conference in Makanga, Uganda

Arthur Magezi and I were driven in a beat-up car to the bush outside Kamuli, to an area called Makanga. It took one hour on marginal dirt roads to reach the Makanga, and we passed several small villages along the way. When we arrived at the church, I was not totally surprised at what I saw, since Arthur had told me that this was a new church plant in a very poor area, and there were presently no resources to build a church building.

The structure used for the Makanga church consisted of thick branches used as posts, and more branches for the frame. The roof was palm leafs, and the structure was perfectly suitable to keep the congregation and me out of the sun. Given the porous nature of the roof (there were a few places where you could look up and see the sky), I was glad it did not rain, because we would have all gotten wet to some degree, not a desirable situation when everyone has open Bibles!

The majority of 35 or so who attended were pastors and Christian leaders that came from a long way, and needed assistance to get to the conference. Motorcycles are the least expensive way to travel long distances in the bush, and motorcycle taxis are everywhere. Also, Arthur’s son Moses drove Arthur’s vehicle to ferry many who attended to the meeting.

I taught about God, the Bible and Jesus, with my teaching translated into Kiswahili. It was a joy to see their eyes light up as I explained how God created us, then sin became humanity’s problem, and how the rest of the Bible tells how God planned fix the sin problem through the Messiah.  I laid out the prophecies of the Bible that gave more and more specific details of who the Messiah will be. Finally, I came to the New Testament and showed how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies, and did miracles to demonstrate His spiritual authority. I highlighted that the ultimate proof that Jesus’ death on the cross saves all who believe was His resurrection from the dead.

There were some wonderful ladies who prepared lunch for all attending, cooked over a wood fire. It was my second time in two days eating goat meat. I explained to Arthur that probably the only place in the U.S. where you can find goat meat is in authentic Mexican restaurants. Arthur told me that the average Ugandan who lives in the bush maybe gets meat once per month, either goat or chicken. Thus, our lunch, which included Ugandan rice, potatoes and ugali (a dish commonly eaten by poor people in Kenya) was a feast for most who were present.

After lunch there was a time of praise and worship, and just like in neighboring Kenya, these Christians knew how to sing and dance. It was delightful to watch, and I only imagined how the Lord must delight in the praises of these people. I told them I would like to bring them to America to show us new ways to praise the Lord.

I spent some time answering questions. All the questions were good ones, and it gave me more opportunity to emphasize God’s plan for His people, and how we need to read and study the Bible to obtain the details of how Christians and the church are supposed to function. Without using the term, I ended up presenting a basic course in Christian apologetics, that aspect of evangelism that deals with the reasons why Christianity is true. I repeatedly used the terms “fact” and “evidence” as I explained that what sets Christianity apart from other “religions” is that Christianity stands or falls on the facts of Jesus life, death and resurrection, and that while other religions are efforts of man to reach God, Christianity is God reaching us.

 Thank you for your prayers.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Opportunities for a Fall Harvest

Here in Iowa, the harvest begins in about a month. October is typically the month when the corn and beans take precedence over most everything else. As the weather gets cold, it is a spectacle to see the farmers working late into the night to get their crops out of the field.

The fall harvest is perhaps a good analogy of what Laurie and I are tying to do through Rolling Stone Ministries. We endeavor to sow seeds of truth in the minds of young and old alike, especially Christian leaders and future Christian leaders, in order to reap a harvest of trained believers who can boldly proclaim and defend the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In October we will both be speakers at the National Apologetics Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, followed by the Ratio Christi symposium and student retreat in Fort Mill, South Carolina. These annual events provide a chance to teach and train budding defenders of the faith (“apologists”) and mingle with some of the best speakers and scholars in America.

Just a couple of days after we return from Charlotte, I am off to Kenya and Uganda. I will be speaking at universities, high schools and churches, addressing students, faculty, church leaders and lay people. I will also have a two-hour radio live radio interview. This will be my first trip to Western Kenya, near Lake Victoria (the headwaters of the Nile River), and my first trip to Uganda.

In the next week or two we will provide further details, but we ask your prayers as plans are finalized, flights are booked, and flyers promoting the speaking engagements are distributed. We are amazed at the open doors of opportunity, and we are believing for a chance to sow the seed of truth, so that there will be a harvest of believes equipped to live and proclaim the Gospel.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

My Ninth Trip to Kenya

On short notice I was asked by my old friend, Bishop Samuel Munai, to be a keynote speaker at a three-day conference at Lake Nakuru, Kenya for a thousand pastors. Laurie gave me the “okay,” and on August 21 I left for Kenya, East Africa, for my ninth mission trip to Kenya.

My previous trips had been to teach at Manna Bible Institute outside Nairobi, Kenya, appear on radio and television, and consult regarding the formation of a Christian Law Program at Africa Nazarene University. Last year I also spoke to around 600 people at a pastors’ conference for the Nairobi Region for the Pentecostal Evangelistic Fellowship of Africa (“PEFA”), an African denomination with over a hundred churches in greater Nairobi. This year was the semi-annual conference for all PEFA pastors in Kenya, and there are some 3,000 PEFA churches in Kenya.

I arrived in Nairobi late Saturday night, August 22, and spoke to over 1,000 people the next morning at South B All Nations Gospel Church in Nairobi. Monday was a three-hour drive (if you leave early enough to beat the traffic) from Nairobi to Kabarak University at Lake Nakuru.

One of three speakers at the plenary sessions, I was asked to speak on “Evidence That Demands a Verdict.” My Monday message set the stage: “Christianity’s Future in an Anti-Christian World.” On Tuesday the topic was “The Case for the Bible,” and on Wednesday, “The Case for Jesus.” I also spoke at workshops on Tuesday and Wednesday, teaching on “The Trinity,” “Lost Books of the Bible,” and “Pastoral Ministry in the 21st Century.”

After my keynote addresses, some gave me the nickname “Verdict,” because the messages ended with the verdicts, based on the evidence, that the Bible is reliable and that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of the world. It turns out that around 1,300 pastors (including a few wives) attended the conference. There was significant response to the messages, and my call to bring apologetics (“evidence why Christianity is true”) back to churches, Sunday schools, Bible schools and seminaries. Many wanted copies of my power points that I had prepared that I showed to the audience to illustrate my points.

Upon my return to Nairobi, I met for a long time with my friend, Bishop George Muguro, who was one of my students in the Doctoral program I taught in June at Multnomah Biblical Seminary in Portland, Oregon. George had tremendous insight as to why PEFA needs to incorporate apologetics in its curriculum at all levels, or else many young people and the educated will fall away or will not come in the first place if church services focus on emotion to the detriment of thinking, reason and evidence. Although the churches in Kenya are not that much different from the churches in America, in that the average American Christian cannot give well-thought-out answers to skeptics’ questions any better than Kenyan Christians can, Kenya has yet to be bombarded with the anti-Christian sentiments that are rampant in America. However, the universities in Kenya have the potential to become the seed-bed for doubt, skepticism, agnosticism and atheism just like they are in the United States.

My visit paved the way to pursue placing trained Christian apologists at Kenyan universities to defeat the anti-Christian teachings before they take root. This is the vision of Ratio Christi, and we ask for your prayers as we pursue the training and calling of apologists to the universities in Kenya in order to strengthen believers and to reach out to those don’t believe or who have misconceptions about Christianity. Please join Laurie and me as we target universities in Kenya and around the world, as we seek to redeem campuses from anti-Christian attitudes that undermine the gospel, changing them to places where, in the marketplace of ideas, the truth of Christianity is freely and fairly presented.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Anonymous Gospels

The Anonymous Gospels

One of the criticisms leveled against Christianity is that our primary sources for the life and teachings of Jesus—the four gospels—are anonymous. In addition, critics often add that the gospels were likely written a long time after the events, at locations far removed from Palestine, by unknown writers who were not witnesses to the events. This essay will present substantial evidence to counter these criticisms, and conclude that the most reasonable position for the gospels’ authorship is that they were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Most Christians have never heard of these criticisms, and might respond by saying, “But it says in my Bible ‘The Gospel According to Matthew.’” Well, the critics do have one thing right—as far as we know, the originals of the gospels did not bear the names of the writers. The traditional names of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were added to later copies, and these are the titles used in Bibles today.

So, if the originals of the gospels did not have the names of the writers at the beginning or somewhere in the text, how do we know who wrote the gospels? Could they represent the accretion of stories collected by non-eye-witnesses decades after the events, edited and redacted to create a fictionalized account of Jesus? Many critical scholars hold this view, but a careful examination of the evidence will show that such a radical view is unwarranted because the facts support authorship by the traditional writers.

First, it was common in the ancient world for writers of histories and biographies to not include their own names. The most prominent ancient Roman historian, Cornelius Tacitus, is an example. Nowhere in his two major works—Annals and Histories—is he identified as the writer, yet no one disputes that it was Tacitus, writing in early 2nd century, who penned these works.

Next, there is no evidence among early Christians of anyone questioning the authorship of the four gospels. This may seem to the critic to be an “argument from silence,” but this is mentioned to stress that the “anonymous gospels” allegation is of recent origin, based largely on assumptions of literary style. But more important than evidence from silence is the evidence from early Christian writers. Who did the generation of Christians after the apostles think wrote the gospels?

External Evidence
Papias (A.D. 70-153) was the Bishop of Hieropolis in what is modern Turkey. According to Irenaeus (A.D. 125-202), Papias was a disciple (“hearer”) of John the Apostle (“Elder”), and a companion of Polycarp (A.D. 51-155). Papias, writing around the year A.D. 125, discusses the authorship of the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Matthew. His writings were recorded by the 4th century church historian Eusebius[i]:

The Elder used to say this also: Mark, having been the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately all that he mentioned, whether sayings or doings of Christ; not, however, in order. For he was neither a hearer nor a companion of the Lord; but afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who adapted his teachings as necessity required, not as though he were making a compilation of the sayings of the Lord. So then Mark made no mistake, writing down in this way some things as he mentioned them; for he paid attention to this one thing, not to omit anything that he had heard, nor to include any false statement among them.

Thus, it is from Papias that we learn that Mark, who may not have been an eyewitness to the events set forth in the Gospel of Mark, recorded the recollections of Simon Peter, who was an eyewitness to the events. During the 2nd century A.D. the relationship between Peter and the Gospel of Mark is further alluded to by Justin Martyr (A.D. 100-165) and Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 150-215). Justin writes, “It is said that he [Jesus] changed the name of one of the apostles to Peter; and it is written in his memoirs that he changed the names of others, two brothers, the sons of Zebedee….”[ii] The nearest antecedent to “his memoirs” is “Peter,” and the only text prior to Justin that refers to Jesus changing the names of James and John is the Gospel of Mark, further evidence of what Papias stated about Mark writing Peter’s accounts. These facts appear to refute the view of skeptic Bark Ehrman, who argues that Justin is referring to the Gospel of Peter rather than a canonical gospel.[iii]

Some critics contend that Justin’s references to “the Gospels” (“for the apostles in the Memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels,”[iv]) is a scribal gloss in the margin of a manuscript that was interpolated into the text, and that Justin had no knowledge of the canonical Gospels.[v] The support for this theory is the weak assertion that since Justin only uses the plural “gospels” (euaggelia) once in his writings, the sole reference must be an interpolation. This theory fails when it is revealed that Justin makes several references to Memoirs of the Apostles, references that best fit the canonical gospels. For example, Justin writes, “…in the Memoirs, which I say were composed by the apostles and their followers, [it is recorded] that….”[vi]

Regarding the Gospel of Matthew, Papias says, “Matthew recorded the sayings (“logia”) in the Hebrew language.” Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, wrote in his work Against Heresies (A.D. 180 ca):

Matthew published his gospel among the Hebrews in their own tongue, when Peter and Paul were preaching the gospel in Rome and founding the church there. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself handed down to us in writing the substance of Peter’s preaching.[vii]

Regarding the Gospel of Luke, Irenaeus wrote: “Luke, the follower of Paul, set down in a book the gospel preached by his teacher.”[viii]

As to the Gospel of John, Irenaeus wrote: “Then John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned on his breast, himself produced his Gospel, while he was living in Ephesus in Asia.”[ix] Irenaeus had been a student of Polycarp (A.D. 69-155), Bishop of Smyrna, and Polycarp had been a disciple of John the Apostle (confirmed by Tertullian, A.D. 155-240). Thus, Irenaeus heard from Polycarp eyewitness accounts of those, like the Apostle John, who had personal contact with Jesus.

Internal Evidence
In addition to the multiple, early references from church Fathers that confirm the gospel authors were Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, there is considerable internal evidence for traditional authorship. For example, the Gospel of Luke contains a prologue in which the writer presents himself as an investigative journalist. The Book of Acts appears as “part two” of the Gospel of Luke, being dedicated to the same person, “Theophilus.” Many scholars, thus, refer to “Luke-Acts” as one work divided into two parts (perhaps due to the length of the combined treatises, which together would have greatly exceeded the length of the average scroll of the time). Luke 1:3-4 says the writer has “investigated everything carefully from the beginning” so that the reader “might know the exact truth” about the things he had been taught. How do these references support Luke as the writer of the Gospel of Luke? The proven accuracy of the Book of Acts as evidence that Luke wrote Acts, which is “part two” of his original treatise, the Gospel of Luke being “part one.”

If Luke was the author of both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, the accuracy in Acts is a strong argument for his authorship of the Gospel of Luke. Archaeologist Sir William Ramsay had been taught the critical view that the Book of Acts was not written by Luke, but was, instead, written by some unknown writer around A.D. 170 attempting to unite the Jewish followers of Jesus with the Hellenistic followers of Paul. Out of necessity Ramsay began using the Book of Acts for his research of Asia Minor. He discovered such accuracy that he concluded Luke must have written Acts, for no one writing in the late 2nd century could have known the precise details provided in Acts. Ramsay referred to Luke as “a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy...this author should be placed along with the very greatest historians.”[x] Classical scholar Colin J. Hemer documents 84 facts in the last 16 chapters of Acts that have been confirmed by history and archaeology.[xi] Thus, if the evidence supports that the writer of Acts was Luke, and the Gospel of Luke is part one of “Luke-Acts,” then it follows that Luke also wrote the gospel that bears his name.

Internal evidence supporting the Apostle John’s authorship of the Gospel of John includes the claim that it was written by an eyewitness to the crucifixion of Jesus: “And he who has seen has borne witness, and his witness is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe” (John 19:35). There is considerably more internal evidence supporting Johannine authorship of the gospel that bears John’s name. For a comprehensive treatment, see William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to John, New Testament Commentary, pp. 3-31.[xii]

A final line of internal evidence supporting the traditional authorship of the gospels by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is the embarrassing detail included in the gospels. For example, the disciples were told by Jesus on several occasions that they had “little faith.” They failed to “watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41-43). They often misunderstood Jesus and had to be corrected, and they all fled the scene, except for John, at Jesus’ crucifixion. There is also embarrassing detail about Jesus. He is accused of being a “deceiver,” is thought to be “out of his mind” by his own family, and is crucified like a common criminal, with those who are hanged on a tree being “cursed” (Galatians 3:13). If a non-eyewitness is creating a fictional account of Jesus and the disciples, the tendency is to make the characters look good. The fact that the gospels contain embarrassing accounts of the disciples and Jesus is an argument for authenticity. A redactor would have reason to delete or alter the embarrassing details in order to make the story of Jesus and the disciples more palatable. The details found in the gospels are not the type that are included unless they are true, and would only have been known by those who were present, or those who had contact with the eyewitnesses.

The external and internal evidence militates to the conclusion that the authors of the gospels were, indeed, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Critical theories abound that question their authorship, starting with the misleading statement that “the gospels are anonymous.” As has been presented, the gospels are “anonymous” only in the same way that Roman historian Tacitus’ writings are “anonymous.” No one seriously doubts the authorship of Tacitus’ two major works. Similarly, no one should doubt that there is substantial evidence, both external and internal, that supports the traditional authorship of the gospels. Therefore, those who accept the gospels as eyewitness accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus do so based on solid evidence.

[i] Eusebius, History of the Church, III. 39
[ii] Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, 106.3
[iii] Bart Ehrman, Forgery and Counterforgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian Polemics, 2012.
[iv] Dialogue with Trypho, 103.8.
[v] Walter Richard Cassels, Superatural Religion, 1905, p. 186),
[vi] Dialogue with Trypho, 103.8.
[vii] Against Heresies 3.1.1.
[viii] Ibid.
[ix] Ibid.
[x] William Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, 1915.
[xi] Colin J. Hemer, The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History, 1990.
[xii] William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to John, New Testament Commentary, Baker, 1953.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Amazing Success in Indonesia!

As I write this, we’ve been back in the U.S.A. less than 24 hours, which was preceded by 33 hours of travel and layovers (including 22 hours in the air) in our return from Indonesia. Our Indonesia trip was as eventful and successful as any we’d been on before. Laurie and I can only stand in amazement at how blessed we were to see with our eyes the opportunities to build up the church in Indonesia. Before giving specifics, a little background might be helpful.
We were invited to Indonesia by a Canadian apologist who has done ministry in Indonesia since the early 1980s. Our local contact on the ground arranged several strategic meetings with key Christian leaders, organized a two-day apologetics conference where we spoke last Friday and Saturday, and set up other speaking engagements for Laurie and me.

Some of you might be wondering, “Where is Indonesia, and why is it important?” The Republic of Indonesia is a group of islands southwest of the Philippine Islands, northwest of Australia and south of Malaysia. It is the fourth most populous country in the world, with over 250 million people, and the most populous predominantly-Muslim country in the world.

The first thing we learned about Indonesia is that it takes a long time to get there. The next thing we learned is that while there is religious freedom there, some Christians experience discrimination and oppression. But we also learned that the church in Indonesia is strong, growing, and ripe for the training we seek to bring that will further strengthen believers.

We arrived early Sunday morning and the next day spoke to around 100 leaders from a Christian college campus organization, representing ministries on 15 campuses in greater Jakarta, a city of 15 million (25 million counting the suburbs). They were excited to hear about the campus apologetics ministry of Ratio Christi, and expressed interest in us working with them. We learned that Indonesia does enforce its blasphemy laws, which indicates the delicate situation for Christians to explain their faith to others in a country dominated by Muslims.

Next we then spoke with the President and approximately 20 faculty members (including department heads) at a Christian university. Laurie and I, along with our Canadian colleague, presented the need for apologetics and worldview training for both faculty and students. The President of the university was very receptive, and we are already working on planning a return trip to commence training.

We also met with two Christian “think tank” organizations, presenting to them the need to train Christians to engage the culture, including pursuing careers in law, government and education as a way to impact their country at all levels with a Christian worldview. The member of one of the think tanks heads a university in a different region in Indonesia, and is interested in bringing apologetics and worldview teaching and training to his area.

We had a meeting with leaders from an alliance of churches in Indonesia, who represent some 20 million Christians. They were excited to hear about our willingness to come and train believers in evidence for the truth of Christianity. I also spoke to a group of Christian college students whose former members are in Parliament and other leadership roles in Indonesian government and education. They asked many questions and were very enthusiastic for further instruction in how to integrate their Christian faith into their careers.

Our apologetics conference was attended by church leaders, students, members of the government, Christian lawyers, and others. Laurie spoke on human rights from a biblical perspective, and I spoke on “The Case for Christianity.” Questions from the audience showed their concern for understanding and reaching out to their neighbors.

On Friday night I addressed a large church meeting at a congregation that is part of an immense evangelical denomination in Indonesia. The pastor graciously gave up half of his time for me to address the congregation on the need to know why Christianity is true, and how to answer questions about why we believe. The church’s main campus holds around 2,500, and there are several services there each Sunday, plus about a dozen satellite campuses that live-stream his sermons.

Finally, on Sunday morning I spoke at a different church. That afternoon Laurie and I both spoke at another church. By Sunday evening we were exhausted but blessed for having met so many believers, and receiving such warm hospitality from our Indonesian brothers and sisters.

From our first day in Indonesia it was never a question of “if” we would come back to conduct conferences, seminars and workshops, but “when” we would come back. As soon as we coordinate dates with the universities and others that want us to come back, we will let you know. Meanwhile, I am now preparing to be a keynote speaker to 1,000 pastors at a three-day conference at Kabarak University in Lake Nakuru, Kenya in less than three weeks.

Thank you for your prayers, support, and interest in our ministry. We serve an amazing God, who is able to do exceedingly more than we can even dream.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Intelligent Faith Conference Report -Cedar Rapids, IA

Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has the distinction of being the site of the worst flooding to hit the United States in 50 years (2008 flood) and for being in the bottom five areas in the country when rated for “Bible Friendliness.” What does a community like Cedar Rapids need? A flood of truth.

That is exactly what happened last weekend at the Intelligent Faith Conference held in Cedar Rapids. We were hoping for 400 attendees for their first apologetics conference. However the total number of attendees was around 900! For a first-time event, the turnout bordered on miraculous. There is a hunger for truth in Cedar Rapids.

Friday night Laurie’s niece Ashley and her friend Wesley opened the conference with leading worship. I was the “lead off” speaker, followed by retired “cold-case” homicide detective J. Warner Wallace (author of “Cold Case Christianity”), and then popular speaker Frank Turek (author of “I don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist”). Several ministries and colleges had booths outside the main sanctuary, and during breaks there was tremendous interaction, with a buzz about understanding and proclaiming an “intelligent” Christianity to the world.

On Saturday morning after worship, I did part two of my message, “Reaching Our Brave New Secular World” (“How to make a case for Christianity”). Jim Wallace displayed his tactical Kevlar vest and demonstrated how the techniques used in investigating a cold-case homicide can be applied to show that the Gospel record has the elements of reliability. Frank Turek talked about how truth can be known, and from that how God and Jesus’ resurrection can be known through evidence and reason. The main conference ended with the three of us as a panel responding to questions from the audience. The conference wrapped up after lunch with speakers having concurrent individual sessions in breakout rooms.

That evening Laurie and I joined the other the speakers and the STC leaders for dinner at Amana Colonies where we reviewed the success of the conference, and went over ideas and suggestions for next year. Everyone was amazed at how well the event came together and impressed with the numbers that attended.

Each speaker had the privilege of speaking at a local Cedar Rapids church on Sunday morning. I spoke at River of Life Ministries. Despite being almost totally spent from the conference, I was refreshed by the welcome and worship at River of Life, where I spoke on “The Trouble With Disciples.” I received many compliments about the message. It was humbling. Laurie and I felt truly blessed to be in that congregation with lively worship. We look forward to returning to Cedar Rapids.

One of the nice things about the Cedar Rapids conference was that Laurie and I could drive there in three hours from our home at Lake Panorama. Jim and Frank had to pack up and climb aboard airplanes to get back to their homes. One of the challenges of speaking nationally and internationally is spending so much time in airports and on airplanes. It is part of the calling, so we thank God for the open doors of opportunity in the U.S. and around the world, and look forward to where He will lead us next!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Coming soon! Intelligent Faith Conference

In 2008 Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was hit with one of the worst floods ever in the United States. You might not have heard about it, because, unlike Katrina, Iowans didn’t whine and expect the government to come and rescue them. More than 5,000 homes were damaged or destroyed, and there was $3 billion in damage to buildings and crops. From that great flood sprang a unity among the churches in Cedar Rapids. A Christian organization called “Serve the City” was created that united dozens of churches and ministries, and has continued to be the focal point for prayer and evangelism in the Cedar Rapids area.

Last fall I ran into a fellow at church, and told him about the campus apologetics (“defense of the Christian faith”) ministry of Ratio Christi, and how I’ve been speaking at apologetics conferences both in the U.S. and around the world. He was from Cedar Rapids, and he told me about a man, Charles Daugherty, who was the head of Serve the City, and who was the “go to guy” who might want to see an “Intelligent Faith” conference in Cedar Rapids. I looked up Charles online and sent him an email.

Two days later I received an email from Charles and another man who is studying apologetics, and they essentially said my email was an answer to prayer. I had conversations with Charles and sent him information on how to organize an apologetics conference. He took that information to his leaders at Serve the City, and they were all excited to have Cedar Rapids host an event. I was asked to be one of three keynote speakers, and helped them arrange for two others—J. Warner Wallace and Frank Turek, both nationally-known Christian apologists. Jim Wallace is a retired cold-case homicide detective and author of the book Cold Case Christianity. Frank Turek is co-author of I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist, and heads up an organization called “Cross-Examined.”

The Intelligent Faith Conference begins tomorrow, February 6, and goes through Saturday, February 7. Last I checked there were about 600 registered, and they are expecting more to sign up at the event. On Sunday I’ve been asked to preach at River of Life Church’s Sunday morning service in Cedar Rapids. It should be a great jammed packed weekend.

Please pray for effectiveness in my speaking this weekend. Cedar Rapids is listed by the Barna Group as one of the least “Bible Friendly” areas in the country (95th out of 100, below Las Vegas). There is a great opportunity to see Christianity blossom in Cedar Rapids, including reaching the campuses with their own chapters of Ratio Christi. The committee wants the apologetics conference to be an annual event. So much has come from that one idea from a guy I met at church. The Lord works in strange and wonderful ways.

Thanks for your support for Rolling Stone Ministries and Ratio Christi.