It Is Okay To Enjoy Your Life

Can enjoyment help spread the Kingdom? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When I did my senior sermon in Bible College, I chose to talk about the theme of wonder. Why is it that we don’t seem to have wonder in anything? Christian philosopher once said the great tragedy for the ancients was that they worshiped the sun, moon, and stars. Our great tragedy is we’re not even tempted to.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not opposed to the scientific enterprise, but we’ve reached a point where if we think we can explain anything scientifically, it loses its fascination with us many times. Dan Barker relates an experience in Godless where he is riding with a relative who is trying to convince him of God and points to the beauty of the mountains. Barker responds by giving a scientific explanation of how mountains are formed. The relative takes this as a defeater. Why should it be? Cannot the mountains be the beautiful work of God that hold us in wonder and still be the result of a scientific process?

When I preached the above sermon, someone beforehand hearing about what I was speaking on had told me about a then recent cover of Moody magazine with the question “Is it right to enjoy my life?” Yes. Someone had to honestly ask that and someone had to honestly write an article saying it is no sin to enjoy your life.

Of course, this doesn’t equal traditional hedonism. Don’t go and do something just because it’s fun. At the same time, don’t think something is sinful just because it’s fun. Dare I say it, but one of the great slams you could give to the evil one would be to rightfully enjoy your life?

Why? Because we believe every good and perfect gift comes from God. That means that we ought to enjoy these things. 1 Tim. 6:17 even says this explicitly. God supplies us with all things richly for our enjoyment. This applies to the natural world that we see, but it also implies to the things that we create. We can enjoy a good movie, book, TV show, artwork, hobby, etc.

When we enjoy them, we are delighting in the gifts of God. There is so much around us every day and we are showing the proper gratitude for them. Boredom is not the idea of God. Boredom is more the idea of the evil one. It is the idea of saying that there is nothing here worth being excited about.

It’s odd because we think the devil is behind pleasure. He’s not. Pleasure is a tool for the enemy only if it will keep us from the greatest pleasure, knowing God. This is because we usually see God as a killjoy who is opposed to our fun. If there’s any area of life where this is shown clearest, it’s in sexuality.

Something about sex is that while it has many purposes, one such purpose is pleasure. Sex was meant to be enjoyable for a man and a woman. A woman even has a clitoris just for the purpose that she can enjoy sex. I remember hearing years ago the saying that the devil will do anything he can to make a couple have sex before they’re married, and after they’re married he’ll do anything he can to keep them from having sex. Loving sex in a committed marital union that binds the man and the woman together is something that builds up trust and intimacy and something the evil one would not want. One of the best gifts you could give the Kingdom of God if you’re married is a happy and thriving marriage.

Sadly, Christians have earned the reputation of being opposed to anything enjoyable. How many of us have heard this kind of testimony? “Well, I used to go out and party, get drunk, hang out with beautiful women and have a lot of sex, but now I am a Christian and I don’t do any of that stuff.” A lot of non-Christians in the audience would be saying “Sounds like you lost out.” They’re not right, but can we understand how when we phrase it that way, that they could have a point?

To this day, I can remember being in a Sunday School class with a friend of mine and hearing the teacher say with a finger pointing and in the most monotone way that I can imitate to this day “The Christian life should be the most exciting life of all.” He was right in what he said, but horribly wrong in how he said it. There was nothing exciting about it. The dry tone made us think that he couldn’t have been listening to himself.

I’m not at all advocating a materialistic hedonism or anything like that, but I am saying we Christians need to do some serious thinking about the role of pleasure in our lives. It is no sin to enjoy the world God created. It is no sin to delight in the things He has made. We could say if anything is sin, it is the opposite. It is sin to not appreciate and delight in what He has made.

So for me, I want to make it that part of my witness to the world is that I enjoy being a Christian and I delight in it. I love what I do, including being in the field of Christian apologetics, and I love that I’m married to the woman that I love. These give me enough reason to wake up and be thankful every day. My life has meaning because I am part of the grand story that God is creating and my life is not a punishment. It is a gift.

I think I’ll treat it like one.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Do We Care About Christianity?

Is Christianity really a driving passion? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A couple of nights ago, my wife and I talked about this topic and it is one that leads to soul-searching. I am a Christian apologist. My whole life is built around Christianity. Everything I do (Or at least I hope everything I do) is informed by my Christian worldview, yet do I really care that much about the Christian worldview?

Some might think an apologist would, but remember C.S. Lewis warned years ago about some people who were so eager to show that God exists that they didn’t have anything better for Him to do than exist. Sometimes we could be so intent on proving Jesus rose that we do nothing more with that than show Christianity is true. It’s like something I’ve said about the Trinity. It’s often this nice little doctrine we keep to the side and we pull it out whenever we have to beat up visiting Jehovah’s Witnesses.

What I want to ask myself regularly and I do ask myself is if I really have a passion for Christianity. Do I get excited? Now to be fair, different things will reach different people. When I hear sermons that are just largely application with no historical foundation or anything like that, then yeah, I find it easy to zone out quickly. When I’m at a church service, I often wish we could rush through the music part because many times the songs are often just so shallow and self-focused. I also think that sometimes when they’re not if we paid attention to the words we say, we’d find that we’re really lying. We talk about how much we are in love with Jesus and how much joy He brings and then go home and find joy in everything else but Jesus.

I’d like to tell you I’m a great prayer warrior and someone who read plenty of the Bible every day. I’m not. I read a chapter of the Old Testament and of the New Testament every morning and a verse at night before I go to bed to give me something to think about as well as the reading of a few verses with the Mrs. If I told you that every day of reading the Bible is exciting and I learn something, I’d be lying. For prayer, I have a mentor to help me with this, but it can still be a struggle.

Years ago I remember in preparing to marry Allie, I remember someone telling me that they saw me as a great lover of God when I spoke. It wasn’t just an intellectual thing for me. It was something real. When I hear that, I get amazed. I am the last one who would describe myself as a great lover of God.

The odd thing is, it’s so easy to get excited about nearly everything else. It’s easy to get excited about a new episode of a TV show coming out that we enjoy. It’s easy to be looking forward to that movie. It’s easy to look forward to a time of romance with my wife. I’m not saying we shouldn’t look forward to these things. God gave us plenty of good things for us to enjoy. (1 Tim. 6:17.) Many of you will have your own interests.

You can say you find it hard to really learn the things of God, but how many of you know the statistics of your favorite sports team by heart? How many of you could practically write the strategy guide to your favorite video game? How many of you know all the intricacies of your favorite TV show? It’s honestly not that it’s hard, it’s just that we’re not interested.

I think one reason for this is we’ve grown up so much with Christianity that it’s become familiar. We can often wonder how skeptics don’t see the truth of Christianity, but there is something that they do see that we could bear to see. They see that it’s a radical difference from the main view of the world. We actually believe in a God who works and does miracles and that the second person of the Trinity lived among us, died, and rose again.

Let’s be honest. A lot of stuff we believe is indeed bizarre to think about. We definitely do need good evidence and while I do think we have it, let’s not lose sight of how incredible it is.

There are an endless number of truths that could get us excited every day and reveal the grace of God in our lives. We could think about the wonders of the universe and how God made this grand cosmos so we could have one planet to live on. We could go inward and think about the wonder of our own bodies and how even a tiny cell in our bodies is a living factory. We could also turn and look at our neighbor and realize that our fellow man is always a fascinating story. I have said before that a good producer could take the life story of any living human being and turn it into a highly popular major motion picture. Why? Because people are interesting.

Wonder is just something that we’ve lost. We’ve lost it because we take everything for granted. It’s become a truism for us that Christianity is true and we don’t often look at just how radical it is that Christianity is true. Do we really consider what that means?

Let’s also talk about forgiveness. Think about it. You will never face eternal judgment for all the things you’ve done wrong and you rightly deserve that eternal judgment. God is not going to give you what you deserve. Instead, more often than not, we’re whining because God doesn’t give us something that we want. It has been a great help in my life to realize that God doesn’t owe me a thing unless He’s promised it to me. That makes me more prone to view everything I have as a gift.

When I spoke about Bible reading, we take it for granted. How many of us have Bibles just sitting on our shelves? Do we not realize how many people in persecuted countries would love to have a Bible? If they have just a page of the Bible, they study that constantly hanging on to every word. We treat it like it’s a book just like any other book. We don’t realize what a privilege we have that we can read the Bible.

It is a privilege that you can go to church freely and worship. We in the West often whine about persecution. We really don’t have a clue what real persecution is like. The day that your life is in danger because you go to church because someone wants to kill you for that, I will say you know what persecution is.

I just have to pause and ask myself why is it that I don’t really take the time to appreciate and celebrate the good things that I have. As an apologist, am I more interested in showing Christianity is true than also learning what a difference it makes? I need both. Some of us have strived to be so sure that our doctrine is right that we haven’t bothered to see if our Christian walk is right.

I also don’t want to be legalistic in this. My wife and I still joke about hearing a Christian conspiracy theorist talk about the Pokemon Go game and saying that while some of you are out there playing that, you could be doing evangelism. Of course, that can lead to any number of bizarre ideas. You could take your wife out on a date which is really helpful to your marriage, but you could be doing evangelism. You could go to sleep, but you could be doing evangelism. You could go to church and worship, but you could be doing evangelism. I am not at all saying we are to be machines doing evangelism and nothing else at all.

I am just saying that I want to watch myself and I suspect a lot of you want to watch yourself. I am honestly hopeful that some of you are reading this and saying “I hear you. I could bear to get some joy over Christianity.” I want it to be that when people look at my life, they know that Christ is a passion for me.

If anything else seems like a greater passion, the goal is not to love that less. Not at all. C.S. Lewis said it’s always the goal to love Christ more. What sense does it make to say “I’m going to love X less so that it gets below my love for Christ.”? Why not raise your love for Christ?

I do think apologetics is greatly important for this. It shows us that Christianity is true and not just an idea. Once we know it is true, the onus is on us. What are we going to be doing with that? If we do not let it change the way we live our lives, do we really believe it? Maybe we do, but has it really sunk in?

Our lives are gifts, and God gave us many things that we can enjoy. There are many other gods vying for our attention. Sex, money, food, pleasure, popularity, etc. None of these are evils in themselves. All of them we can enjoy when we do so rightly, but let us never look at any of these as our ultimate. None of them can deliver for all time like Christ did. They are fine when enjoyed as Christ would have us enjoy them, but not when they become gods themselves.

Do I plan on improving myself? Yes. As an apologist it is something I have to do. There are many times our actions speak so loudly our words can’t be heard. How can I convey the importance Christ has in my life if people look at my life and don’t see that importance? (This is in fact one reason I am so pro-marriage. We Christians should be living marriage out the best so that the world will know the fake interpretation of it and think that Christians have the best marriages of all.)

I hope you’ll join me on this quest.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

What Is Required For Happiness?

Do we have what we need to be happy? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We could say that happiness is a modern fixation in some ways. If we just say it like that, we would be wrong. Aristotle said that happiness was what we were all seeking. What is different is what was meant by happiness. For Aristotle, it largely consisted of your reputation and how you were seen by others. Aristotle did not believe in an afterlife and yet said the happiness of a person could be changed after they died. Why? You could have descendants that are horrible people and ruin your reputation. This is a happiness that is really based on the way others perceive you and if you’re spoken well of in society.

Fast forward about 2,300-2,400 years.

Today, we have the self-esteem movement. You have to feel good in yourself. You have to be able to look at yourself and think you are a good person. We are all raised being taught that we are special and we have this idea that life should work out a certain way for us. Note also that the emphasis is on how we feel. How we feel is really one of the most fluid and changing things about us, and yet we base so much on it. You can go from feeling miserable to feeling happy very quickly and vice-versa. We often say that we should not care what other people think about us, but in reality, we all care, and to some extent we should.

Now if we’re talking about that stranger on the internet who doesn’t know you from Adam and makes one statement to you, yeah. You might not want to take that too seriously. If we’re talking about people who are close to you, yeah. You might want to take that seriously. Of course, that doesn’t mean that these people are always right, but you should heed them more. It’s one reason I’ve surrounded myself with some people who I know will shoot me straight and when they say something, I work to take what they say seriously. Number one of course is that if my wife says something to me about me, I try to take it seriously.

To get back to self-esteem again, if what we are going to do is to look at how we feel at the time to determine our happiness, we’re going to be in trouble. Now there is nothing wrong with feeling happy, just as there is nothing wrong with feeling love. There is also at times nothing wrong with feeling sorrow. If there are times that we do not feel sorrow, we have to ask if there is something wrong with us.

In fact, I needed to take a little break at this point so I went to scroll Facebook some and saw a news story about a reporter and a photographer who were in a live news broadcast when shots rang out. The story does not end well. Both of them were killed. I saw their pictures up there and a message that they are loved. You know what? That leaves me with sorrow. These people were robbed from their families and other loved ones through no fault of their own. This day will be a tragedy for many people until the day that they die. I have sorrow there and I rightly should. Unfortunately, most likely I’ll just have sorrow but won’t do much about it to help, although perhaps just writing this can raise awareness.

So yes, we should feel sorrow at times, but we can’t always control that we’ll feel happy. If our feelings were so under our control, we would just make ourselves feel happy. What is more under control is our thinking and rarely do we do anything with that. Our feelings should follow our thoughts. Usually it’s the other way around. As long as we do that, we are always living in reactionary mode. What do we do when the feelings are too intense? At times, just let them run their course. If you encounter someone who has lost a loved one to death recently, don’t try to reason them out of their feeling. They should feel it now. Let them cry it out of themselves or whatever they need to do since people grieve in different ways. Of course, they should not be allowed any self-harm of any sort, but let them just feel.

Now when we’re ready to think about these matters, let’s start thinking about that happiness. As Christians, we should take this extremely seriously. We are supposed to bring a message to the world that we in fact call “Good news.” Is it really good? Do we really believe it to be good? What do we need to be happy? There are many things that we want, but what is a necessity? What is it that without this thing, we absolutely cannot be happy.

Let me start with my own self as an example. When it comes to loves in my life outside of Christ, my wife comes to mind first. Do I love her? Absolutely. Do I want to grow old with her? You bet. Does she make me happy? Yep. However, I have to ask “Is my wife absolutely necessary for my happiness?” No. She’s not. If I say she is, I’ve in fact made her an idol. In fact, she and I have talked about this. We’ve talked about people who say Heaven would not be Heaven unless their spouse was there with them. There’s no problem in wanting them there with you. You should. What the problem is is in making them a necessity.

How about knowledge and books? Yeah. I really enjoy what I do with apologetics. I would never want in my old age to lose my thinking capacity. I remember telling my father-in-law that I figure in our position, we never retire. We could never stop doing apologetics. It’s just what we love. Indeed it is, but is it necessary for our happiness? No. After all, when we’re around the throne of Jesus in eternity, we will not be debating with atheists I think on apologetics. We will not have room for doubt. Now there will still be knowledge and learning, but knowledge for the sake of knowledge is not what we need.

How about family and friends? These are great, but they fall under the same rubric as the spouse. You should celebrate all the ones that you have, but you must realize that your happiness cannot be dependent on them. To do so is still idolatry.

So what is the one foundation whereby a man can rest and have happiness? It would need to be something that can last, let’s go with eternal. Something that is consistent. This would be something that would not change. It would need to be something without limits because all other joys we have in this life get exhausted after awhile. What could that be? Only one fits the bill. God.

And since God is best revealed in Jesus, Jesus is essential to that. We have the whole of the blessed Trinity to keep us happy and if we cannot find happiness in God, we will not find it anywhere else. There is no other place that can give that kind of happiness. We can find all manner of little joys to keep us going from time to time, but nothing that will truly last. We will be wandering without a foundation.

So if we have that happiness, what do we do with everything else? We celebrate it. Your spouse is not necessary for your happiness, but God gave them to you. Celebrate them. Your passions and interests are not necessary, but celebrate them. Your family and friends are not necessary, but God gave them. Celebrate them. This gets us into thankfulness again. Be thankful realizing that every good thing in your life is a sign of the grace of God.

What happens when suffering comes? It’s okay to mourn. Just don’t stay there. Realize even your mourning and sorrow is to be different. When we lose a loved one to death, we mourn, but we do keep in mind the resurrection. When suffering comes in our life, we have sorrow, but we realize God is in control of all and that He is working all for our good. We place ourselves and our future not in our hands but in the hands of God. We look to Him and we can even be angry with Him and say we don’t understand what is going on and why it is allowed to happen, but that we are going to trust Him.

Happiness is what we all want, and it will not come easy. We will have to work at it. We will have to continually die to old ways of thinking and come back with new ways of thinking if we’re going to find the joy that we want. Joy must be worked for. It is given from God, but it is given to those who will receive it. Our God is working to make us holy and not happy in the worldly sense. If we are holy, we will have the true happiness we want.

So today, celebrate all that you have that is not necessary for your happiness as a gift, and when you think of what is most needed for your happiness, cling to that. Hold tight to it fiercely and don’t let it go. Let it show in your own life. You will not tell people the Good News well if they have no reason to think that you really show it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Apostles’ Creed: And The Life Everlasting

What awaits those who trust in Christ? Let’s dive into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Death is something we often don’t really care for. It’s such a finality to matters. I have been to two funerals this year for instance. One was for an aunt who died. The other was for a neighbor who lived just down the street from us and whose death we were not at all expecting. My wife has lost her grandfather this year as well.

When someone dies, we are suddenly filled with grief if we knew the person well and cared for them. When I walk past my neighbor’s house for instance, I can know that in this lifetime, I will never see him out there tending to his garden and have him wave at me and have my wife and I talk to him about the plants in our garden.

Scripture gives us the promise of life everlasting as does the Apostles’ Creed, but here is another area where we have misunderstandings. This is often done at funerals. As I mentioned in an earlier post, too often, we have made it seem like the goal of Christianity is simply to get to Heaven. That’s a goal very much about us.

Yet the Bible is about what God is doing with His creation for His glory and part of it is redeeming the creation. It is not as if he says “Dang it. Looks like the devil screwed up that Garden of Eden plan. So much for that planet.” Too many Christians have this idea. This world is not our home supposedly. God did not make it to be our eternal dwelling.

Wherever that idea comes from, it is not Scripture. It is more a Platonic sort of idea of an otherworldly experience apart from this world. In fact, Scripture says the opposite. Heaven comes down to Earth in the book of Revelation. It is not the case that people go to Heaven. God comes to dwell with His people. His people do not go to a far off place where He is. In fact, if we are true believers of Scripture, we should realize God is here right now. We are just waiting for His presence to be more manifest and I would suggest the problem is not with Him, but it is with us. After all, it can never be with Him.

Part of that promise is not just going back to Eden, but going beyond Eden. This will be a place that is far better than Eden. This will be life everlasting and of a kind that will eternally satisfy us. Thankfully, it will not be like what we often see in the cartoons. For most of us, if Heaven was simply sitting on clouds and playing harps, most of us would wonder if we had instead gone to Hell. It is why some youth growing up have asked the question of if Heaven would be boring. With our descriptions of it, we have not given them much to be excited about.

Of course, the biggest excitement is that God is there and we interact with Jesus. Now if some of you don’t get excited as you should at that, could it be because we have not made the topic that exciting? We have turned God into some detached far off being that is not really interacting with our world, aside from as a friend of mine said yesterday, to perhaps send a hurricane to judge homosexuals and people attending casinos and I could add perhaps answering that prayer for a miracle and finding that parking space every now and then.

And as for Jesus, well we’ve made Jesus this nice approachable figure from our Sunday School lessons that doesn’t really challenge us which leads to an obvious question. Why would someone crucify this Jesus? For instance, as I read through Five Views on the Historical Jesus, I found Crossan’s essay quite interesting with the ending that Jesus would be seen like someone providing social renewal with a message of love. Okay. Perhaps He did. Here’s my problem. A Jesus like that is not a threat. At the worst, He’s an annoyance. There’s no reason to crucify Him.

Do we really think about Jesus? Do we think about who He is and why He came? For instance, last night I read Psalm 86 with the prayer in there of thanking God for saving them. Now isn’t this interesting? The knowledge of salvation and forgiveness before the cross? But on what basis? Because people were keeping the Law to show their faithfulness to God in response of His faithfulness to them.

Did Jesus really come into a world where the Jews were looking for a way of salvation? It doesn’t look like it. Most of them had a way that seemed to work quite well for them. Yet still He came to show them a new way. What a strange message this must have been. Instead of righteousness with God being found on the basis of the Law which came from Moses, it was found on the basis of this man who just showed up and did some miracles and spoke in these strange parables? Look at it this way, and you can understand why Jesus was not received as well by the leaders of His day. We must all honestly ask ourselves before we condemn them if we would do any better.

Then you can ask also how John the Baptist fit into this. Why did John the Baptist speak out against the actions of Herod? Was he just a political agitator? Or was he concerned about the righteousness of the people and people getting their hearts right in preparation? If he said nothing about the leader of the people openly disobeying what was righteous, then how could He be taken seriously?

These are the kinds of questions we need to be asking. Who was Jesus? What kind of world did He come into? What difference did He make in it? What difference does He make in it? What does He tell us about God? Remember, Jesus is the revelation of God. He is the one through whom we are to see and interpret the Father. To know Jesus is to know God.

If the prospect of eternity with the Trinity does not excite us, it is because we have not come to fully know them as they are, and indeed this certainly applies to my own self who often does not get excited enough. None of us will have that kind of excitement until we pass over into eternity as we are all still bound by our sinful natures.

The good part is that we will have all of eternity to discover the wonder that we have missed and the wonder that we were meant for. It will never be interrupted. It will never be painful. It will never be sorrowful. It will never be boring. This does not mean we will be passive. We will be incredibly active. We will be working in Heaven, but it will be worthwhile and enjoyable, unlike most of our work today where most of us can’t wait to get home from the evening shift.

To see the analogy, go back to the Garden of Eden. As David Lamb says in his book “God Behaving Badly”, man is placed in the garden and given a job and he is given what many men have called the greatest commandment God ever gave man. “Go forth and multiply.” As Lamb says, he is told to eat a lot of food and have a lot of sex. Now men, imagine going through CareerBuilder or a Monster.com and seeing a job description like this.

“I have a garden that I want a husband and wife to attend to for me. I will cover all of their expenses. I will handle their dental, health, and any other insurance coverage. Aside from one tree I choose, they may eat anything they grow in the garden that they want. I will make sure their clothing and living arrangements are provided for. I will make sure their children are provided for. Oh. One more thing. I also expect the husband and wife to have a lot of sex with each other in the garden. No credentials or skills in gardening needed. I will teach you all you need to know.”

Personally, if I saw a job application like that, I would be applying immediately. In fact, I would probably be reapplying to it every day.

It’s my suspicion that our work in Heaven will be jobs tailor made for us. I suspect someone like myself could be assigned to do research and teaching and I will have the best library of all with all the books ever written and I will get to do that research alongside people like the Apostle Paul and Thomas Aquinas and just think of the conversations we can have.

Also, I do fully believe that this will take place on this Earth. What all that entails for us I cannot say. I get suspicious of people who claim to give detailed accounts of what Heaven is like when Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12 that he could not speak of what He saw. Whatever it is, it is made for us to enjoy and it will be enjoyable because it is our place in God that we find. We find our total completion in Him when we get there.

As I write this, I can confess I do get a hint of that joy and that desire. To use the parallel given earlier, and every man can understand this, imagine being at work one day and it being tedious and boring and you find out on your break you have a voicemail from your wife. You turn it on to listen still kind of in a moping mood and hear something like this.

“Hey honey. I just wanted to let you know it’s been really lonely here and I’ve been thinking about you a lot and how much I appreciate what you do. I sent the children over to grandma and grandpa’s to spend the night with them. I am as we speak fixing your favorite dinner right now and we’ll share it together when we get home and then, we can go to the bedroom together. I went out and got a new outfit today and I think you’ll really enjoy it. I can’t wait to see you when you get home and I hope you can’t wait to really see me.”

I can assure you if I was that husband, my mood would have gone straight up for the rest of the day and I could not wait to get home in the evening. Some of you women might be thinking “Won’t my husband be worried about how much the outfit cost?” I can assure you that will be one of the last things on his mind. In fact, the desire that he has is in fact enjoyable in itself. Anything he goes through for the rest of the day will be worth it in comparison to the joy that he knows awaits him when he gets home.

This is why the Bible compares things so often to a marriage. We are awaiting the full consummation of what is to come. Remember also we are the bride. We are the ones that will have the life of God given to us. What you see happening in a marriage is meant to be a picture of what happens between Christ and the church. This is in fact why we must take marriage seriously as Christians and must take sex sacredly as Christians. To do anything less is to dishonor God.

Keep the faith Christian, and someday, you will be in the manifest presence of God celebrating His great love and never again to be absent or apart from it.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

Ode To Joy

What difference can one life make? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I was going to write something today for a friend in response to a Mormon video, but I must put that one on hold for a day now. As listeners of the podcast know, and I hope you all are listening, my grandmother-in-law passed away Saturday. This is the grandmother on Mike’s said, in other words, the mother of Michael Licona, for those wondering which Mike. His daughter is my wife after all. Right now, Allie is up in Baltimore for the funeral of Grandma Joy.

If you are a fan of Mike, and many of you are, you need to consider that this woman was the main woman in his life before his wife that shaped him, and give thanks. Joy was in turn a great influence on my own wife, helping her through her own personal crises. In the midst of all her pain, she had only joy and concern for other people.

Joy had had breast cancer that was stage four. It disappeared sometime around last September for awhile, and I think this was a gift from God to allow her to have one more Thanksgiving with us all. This was the second time I had got to meet Joy. The first was at the wedding and I did not get to interact with her that much. At this Thanksgiving, Allie and I stayed at her house and got to meet her and regularly speak with her.

Joy was a delight whose Christian faith showed through and her simple laughter in everything. For instance, two of her grandsons came over every day. One was especially interested in Mike’s doing magic tricks with a deck of cards. When Mike was gone one time, I asked this grandson if he would like to play a card game. This one was either an early teenager or about to be one.

“Yeah!”

“Ever heard of 52 pick-up?”

“No!”

“Wanna play it?”

“Yeah!”

To which, I of course threw the deck in the air and watched all the cards land telling him to pick them up. Joy watched and smiled delighting in such a prank.

Joy was active the whole week being in the kitchen helping to prepare meals. She offered advice to Allie and I and I don’t remember her ever being negative about her past experiences. Joy was quite good at living out her name.

Allie and Joy would quite often talk to each other. There was a special bond there between the two of them which made the loss so much harder for Allie. I have even been told that when Joy was not really responsive to anyone, that she still cried when she heard Allie’s voice on the phone.

During the past month, we had been waiting in limbo expecting the end to come any time. We actually expected it the first week in June, but Joy was always a fighter and hung on for a long time. On Saturday, I received the call from Allie while I was out doing some shopping. On the show, I asked for prayer at least twice for the situation.

Through her Christlike actions, Joy helped shape society. Those of you who have appreciated Mike’s work should give thanks for Joy, for one could easily question whether he would have done his resurrection work if it had not been for the influence of a godly mother. Those of you who are mothers out there. Never underestimate the influence that you can have on your children.

Those of you who like my work, and I hope that’s all of you, need to have the same consideration. Because of Joy’s influence, Mike married a Christian woman and together they raised their children to be Christian. One of them is my wife today who has Joy’s Christianity in her. My wife is, aside from Jesus Christ, the greatest influence on my life. It is her that has been the greatest change in my apologetic career really giving me the confidence to go further. Joy’s actions reached far beyond herself. They reached to those who would come after her and even to those who were in no way part of her family at first.

It is said that when we are born, we cry and the world rejoices. We should live so that when we die, the world cries and we rejoice. The world has much to cry about today. Joy, meanwhile, has much to rejoice about. As of now, she is matching her name more than she ever has before. Though not in the body at the moment, she is nevertheless in the presence of Jesus.

In fact, as I drove home from the store, I kept thinking that Joy was in the presence of Jesus, and I could not help but smile. As Paul says in 1 Thessalonians, we do mourn, but not like those without hope. The mourning is not for Joy. Joy is far better off than we are. In her state right now where she is, the happiest she has ever been here is like stark depression in comparison.

It is definitely a time like this that I can even more appreciate the meaning of the resurrection. The study of the resurrection is not an isolated point to prove that Christianity is true. It is something that changes the course of history entirely. I do agree with the claim that apart from the resurrection of Jesus, there is no other hope for mankind.

While we will mourn for a season, especially when the funeral takes place and the reality sinks in the most, we mourn not for Joy, but for ourselves. We are at a loss for not being able to directly interact with her any more for now. There can be no tears shed for Joy. Her battle is over. Her pain is gone. She is in the presence of her Lord. There are tears for those of us left behind and a reminder of why we do what we do. We look forward to the day when the curse will be broken and God will make all things new.

Until then, there will always be an empty part in those of us who knew Joy as we await the time when God will right all the wrongs and reverse all the sufferings. Let us live our lives in a far greater light now realizing the impact that one life has made and will have throughout the centuries. Joy was impacted by those who came before her. Mike has his own impacts through his work. I in turn will have my own impact and if Allie and I have children, they will get the legacy of their great-grandmother. What we do and what happens in the future will be done in part from the work of a simple woman who just sought to honor Christ in her life and set Him first. We in apologetics do far less if we only seek to prove Christianity but do not set Christ first.

Joy’s pebble has already landed in the pond of our timeline, but the circles that go out will go far beyond what she had ever thought and may we do the same and give Christ all that we have and let him see what He will do with the circles that come forward.

May the memory of Joy be eternal and may we always carry it in our hearts.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Resurrection and Joy

Do we have reason to rejoice? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

We’ve been looking at the resurrection lately and what a difference it makes for the Christian. For tonight, I think of what N.T. Wright has said about comparing Judaism of the day before Christ to the time of Christianity. The Jews lived in a time of hope. It was the question of if God was going to come and bring about the promises that He said He would do. Would God conquer their enemies? Would God rescue His people? When would God fulfill His end of the covenant?

Nothing wrong with that of course. In the time before Christianity, one could have joy of being a member of the community of God, but it still was looking forward to something important. One was still in bondage. As we know from John 8, Christ did come to set us free and that was what we had really been waiting for. Christ did not come for a patch of land. He did not come for one group of people. He came first of all for God. He came to do the will of the Father. He came second for the world. He was not interested in a land but the planet. He was not interested in a group of people but every tribe and nation.

That hasn’t changed.

Now the Jews and their land was the means to that. For the Jews, everything revolved around the Temple. Consider it if you will a gateway between Heaven and Earth. This is the best analogy I can think of, but some of us who grew up in the gaming sphere know about a scene where someone enters a place like a temple and ends up finding a gateway that leads to the place where the really good being or the really evil being lives. It is the idea that there are two worlds and this one place is the connection point between both worlds.

I want to be sure that you know I am not saying God lives in another dimension as it were and that that place is physical. I do not think that as God is not physical. I am saying that there was a place that He did make His presence known especially for the Jews and that was in the temple. As long as the temple was there, YHWH was there. God did not reveal Himself to everyone but made a plan to reveal Himself to everyone starting with a particular people in a particlar place.

For we Christians, this hope has been fulfilled and it was fulfilled in Christ. Now our lives are to be dominated by joy. I plan to get into this more in future blogs but let’s consider some points. First off, we have the ultimate reversal. When Christ resurrects, what happens is that death itself starts to work backwards. Christ is the first one to experience this but we are told that not only we, but all of creation will experience that resurrection. (There is nothing conclusive about animals in the new world, but the thought of something like this would be one of my main inclinations to think that God will redeem the animal life of His creation as well.)

Second, we have been set free. The Jews wondered when they would be set free from Rome, but their goals were too small. God was not coming to set them free from Rome but to set them free from sin. The problem is we Christians often make the same mistake. It is not that our wishes for our lives are too great for God to fulfill. They are often way too small. In Luke 12:32, we are told that God has given us the Kingdom for instance. It is quite amazing how much we ask for forgetting we have the Kingdom. We think that God does not give us anything when in reality, He has given us everything, namely Himself. What more can He give?

Finally, this means that we are forgiven. This is something else I will expound on later and I thank a good Christian friend for pointing this out to me in a similar sermon he did on the resurrection. It had the interesting thought experiment in it of imagining what it would be like to live in a world without forgiveness. None of us would want to live in that world, but to an extent, we all act like we do, though we don’t do so as seriously. We think of some sin that is so heinous to us that we cannot imagine that God would ever forgive it, all the while going through our lives committing X number of sins regularly that are smaller sins but still thinking “It’s no big deal.” If there is no forgiveness, there is no sin that is “No big deal.” If there is forgiveness, every sin is also in its own way a big deal when you consider the price that it took to grant that forgiveness. In the first world, we say mercy is not great enough. In the second, we try to say our sin is not great enough.

Consider this then as an entryway into a subset on the resurrection at this point and how the resurrection leads to Christian joy. I hope you’ll continue coming along. Also, for those interested, I am looking into upgrading the blog site talking to some people who know a lot more about this than I. I already know about the issue with the date of the blog entries. Feel free to let me know about anything else you’d like addressed.

In Christ,
Nick Peters