Pastor Greg sometimes encounters people who think Christians are crazy for believing in God. Perhaps you do too? They ask things like, “Why would anyone become a Christian? Why should anyone place their faith in Jesus Christ – a man who lived over two thousand years ago? Can you prove that Jesus is real? Can you prove that He is God?” The Apostle Peter, in 1 Peter 3:14-15 was writing to those who were being persecuted for their faith at varying degrees, up to and including imprisonment and martyrdom. Peter reminded us that we need to be ready to give an answer to our critics. With gentleness and reverence, we are to be able to give a defense (apologia) to everyone who asks us to give a reason for the hope we have in Christ. We need to know and communicate the evidence for our faith when people demand that we PROVE IT! Christian apologetics is both the science and art of defending our faith by using reasons and evidence. Pastor Greg will spend most of June and July teaching us some evidence for our faith.
apologia (απολογία) ~ “defense” ~ defense of our Christian faith
… sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense (apologia) to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence … ~ 1 Peter 3:15
My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in your weakness. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9a
Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9b
If God does still do miracles, why doesn’t God always do miracles?
I don’t know. I don’t know His reasons. I don’t know why sometimes the answer is yes and sometimes the answer is no. I don’t know. Well, let me clarify that. What I do know is, I trust God. I trust God 100%. While I don’t KNOW His reasons, I TRUST His reasons. ~ Pastor G
THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT
The phenomenon whereby a minute, localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere.
Why did Jesus do so many (what we would call) BIG miracles in that short three-year span of time compared to what we see and witness now?
If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father. ~ John 10:37-38
Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. ~ John 20:30-31
sσημεῖον (sémeion) in GREEK = signs in ENGLISH
It refers to a sign or an act (usually miraculous) that is performed especially to confirm, corroborate or authenticate something the person performing the sign is claiming.
AN ILLUSTRATION FROM THE LORD OF THE RINGS
“Frodo is the kind of guy we all imagine ourselves to be sometimes: not apparently cut out for the task at hand but having it thrust upon us anyway. It’s something that has to be done and we’re the one to do it. Only in Frodo’s case the fate of the whole world rests in his hands.” ~ Blogger Stuart McDonald
“Many who live deserve death and many who die deserve life. Can YOU give it to them Frodo? … Even the very wise cannot see all possible ends … the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.” ~ Gandalf
“I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” ~ Frodo
“So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides that of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, in which case you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.” ~ Gandalf
(J.R.R. Tolkien’s nod to his Christian faith that our universe is governed by an all-loving, all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful Creator who has a plan for everyone and everything in His Creation. Nothing surprises God.)
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” ~ Isaiah 55:8-11
QUESTIONS FOR PERSONAL REFLECTION
AND ALOHA GROUP DISCUSSION
1) Pastor Greg cited a few examples from his own life that he defines as “miracles.” Based on his explanation, do you agree that these were miracles? Why or why not?
2) Have you ever experienced a similar event that you perceived as a miracle?
3) Read Pastor Greg’s answer to the question “If God does still do miracles, why doesn’t God always do miracles?” What do you think of his response? Do you have a different response? If so, what is it?
4) Have you ever heard of “The Butterfly Effect” before? What about “The Domino Effect?” Can you see how this is related to the caution Pastor Greg shared about God always saying yes to every single request every single one of makes for a miracle all the time? Why or why not?
READ: John 10:37-38 and John 20:30-31
1) Pastor Greg cited these two Scriptures as explanations for why Jesus did so many “big” miracles in such a short span of time and why He doesn’t do the same number of “big” miracles like these today. Do you agree or disagree with his reasoning? Why?
2) If you saw someone healed before your eyes or saw someone walk on water would it make you believe more in God than you do right now? Why or why not?
3) Pastor Greg mentioned many of the Israelites and many of the people who saw these “big” miracles with their own eyes still doubted and rebelled against God. Why do you think that is?
READ: Stuart McDonald’s Quote in the notes
1) Read Stuart McDonald’s quote. Do you ever feel like this description of Frodo? Not cut out for what you are facing in life but having it thrust on you anyway? If so, how do you cope with those feelings? If not, how would you advise someone who is having those feelings?
2) Do you ever feel like there is something to be done and you have to be the one to do it, that no one else could do it, it all rests on your shoulders? If so, how do you deal with that pressure? If not, how would you advise someone dealing with that kind of pressure?
3) Does the fate of the world rest in your hands? Why or why not?
READ: Gandalf’s First Quote, Matthew 5:43-48 & Luke 23:33-34
1) Gandalf was responding to Frodo saying he wished his uncle had killed their adversary. Have you ever had an enemy? Maybe not someone who wanted to kill you but someone who wanted to hurt you emotionally, professionally, financially, spiritually or physically? Can you share the situation with the group?
2) Gandalf reminded Frodo that ultimately judging who was good and who was bad was not his ability. Have you ever caught yourself “hating your enemy” and wishing ill upon them? What is Jesus’ command and example to us in this situation?
3) Have you ever experienced a situation where an enemy harmed you but in the long run it caused you to experience greater blessing down the road? How might things have turned out differently if you had become focused on hating the one who hated you or sought revenge or fought against them?
READ: Frodo’s Quote and Gandalf’s Response
1) Have you ever felt like Frodo? Have you ever wished something wasn’t happening in the moment?
2) Imagine Gandalf’s response was mean for you in that moment. Would his words have brought you comfort? Do they sound like wisdom? Why or why not? Do you agree with Gandalf’s conclusion that God is working in the world, influencing our circumstances, our opportunities and our destiny? Why or why not?
READ: Isaiah 55:8-11
1) Do you agree that God’s ways and thoughts are high above your own, that we cannot really ever fully comprehend what God is doing in the universe? Why or why not?
2) God says His “word … will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” What does He mean by this? Can you put it into your own words? How would you explain it to a friend who was not a Christian?
4) Why does God relate the effect of Him sending His word with rain and snow ultimately bringing about a great harvest?
5) What kinds of things would be included in the harvest created by God’s Word? Do you believe this about God and His “word?” Why?