Sunday, February 28, 2016

Having hope in God when times are tough

Psalm 34:17-18 "The righteous cry, and the Lord hears And delivers them out of all their troubles.18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit."

When David wrote this Psalm under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he was in a season of great duress. The King of Israel, King Saul, whom David had served was in pursuit of David to take his life. David was in such a desperate situation that he fled to the sworn enemies of Israel - the Philistines - to seek temporary assylum. David chose to masquerade as a mad man before the King of the Philistines so as to not to draw suspisions from the Philistines, since he had killed Goliath. One can read of these tense moments for David in 1 Samuel 21. 

As David composes Psalm 34, his observations about God's nearness derive from having observed God's faithfulness in others hard-situations. It becomes quickly apparent that David was experiencing God's incredible presence in one of the most desperate moments of his own life. It is one thing to observe God at work in other people's lives, and yet quite another when you experience it for yourself.

The Hebrew text behind the English translation speaks of David's heart literally being "distressed" and "crushed". However we are given personal glimpse of God's response to David's cry for help: God "heard him" and "delivered him". 

Certainly there are those seasons we all go through where it feels like the bottom has fallen out and we're in a free-fall. Whenever we lose a loved one, or observe a loved one going through a difficult time or experience health issues, change of location or immense pressures in life - things can seem bleak. However, it is in those moments where the cramped space of our circumstance is just enough space to draw closest to God - and He to us. The darkened skies of life are ever illuminated by the backdrop of God's goodness - even when we may be barely able to see the next step. As one writer has noted: "Absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence."

How often Jesus took the time to draw near to the Heavenly Father during the course of His earthly ministry (Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12). Even on the cross, when everything was at its lowest point, Jesus sought after the Father. Jesus, the Great Shepherd, ever awaits to walk those who have trusted in Him by faith through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23; John 10:10). 

What makes the Christian's situation more remarkable than David's is that not only is the Lord with believers, He by the Holy Spirit now lives in them to see them through the tough times (John 14:16-17; Colossians 1:27). The most severest moments of life are refining times used by God to purify faith, strengthen resolve and to encourage dependance upon Him (James 1:3-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7). 

The flame of faith may flicker in the cross winds of times like David's days, however it is shielded by the bigger and greater grace of God (1 Peter 1:5). Hope cannot ever be fully snuffed out in the Christian, since the Holy Spirit ever delivers hope shed abroad in our hearts (Romans 5:1-5). 

As you think about whatever trial you may be facing today or tomorrow - remember dear Christian - the Lord's nearness to you is more than enough to give you hope and light. God will and is seeing you through. Be encouraged. 


Saturday, February 27, 2016

ABC's of discerning God's will

Acts 16:6 "They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; 7 and after they came toMysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and theSpirit of Jesus did not permit them."

Acts 18:19-21 "They came to Ephesus, and he left them there. Now he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to stay for a longer time, he did not consent, 21 buttaking leave of them and saying, “I will return to you again if God wills,” he set sail from Ephesus."

In today's post we consider what is entailed in discerning God's will in everyday life. For ease of study, I will have each main point begin with a subsequent letter of the alphabet, hence the title of this series: "ABC's of discerning God's will". 

In the opening text we find the Apostle Paul being hindered by the Holy Spirit from entering into the region of Asia Minor (Ephesus, Mysia). Why would God prevent this great missionary from sharing the Gospel in that land at that time? We discover in Acts 16-17 that God had a mission for Paul to achieve first - namely going over to the region of Macedonia. The fruits of Paul's Macedonian mission can be seen in the letters he wrote to the churches in that region: Philippi, Thessalonica and Corinth. We then find after Paul had completed his assignment, the Lord had lifted the restraints and Paul was then permitted to freely enter into Ephesus.

How is it that Paul was able to discern the Spirit's leadings and promptings? I would suggest that God's way of leading His people entails a combination of interior promptings, circumstances, people and of course the objective, infallibe Word of God. We will list four major components in discerning God's Will. Notice the following ABC's of discerning God's Will:

Active obedience.  You and I dear friend cannot expect to detect God's leading and promptings if we are operating outside the known will of God. Paul was obeying God in his work of spreading the Gospel. Obedience to Christ's Lordship positions us in ready mode for sensing God's direction. 

Bible. It is impossible to hear God and know His will apart from the Bible. The Bible was revealed by God for the sake of "us and our children" (Deuteronomy 29:29). God's Word is the objective standard by which all the other methods of discerning God's will are evaluated.

Circumstances. How often do we take the time to "read" our circumstances. God is creative in the ways He guides His people. Circumstances are a big indicator of what God is doing in our lives. Certainly Paul had to read his circumstances and make an informed decision. He had Divine guidance from God for sure, but the circumstances acted as a secondary method of confirming that he and his companions had to go one way, rather than another.

Divine Promptings. This refers to the internal leadings of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Person of the Godhead Who indwells us and is fully God. He speaks to us from the moment of the newbirth/conversion (Romans 8:14-16). By the scriptures the Holy Spirit inside our human spirit delivers insights and illumination (1 Corinthians 2:10-13). The Holy Spirit is the One who provides warrant or justified reasons for why we believe we are saved, Jesus is Lord and the Bible is true (1 Corinthians 12:1-3; 12:12; Galatians 4:6; 1 John 2:20,27).

All four of these elements are evident in Paul's missionary journeys here in Acts. As we noted already, he was actively obeying God (Acts 16:10). Paul had a Divine word from God, which would be tantamount to our scriptures, since he did not have a completed New Testament at that point (Acts 10:10). Paul discerned from the circumstances that he could not go into Ephesus, concluding that the Spirit was not leading them there (Acts 16:6-7). Later on of course Paul was able to go into Ephesus, recognizing that God's will was involved (Acts 18:19-21). Then we find Divine promptings at work, as demonstrated in the cited texts and by the presence of the Holy Spirit through the passages. 

So as you and I live our lives for the Lord today, let's aim to do His will. Let's be actively obedient. Let's consult the Bible in our decision making. Let's be mindful of our circumstances. Then finally, let's be listening for what could be Divine promptings from the Holy Spirit. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

How magnets and iron illustrate God and man

Proverbs 19:21 "Many plans are in a man’s heart,But the counsel of the Lord will stand."

I can remember as a child playing with magnets. One of my favorite experiments had to do with taking a piece of iron and filing off some flecks of metal. These "iron filings" would then be placed on a piece of paper, with a bar magnet placed underneath. To my amazement, the filings would suddenly be arranged in parallel lines that traced out the magnetic field lines of the magnet. 

When I would try other materials (such as an eraser or wood shavings from a pencil), the magnet had no effect. There was something about the metallic properties of the atoms in that metal that, when brought in contact with a magnetic field, caused the atoms to allign with one another. The question that always came to my mind was this: which was ultimately responsible for the lines of formation on the paper made between the magnet and the iron filings? Was it something about the metal itself, or was it the magnet underneath the paper?

The answer to the question is that both needed to be present in order for the experiment to succeed. Take away the metal and replace it with wood or rubber, and the lines won't appear. Try to place iron-filings on the paper with no magnet, and you'll have clumps of filings with no discernable pattern.

So, what is the point? When we consider God's dealings in our lives, the Bible reveals that His Sovereign will permeates all things. God as Sovereign and separate from creation exercises providence (i.e foresight) over inanimate and animate things. Governments, situations and human beings themselves are under the sway of the Sovereign ruler of the universe. God's power and authority determines the course and shape of all things. We would say that His influence is likened unto the magnet in our story.

People on the otherhand are like the various filings on the sheet of paper we call history. Whenever God's influence and working is near them, will people respond? The one property people have that iron filings do not have is the ability to respond. Many factors such as trials and triumphs, relationships and rejections, personalities and choices are all factored together in how people will respond to the Lord. 

Lest the Spirit of God has worked in the hearts of people to allign their hearts, the unbeliever will be no more inclined to God than wood or rubber would be to a magnet. However, as people lessen their resistance and freely give themselves over to the influencing work of the Spirit, allignment occurs and the person willing chooses to fall in line with the magnetic field-lines of Grace that are at work all around us. 

As the Proverb up above reminds us: truly the plans of a man are many, but it is the Lord's Counsel that has the final word. Therein is no contradiction when it comes to God's purposes and our plans. Both God's Sovereignty and human responsibility are needed to make sense of what we read oftentimes in the Bible. God certainly has need of no one, and yet has chosen to include volitional agents (human beings) as the means to fulfilling His purposes. 

All we can say is that when we freely choose Him, it is due to His prevailing grace. When we choose to ignore His promptings, we have only ourselves to blame. May you and I, dear reader, yield to the Spirit's Sovereign working and fall in line with Him. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

An invitation to listen to two podcast episodes on the subject of defending the Christian faith

Acts 17:22-24 "So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. 23 For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you."

Today's blogpost features links to a couple of podcasts I recently did on the subject: ABC's of Apologetics and Evangelism. The podcasts are found over in the pod casting site which is an audio arm of this blog site. The first episode gives a general overview of a strategy for defending and sharing the Christian faith. The second episode features an argument for the existence of God from the standpoint of God being the Almighty Maker of Heaven and Earth. Overtime I will be releasing more podcasts to round out the series, with the aim of providing a strategy for apologetics and evangelism that can be used by readers and listeners. To God be the glory! Here are the links (each episode is 7-8 minutes in length):

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

How the Person of the Son co-operates with the Father and Spirit in the conversion of sinners

Ephesians 2:13-18 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far offhave been brought near by the blood of Christ.14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thusestablishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father."

In yesterday's post we considered how Jesus the Son is active in the conversion of sinners. The above passage of scripture expresses not only Christ's finished work of accomplished redemption, but also His work in the application of salvation. Such efforts by Jesus the Son are to be understood not only in light of His activity as the ascended, exalted Jesus, but also in His relationships with the Father and the Spirit in the Godhead. When I use that term "Godhead", the word refers to the unified being of the One God that exists equally and co-eternally among the Three Persons. God is afterall One God, existing as Three Persons, with each Person being truly God. 

An example of How the Trinity works together
Whenever we consider the three major works of God: creation, redemption and what will be the consummation of all things, each Person of the Trinity distinctively performs their role in the unified effort of each work. For example, God is: Father, Author of Heaven and Earth; Son, Architect of Heaven and Earth; and Spirit, Animator of Heaven and earth. Certainly to say that the Father is the Author is not to exclude Him being involved in the architecture nor the animation of all things; nor in claiming the Son to be the architect are we detracting from His involvement in the authorship and animation of all things. The Holy Spirit functions equally with the Father and Son in terms of His involvment in the authorship and architecture of all things, even though the scriptures credit Him as the primary agent behind the animation of life itself. All three persons together function and relate as One - henceforth the creation was caused by One all powerful God. 

How the doctrine of the Trinity helps us to better understand Jesus' role in the conversion of sinners
As the Father, Son and Spirit have their roles in creation, much the same can be said in how the Triune God operates in salvation. The particular interest in today's post is how the Person of the Son works in the conversion of sinners as understood in relationship to the Two other Persons of the Trinity.

We first of all must recall that there is no inconsistency amidst the Trinity - since God exists equally and truly in the Three Persons of the Godhead. If we say that the Father is active in regeneration (Which we know the Father is by His effectual calling - Romans 8:29-31); and the Spirit is active in the work Himself (1 Cor 12:12-13) then the Son must be active as well. G.I. Williamson's Study Guide for the Westminster Confession of Faith, page 83, is instructive on this point. I will summarize below with a few quotes and brief explanation for clarity's sake:

Williamson notes: "We have also seen that Christ's mediatorial work concurrently involves both natures." Williamson draws his observations from Christ's current work as Prophet, Priest and King. I agree that Christ's achieved work on the cross is the objective grounds of our redemption. When Williamson makes reference to Christ's "natures", he is reminding us of how the Son is "One Person" who expresses His existence in two ways (i.e natures): as truly God and truly man. As truly God, the Son is the second Person of the Trinity, Who has and always will be in co-eternal union with the Father and Spirit, sharing in the Power and being of God; whereas as truly man, the Son is Jesus of Nazareth, crucified, risen and ascended in glorified humanity, sharing in the plights of His people. These observations provide guardrails, so that to say that Jesus is not some how involved in the regeneration of sinners would result in an unecessary division within the Godhead. 

Williamson's comments further build on Christ's ongoing work in not only sustaining the faith of His people post-conversion, but also in working in the events leading up to it. He states again: "Here we shall be content to stress the fact that Christ does effectually apply redemption to those for whom He died. And in grasping this truth we will find it helpful to remember the following truths: Christ freely and sincerely offers salvation to all who hear the Gospel, whether they be elect or not. 'For many are called but few are chosen' (Mt 20:16). Again, Williamson draws out the point we are making in today's post: how the Person of the Son works in the conversion of sinners as understood in relationship to the Two other Persons of the Trinity. 

Closing thoughts and applications
This particular discussion is important due to the union within God Himself over the application of salvation in our current day. God is not a begrudging God when it comes to salvation. The Son in particular reveals most clearly the intentions of the Father and endorses the effects worked forth by the Spirit in the hearts of unsaved people who believe on Him. One passage that comes to mind in asserting the union of the Trinity in the conversion of the lost is Acts 16:14, wherein we read of "The Lord opening Lydia's heart....". To refers one last time to G.I Williamson, he goes onto quote Matthew 11:28, 23:37 and John 6:37 in his comments on the Son's involvement with conversion. It is clear that more scriptures attribute regeneration to the Father and the Spirit than to Christ. Nevertheless, there is evidence enough in the New Testament, along with considerations of the Triune nature of God - in which the Son equally shares - to demonstrate that the Son is active in the regeneration of the lost.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

How Jesus Christ works in the conversion of sinners

Jesus’ cross gives us access to God in prayer
1 Timothy 4:10 "For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers."

When we consider the work of redemption that Jesus achieved in His substitutionary death, resurrection and ascension - such achievements are once and for all, never-to-be-repeated. The cross will ever be the anchoring point of redemption, with the resurrection demonstrating that what Jesus achieved overcame the otherwise infinite gulf between God and human beings. We could term this as referring to "redemption accomplished".

The Scriptures reveal that God is One God, existing in three Persons and with each Person in turn being fully and truly God. In the work of salvation, the Father is described as drawing sinners unto Himself whom He set his love and affection (Ephesians 1:4; John 6:44). Moreover, the Holy Spirit is the Chief Agent in the work of conversion, seeking after sinners and bringing unto them the finished work of Christ so that they can respond, believe and be saved (John 16:8-12). The Holy Spirit's efforts in applying salvation are done through the words of scripture, which are the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12; James 1:18). This aspect of Biblical redemption could be classified as "redemption applied".

When it comes to the work of the Son in the conversion of sinners (i.e the application of redemption), does Jesus play an active role? Scripture is firm that His work of salvation is a once-and-for-all done work. Yet scripture also indicates that by sharing equally in the Divine nature with the Father and Spirit, Jesus the Son operates in somehow in the reception of Him in saving faith. Today's post aims to grasp what the New Testament has to say about how Jesus works in the conversion of sinners:

1). The Son works forth salvation via the sending of the Spirit in His name. John 16:7; Acts 2:38. 

2). The Son is described as directly involved in our salvation by His activity and calling by the scriptures. John 5:24-25; Acts 3:20-21; Col 3:15

3). Jesus the Son works by way of the authority of His blood. This once-for-all accomplished work has continuing ongoing results in the current moment upon all who respond to His call based upon the blood which He shed. Acts 4:12; 10:43; Ro 3:19-26; 4:25; Eph 1:7; Heb 9:14. 

4). The Son bestows salvation by virtue of His exalted position in heaven at the right hand of the Father. The authority which the Son exercises over the church and the world is what theologians call "His Sessions". Classically Bible teachers have considered Christ's current activity or "session" as occupying three offices: "prophet", "priest" and "king". In theese three capacities, the Son works in the salvation of sinners. Rom 10:12; 2 Cor 4:6; John 1:17; 2Thess 2:6; 1 Ti 2:5; 4:10; Heb 2:14-18; 5:9; 7:25; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10. This final point demonstrates how the Son is involves in the salvation of sinners. His session is also responsible for the other three observations made in the prior remarks.

Jesus works in the conversion of sinners with the Agency of the Holy Spirit and the active will of the Father. All Three Persons are One God.  Truly how Jesus works in the conversion of sinners is an amazing thing to think about. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

How Jesus' beatitudes describe Kingdom living

Matthew 4:23 "Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people."

Matthew 5:1-2 "When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying."

What Jesus proclaimed in His earthly ministry was the Gospel of the Kingdom. In His opening "Sermon on the Mount", we get details concerning what was included in Jesus' central message. To restrict the Sermon on the Mount to the Jews of Jesus' time or to seperate what He preaches from this current church age makes no sense in the mind of this writer. What Jesus lays out is nothing less than a detailed description of Kingdom life and the impossibility of it apart from the New Covenant ministry of the Holy Spirit. In short, Jesus lays out the "nuts-and-bolts" of what will be the reality of New Testament Christianity. Today's post wants to consider the contents of the Gospel of the Kingdom as set forth in the famous "beatitudes" of Matthew 5:1-12. 

1. Kingdom Conversion. Matthew 5:1-5
How does one enter into the Kingdom of God? This question could perhaps be popularly stated: "How does one become converted to Jesus Christ". To become a follower of the King is to come into the Kingdom. Jesus told Nicodemas that unless He become born again, He cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven (John 3:3). Seeing one's spiritual bankruptcy ("poor in spirit"); The mourning over one's sin in repentance and yielding oneself under the yoke of Christ (i.e meekness) are central to Gospel conversion in Matthew 5:1-5. Such abilities are Spirit given in faith and repentance (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 2:25-26). What Jesus expresses here in the opening of His sermon describes Kingdom conversion. Such attitudes or "affections" ought to ever accompany the Christian all the rest of his days.

2. Kingdom Living. Matthew 5:6-9
What is Kingdom living? Kingdom living includes hungering for righteousness, craving purity in heart, showing mercy rather than retaliation and wanting God above all others. Such a lifestyle is impossible for the flesh to live. Religious people and moralists will opt out of this impossible demand. Only when one has died at the cross of conversion and experienced Christ's resurrection power can such a life be possible and real. It is here that Kingdom living is shows to clearly contrast with the worldly living so desired by fallen man.

3. Kingdom Triumph. Matthew 5:10-12
What does it mean to triumph in the Kingdom? Jesus includes the concepts of suffering, persecution and insults. Before the Christian can wear the crown of gold in heaven, he must necessarily bear the crown of thorns here on earth. The pattern of Jesus Christ is pressed deeper and deeper into the Christian as they strive against the world, the flesh and the Devil (1 John 2:15-17). Triumph is only manifest in the presence of seeming defeat. Light is only manifest whenever darkness seems at its thickest. Power is made perfected in weakness. It is here where Jesus shows how upside down and opposite the Kingdom is from the world. Such a victory is considered too costly by sinful man. For those who have been truly born again by grace alone through faith alone - no price can be ever too high. Why? Because the King is worthy!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A,B,C's for Christian apologetics & evangelism - Acts 17:22-34

Acts 17:22-24 "So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. 23 For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you."

When we communicate the truth claims of the Christian faith to non-believers, what strategy ought we to use? In one sense it helps to have several different methods of doing apologetics (that is, giving answers as to the hope we have in Jesus Christ - 1 Peter 3:15). Certainly the different types of people we encounter will respond to different methods of presentation. With that said, it does help on the other hand to have at least one standard way of presenting a reasonable defense of Christianity that can be flexible to the needs of the moment. When we consider Paul's presentation of Christian theism before the pagan philosophers in Athens, we find what appears to be one such strategy. 

Such a strategy for presenting the truth claims of Christianity has been deemed "classical apologetics" due to it's early roots reaching back to the second century and earlier. Those living after the apostles had adopted strategies for defending the Christian faith against skeptics of their time. Undoubtedly the seeds for many of the arguments for God's existence and apologetic for Jesus' resurrection popularized by both ancient and contemporary apologists can be traced to such episodes as Paul's dialogue here in Acts 17. 

To better guide our thinking through this text, I will lay out in alphabetical order a strategy for presenting the truth claims of Christianity. The thoughts below are not meant to be exhaustive, but more so representative of what could be the beginnings of a strategy for defending the faith. Under each heading I will briefly summarize the portion of scripture and then provide a sample arguments that have been gleaned from one of the leading apologists of our day: Dr. William Lane Craig and his ministry - Reasonable Faith. 

1. Almighty Creator of the universe is God. Acts 17:22-29
After making some opening remarks in his address, Paul zeros in on a particular altar in Athens that inscribed these words: "To An Unknown GOD". In contrast to the pagan doctrines of the day, Paul asserts a strong Biblical belief in the One true Almighty Creator. He notes first of all that God and God alone is the origin of the universe and all things in Acts 17:24a. Second, Paul notes that this God is immaterial and eternal in contrast to the pagan deities who were believed to be material and localized (Acts 17:24b). Thirdly, Paul notes how the God of Christianity and Judaism is by nature non-dependent upon the universe, and thus the universe and life are truly dependent upon Him (Acts 17:25). Then fourthly, Paul describes how this all-powerful, eternal, immaterial and self-sufficient God is all-knowing and possessing free-will, since He ordains times and seasons and places where men live (Acts 17:26-29). 

These attributes of God correspond to what apologists call the cosmological arguments for God's existence - meaning that from observations of the universe and life, one can infer God's existence. A contemporary example of such an argument is what has been deemed "The Kalam cosmological argument":

a. Everything that begins to exist has a cause

b. The universe began to exist

c. Therefore, the universe has a cause for its existence. 

2. Basis of objective morality is God. Acts 17:30-31a
Paul then moves from demonstrating God's existence from observations of the physical universe and life (i.e cosmological arguments) to the realm of objective morality. It is one thing to speak about what "is" and quite another to discuss what "ought" to be. How are we obligated to live good, moral lives? Why ought we be moral people? Are standards of right and wrong a matter of personal preference, determined by a given culture or do such values operate independently of what you and I may say or not say? 

Paul makes mention of such moral concepts as sin and justice. To repent means to change one's mind about sin, which is to say, to turn away from that which is wrong and evil and detrimental to one's own spiritual and moral condition. Paul's mention of a final judgment indicates that there is a set of objective, universal moral standards by which all human beings are measured. Paul's point is that moral laws require a transcendent moral law-giver. 

This type of argument for God's existence from objective moral values and duties is perhaps the most effective sort of argument in today's culture. Modern apologists like C.S Lewis center's his arguments against atheism in his book "Mere Christianity" through appeal to a moral argument for God's existence. As Lewis notes, one cannot know what a crooked line is unless there is a straight line by which to judge it. A sample moral argument for God's existence is given below:

a. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties don't exist

b. Objective moral values and duties exist

c. Therefore, God exist

3. Christ's resurrection from the dead. Acts 17:31b
In presenting to the Athenian philosophers a general Judaistic theism (i.e belief in God), Paul then narrows his focus on demonstrating the truth claims of Christian theism. He identifies the God of creation and morality as having been decisively revealed in the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. As Dr. Craig has often noted in his debates with skeptics of the resurrection, the following four facts, widely acknowledged by N.T scholars of all stripes, must be explained:

a. The burial of Jesus by Joseph of Arimathea

b. The discovery of Jesus' empty tomb by Jesus' closest followers who were women and men

c. The subsequent appearances of Jesus to his disciples

d. The emergence of the robust faith of the early church 

The ancient pagan audience of Paul's day had no concept of resurrection in their thinking. Furthermore, by specifically mentioning the resurrection of Jesus, Paul brings his closing argument from the realm of the abstract to the concrete in preparation for a personal response to his message.

4. Deciding whether you believe or reject these truth claims. Acts 17:32-24
Paul's time in Athens ends with a response of both astonishment and acceptance. The first group responded with mockery. Within that first group, there were others who exhibited an openness, but nothing more. The second group consisted of some who not only accepted Paul's message, but "joined him and believed". This would had been unheard of in the ancient culture of Athens. To leave such a prominent guild as the Areopagus meant leaving behind prestige and the everything that one knew. It would be likened to a new Christian leaving behind a tenured professorship or risking ridicule at work or at school for the sake of following Christ. 

The work of apologetics aims to mesh with evangelism in pressing the demands of the Gospel on the hearer to "repent, believe and be saved". We pray that for all who hear us, that the Holy Spirit would attend our arguments, sermons, lessons and conversations so as to result in that person placing their faith and trust in Jesus Christ .

Saturday, February 20, 2016

P2 The Universe had a beginning, a beginning made by God

The Shape of Galaxies in the Early Universe
Acts 17:24-27 "The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us."

Yesterday we began considering how the Apostle Paul argued for God being the Maker of Heaven and Earth, and how such a fundamental truth must be declared in our post-Christian culture. Our children and young people are being indoctrinated by a rival conception of the nature of reality and meaning of life: namely humanism undergirded by either atheism or influenced by Eastern thought. Both versions combine the idea of man being the measure of all things - an idea that was taught by Paul's opponents in Acts 17 (i.e the Epicureans and Stoics). This form of humanism will either deny the reality of God all together (i.e ancient Epicureanism and modern Atheism) or make God out to be an impersonal force that is mixed in with the material universe (i.e ancient Stoicism or modern Eastern Thought and "Star Wars"). 

The Millennium Falcon. Picture is from

Star Wars makes for great entertainment (yes I like Star Wars). However, the franchise obviously proceeds on the basis of non-Christian thought and can be used as a popular case study in how influential these two prevailing types of thinking describe our culture's view of spirituality. Think about for instance how much talk is given about "The Force" in Star Wars. Yoda's description of the force corresponds roughly to ancient Stoicism and alligns quite well with Eastern thought such as Buddhism. Then think about how this contrasts with the materialism of someone who denies the existence of any sort of God or deity (like the protagonist Hon Solo in Episodes 4,5,6). The so-called New Atheism that is being touted today would be a contemporary illustration of the ancient Epicureans encountered by Paul in Acts 17. 

Many people enjoy these films for their epic story lines, however whenever you consider how much they influence people who are not careful into believing the underlying philosophies, you then see how culture in general is operating today. 

Such an observation hopefully illustrates how Paul must had felt when he faced the philosophers on Mars Hill. For them, the idea of an All-powerful, Sovereign God who made all things would had been foreign to their way of thinking. Nonetheless, this foundational idea of God being the Almighty Creator is found in the opening verse of the Hebrew Bible in Genesis 1:1 and nearly 60 other passages of scripture. 

Quick review of an argument for the beginning of the universe
We noted a short but powerful argument for the beginning of the universe:

Premise #1 Everything that has a beginning has a cause

Premise #2 The universe had a beginning

Therefore, the universe had a cause

This argument served to show that the universe did indeed begin a finite time ago. However, the cause of the universe is not specifically designated. As arguments for the existence of God typically operate, we use several together to build a cumulative case. Hence, today I will introoduce the reader to a second powerful argument that pinpoints why God and God Alone is the sole cause for the beginning of the universe.

A second argument for the beginning of the universe being made by God
Dr. William Lane Craig will often use a second argument in conjunction with the one above to establish the fact that God is the only explanation behind the beginning of the universe. The first argument aims to present the case for the universe having a beginning. However, a second argument is needed to discern who are what began the universe. 

The fact that we live in a universe that permits life - and intelligent life at that - has been the source of much conversation among scientists. When reading the literature, one runs across the idea of the "fine-tuning of the universe", which deals with explaining how all of the fundamental constants of the universe are "just right" for life. 

Several books written by prominent astronomers over the last 20 years have acknowledged this discussion. Many secular astronomers admit to there being an extradorinary narrow range of life-permitting values among the constants of nature - yet they try to avoid what is clearly a possibility of Intelligent Design behind such fine-tuning. 

Only three explanations can be given as to how intelligent life could exist in our universe, as expressed in the following argument developed by Dr. Craig:

Premise #1 The fine-tuning of the universe is due to chance, necessity or design

Premise #2 The fine-tuning of the universe is not due to chance or necessity

Therefore: The fine-tuning of the universe is due to design

Three options are given for the origin of the fine-tuning of the universe that allows the possibility of life: chance, necessity or design. The probability of life being able to exist resulting from blind chance is so unlikely that one has a far better chance of winning the lottery (if one plays it of course). Chance has no power to cause anything, and thus is only a mathematical idea. 

When we speak of the second option of necessity, that refers to the universe having to be a certain way in order for the constants of nature to be finely-tuned for life. Yet constants such as gravity and the speed of light operate independently of the physical description of the universe. The universe could had been different than it is now, and yet the constants are what they are. 

So with the universe's life-permitting state being not due to chance or necessity, there is only one option left - Design. Unless God, Maker of Heaven and Earth, finely tuned the constants of nature to be what they are, there would be no life in our universe. Moreover, we would not be here to make the observations we make as intelligent beings unless an All-Powerful Super-intelligence had first made us and everything in the universe. 

Closing thoughts
As the Apostle Paul addressed the skeptics of his day - one of his main points was to show that indeed God is make of heaven and earth and everything in it. He proclaimed the fact that the universe had a beginning - a beginning made by God. We considered briefly two arguments that bring together reasons for why Christians can be confident that God created the heavens, the earth and life as we know it.  

Friday, February 19, 2016

P1 - The Universe had a beginning, a beginning made by God

Acts 17:24-27 The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;26 and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us."

The oldest question in human thought is: "why is there something, rather than nothing?" When we consider the universe and all of life, the question is: has the universe always existed, or did it have a beginning? The discussion the Apostle Paul had with the Greek Philosophers in Athens declares the first and most fundamental declaration of Biblical Christianity, as stated in the Nicene Creed: "I believe in God the Father, Maker of Heaven and Earth". 

Atheists and skeptics have challenged the notion of the beginning of the universe by attempting to demonstrate it being eternal. In the opening statement of the 1980's epic documentary on the universe "Cosmos", the late author and Astronomer Carl Sagan states: "The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us -- there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries."

When Paul states in Acts 17:25 "The God Who made the world and all things in it", his statement was to counter the particular philosophical schools subscribed to by his audience. Among the philosophers on Mars Hill in Athens were two reigning schools of thought: the Epicureans and the Stoics (see Acts 17:18). Philosopher Samuel Enoch Stumph writes in his book: "Philosophy, History and Problems", page 107, concerning the Epicureans view of creation: "In any case, human beings are not part of a created order caused or ruled by God but rather the accidental product of the collision of atoms."  Remarkably this ancient philosophical school corresponds to modern day forms of Atheism which contend that our material universe is all there there is to reality. 

Stumph then in the same book describes the second philosophical group encountered by Paul, the Stoics, wherein he writes on page 112: "The pivotal idea of Stoicism was the notion that God is in everything." This teaching of Stocisim would correspond roughly to Eastern religions or the worldview of Star Wars with its teaching of the "Force" permeating all of life. For the Apostle Paul, presenting a Personal, All-Powerful Creator who was distinct from the creation and Who was eternal with the creation having been begun by Him would have shocked the philosophers on Mars Hill.

When we think about our contemporary North American culture, both Atheism and forms of Eastern spirituality dominate book shelves and social media outlets. Both of these worldviews assert the eternality of the universe and the non-existence of an All-Powerful, Personal Creator. To acknowledge the beginning of the universe is not just a matter of theological declaration. It may surprise some that much scientific evidence supports the idea of a cosmic beginning. 

In contrast to many atheists who try to escape the implications of the beginning of the universe, the evidence and scripture assert this most fundamental of truths: the universe had a beginning, a beginning made by God.

A simple argument for the beginning of the universe
Dr. William Lane Craig is a world-renowned Christian apologist, theologian and philsopher who has made it his life work to develop a thorough understanding of demonstrating the beginning of the universe, with that beginning being initiated by God. In one of his arguments for God's existence, Dr. Craig offers the following simple argument: 

Premise #1 Anything that begins to exist, has a cause

Premise #2 The universe began to exist

Therefore: The universe had a cause

This startingly simple argument aims to argue that if the universe can be shown to have had a beginning, then there must had been a cause. Now what this argument doesn't address is the exact cause itself. Whatever opinion one may have of the prevailing Big Bang Theory, its widespread acceptance among the scientific establishment includes a feature that many secularists find uncomfortable - namely the the universe began to exist a finite time ago. Whether one advocates Big Bang cosmology or creationist theories about cosmic origins, the bigger picture of the universe having a definite beginning and not being eternal is the key thrust of this particular argument. By acknowledging the beginning of the universe, the contention of many atheists to assert an eternal universe ultimately has no scientific foundation. Moreover, the beginning of the universe also counteracts the viewpoints of Eastern thought. 

Certainly what Paul was advocating in Acts 17 to counteract the thought of His day can be used by Christians to assert the fundamental teaching of scripture that alligns with the evidence of science and canons of reason: namely, the universe had a beginning, a beginning made by God. 

Tomorrow we will consider a second argument that reinforces this first one by demonstrating how the cause of the universe is none other than God Himself. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Why God's Kingdom is so radical: contemplating the 3 R's of the Kingdom

Matthew 4:23 "Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people."

Yesterday we considered what is meant by the Bible's use of the phrase: "Gospel of the Kingdom". Jesus made this His central message in His earthly ministry. Unless we grasp what the Gospel of the Kingdom is all about, we will miss the heart of the New Testament. Undoubtedly as Jesus preached the "Kingdom of God", not everyone yielded to it. Overtime, Jesus gained far more enemies than followers. Why would anyone turn away from such good news that "The King has come and will come again"? I submit that if we consider what I call the "three r's" of the Kingdom, it will be plain why unbelieving man, apart from grace, rejects God's kingdom in favor of the kingdoms of this world. What is there about the Gospel of the Kingdom that unbelieving people and this world finds grounds for rejecting? Notice how the Kingdom of God functions in comparison to the world of unbelief...

1. Reversal of worldly thinking. 
"the first shall be last, and the last shall be first". Mt 20:16; Mt 19:30

By fallen nature, human beings are self-centered and ego-centric. The Kingdom is opposite. Jesus and the Kingdom advocates putting others first, and knowing God being foremost.

2. Rejects worldly priorities.
Matthew 19:16-26; Mk 10:31; Luke 14:16-24

What would be more important than taking care of newly purchased land? Caring for family? The Kingdom says these are secondary, and that whenever we seek Jesus and His righteousness, we will then know how to properly address the things of this world.

3. Renewal of people and things. 2 Cor 5:17 

The Kingdom of God proclaims that this current age will pass away and the "world to come" will replace it. Whenever the gift of salvation occurs, the old nature that was formerly curved inward and inclined toward sin is replaced by a "new nature" that is curved outward and inclined toward righteousness (Romans 8:1-5). The interior of the Christian is composed of the "spirit" which enhouses the Holy Spirit and thus is "saved". The soulish part of the Christian (mind, emotions,will) is the object of sanctification and is in the process of being saved or sanctified. We still retain these physical bodies, which retain the vestiages of sin, tugging at our soul, which though in contact with the Holy Spirit in the human spirit, nonetheless is also in contact with the world via the body. In as much as our spirit is saved and our soul is being saved, we look forward to the day when our bodies will be redeemed (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). 

The Kingdom's power to renew means that whatever is current will be done away with and whatever is yet to come will replace it. Though we as Christians are renewed from the inside/out, our identities as people remain. We look forward to the day when we dwell in an entire created order that is characterized by righteousness (1 Peter 3:13). 

Final thoughts
Whenever you consider the "3-r's", to the unbelieving mindset, such a radical set of alterations spells the end of reliance on self, rebellion against God and building a kingdom for oneself. Kingdom living is not just hard- but impossible. The worldly mindset (called the "flesh" or "carnal") cannot and will not accept this impending reality. Just as the night-time world eventually gives way to the encroaching sunrise, the fingers and grip of this present evil age are being threatened and will fall away upon the return of Jesus Christ. Personal conversion is only the beginning. Thanks be to God for the Holy Spirit Who makes entryway into the Kingdom possible by the miracle of regeneration in saving faith by the Word of God (John 3:3; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23). 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

What is the Gospel of the Kingdom?

Matthew 4:23 Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.

What was the chief message Jesus taught in his earthly ministry? As Matthew's Gospel introduces the reader to Jesus' public life and ministry, the answer is simple: The Gospel of the Kingdom. This phrase "Gospel of the Kingdom" is understood best when we break it down into its constituent parts. The term "Gospel" means "goodnews". Second, the phrase "of the Kingdom" describes the contents of this goodnews. What follows is a further explanation of the contents and meaning of the idea of "the Kingdom" in the Bible. Three main senses can be identified in explaining the Biblical concept of the Kingdom - with the first two deriving from the Old Testament and the third deriving from Jesus and the New Testament. The first two senses will be brushed over quickly, since the third sense brought out by Jesus dominates the Gospels and the reaminder of the New Testament.

The three senses in which we can understand the Kingdom in the Bible
The term "Kingdom" itself denotes itself in three main senses. First, the "Kingdom" refers to the realm and reign of God over the earth currently and from eternity (Psalm 22:28; 45:6). Second, the kingdom of God is promised to manifest itself fully on the earth (Ezekiel 40-48; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28). These first two senses speak respectively of a "past, eternal, invisible reign of God" and a "future, visible reign of God". This at least summarizes the Old Testament Jewish understanding of God's Kingdom. The third sense of which the Kingdom is spoken of in the Bible is the idea of an "already/not yet" phase of which Jesus introduces in His ministry and which is unfolded more below.

Early Christmas presents illustrate the Gospel of the Kingdom
To hear that the "Kingdom of God" was no longer just something invisible "up there" nor only a reality "yet to come" must had ignited excitement. Since the Kingdom of God is a reality taught in the Bible, a Kingdom necessarily implies a "King". That King, as we have already stated, was no less than God Himself. To hear that the Kingdom was arriving far sooner than expected, and that God Himself may very well be in the midst of the people was jarring - to say the least. This in effect was what Jesus was communicating. 

When we speak of the Gospel of the Kingdom, we are referring to what Bible teachers call "an already/not yet" phase. To illustrate, if I told my children I was getting them an early Christmas present, and that the first part of that present was going to be arriving tomorrow, could they truly say they have their Christmas present? In one sense "yes" and in another sense "not yet". Perhaps I give them the batteries or the wheels or whatever the first part may be. Those pieces or parts function as a guarantee and a promise of the remainder yet to come. 

A helpful phrase when talking about the Gospel of the Kingdom: "Already, not yet"
Jesus in effect was declaring to His audience that first and foremost, the King had come. He of course being the King, truly God in human flesh (John 1:14). Secondly, the Kingdom of God was in one respect as good as here already. However, the Jews of Jesus' day had to get ready to put on the corrective lenses of the New Covenant teaching of Jesus. They were expecting a fully manifested Kingdom. However, Jesus' point in His Kingdom teaching was "well, not yet, however, follow me by faith, and you'll get a foretaste". Theologian George Eldon Ladd describes the Kingdom of God through the life and ministry of Jesus as "inbreaking" into this present age. 

Thinking of the Gospel of the Kingdom as heavenly cake-batter
What would end up occuring would be the Kingdom's chief manifestation occuring in the hearts of believers in this current age. Christians are as it were what I liken to a child eating cake batter. As a child, I can recall my grandmother making cakes. I always hoped she had some left over batter in the bowl. As the cakes baked, I would sit at the table and lick the bowl and cake-beaters clean. I knew full-well that what I was tasting was not "cake" in the strictest sense. However, it was giving me an idea and in another sense, a foretaste of what would be the finished product. I got me excited because I knew that in a few hours, I'd be tasting the fully-finished cake with frosting and all the trimmings. As a child, that was "good-news" indeed. When Jesus proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom, He was setting the stage for what would be the central truth of Christianity - namely the King has come, and He will be coming again. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Christian's spiritual soul food

Jeremiah 15:16 "Your words were found and I ate them,And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; For I have been called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts."

Before it was all said and done, Jeremiah would end up having the longest prophetic ministry of any prophet in the Bible. For over 50 years he warned the people of Jerusalem and Judah to mend their ways and get right with God. The King in Jerusalem and the court officials accused Jeremiah of treason and the people accused him of treachery. Jeremiah's situation was anything but comfortable. It was painful and he needed nourishment for his soul. How was it that Jeremiah was able to find comfort for his soul? In God's Word. Today's post briefly unpacks how God's word is the believer's true soul food. 

The Bible is the only true "soul food" for the believer
Truly it could be said that the Bible is the only soul food on the planet. Unlike any other book or any other food, the words of the Bible feed the soul and soothe the heart. Whenever Jeremiah speaks of "eating God's words", he is referring to meditating or thinking upon them. Jeremiah's comfort in life derived not from courting popularity - for there was none to be found. Neither did Jeremiah find comfort in his circumstances - since the nation he loved would be conquered and carried away into exile in Babylon. 

Overtime Jeremiah learned that his only sustenance in the spiritual famine of life were the words of God. Elsewhere other Biblical characters speak about this life-giving quality of the words of God being true food for the soul. Job for example refers to God's Word as being more precious than his "daily food" (Job 23:12). David expresses his hunger for God's word in Psalm 119:103 "How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" In the New Testament we find Peter saying to Jesus in response to a question raised by Jesus in John 6:67-69 "So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?”68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”

As Christians, we need to daily take in the scripture to avoid spiritual malnutrition
Too often Christians attempt to carry on their daily Christian walk without taking the time to spend time in their Bibles. The late Dr. Adrian Rogers once said: "These two things has God ordained together that no man can part; dust on the Bible yields drought in the heart". We so often fill our souls with spiritual junk food, only to find ourselves unnecessarily weak and defenseless. Reading and meditating on the scripture requires dependence upon the Holy Spirit. In our flesh we are inclined to lean upon our own understanding rather than the words of God (see Romans 8:4-8). When we find ourselves not desiring God's word, that is when we need to ask the Holy Spirit to rekindle that desire.  The Spirit's main work entails making clear the contents of scripture (see 1 Corinthians 2:10-13). 

Whenever you and I neglect scripture, we will find ourselves neglecting other spiritual responsibilities. Soon, we will find ourselves going through the motions. We may look good for a period of time to most people while not even realizing that we are spiritually starved. This writer speaks not from anecdote but from personal experience. How much one takes in the scripture will determine how much godly living they live out in life. 

Closing thoughts
Only when we give ourselves regularly to the scriptures and meditate upon them will we then have power to fight the good fight of faith (see Ephesians 6:10-18; Hebrews 4:12). Moreover, by the scriptures is our faith quickened and our focus on Jesus rekindled as we walk out in obedience to the Lord (Romans 10:17; 12:1-2; Hebrews 12:1-2). May you and I take the time to read, meditate and apply the scriptures daily - the true "soul food" of the Christian. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Why value, meaning and purpose is impossible without God

Isaiah 22:10-13 "Then you counted the houses of Jerusalem And tore down houses to fortify the wall. 11 And you made a reservoir between the two walls For the waters of the old pool. But you did not depend on Him who made it, Nor did you take into consideration Him who planned it long ago. 12 Therefore in that day the Lord God of hosts called you to weeping, to wailing, To shaving the head and to wearing sackcloth. 13 Instead, there is gaiety and gladness, Killing of cattle and slaughtering of sheep, Eating of meat and drinking of wine:
“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we may die.”

1 Corinthians 15:30-34 "Why are we also in danger every hour? 31 I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32 If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”34 Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame."

The absurdity of life without God
What happens when people adopt a view of life that excludes God? In the two opening passages we see the attitude and the outcome. Though Isaiah and the Apostle Paul wrote over 700 years apart from one another, their observations concerning the absurdity of life without God are identical. The point of both passages is to show that if God did not exist, then the only alternative would be to "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die".

Now let's make something perfectly clear from both of these passages and thus from this post: I am not saying that lack of belief in God means that one cannot discover meaning, value and purpose in this life. Many atheists and people who claim to have no belief in God can be good parents and fine citizens. The issue at hand is not whether belief in God or lack thereof determines objective moral values and duties. Rather, the point these passages are making is that if God did not exist, there would be no meaning, value or purpose to discover in this life.  Afterall, on atheism, we should not expect to discover such values and duties, and yet atheists themselves will still champion causes for justice, tolerance and the value of human life, and yet such universal moral values are exactly what people know to be the case. 

The people in both these texts are living life as if there were no God. On their viewpoints (which would correspond to Atheism today), since there is no God nor God to regard, then there is no purpose, no value and no meaning to life. Worldviews that deny God and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead have no basis for which to assert the value, meaning and purpose of human life. 

Authors such as the late Francis Shaeffer and theologian and philosopher Dr. William Lane Craig have illustrated how value, meaning and purpose are likened unto an upper story in a house, with man living in the lower story:

Meaning, Value, Purpose
Human beings

Since meaning, value and purpose are immaterial objective features of reality, this material realm (i.e our universe) could not possibly explain their role and function in our world. If we were to construct an argument as to why value, meaning and purpose are only possible with God, it would go something like this:

Premise #1: If God does not exist, meaning, value and purpose does not exist

Premise #2: Objective Meaning, value and purpose exist as part of our world

Therefore: God exists

Now its not too difficult to prove Premise #2 when you think about it. Whether someone believes the universe and life to have ultimate meaning (i.e significance) or not is to assign some sort of meaning. An atheist such as Richard Dawkins may claim in his book: "The God-delusion" that life is "pitiless indifference", while all the while railing against injustice. Physicist Steven Wienberg in his classic book: "The First Three Minutes" draws out implications from his reflections on the initial moments following the Big Bang. In his estimation, since the universe is all that exists, assigning meaning is pointless. However, Weinberg obviously doesn't consistently hold to such a notion, since he spent countless hours co-developing the scientific theory that explained the unification of the weak and electromagnetic forces that netted him the Nobel Prize in physics in 1979. To say that the universe is without meaning is to assign a meaning to it!
The atheistic worldview is inconsistent and breaks down in the realm of livability and practical application.
When we speak of "value" in premise #2, we are referring to moral values and duties. Morality deals with right and wrong and duties deal with good or bad. Morality is the behavior of individuals that stems from ethical norms that transcend cultures. There is an objective right and wrong. Duties have to do with the obligation I have to perform what is right and wrong. The question we must raise is: "are moral values and duties immaterial, universal and abstract or are they material, personally subjective and concrete?" The atheist would try to argue the latter, with people like Sam Harris for instance asserting that moral values and duties arise from physical brain states and are measured by human well-being. Yet did moral values and duties exist prior to the existence of human beings? If not, then Harris' view of "good and evil" being defined by the level of human well-being does not escape the trap of morality being a matter of personal choice or society. People who murder may find doing such makes them feel good, and thus promote their own sense of human flourishing and well-being. Thus we find meaning and values cannot be grounded in this material realm.

What about purpose? Does the universe, life and humanity have a purpose? Just like the previous two observations, purpose is connected to meaning and value. If meaning and value are derived from outside our material universe, then purpose is as well? Why? Purpose is a value judgment. Again, on atheism there is no purpose to the universe, life and humanity. Athiests like the late athiest Bertand Russell will on the one hand assert that life has no purpose, while all the while producing volumes of philosophical writings declaring that in the end, we have no purpose to discover, and thus we need to bravely hold onto the despair of it all. But now even such a statement begs the question: "why even bother to be brave?" 

Therefore in reflecting on the philosophical and scientific evidence, we can see that even among foremost athiestic thinkers, the reality of objective meaning, value and purpose cannot be escaped. Even by asserting that there are no such things as value, meaning and purpose is to proclaim that there are indeed such features! Thus, premise #2 holds in the following argument:

Premise #1: If God does not exist, meaning, value and purpose does not exist

Premise #2: Objective Meaning, value and purpose exist as part of our world

When we consider how both premises together are logically airtight, the conclusion thus follows:

Therefore, God exists.