Your prayers and financial support mean a lot to this ministry. Thanks so very much. Debbie and I are especially grateful to those of you who pray for us on a regular basis and who have given to this ministry consistently. Thank You!
Death Is Underrated
In 44 BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated by a group of conspirators led by Marcus Brutus. Two years later, Brutus and fellow conspirator Cassius take their own lives after being defeated by Antony and Octavian at Philippi, the same location where Paul arrives nearly 90 years later, brings the gospel, and establishes the church there.
Around a decade later, Paul is in prison and facing a possible execution when he wrote a letter to his beloved Philippian friends. In chapter 1, he exhibits an amazing attitude! He writes, “according to my earnest expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in anything but that with all boldness Christ will even now as always be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:20-21).
The Greek grammar Paul uses in 1:21 is worth noting. He employs a figure of speech called ellipsis in which one or more words are omitted in order to add emphasis. In this case, Paul has twice omitted the verb “is” so that the text literally reads, “For to me, life Christ and death gain.” Paul is saying that everything about life to him is Christ (e.g., knowing and serving Christi) and there is much to gain in death. For Paul, death is something gladly embraced, because he will get to be with Christ in an even greater sense than he is experiencing in this life: face-to-face with his Lord. And, of course, no more suffering. No more sickness. All joy and peace. Now that is something to look forward to!
Paul continues, “Now if I am to continue in this life, this will result in fruitful work. And I do not know which to choose. For I am torn between the two, having the desire to die and be with Christ. For that is a whole lot better. Yet, to remain in this life is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will continue in this life for your progress and joy in the faith” (Phil. 1:22-25).
Such thinking seems far removed from me. It’s fair to observe that Paul was single, having neither wife nor kids. Because of this, he could be more single-minded, focused on kingdom work, a benefit of being single he states elsewhere (1 Cor. 7:32-35). Although those of us who have families may not be as single-minded as Paul in our devotion to the Lord in both thought and deed, we are still to put the Lord first in our lives and to set our minds on the things above instead of the things of this world (Col. 3.2). After all, the joys of being with Christ in heaven are incomparable to what we experience in this life.
A few months ago, I was contacted by a philosophy professor at BYU who invited to speak to some faculty and students on the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. A date was scheduled and I flew to Salt Lake City for a three-day trip in July. My time with the philosophy professor was warm and collegial and my lecture was well-received. During the Q&A period, one of the professors asked me what I thought about the Book of Mormon. I answered that I had conducted a deep-dive into the Mormon faith 25 years ago and concluded that Joseph Smith was not a true prophet.
Where the Mormon Tabernacle Choir practices
At dinner that evening, I sat at a table with all BYU folks: three philosophy professors, another professor, and two students. The philosophy professor who invited me asked why I did not seem to place much weight on religious experiences. (This was quite relevant to him, since Mormons place prime weight on the so-called “burning in the bosom” from the Holy Spirit. Doctrine & covenants 9:8) I answered that we must be careful when considering religious experiences, since people of all faiths have them. But how are they to be properly interpreted? I feel confident in embracing my religious experiences because I have significant external evidence supporting the truth of Christianity. In the Old Testament, God and the prophets reassured the Israelites by saying, “Remember how God delivered you out of Egypt. Remember how he rescued you from them in the wilderness. Remember how he fed you in the wilderness. Remember how he defeated your enemies and gave you the land he had promised. Remember. Remember. Remember. In the New Testament, Jesus' disciples reminded their audience members that Jesus had performed miracles in their midst and that he had risen from the dead for which they were eyewitnesses. Again, evidence. However, when we come to the claims of Joseph Smith, all we have are 11 witnesses who say he showed them the gold plates from which he translated the Book of Mormon. They were only seen under strict conditions controlled by Smith. And some of the 11 left Mormonism. Despite the efforts of Mormon archaeologists, no artifacts have ever been found that specifically confirm the claims in the Book of Mormon. And there are additional problems that are quite serious. To their credit, the Mormon professors acknowledged the problems. To read more on this, I have a small book available for free download on our web site by clicking below.
I lectured on Gospel differences for a conference in New Zealand via Zoom. Although I enjoy meeting folks in person, lecturing via Zoom has advantages. It saves the venue significant funds to fly me to the location (quite expensive for NZ). It also saves me days of travel, allowing me to do more work, and I don’t have to struggle with jet lag! I was also interviewed on the resurrection of Jesus and doubt by Rice Broocks, the author of God is Not Dead for his seminary. Rice has an amazing ministry to leaders around the world. The scope of his reach is jaw-dropping!
This past Saturday, I interviewed Dale Allison on his new book on religious experiences. Allison is professor of New Testament Studies at Princeton. His new book poses a significant challenge to atheism. I’ll be splitting the interview up into several parts and making them available to view on our YouTube channel.
Most of my time in July was spent writing chapters 10 and 11 of my next book on differences in the Gospels. These concern the matters of the divine inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture.
Thanks to the loyal giving of many of you, funding for this ministry has remained consistent for years, even increasing. Unfortunately, earlier this year one of our larger ministry partners went to be with the Lord and another had to close his business, which was destroyed by the economy. As a result, we need to replace $16,000/year lost from the gifts these two provided. If you’re in a position to join us or increase your giving, we would appreciate your consideration.
A foundation has offered a small matching funds opportunity. All new funds above normal giving will be matched up to $5,000. The foundation wants more than a single donor to participate. So single donations of up to a maximum of $500 will be matched until the $5,000 is reached.
There are 2 ways you can help:
- Pray for us! We take seriously the fact that God hears and answers prayers. So, pray for God’s protection and that I can be free of distractions.
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"I wanted to say thank you for the debate you did with Bart Ehrman. I found your approach to Bart's skepticism to be very encouraging, informed and winsome. I know you get flak from strict inerrantists to the right, but I do not see them engaging folks, like Bart Ehrman, in such a faithful and friendly way as you do. Please keep up the great work!” — CM
"Brother, this is a great lesson! I was challenged by someone who told me that Jesus was a copycat from pagan religions, and this video helped me solidify my research into the truth of Jesus, and the biblical account of his life. This information is very valuable! God Bless you!”- PJ on Mike’s YouTube video “Did the Early Christians Borrow From Pagan Myths?”