Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Evidence for Faith

This was the third article published for the Oakland Independent, and the second in my series on faith and evidence. It follows the post, "Don't Just Have Faith."

In last weeks article, I wrote that Christian faith is not just a leap in the dark, but rather learning to trust Jesus because He has proven Himself trustworthy. In this article I will list the three types of evidence that anyone can examine and that can help them learn to trust Jesus.

The first evidence, the natural world, convinces most people that a god of some sort exists. King David in Psalm 19 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." The Apostle Paul in Romans 1 says, "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made."

That fact that the universe exists at all, and the exquisite detail in nature is enough to convince most people that God exists. From the youngest child looking up in awe at the stars to the molecular biologist examining the information of life found in DNA most people become convinced that something beyond ourselves must have created the universe.

A second piece of evidence that brings us closer to having faith in Jesus is the Bible. Taken as a historical document, it is filled with many pieces of verifiable history, such as the locations of a number of archeological sites, which can give us confidence in its message. Furthermore, when you study its transmission and consistent story from over 40 authors writing over a period of 1500 years, its uniqueness as a collection of books where God reveals Himself becomes clear.  Finally, it is unique in the story it tells of God reaching out to bring us to Himself rather than expecting humans to make themselves good enough to deserve to be with Him.

This leads to the third and most important evidence, namely the person of Jesus himself. His life, death and particularly His resurrection are unique in history and the writers of the Gospels along with the Apostle Paul encourage us to examine the evidence of His life to see if He is really who He claimed to be. Paul writing within 30 year of the event told the Corinthians to examine the evidence of the resurrection. He even encouraged them to go talk to some of the over 500 people who had seen Jesus alive after the crucifixion. 

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all wrote to convince others of what they believed, namely that Jesus was the unique son of God. The more we examine evidence in the world and the scriptures the more confidence we will have that Jesus is God and Savior, and that He is worthy of our trust.

A New Home

Here is the first article I wrote for the Oakland Independent. It was published the first week of July, 2015.

Hello, my name is Mike Sechler, and I am the new pastor at Oakland Evangelical Free Church. I recently moved from Litchfield, a town in south central Minnesota, where we have lived and ministered for the last 10 years. My wife, Traci, and our four kids with us are now calling Oakland our home. While Traci and I have lived a number of places in our lives, this is a big change for our kids who really have only really remember one hometown. We hope to live in Oakland many years and get to know you and love you in the same way we love the people of Litchfield. No matter how long we live in Oakland though, it will always only be a temporary home for us. 

In fact, no matter how long you and your family have lived in this area, Oakland and Northeast Nebraska is really only a temporary home for you too. You see we are all just passing through somewhere here on this earth, because we are all going to spend eternity somewhere.

Jesus said, “I go and prepare a place for you . . . that where I am you may be also” (John 14:2 & 3). My hope is to really love my temporary home here, but to live for my eternal home with Jesus. A couple of years ago, I sat with my 11 year old son, Micah as he left this earth, and went to live with Jesus. Micah is now in his true home. This event has even made me see the temporariness of this earth, and makes me long for my true home even more. I suspect if you too have lost someone close to you, that it has also caused you to see how temporary this life is. 

The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” He loved the people here on this earth, but he loved Jesus even more and desired to me with Him. My hope and prayer while living here with you, is that we can learn to love one another, and that you will see Christ in coming from our family, so that you too might desire to join Him in the eternal home that He is preparing for those who love Him. Then, we can learn to live on this earth even more abundantly as we live for Jesus, because we know our future is secure with Him.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Don’t Just Have Faith

Here is another article I wrote for the local paper, the Oakland Independent.

A few years ago, I watched a good movie, “The Bucket List,” about two older men who were dying of cancer who team up to accomplish their bucket list items before they die. Edward, played by Jack Nicholson, is a rich, skeptical loner, while Carter, played by Morgan Freeman, is a middle-class family man who believes in God. At one point they have a conversation about God, and Edwards declares that he just cannot believe, while Carter declares that you have to have faith.

Unfortunately, while this is a touching scene, it expresses a view of faith that is common today, but that is not the same type of faith that is expressed in the Bible. Today, faith is often defined as believing something without evidence or sometimes in spite of the evidence, which is why the skeptics like Edward have trouble believing. This kind of blind faith is more about the sincerity of the person believing then it is about the trustworthiness of God. This kind of faith does not lead you in any direction because it is primarily about the feelings of the individual, rather than whether the person or object can be trusted. Therefore, people of many different religions can have this kind of faith, but believe in contradictory things. So if you “just have faith” you might end up believing something completely different than your neighbor who “just has faith” in something else.

In the Bible faith is not defined as believing without evidence, rather faith is about trusting God in the future because He has proven himself trustworthy in the past. John tells us he wrote to give us the details of the life of Jesus so that we might believe or have faith (John 20:30-31). Rather than a blind leap of faith, he gives us lots of details about  Jesus so that we might come to the same conclusion to which he came, namely that Jesus is Savior and Lord and is therefore worthy of our trust.

Therefore, Christian faith is not about a blind leap into the dark, but rather it is a leap into the arms of God who has proven Himself time and again. My encouragement to you is not to just have faith in general, rather spend time studying the scriptures and the world to see that God is worthy of your trust.  A faith that is grounded on solid evidence is the kind of faith that will stand up even in the hard times.

Over the next couple of articles, I will share some of the reasons that I have faith in Jesus, and it is this type of faith that has carried me through times of great doubt and times of great sorrow. He is faithful and will carry you too if you have faith in Him.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Where do you pledge your allegiance?

Here is the article I wrote for the monthly newsletter at Oakland EFC.

This week we will celebrate the birth of our nation, and that leads to the question of where we should place our allegiance? Because of the news this last week we need to consider how to behave when our country which was founded with Christian ideals is becoming increasingly hostile towards those same ideals? I want to lay out some biblical principles that may help guide us as we face increasingly difficult circumstances.

1. Pledge your allegiance to Christ first. Matthew 6:33 tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God,” and not worry about the physical stuff of life. Joshua challenged the Israelites to “chose today who you will serve (Joshua 24:15).” The trials and pressure may not be great today, but if you do not consider what you believe and why in the good times, you will not be prepared in the bad times.

2. Be a good citizen. Paul in Romans 13:1-7 tells the church to be good citizens even of a non-Christian pagan government. We should respectfully participate in the process of government and teach our kids to respect the authorities, while teaching and showing them that all things are done to give glory to Christ.

3. Expect persecution when following Jesus. We have been blessed for many years with a government that was influenced by Christian principles, but that has not been the norm throughout history nor it is the norm in the world today. In Matthew 5:11-12, Jesus told us to expect persecution, and the history of the church starting in Acts and continuing into the present day is one of persecution for proclaiming the good news about Jesus.

4. Love your neighbors and your enemies. Jesus tells us to love our neighbors (Matt. 22:39, and even our enemies (Matt. 5:44). He came and died for those who were his enemies, which includes us. Our mission to a lost and hurting world does not stop because they hate us, call us intolerant, or do not want to hear the message. We can in many ways show the good news of the gospel by loving people. You do not have to compromise the truth about Jesus to invite your neighbor over for a barbecue, visit someone in the hospital, volunteer at community events, or any number of other ways we can show people we (and God) care about them.

Our mission to a lost and hurting world is becoming more clear, and the cost of following and sharing Jesus is becoming more clear as well. Jesus deserves our allegiance because of the love He has shown us, and as we put Him first, we will be better friends, neighbors and citizens.