FRONT PAGE - here you will find the last 20 postings about recent conversations. Please pray for these people!

Near-death Experiences, Truth Claims, Scientific Method, Empirical Evidence, Historical Evidence, Circular Reasoning

 
2/27/20         Quinn    (link to video HERE)


When asked for his beliefs about life after death in a sidewalk conversation, a young man named Quinn immediately began bringing to mind the latest studies of people who’d had “near-death experiences”.  He seemed to truly believe that if it could be scientifically determined that our souls exist independent of our bodies, then that would be the determining factor for life after death.

Quinn told me that science is basically the driving force behind his investigation of truth claims.  The scientific method relies on gathering empirical evidence – which is defined as that which can be observed or experimented on.  Science-oriented people like Quinn would look to near-death experiences for evidence, because as an observable spiritual event it would seem most likely to offer some empirical evidence for someone who limits acceptable evidence to natural phenomenon.

However, I have to wonder about the logic of this line of thinking, because, by definition, a spiritual realm of existence wouldn’t have any dependence on the physical realm.  Surely God would know when someone is truly dead and that it’s time for their soul to move on, as opposed to someone who is only “nearly dead” and able to be resuscitated.  God, at least the omniscient God as described in the Bible, would recognize a false alarm when He sees one.
Additionally, most spiritual events such as those recorded in the Bible are presented as historical events which can no longer be observed, or are based on supernatural phenomenon not subject to natural laws so they wouldn’t necessarily yield consistent results in experiments.  So I think it is a mistake to depend on science, useful as it is for the study of the natural order, as the primary way to determine truth about the supernatural, which isn’t subject to natural laws.

But there are many other types of evidence one needs to consider when investigating truth claims.  In the biblical account of Jesus’ resurrection, for example, there are four main types of evidence presented: real evidence (tangible things, such as the empty tomb or Jesus appearance to Thomas); demonstrative evidence (a model of what likely happened at a given time and place such as the account of the resurrection repeated throughout the New Testament); documentary evidence (letters or other documents, such as the Gospel accounts or the letters to the churches); and testimonial evidence (witness testimony, such as we find written by or about the eyewitnesses to the resurrection in the Bible).

Skeptics often dismiss the Bible as valid evidence in their search for truth about religion.  First, they might say that because it contains references to God and miracles, it must be biased and therefore untrustworthy.  But isn’t such a skeptic the one who is really biased for refusing to even consider all the available evidence, especially pertaining to the question that just this sort of spiritual realm might be possible?

Second, they might say referencing the Bible is just circular reasoning, because they see the Bible as just one source of information about religion when in fact it is a whole dossier, a collection of literary works from dozens of authors from different geographic locations over a time period of several thousand years.  It would, in fact, be a treasure trove of evidence and should be taken very seriously by anyone who would claim to take an intellectual approach toward considering its claims.

Luke, the historian, explained why he wrote his Gospel in the first paragraphs of the first chapter: “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”

Historically researched evidence is available to us in Luke’s gospel and the Book of Acts, also written by Luke, as well as the dozens of other primary-source documents of the Old and New Testaments.  We can do better than just checking out the latest account of a near-death experience in our search for truth about God, spirituality, and eternal life.

Thanks, Quinn, for allowing me to record our conversation.  It can be seen at https://youtu.be/7In0jr3UruY

Buddhism, Paths to Peace, Reincarnation, Gethsemane, Transcending Understanding


2/24.02      Alice  (see HERE)


I asked a young lady named Alice at the laundromat what she believes about life after death.  She said she has believed in reincarnation ever since high school where she had some Buddhist friends and was intrigued by their beliefs which were so different from her Roman-Catholic upbringing.  She hasn’t really become a Buddhist yet, but remains attracted to their message of peace, both the peace that can be attained within and the peaceful way of life Buddhists preach and strive for in relating to others.

“Peace”, much like “love”, can be a lofty, idealistic goal that looks great from a distance and serves as a nice principle to base one’s life on, but gets pretty complicated and flawed when one attempts to live it out on a day to day basis.  Yet Christianity, too, makes claims as a path to peace much like Buddhism does.

On the most unpeaceful night of his life, a night in which Jesus is said to have been in such anguish and earnest prayer that his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground as he anticipated his crucifixion the next day, Jesus said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Paul, who brought the gospel of Jesus to people throughout the Roman Empire, spoke often of that peace as he shared it.  He was able to write that “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 

Yet Paul faced turmoil everyday because of his faith: “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.”

What transcends understanding about the peace spoken of in the Bible is how we as Christians experience it not as we pursue it directly and try to attain it for ourselves and our own good pleasure, as in Buddhism, but as we find it in pursuing something and Someone so much bigger than ourselves.  Jesus found it even in Gethsemane as he submitted to the will of the Father, and He offers this same peace to us as we live for Him.




Thanks, Alice, for allowing me to record our conversation!   It can be seen at https://youtu.be/4rDMA-cPb0A

04 - The Character of God - Incommunicable Attributes

How do we know that God exists? Can we really know God? How is God different from us? These are three of the most important questions we learn answers to in Lesson 4 of 36 of my Bible Doctrine class: Lesson 4 is titled “The Character of God - Incommunicable Attributes”.
Anyone who reads the Bible on a regular basis has begun to develop a “theology” of who God is and what he has revealed of Himself to man down through history. But is it organized to the point where you can confidently say “this is what the Bible teaches” on a particular topic, or do you just base your beliefs on random verses that could well be misunderstood because they are taken out of context? My confidence in going out to share the Gospel with strangers comes largely from my study of “Systematic Theology”, which I’ll define as learning what the whole Bible teaches us about a given topic. I’m confident that I’m not misrepresenting God as revealed in his Word, and I’m confident when people make unbiblical claims about God that challenge my own beliefs. I’m increasingly amazed by the consistency of the Bible, written by so many human authors but without contradiction, that I can only conclude it was written by divine inspiration. I’ve gained so much personally from my systematic study of theology that I’ve decided to teach a 36-week class on it at church, 18 sessions this winter and spring, and 18 sessions next fall. I’m excited to dig deeper personally as I prepare the outlines and lessons, and I want to take as many people along with me on this journey as possible. So I am recording the class and posting the videos to my YouTube channel, and making downloadable PDF chapter outlines and audio recordings available on a Google Drive folder as well. Care to join me? Links to my YouTube channel and shared resources are as follows: Video: YouTube.com/c/JeffReiman Shared Resources folder: https://tinyurl.com/yxy2kb56

05 - The Character of God - Communicable Attributes

Ephesians 5:1 tells us "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children..." But how is that possible, since we are mere sinful humans? Nevertheless, we are made in God's image, which means there are some aspects of God's character He shares with us. In this lesson, I discuss aspects of God's being (spirituality, invisibility), his mental attributes (knowledge, wisdom, and truthfulness), his moral attributes (goodness, love, holiness, righteousness, jealousy, and wrath), attributes of purpose - that is, attributes that have to do with making and carrying out decisions (will, and omnipotence) and his summary attributes (perfection, blessedness, beauty, and glory). Anyone who reads the Bible on a regular basis has begun to develop a “theology” of who God is and what he has revealed of Himself to man down through history. But is it organized to the point where you can confidently say “this is what the Bible teaches” on a particular topic, or do you just base your beliefs on random verses that could well be misunderstood because they are taken out of context? My confidence in going out to share the Gospel with strangers comes largely from my study of “Systematic Theology”, which I’ll define as learning what the whole Bible teaches us about a given topic. I’m confident that I’m not misrepresenting God as revealed in his Word, and I’m confident when people make unbiblical claims about God that challenge my own beliefs. I’m increasingly amazed by the consistency of the Bible, written by so many human authors but without contradiction, that I can only conclude it was written by divine inspiration. I’ve gained so much personally from my systematic study of theology that I’ve decided to teach a 36-week class on it at church, 18 sessions this winter and spring, and 18 sessions next fall. I’m excited to dig deeper personally as I prepare the outlines and lessons, and I want to take as many people along with me on this journey as possible. So I am recording the class and posting the videos to my YouTube channel, and making downloadable PDF chapter outlines and audio recordings available on a Google Drive folder as well. Care to join me? Links to my YouTube channel and shared resources are as follows: Video: YouTube.com/c/JeffReiman Shared Resources folder: https://tinyurl.com/yxy2kb56

What can wash away sin? repentance, apostolic church, Pentecost, Holy Ghost, baptism, sanctification

2/20/20       Keith  (to see video click HERE)

What can wash away my sins?

When it comes down to it, that’s the main question we must face as we think about our own mortality.  We have already sinned, so it’s not like any amount of repentance or good works can make us less guilty on judgement day.

For a young man named Keith, who had grown up attending the family apostolic church, his relationship with God seemed to center all around repentance, and for him the fact that he knew he would probably just turn around and sin again was a major stumbling block to his faith.

Keith felt like he needed to achieve such a level of repentance that he would be absolutely sinless in order to enter God’s holy and perfect heaven.  He seemed to feel like some of the older members of the family church, those who regularly display signs that they have “caught the Holy Ghost”, have somehow achieved that level of perfection.

So my question seemed to catch him off guard a little:  What about the sins we have already committed?  Can any level of repentance wipe our slate clean as if we had never sinned in the first place?  Can repentance “wash away our sins”?

Well, what does the Bible say?  There are many passages that refer to having our sins washed away or being cleansed from sin.  No doubt Keith’s church, with its emphasis on the work and power of the Holy Spirit, has focused in on those passages related to the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the early church, such as this one from Acts 2, when Peter preached in the power of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost:  “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Indeed, in our conversation, Keith did place great importance on repentance and, secondly, baptism, for salvation.

Maybe Peter, who had just been filled with the Holy Spirit himself, wanted to fast-track his listeners to the same experience he’d had, so he gave them some solid steps to take – “repent and be baptized”.  But was this meant for all time as step by step instructions for salvation?  From the way he described it, Keith had been there and done all that, and was now finding himself falling back into the ways of the world.  It sounded like he is on a roller-coaster ride from one spiritual experience to another.

Keith and I also talked about the importance of reading Bible verses in context, and that would be my advice for making sense of the large number of verses and reference to cleansing and the washing away of sins.  Many were initially directed toward an Old Testament Jewish audience.  Others were directed toward unbelievers needing salvation, and still others were directed toward people who were already believers, intended to give assurance of salvation and wisdom for godly living in Christ. 
Was this passage from Acts intended for unbelievers or believers?  They had already been “cut to the quick” by Peter’s preaching of the Gospel, and they wanted to know what they could do next.  Isn’t that the natural reaction of new believers?  “Lord, you’ve saved me, you gave your life for me.  Now how can I give my life to you?”

Jesus had a ready answer for believers wanting to show him their love and gratitude – “If you love me, keep my commands.”  But this wasn’t meant as step by step instruction for salvation or spiritual cleansing. 

Repentance, baptism in a local body of believers, good works, and sanctified living are all important aspects of our life in Christ, but they can’t cleanse us initially for salvation.  Maybe the famous hymn answers the question most simply.  What can wash away my sin?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

Thanls, Keith, for allowing me to record our conversation.  It can be seen HERE at https://youtu.be/aQnovS1-cRg

Drifting From Truth, Wages of Sin, Earning Salvation, Free Gift of God, Reassurance of Salvation

2/15/20    Walter  (click HERE to see video)


It’s a familiar passage to those with a Christian upbringing:  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So why is it so easy to drift away?

We understand the “wages of sin” part well enough. Sin leads to death.  It’s the natural result of a life lived in rebellion to God.

But at this point many people forget what the text says and start leaning on their own understanding.  If the wages of sin lead to death, then the wages of our good deeds must lead to eternal life, right? 

Of course, a church upbringing teaches us to preface our statement of faith with a reference to “accepting Christ as Lord and Savior”, but there are plenty of people who pay lip service to Jesus; so what really seals the deal must be our good deeds

I think that may be what a lifelong churchgoer named Walter was thinking when I asked about his hope for salvation.  He started out talking about his faith in Jesus, but quickly turned to a focus on his own good works.  It sounded like receiving Jesus was but the first of many good deeds that could earn eternal life, and although I’m pretty sure Walter knew one can’t “earn” salvation, I wondered how he might come across in explaining his faith to others.

The text of Romans 6:23 says nothing about earning salvation.  It doesn’t even mention the wages of good deeds.  What it does say, is something about “the free gift of God”.  It couples eternal life with being “in” Jesus our Lord, and contrasts the wages of sin and the free gift of God.

So how could I help remind Walter of the simple but profound truths of the Gospel?  He clearly understands that the true Gospel involves a changed life and good works, but I think he just forgot that that these are the result, not the cause, of salvation.  We receive the gift of eternal life in Jesus, and that life motivates us toward love and good deeds. 

Years later, we look back on the positive changes Christ has brought to our lives, and we are reassured that our faith in Jesus was and is very real.  We realize that we had already received and begun eternal life as a gift from God.  But sometimes we just need a friendly reminder of those familiar Gospel truths that are all to easy to drift away from.


Thanks, Walter, for allowing me to record our conversation!  It can be seen at https://youtu.be/jRp9XKE3C_s

Cogitatin' on the Gulf Shore, Pondering a Paradox, Salvation for the Uninformed, Law of Sin & Death


2/10/20        Jack  (to see video, click HERE)

Does the Gospel ever have you “cogitatin’”?  That’s southern slang for “ponder”.  It’s what Jack, a retired librarian from Alabama and a member of the Methodist church, told me he was going to do after our conversation on a fishing pier on the Gulf Shore.

The Bible doesn’t contradict itself, but it does contain so many paradoxes that it should have us cogitatin’ once in a while.

What got Jack pondering his faith anew was the paradox of salvation for the uninformed: If people are saved through faith in Jesus, then what about those who have never heard of Him?  Jack had always just assumed God is logical, and would never condemn those who never had the chance to believe.

Carrying the question a step further, should we then withdraw our support of missions because people who hear of Jesus might reject Him and therefore be condemned?  Shouldn’t we just leave them alone in ignorant bliss?

But this apparent paradox is a little easier to explain than, say, the Trinity or free will or the incarnation.  The assumption is made that people who have never heard of Jesus are somehow “innocent” and not held accountable for what they don’t know.

But the Bible tells us that no one is innocent, not even one.  Everyone has the requirements of the law are “written on their hearts” as Paul describes in Romans 2:15, everyone has a moral conscience and no one is innocent.  Like a man falling from an airplane must face death because of the law of gravity, so must we all face the consequences of the law of sin and death.  (Rom 8:2)  It’s simple: If we sin, we face death, whether we have heard of Jesus or not.

Unless there’s a parachute.

Should we bring the Gospel to people who have never heard of Jesus?  Yes, by all means!  They share the same fate as anyone going into eternity without Jesus. 

There are plenty of parachutes to go around; Jesus can save all who will trust Him so why don’t we share Him more than we do?  Now there’s something to cogitate on.

Thanks, Jack, for allowing me to record our conversation!  It can be seen on my YouTube Channel at https://youtu.be/UwyddPDybPI

Three-part Test of Salvation, Eternal Life, Assurance, Steps or Signs, Righteousness, Love, Faith, Obedience

2/10/20    Adam and Terry   (to see video, click HERE)


If you could design your own test for eternal life, what would it be?  Would you focus on religious acts? spirituality? social action?  Would it be a lifelong project or more like a final exam?  Would it be pass/fail, or graded and, if so, would the grades be based on the percentage of content one has learned  or would it be on a curve or comparison to others?

Two young men, on break from their work at a McDonald’s, told me of their views of eternal life and the tests they feel they must undergo in order to be saved.  The first, Jack, had more of a “final exam” sort of outlook, saying that after he dies he will be brought back to the Garden of Eden to be put to the same sort of test that Adam and Eve initially experienced with the forbidden fruit.

Terry, on the other hand, views all of life as a sort of test where he will ultimately be judged by the religious and good deeds he does in life.  Both Adam and Terry are involved in their churches where I’m pretty sure they regularly hear that Jesus is the one who passed the test, that Jesus died for their sins.  Yet our human tendency to want to somehow prove our worth by passing a test or earning a reward makes the work of Jesus on the cross easy to overlook, especially when asked about one’s hope for salvation so unexpectedly.

The Bible contains many references to tests, but the majority have to do with the development of character and maturity in believers, or a test of the eternal quality of one’s work in serving the Lord.  A few have to do with testing oneself for the purpose of assurance that one is indeed saved.  None say we must first pass a test as many people tend to assume.  The difference has to do with the order in which they happen – must we pass a test first in order to be saved, or do we pass a test because we have already been saved?

Toward the end of his first letter, John wrote of a three-part test for believers to show them they have already been saved.  In 1 John 5:13 he wrote “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 

His was to be a test of confirmation, a test given after the fact to assure one that they had already been saved.  It’s placement in the last chapter of 1 John is significant, because had he placed it in the beginning followed by the three parts to his “test”, readers would tend to think of these parts as “steps” one must take in order to achieve salvation.  Instead, they are signs of the salvation that has already taken place.

And the signs he gives have less to do with our own efforts, and more to do with the presence and work of the Holy Spirit who comes to live in the heart of the believer: 1.) righteousness; 2.) love; and 3.) faith in Jesus. 

1.) Righteousness: Back in I John 1:6, John had written that “If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.”  We live in the light of a right relationship with God and our fellow man not because of any acts of self-righteousness, but the righteousness Jesus gives.

2.) Love:  I John 3:14 tells us “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.”  How can we not love one another when we have experienced the love of God at salvation, and when the love of the Holy Spirit comes to live within us?

3.) Faith in Jesus resulting in obedience:  In 1 John 5:1-2 we read that true faith in Jesus results in obedience: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.”

Do you want assurance of salvation?  Don’t make up your own “test” to pass.  Just take some time to look for these signs of a faith relationship with He who already passed the test for you.

Thanks Adam and Terry, for allowing me to record our conversation!  It can be seen on my Youtube Channel at https://youtu.be/YVPlHdacwEE

Buffet Table, Religious Pluralism, Antagonism For God, Sexual Immorality, Wrath of God, True Love


2/4/20   Semaj,  (see HERE)

It wasn’t until the very end of a rather frustrating conversation when I finally realized what I believe to be the source of that frustration.  I had reached out to initiate a gospel outreach conversation with Semaj, 32, who told me this was his given name and that it is actually James spelled backward.  Perhaps his parents like to defy convention; it certainly seemed to be the case with their approach to religion.  Semaj told me they had raised him without reference to any one religion, but belief in a sort of buffet table mix of spiritual ideas from a variety of religions.

Semaj was very friendly and willing to share his beliefs, which he did with the enthusiasm of someone who is very sure and excited about telling what is very important to them.  I could tell religion is something he has talked about and studied some before reaching his conclusions, so I don’t think he was just ill-informed about Christianity.  I guess what I found frustrating was that he had told me he was agnostic, which I took as open-minded, and that he respects all religions, but I found him to particularly reject the key tenants of Christianity even though it didn’t seem like he should have had motive to do so.

It seemed like Semaj categorically rejected every core belief about God’s existence and character, preferring instead to hold on to beliefs from other religions that preserved his independence from God and his right to do as he pleased.  If there was a question about God’s character, such as why God would be jealous, he chose to make critical, man-centered assumptions.  He would give the benefit of doubt to beliefs from other religions, while biblical Christianity was held to an impossibly high standard for critique.
 
This is not at all unusual, but I can usually tell the source of someone’s antagonism toward God – some foundational belief or sin they want to hold on to that creates a negative filter by which to see all the things of God.  I finally saw what it was just as we about to part ways – Semaj told me he is gay, and involved in a long-term relationship with his boyfriend.  Just as anyone who wants to hold on to a particular sinful habit or lifestyle, I believe Semaj has built up a lifetime of excuses to reject Christianity and try to justify his own behavior as he designed his own belief system from the alternative beliefs available to him.

I told Semaj what this “designer religion” practice is called – idolatry- and how it is possibly the most serious sin described in the Bible because of the way it misrepresents God with a cheap substitute of our own making.  Maybe that’s why we are told to “put to death” sexual sin in particular as described in Colossians 3:5:  “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”  It causes us not only to form untrue images about God but to treat our fleshly desires as more important than our relationship with the true God.

So was I being a “hater” for warning Semaj about his sin of idolatry?  Or was I looking out for his best interest even though he didn’t want to hear it?  I believe that just as a fireman must convince people their building is on fire in order for them to want to evacuate immediately, so the loving but difficult thing we must do is to tell people what they don’t want to hear before it’s too late.  In this case, Paul gave the warning just after that passage in Colossians: “Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.” (vs.6)
 
Semaj gave me the classic complaint given by those involved in sexual sin – “Why would God limit the way I choose to love others?”  God is love, yes, and everyone wants to take heaping portions from that part of the buffet table of religious beliefs and ideas.  But God’s love takes many forms: His love for holiness, His love for purity and right living, and His love for a just punishment for sin included.  I’m glad I was also able to tell Semaj about the love of God expressed in Jesus at the cross, even though Semaj rejected the idea.   Unfortunately, his confusion of physical pleasure for love has him limiting the way God expresses His love too.

‘Thanks Semaj, for allowing me to record our conversation!  It can be seen HERE at https://youtu.be/cQDluClZ_AM

Looking Backward, Living Forward, Random Gunfire, Comfort Zones, Life and Death, Friendly Reminder

1/29/20     Michael  (to see video, click HERE)


We might look back once in a while, but life must be lived forwards.  We can’t be sure of what’s around the next bend on this journey, so we need to be ready to get pulled out of our comfort zones at a moment’s notice.

I walked into a coffeeshop and found a young man, Michael, multitasking on two computer screens, and from the concentrated look on his face I think he was lost in his comfort zone. 

I worked up the courage to interrupt his train of thought. “Excuse me” I said. “I see you are busy and don’t mean to bother you, but sometimes I find people don’t mind taking a break now and then.  I’m wondering if I can record a conversation for my YouTube channel”.
 
I explained that I attend a local church and that I ask people about their beliefs and try to set a good example of positive dialogue with people from a variety of backgrounds and beliefs.  Michael kindly agreed to a conversation and began to clear the table to make room for my camera.  I told him I would begin by asking what he believes happens after we die, followed by other questions about how he arrived at whatever beliefs or doubts he might have.

I turned on my camera and he began to explain some of his thoughts.  After the initial awkwardness of being pulled out of his comfort zone by a stranger making an unusual request, he settled into an explanation about his beliefs, how he was raised in the catholic faith but was having serious doubts.

Just then several gunshots rang out from the street in front of the coffee shop.  We both looked to see a young man ducking and dodging from the shots, then running away down the sidewalk, while a black sedan sped away down a side street. 

In hindsight, there are many things I could have and should have done, but when something so unexpected happens it’s hard to think of all the implications.  We saw the young man run away down the sidewalk, but I didn’t think until later that he still might have been wounded, or that maybe there were bystanders down the street that were hit and needed help. 

What did hit us fairly quickly was how close we had been to a life and death situation, that the young man could have died and if he had run toward us we would have been in the line of fire ourselves.  We turned back to our conversation, shaken up a little bit and commenting on how random life can be.

Our conversation seemed a little more urgent after this, punctuated I think with some of these afterthoughts and realizations, as well as the arrival of the police for questioning witnesses.  Michael did his best to carry on, explaining that he didn’t really think it matters what religion one believes in as long as they do their best to be kind and treat others as they would like to be treated.

I began to ask how he would measure up when judged by biblical standards.  Has he lied?  Stolen?  Hurt others with his words (murder) or lusted in his thoughts (adultery)?  These are all uncomfortable questions if one is being honest, and I believe Michael was honest.  He also honestly but kindly told me this probably wasn’t the best way to make my point, especially with the camera in his face.  Combined with the circumstances and all the distracting thoughts, I wondered if he was right.

But I think there is a point to be made.  Much as churches try to make religion comfortable, the Gospel is meant to challenge us, to pull us out of our comfort zones and encourage us to step out on faith.  Thoughts of “Judgement Day” are meant to alarm us, to let us know we will one day be held accountable, and the randomness of life lets all of us know that today could be that day. 

For many of us, death will come unexpectedly, and we will stand before God’s judgement throne exposed, feeling naked much like Adam and Eve or feeling like all our actions were recorded for the world to see.  We will be forced to look back on our lives without being able to change anything because life must be lived forward. 

And, looking forward, either heaven or hell will await us, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Much as we will want to erase any record of our sins at that time, the only way they might be “erased” will be through forgiveness; not a forgiveness we might earn by good or religious deeds, but by the forgiveness Jesus paid for with his life and which we can receive as a gift through faith.

I hope I don’t have to be this close to life and death again but if I am I hope this incident could help me respond more appropriately the next time.  And I hope for Michael it can be a friendly reminder of the need to prepare for our eternal future as well.

Thanks, Michael, for kindly allowing me to record our conversation.  It can be seen at https://youtu.be/6lCDyH8RyWQ

Bible Doctrine Class, Lesson 3: “The Clarity, Necessity, and Sufficiency of the of the Bible”

Can only Bible scholars understand the Bible rightly? For what purposes is the Bible necessary? Is the Bible enough for knowing what God wants us to think or do? These are three of the most important questions we learn answers to in Lesson 3 of 36 of my Bible Doctrine class: Lesson 3 is titled “The Clarity, Necessity, and Sufficiency of the of the Bible”. Anyone who reads the Bible on a regular basis has begun to develop a “theology” of who God is and what he has revealed of Himself to man down through history. But is it organized to the point where you can confidently say “this is what the Bible teaches” on a particular topic, or do you just base your beliefs on random verses that could well be misunderstood because they are taken out of context? My confidence in going out to share the Gospel with strangers comes largely from my study of “Systematic Theology”, which I’ll define as learning what the whole Bible teaches us about a given topic. I’m confident that I’m not misrepresenting God as revealed in his Word, and I’m confident when people make unbiblical claims about God that challenge my own beliefs. I’m increasingly amazed by the consistency of the Bible, written by so many human authors but without contradiction, that I can only conclude it was written by divine inspiration. I’ve gained so much personally from my systematic study of theology that I’ve decided to teach a 36-week class on it at church, 18 sessions this winter and spring, and 18 sessions next fall. I’m excited to dig deeper personally as I prepare the outlines and lessons, and I want to take as many people along with me on this journey as possible. So I am recording the class and posting the videos to my YouTube channel, and making downloadable PDF chapter outlines and audio recordings available on a Google Drive folder as well. Care to join me? Links to my YouTube channel and shared resources are as follows:
Video: https://youtu.be/Qi-qqreldsg
YouTube Channel: YouTube.com/c/JeffReiman
Shared Resources folder: https://tinyurl.com/yxy2kb56

Problem of Evil, Injustice, Suffering, Greater Good, Righteousness, Working for a More Just Society

1/28/20    Nando  (see video HERE)

If God were to eliminate all the evil and injustice in the world, would he eliminate you too?

I had to ask this question of Nando, a young man I talked with on the sidewalk who gave the injustice of this world as the main reason for his struggles with religious belief.

It’s kind of a logical question and can be a little bit shocking, because I usually find that those people who say they can’t believe in God because of the suffering, evil and injustice in this world, usually haven’t thought through the implications of their question or they truly believe themselves to be somehow above the world and not part of the evil they complain about.

But let’s carry that logic a little further.  Granted, for some reason God allows both evil and good to coexist side by side in this world for a time.  I’ve talked about reasons for this, how a “greater good” is made possible in a context where it is challenged by evil; where courage can only be exercised in the presence of danger; where love can best be demonstrated where sacrifices must be made.

But what about the Kingdom of Heaven?  If heaven is to be the place where evil will no longer be allowed to dwell alongside good, where the powers of darkness won’t be allowed in the kingdom of light, then how could sinful people like ourselves be allowed there also?  Revelations 21:27 tells us “...nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false...”  2 Peter 3:13  says “we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” 

If heaven is a place of righteousness, where nothing unclean can dwell, will our waiting be in vain?  Yet there is hope for us in these verses.  2 Peter, directed toward Christians, says “we are waiting” for a reason.  Rev. 21:27, telling us of the holiness of heaven, went on to say “...but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.”

How can we be made righteous?  How can our names be written in the Lamb’s book of life?  Nando, having just been asked randomly out on the sidewalk, guessed it has something to do with our life choices and whether we treat one another with kindness or not.  He knew it can’t be a conscious tally-point system where our good must stack up against our bad.  But still, bottom line, he believed it to be based on a measure of whether we deserve heaven or not.

But that would not be the way sinners can be made “righteous”.  At best, it would be a way to achieve “self-righteousness”, as if we could save ourselves by our own efforts.  No, this righteousness comes not from ourselves but from God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. (Romans 3:22)  Jesus paid the penalty for our sin, a penalty no righteous act of our own could pay for. 

Because of Jesus, yes, we can have that future hope as we are waiting for the new heaven and earth.  But even here, now, in a world where good and evil must coexist, we need not fear that we ourselves are caught up in evil.  We can be “in the world but not of the world”, part of the solution and not part of the problem.  We can work against evil and for a more just society as we live out Jesus’ prayer “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  When God finally does eliminate the evil and injustice of this world, He won’t have to eliminate us too.

Thanks for allowing me to record our conversation Nando!  It can be seenhttps://youtu.be/EzWp9IN6ly0

Memory for Details, Scripture Memorization, Shortcomings, Spiritual Gifts and God-given Talents

1/27/20      Paul  (to see our conversation, click HERE)


Are you blessed with a memory for details?  I’m not.  So when it comes to scripture memorization and pulling up from memory relevant scripture passages, chapter and verse, it just doesn’t happen for me, even though I’ve memorized dozens if not hundreds of passages at one time or another.

I was painfully reminded of this shortcoming during a conversation with Paul, a fellow believer, who is able to bring up relevant passages rapid-fire during the course of a conversation without blinking an eye.  I’m tempted to think I have no business initiating gospel outreach conversations as I do; maybe I should better spend my time reading and memorizing God’s word first.

After all, God’s word is “...alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  (Heb. 4:12) 

A promise from the Old Testament tells us that just as rain and snow bring life to the earth, “...so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”  (Isaiah 55:11)
If I had the ability, wouldn’t it just be better to go out and quote one Bible passage after another to people, and since I can’t remember them very well shouldn’t I just read them to people directly from the Bible rather than my own lame efforts to communicate its truths?

During our conversation, Paul had so quickly shared so many passages that even though I was familiar them, it was still hard to follow.  I can’t imagine a newcomer to the Bible trying to make sense of hearing Bible passages this way. 

But even though we are told of the tremendous power of God’s Word, we are also cautioned that it makes little sense to unbelievers.  1 Corinthians 2:14 tells us “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”

Even Jesus’ disciples, living in His presence, didn’t really understand His teaching until He visited them after His resurrection where we are told “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”  (Luke 24:45)  Just the same, he had also invested three years walking and talking with them, and earlier that very day on the road to Emaus, “...beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”

So where does that leave me and others like me who have trouble quoting Bible passages as needed?  There are other skills important to teaching the Bible and sharing the Gospel.  Patience.  Kindness.  The ability to be a good listener.  The wisdom of asking good questions and providing good counsel.  The boldness it takes to initiating conversations with a stranger.  The sensitivity to be careful not to “wear out my welcome”.

Later in our conversation, Paul and I talked about how we can better share the Gospel given our relative God-given gifts and talents.  We both agreed of course that it’s much more than just reading or citing the Bible and expecting our listeners to take it all to heart.  They need us to patiently explain it and help them apply it to their lives.  They need evangelists with the heart of a teacher, a counselor and a pastor.

Wonderful to meet you Paul and thanks for allowing me to record our conversation!  It can be seen at https://youtu.be/SgUFKKt9Ly4

School of the Art Institute, Passionate Idealism, Clowns, Practical Reality, Save the World

1/23/20    Justin (to see video, click HERE)



Young people are expected to explore the outer reaches of their creativity and the possibilities of who they can be as independent adults, and this is very much part of the program at Chicago’s School of the Art Institute.  I had an interesting conversation with one of its very passionate students – Justin – recently as I happened upon him on a cold sidewalk.  Justin became so animated and engaged in sharing his ideas about life and the purpose of human existence that he scarcely noticed the cold, while I was freezing and needed to cut our conversation short even though I’m from Minnesota and was better dressed for the weather than he was.

What really warmed him from within out there in the cold was talking about his passion for acting and dressing like a clown, and the sense of freedom from normal human constraints and expectations it gave him.  I found myself reacting like the old fuddy-duds in a commercial I’ve seen recently – “Yes, but what will you do for a living?”

 Justin shared a lot of ideas about how he can help change the world through teaching people to live in the moment with the innocence of a clown.  It all seemed very theoretical and idealistic, and I wondered what that would look like on a practical, daily basis?  Trying out new ideas, coloring outside the lines, experimenting with a different persona – it all might be acceptable among like-minded young people in an idealistic school environment created and paid for by others (or by future debt), but what will it look like in the more practical adult working world?

Since my purpose was to stop and initiate conversations about the Gospel on my way home from work, maybe I need to ask myself some of the same questions.  Is Christianity practical on a daily basis?  Does it help pay the rent, not to mention help change the world?  Am I accomplishing anything by being a “clown” – what Paul referred to as being a “fool for Christ”, or is it all a futile activity only well-to-do people can afford?

I think many young people today are trying to find significance outside of religion because it is increasingly seen as irrelevant, and they are turning to the narrative so popular in the superhero cartoons they were raised with – somehow we need to find a way to “save the world”.  Justin had already tried the “green” route – making a difference through various personal acts to save the environment, and is now moving on to other ideas.

Can the Gospel “save the world”?  I told Justin about a church nearby with a helpful motto hanging on its walls – “The Gospel changes people.  People change the world.”  And that’s been my experience.  The Gospel does indeed change people, beginning with ourselves, and motivates us to go out and change the world in an infinite variety of creative ways depending on the individual set of gifts and talents God has given each of us.  Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us how that change begins in us – through God’s grace and not by our own efforts – and vs. 10 then explains our purpose – “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Justin, passionately creative and idealistic as you are, I’m sorry I let the cold cut our conversation short, but I really would like to tell you more about what it can mean to live in a right relationship with our Creator, and to participate as a significant part of His handiwork.

Thanks Justin, for allowing me to record our conversation!  It can be seen on my YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/3kLLxUcRcso

Pantheism, Golden Rule, Moral Principles, Authority, Ten Commandments



1/22/20          Nate  (to see video, click HERE)


Do you see the “Golden Rule” as your primary standard of morality?

Many people adopt it in place of more specific rules of biblical morality like the Ten Commandments, seeing them as too restrictive or confining.  The Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” – is affirmed by Jesus but is actually quoted from Leviticus 19:18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

Jesus included this scriptural reference as part of his “Sermon on the Mount” – an outline of many principles of morality from the Old Testament.  He framed it as a summary of the “Law and the Prophets”, not as a replacement.  It was meant to be an easily remembered maxim rather than an entire moral code.  Its power comes not from the standard itself but from the authority of the giver of that standard.  In the Old Testament it was quickly followed by the reminder of that authority – “I am the Lord”. 

And in Jesus’ sermon, it was presented with that same authority, for he spoke – “…as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.”   (Matt 7:29)  He didn’t say “Moses taught…” like the Pharisees did, or even “Thus says the Lord” like a prophet did.  He said “I say…” – a very presumptuous statement at the time, setting himself up as equal with God.

So without that authority and without being seen simply as a summary, I wonder whether it is wise to adopt the “Golden Rule” for one’s moral code as so many people I talk with have done, including Nate, a young man I initiated a Gospel conversation with recently at the grocery store.

Nate said he has moved on from the Catholic religion he grew up in to pantheistic belief that God and creation are one and the same.  I asked who, then, establishes a standard of morality, and he pointed to the Golden Rule.

But as a moral code, the Golden Rule leaves a lot to be desired.  If my treatment of others is to be based on what I want for myself, then I am simply imposing my will on others.  If I look past the literal meaning and just assume that it means one should be cognizant of the feelings of others, well, it still requires me to either read their minds or assume I know what is best for them. If they tell me what they truly want, I must assume they will want what is best for them.  Either way, it puts man in the position of determining morality.

Jesus’ version, however, when taken in context of the rest of his teaching, puts God’s law in the position of authority and the standard by which morality is determined.  It summarizes the last six of the Ten Commandments, all of which are concerned with our relationship with our fellow man.  Elsewhere it is presented as second to His first command – “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  which had to do with the first four commandments, all of which are concerned with our relationship with God.

The “Golden Rule” as presented by Jesus needs God’s authority to make sense – for He is our Maker and the only one who truly knows what is best for us and one another.  For those such as Nate who are attracted to the pantheistic notion of being part of “god” themselves, without the context of God’s authority, it might just offer that sense of authority and self-justifying behavior they are looking for.

Thanks, Nate, for allowing me to record our conversation!  It can be see on my YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/IOj8CW8_0mk

God’s Word, Revelation, Reincarnation, Final Judgment, Core Doctrine, Salvation By Works, Grace


1/20/20           Stephen (to see conversation click HERE)


In the last few verses of the last chapter of the last book of the Bible, we find a warning not to add or take away from the words written therein.  It says “If any man shall add unto them, God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book.”

The primary focus of this passage was on the book it was written in – Revelation – but I find its placement at the end of the whole Bible to be no coincidence. It follows a pattern set early in the Bible - that we are not to add nor take away from God’s word. Early in the Bible, in Deuteronomy 4:2, we read “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.”

This makes sense, if the Bible is indeed the “Word of God” as it claims to be.  Who would have the right to add to or diminish God’s Word?  In a sidewalk outreach I met a young man named Stephan who would know this from his strong Bible church background. But Stephan has added some beliefs to his biblical belief in Jesus as Savior in order to accommodate all those people who don’t believe in or know of Jesus.  The way he explains it is that there is a final judgement involving forgiveness for those who trust in Jesus, but in the meantime, Stephan believes there will be the possibility of many reincarnated lives before people get there.

Stephan sort of dismissed Hebrews 9:27 which reads “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment”, even though it would contradict his belief.  In this way he would be “taking away” from God’s word.  And his beliefs in reincarnation and people being forgiven without faith in Jesus aren’t taught in the Bible, so he would in effect be “adding to” the words of the Bible.

I sympathized with Stephan and share his hope that somehow people might be saved even without specific or obvious faith in Jesus, but I would have no right to adopt that belief outside of what Scripture states.  In my experience, every time I have met someone who changes or compromises a core biblical doctrine like this, it has a ripple effect on other doctrines and ultimately leads to great misunderstanding or confusion about the Gospel. 

So I asked Stephan some additional questions about how one might be saved who hasn’t heard of Jesus.  Although he agreed that people are basically sinful at heart and, as he put it, must “learn to be good”, he also stated that if a “righteous man” grows up in a culture with no exposure to Jesus, he still might be saved by somehow miraculously finding out about Jesus or having the righteousness of Christ apply to him regardless that he doesn’t have conscious faith.

I wondered at this and found it to be an attractive, but unbiblical, belief that leads to contradiction with the Bible.  In this case, why is it that a person who has never heard of Jesus must be a “righteous” man in order to be saved regardless?  Isn’t that just a repackaged version of salvation by works? 

Or, put another way, maybe it is true that “good people” can be saved without repentance and faith in Jesus but it is also equally true that there are no “good people”.  We may see people as good by our own standard of comparison, but God in His holiness has a much higher standard.  “All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory”

I worry about the “ripple effect” for Stephen’s beliefs.  If he believes others are saved through being good people despite never hearing of Jesus, would he not have the same belief for himself if he were in their shoes? And wouldn’t he then just be trusting in himself rather than Jesus the same way most unbelievers do?

Let’s be careful, brethren, never to add to or take away from God’s word, lest we too experience the promise given with this warning: that “God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book.”

Thanks, Stephen, for allowing me to record our conversation!  It can be seen at https://youtu.be/Hj3AdUEbFz0

Resistance, Enemy, Alienation, Rebel, Submission, Surrender, Peace


1/5/20 Javier  (see HERE)


What does it mean to “surrender” to God?

To surrender means “to cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority”.  It’s not exactly a positive thought, and it goes against the grain of every freedom-loving person and independent spirit.  Yet that is exactly what God requires of us.


But wait – who exactly is this “enemy” we must submit to?  As believers, we have many enemies – the world, the flesh, the devil, even death itself.  But before we were believers, the enemy was actually God! Colossians 1:21 tells us “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.”  We were rebels, running from God.

But if we are honest we know there is nowhere we can go to hide from God.  Job 34 tells us “His eyes are on the ways of mortals; he sees their every step. There is no deep shadow, no utter darkness, where evildoers can hide.” 

It’s only a matter of time, but sooner or later, we need to surrender.

So I was glad to hear during a conversation with a young man named Javier and Mark, his friend, that about ten years ago he had “surrendered” to God as a result of his sister’s conversion to Christianity and attending her church.  Since then, he has been open to the things of God and particularly enjoys Christian music on the radio and inspirational movies on the Hallmark channel.

But in the ten years since he has moved to Chicago he hasn’t grown in his understanding of the Gospel.  He hasn’t attended church, he hasn’t read the Bible much, and he hasn’t sought out opportunities for growth and fellowship.  Instead, he’s been drifting away from God, to the point where he isn’t sure of salvation.

I think it might have something to do with a misunderstanding of what it means to surrender.
To “surrender” has the connotation of laying down one’s arms, of giving up, of waiting to see what the authority we have surrendered to will do next.  It can lead one to believe we can be passive in our relationship with God, but to truly surrender means we give everything over to God – our hopes and dreams, our work, our health, our relationships, and our energy. We stop living for the devil, yes, but we can’t forget to start living for God.

A slightly different word is used more in the Bible – to “submit” to God, which has a more active connotation, as in James 4:7 “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.”  It is an action, a change of allegiance, a drawing near to God and an active struggle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. 

Romans 8:6-7 contrasts our former life in the flesh with our new life in the Spirit:  “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.

I want to encourage Javier, Mark, and anyone reading this to take a more active role in “surrendering” to God.  To submit every day by prayerfully reading and obeying God’s Word, by active involvement in a local church and otherwise actively pursuing what you can in order to come near to God, and I am confident that He will also come near to you.



Thanks Javier, for allowing me to record our conversation!  It can be viewed on my YouTube Channel at https://youtu.be/IGooUW_dAOs