Tag Archives: atheism

Imagine There’s No Heaven

Some people imagine that belief in God is at best delusional and at worst dangerous. The late John Lennon seemed to fall into the former group. He asked us to, “Imagine there’s no heaven.” The once mighty Soviet Union fell into the latter group. She arrayed her armies, governments, media, school system and very culture against belief in a loving God. In the Soviet Union anyone who believed in God was no better than an opium addict, a delusional, destructive and dangerous drain on society. Special units of the police searched out Christians and imprisoned or murdered them; they banned and burned Bibles and required children to attend classes which preached against the existence of God. In the U.S.S.R. belief in God was outlawed.

Like the people described in Revelation, they seemed to hope that the mountains would fall on them and hide them “from the face of him who sits on the throne.” Yet, is there anything in the universe tenacious enough–including a vivid imagination–to keep God’s love at bay?

What is it in your life or your part of the world that attempts to keep God’s love at bay, that bans belief?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Micah 1:1-4:13

Revelation 6:1-17

Psalm 134:1-3

Proverbs 30:1-4

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.


Irina Ratushinskaya, Christian poet and Russian dissident

School-girl Irina Ratushinskaya, grew up in the U.S.S.R. when belief in God was against the law. Yet she could not imagine there was no God. Sitting through one of her required anti-God courses, Irina began to think, “There must be a God. Otherwise they wouldn’t tell us over and over that there is no God.” To find out for herself Irina Ratushinskaya began to pray and the outlaw God answered her–first through a freak snow storm and then through the writings of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Years after that initial prayer, Irina Ratushinskaya saw her first Bible. Upon reading it she made another discovery. “Then I realized that I was a Christian,” she says. Irina Ratushinskaya became a world-renowned poet and was convinced of the reality of the love of Jesus Christ despite being raised in a country in which it was illegal to believe.

Let me ask again. Is there anything in the universe tenacious enough to keep God’s love at bay? Yes, there is, though the Soviet Union failed to do so.

Madalyn Murray O’Hair was born in the United States where no laws or armies prevent belief in God. Just the opposite. God’s name is stamped on our currency. Crosses, the ultimate symbol of God’s love, stand tall in every American city.  Word of the unconditional love of Jesus Christ is available on any street corner, radio or television. Freedom to believe in God, or not, is a sacred right for all Americans.

Madalyn Murray O’Hair imagined, no, fiercely believed, there was no God and spent her life crusading against belief in the same God the U.S.S.R. failed to eliminate. She pleaded her case of unbelief all the way to the Supreme Court and was instrumental in having prayer removed from public schools. Forming an organization named the American Atheists, Madalyn Murray O’Hair litigated, cussed, fought and debated her way through thirty years of disbelief. Seemingly, Madalyn Murray O’Hair had the mirror opposite experience of Irina Ratushinskaya. As if she had said, “They talk about God so much, surely there must be no such Person.”

Tragically, Madalyn Murray O’Hair was robbed and murdered in 1995, along with her son, Jon and granddaughter, Robin, by an estranged employee and member of American Atheists. To pay her back taxes the IRS auctioned off her journals. Of all the insights those journals held into “the most hated woman in America,” as she called herself, the most revealing was how she repeated one phrase at least a half-dozen times. Though Madalyn Murray O’Hair was surrounded by belief in God, she remained impervious to God’s love. In her journals she cried out, “Somebody, somewhere, love me.”

Again, is there anything, anywhere tenacious enough to keep God’s love at bay? Yes–a hardened human heart. No lack of desire, effort or power on God’s part kept the echo of his answer, “Madalyn, I love you” from reaching her ears. God’s respect for human freedom and dignity gave Madalyn Murray O’Hair the power to ignore his love.

Someone once said, “You can lead a horse to water; but even God won’t make it drink.”

So it is with each of us.

One ancient struggler, Paul, wrote, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing can separate us from God’s love! But we can refuse love’s entry to our hearts. Our hearts accommodate love (Jesus Christ himself) only where hate, fear and self-centeredness have fled. Like dogs on a tether we race, yapping in our assumed freedom, only to be yanked back, imprisoned by the measure of a heart not yielded to God.

“Somebody, somewhere, love me.”

Finally, is anything tenacious enough to keep God’s love at bay? Your heart, and my heart, hardened by the cares of this age, can and do. Yet the Gentleman God placed himself on the cross with his arms spread in an eternal embrace. “Come to me,” he said, “all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com


Filed under Uncategorized

Why I Believe In Jesus (And It’s Better Than Proving The Shroud Of Turin!)

Although it’s origins and history are shrouded in mystery, the first historical acknowledgment of the Shroud of Turin dates back to 1390. Previous to that date, stories floated around medieval society that the burial cloth of Jesus existed. In fact, Byzantine emperors prior to 1204 claimed to own a burial cloth that was reputedly placed on Jesus at his burial.

Interestingly enough, seven churches in Europe claim to own the original burial cloth, although the largest following claim their devotion to the shroud in Turin, Italy—and for good reason. The following marks appear on the cloth:

  • One wrist (the other is hidden) bears a large, round wound, that appears to result from being pierced.
  • An upward gouge in the body’s side consistent with a wound from a spear.
  • Small punctures around the forehead and scalp.
  • Scores of linear wounds on the torso and legs. Proponents claim that the wounds are consistent with the distinctive dumbbell wounds of a Roman flagrum.
  • Swelling of the face from severe beatings.
  • Streams of blood down both arms. Proponents claim that the blood drippings from the main flow occurred in response to gravity at an angle that would occur during crucifixion.
  • No evidence of either leg being fractured.
  • Large puncture wounds in the feet as if pierced by a single spike.

On the other hand, radiocarbon analysis by a team of researchers in 1988 concluded with 95% certainty that the material in the shroud was dated between 1260-1390 AD, which, ironically (or not so ironically) coincides with the earliest historical record.

Yet, among the plethora of tests, one test was conducted on dirt particles extracted from the shroud which were identical with samples of limestone from an old Jerusalem tomb.

While the Shroud of Turin offers intriguing evidence concerning the existence of Christ, even stronger evidence exists.

Please join us in our daily Bible conversation to discover what it is.


Daniel 7:1-28
1 John 1:1-10
Psalm 119:153-176
Proverbs 28:23-24


Daniel 7:1-28. This chapter begins a series of intense visions Daniel received. Most scholars believe this vision regarding the four kingdoms was fulfilled in Daniel’s day, culminating with the Roman empire.

1 John 1:1-10. Unlike most New Testament letters, the author of 1 John isn’t named, although early church fathers like Irenaeus (c. A.D. 140-203) and Clement of Alexandria (A.D.150-215) identify John as the writer.

The Apostle John was nearing the end of his life. Many of his fellow disciples had already died and he had already written the gospel of John. As the church continued to grow, John became increasingly concerned about the prevalence of Gnostic teaching in the church. Gnosticism teaches that the spirit is entirely good and the body is entirely evil. As a result, Gnostics taught that Jesus never appeared in bodily form—he was more like ghost. Gnostics worked out this belief in two conflicting ways:

  1. They must punish the body and adopt ascetic practices to keep the body under control. Paul addresses this in Colossians (see Colossians 2:21); or
  2. Since the body was already out of control and separate from the spirit, they could live any way they liked without any repercussions.

This second alternative was John’s concern in his epistle. John’s opening words about seeing and touching Jesus were mentioned to prove that Jesus is both divine and human.

Proverbs 28:23-24. “He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue” (Proverbs 28:23). In the end, honesty in relationships trumps niceness and saying nothing at all. Telling people what they want to hear and protecting them from the painful truth isn’t love, it’s self-protection on our part. Of course, we can also beat people up with the truth, which is why it’s important to be cognizant of timing and speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends! Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: http://www.bibleconversation.com.


Two thousand years after Jesus walked the earth, it’s easy to question not just the divinity of Jesus, but his existence as well. Years ago while reconstructing my faith, I searched for evidence that would prove once and for all Jesus’ existence and divinity.

During my search, I realized that if I had indisputable evidence, I would no longer need faith—and without faith, it’s impossible to please God. That doesn’t mean we shut off our brains in order to follow Christ, but it does mean that all the evidence will likely never line up in a way that provides irrefutable proof…and that’s okay.

However, 1 John 1:1–4 gives me evidence that is more compelling than the Shroud of Turin:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.  (italics added).

How could John articulate  this any more clearly? This is the Klassen paraphrase of John’s words: Believe me! I saw Jesus with my own eyes. I touched him with my own hands. And I’m telling you these words so you will believe me and enter into a relationship with God’s son Jesus Christ. I write this to you because if I don’t, I’ll explode!

As I mentioned in Insights and Explanations, John’s epistle was validated by other early church fathers within a generation of being written. Although penned 1900 years ago, evidence overwhelmingly proves that a man named John wrote an epistle we call 1 John.

That evidence by itself is fairly convincing. But consider Peter’s words in 2 Peter 1:16–18:

We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. (italics added)

Peter basically sends the same message as John: Don’t tell us Jesus didn’t exist and don’t tell us he was simply a good man. We are eyewitnesses to the existence of a man who was unlike any other man.

And who were Jesus’ two closest friends? John and Peter!

But last of all, why would these two men risk their lives for a lie? History tells us they existed. Peter was reputedly crucified upside-down and John was exiled to the island of Patmos because they claimed Jesus was more than a good man. They claimed he was the unique son of God who rose from the dead.

For me the evidence is more than compelling. It convinces me that two thousand years ago, a child was born in Bethlehem. He grew up in Nazareth, proved his authority as God’s son by working miracles (see Hebrews 2:3–4) and then offered himself as our sacrificial lamb by being crucified on the cross. Then he conquered death and hell by rising from the dead.

Evidence like this compels me to not only believe in him, but it compels me to live for him as well


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. If you believed with all your heart that Jesus lived, died, and rose from the dead for you, how would it affect the way you live? Are you living what you believe?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.


Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Are You a Christian Atheist?

I grew up in a family that didn’t believe in God. But we weren’t atheists. That’s not what I mean by the word “believe.” We simply never talked or thought about God. If we had talked about God, I imagine all of us would have said there was such a thing as God. I know I would have.

But, again, God never came up. Instead we rode our horses on Saturdays and Sundays (Boy, was that fun. I remember going to worship twice. Boy, that was not fun) and the rest of the week my mom and dad worked, we went to school, played, tried to avoid chores and homework, and paid less attention to God than the air we breathed. Is that what it means to believe?

Craig Groeschel, the pastor of the church (Lifechurch.tv) my oldest daughter is involved in, explores that very question in his book “The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living as if He Doesn’t Exist.” Today we’ll ask the same question: what does it mean to believe?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

2 Chronicles 17-18:34

Romans 9:25-10:13

Psalm 20:1-9

Proverbs 20:2-3


2 Chronicles 17-18:34: Ahab asks 400 prophets if he should go to war. Somehow Jehosaphat knows they are not telling the truth but only saying what Ahab wants them to say. Michiah says he will only say what God tells him and then, presumably in fear for his life, backs down and says what Ahab wants to hear. But Ahab knows he is lying.

Most of the time we know the hard truths God wants us to live by. We just hope others will tell us the opposite in order to ease our minds.

Proverbs 20:2-3: In the time the book of Proverbs was written–and more so–the time in which proverbs were developed–few people were able to read or write. It was a time of oral communication. Therefore, these “wisdom sayings” that were to be applied to everyday life, were formulated in such a way that those who were not literate could memorize them and readily use them. They were to be carried in our minds and hearts constantly.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.


Is believing in God more than intellectual assent? More than knowing certain ideas about God? Paul, in this section of his letter to the believers in Rome, seems to indicate so. “For it is with your heart you believe and are justified,” he writes.

Yes, intellectually understanding that Jesus was crucified, dead, buried and resurrected is an essential ingredient to belief. But Paul says that we believe this information with more than our minds. Our hearts are crucial.

In Paul’s day reference to the heart, however, did not indicate emotions only. “Follow your heart,” we say today. By which we mean, “Follow your gut feelings. Don’t let your mind talk you out of it.”

Heart meant center. The center of ancient Greek cities was called the cardia, the heart. The Cardia is where people gathered, where the theater, the temple, the market, the government, and the businesses were located. All life emanated from this center.

Thus, Paul expects belief in Jesus to emanate from the center of each of us. The heart in this ancient understanding then is the place where intellect, emotion, and volition combine. Paul thinks belief in Jesus comes from, and moreover impacts, a combination of our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Like the cardia in those ancient cities, our heart belief in Jesus should influence our relationships, entertainment, spirituality, shopping, politics, and work.

Sadly modern belief in God is largely relegated to intellectual assent. Around 90% of Americans say they believe in God, which means, like the family of my childhood, they think there is such a thing as God. But this idea of a God has little significance in life.

This anemic definition of “belief” is not restricted to God, however. People say they “believe” in UFOs, ghosts, chocolate, and life after death. Yet, for most, these beliefs change nothing, unless you glimpse a strange light in the sky, are alone in a dark, creaking house, or live next to a Chocolate Factory. But God is more than a ghost or ticket to the afterlife.

I must confess I often exist as if God doesn’t. And it’s my job to believe. Still I worry, thinking it (whatever it is) all depends on me; fear too often rules my mind and heart; I can spend an entire day and rarely let the thought of Jesus cross my mind. Yet, I yearn for a relationship with Jesus that is as real as I have with my wife, children, and friends. By God’s grace that kind of belief/relationship does come. When it does, it is because my whole self believes: mind, heart, and soul. In these times, Jesus ceases to be an idea to think about, or a historical figure to argue over, and becomes One living in me and walking alongside me. Then my worries and fears flea. And I find myself, like some crazy man, talking to Someone no one else can see. And I smile, because suddenly I know I believe.

  1. Have you ever acted like a Christian Atheist? If so how?
  2. How do these four reading connect?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The New Old Atheism

Watching the news reports of relief efforts in Haiti, I couldn’t help noticing the prevalence of Christian ministries. They’re everywhere. And they didn’t just arrive, they were assisting Haitians before the earthquake.

But strangely missing from the news reports is any mention of atheist relief efforts. Assuredly (and thankfully), atheists have been contributing, but were they helping the people in Haiti before the earthquake?

Contrary to recent surveys that indicate the percentage of atheists have remained the same (at 4%), atheism is in vogue. But you may be surprised to discover that atheism isn’t a new idea. It’s been around for centuries.

In our reading this morning, we’ll look at what Scripture says about the new old atheism.

Sorry for the delay in posting today’s installment—WordPress gave me problems putting my post online.


Genesis 32:13-34:31
Matthew 11:7-30
Psalm 14:1-7
Proverbs 3:19-20


Genesis 32:13-21. The Bible Background Commentary adds some interesting observations regarding Jacob’s preparation: “Jacob’s gifts to Esau demonstrate that he is as shrewd as ever. Besides being an attempt to gain Esau’s favor through generosity, the continuous arrival of the herds of animals will wear out any schemes for ambush and deflate any degree of military readiness that Esau might be planning in his encounter with Jacob. Additionally, traveling with the animals will slow Esau down and make his company much noisier. Finally, the plan adds Jacob’s servants to Esau’s retinue—a decided advantage if there is to be fighting.”

Genesis 32:22-32. E.M. Bounds, who wrote some very inspiring books on prayer, once wrote about this passage: “Prayer in its highest form and grandest success assumes the attitude of a wrestler with God. It is the contest, trial, and victory of faith; a victory not secured from an enemy, but from him who tries our faith that he may enlarge it; that tests our strength to make us stronger.”

Genesis 32:29. Notice that the person with whom Jacob is fighting doesn’t answer Jacob’s question about his name. In the Old Testament, God’s name is never spoken—partly because in that culture, knowing a person’s name gave a sense of mastery over the person.

Genesis 33:2. Notice that Jacob places Leah (his unloved wife) ahead of Rachel and him. If the family was attacked, Leah would have suffered first.

Genesis 33:4. Put your self in Jacob’s shoes (sandals?). You bow down to honor the brother you deceived (and fear), and he starts running toward you. What would be running through your head? I’d be terrified.

Genesis 33:10. I love this line. The night before, Jacob wrestles with God and names the place Peniel, which means “face of God.” Then he looks at his brother Easu and says, “For to see your face is like seeing the face of God.”

Genesis 34:9. Remember, Abraham was adamant that their clan avoid marrying Canaanites. By intermarrying with the locals, their clan would be absorbed into the surrounding culture and the blessing would be lost.

Matthew 11:28-30. I love what the New Bible Commentary says about this passage: “A yoke was intended to ease the discomfort in carrying a heavy load. But it also symbolized obedience and the acceptance of responsibility. The rabbis often spoke of taking on ‘the yoke of the Law’, and under their direction that burden could become heavy. Jesus’ yoke, by contrast, is easy, not because his call to discipleship is less demanding…but because it makes us pupils of one who is gentle and humble in heart.”


The beginning of Psalm 14 is pretty direct:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.

Reading this Scripture today, I realized that atheism isn’t new. It dates back thousands of years.

But the deeper realization that occurred to me was the outcome of atheism: “They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.”

Obviously, the vast, vast majority of atheists aren’t criminal reprobates. In fact, atheists can do very good things.

But I’ve always wondered: who or what serves as their reference of authority?

As a follower of Jesus, I seek to live in a way that reflects the way he lived. Unfortunately, other followers of Jesus have committed some pretty atrocious acts that don’t reflect Jesus. They can also treat atheists in ways that embarrass me.

And, I continue to fall short in my attitudes, thoughts, and behavior. Nevertheless,  Scripture—with the conviction of the Holy Spirit—acts as a restraint on evil and corruption.

But what acts as a restraint on atheists? If every person is “the measure of all things,” then everyone is free to live as they please. What do you call a group of people who do whatever they want without regard to a higher authority? Chaos.


  1. Have you ever wrestled with God? What was the outcome? Were you changed? Did the wrestling match leave you walking with a limp?
  2. Describe a time when someone showered you with forgiveness like Esau did to Jacob.
  3. Read Matthew 11:12. What does this say about the kingdom of heaven?
  4. What kind of yokes do people take on that don’t come from Jesus?



Filed under Uncategorized