Tag Archives: heart

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

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

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.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

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

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What Do Bob Newhart and Jesus and Nathan the Prophet All Have in Common?


Comedian Bob Newhart reminds me a lot of Jesus. Okay so Jesus didn’t perform stand up comedy, or star in hilarious TV sitcoms, though I believe Jesus was funnier than he is portrayed by all those deadly serious British actors. Nor did Bob Newhart change the world. But I digress.

Bob Newhart and Jesus were both great story tellers. In the original Bob Newhart Show Bob played a psychologist who stammered through the surreal situations his crazy patients and friends drew him into. His solutions to their problems usually came in the form of a story. “Emily,” he would say to Suzanne Pleshette, who played his wife Emily, “that reminds me of a story.”

Jesus did likewise. And the prophet Nathan did too when approaching David with the truth about David’s sin. Why?

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 Samuel 12:1-31

John 16:1-33

Psalm 119:65-80

Proverbs 16:4-5

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

2 Samuel 12:1-31: God is never without a voice. He always has someone he can call on. Nathan only shows up here and in the early part of 1 Kings. And he is called on in extremely difficult situations.

David and Bathsheba’s child dies despite the baby’s innocence and David’s repentance, fasting, and prayer. This seems unfair and even cruel. But in order to honor the freedom God grants each of us, God cannot subvert or remove the consequences of those very free choices. David chose his course and God did not alter it.

John 16:1-33: One core idea of this passage contradicts some tenants of a wide stream of modern Christianity. Jesus tells us that following him will bring us trouble and persecution. Yet many today seem to believe in a Jesus whose sole job is to make them happy and keep them safe (in the U.S. we have transferred much of this belief to our government). Jesus promises us both peace and trouble. Seeking only half the equation means we may only get half of Jesus.

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.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

For the majority of human history story (factual and fictional) has  functioned as the major way we communicate truth and important ideas with one another.  As I wrote in yesterday’s blog, Scripture itself is 75-80% narrative. Even in today’s rational, scientific, “just the facts, ma’am” world, ideas (good and bad ones) are often more effectively communicated through story than any other medium.

For example, several scholars wrote tomes containing the questionable idea that Jesus did not die on the cross and after waking up may have married Mary Magdalene. But no one paid attention until Dan Brown’s novel “The Da Vinci Code” hit the book stores. Even in our biblically illiterate world, the best known Bible stories are the ones that have been made into movies and books. Story, though much maligned, especially in Christian circles, is and has been an extremely powerful communication tool.

This is why Bob Newhart and Jesus told so many stories and why Nathan confronted David about his dangerous moral failure using fiction.

Notice how Nathan’s story contains elements David’s relates to. David too was an underdog and a shepherd. On hearing the story, David relates and his newly hardened heart is cracked wide open.

Story simultaneously knocks down our defenses and invites us in to the process of change and growth. Had Nathan come to David with bold, only factual accusations, he may not have lived to help David repent. Nathan’s little lamb story also reached David’s emotions and not just his head. It is always harder to deny and debate feelings What we call facts are always debatable. Stories travel that long road between the head and heart faster.

God too is a storyteller. It is his surest way of reaching our heads and hearts. Below are a couple of questions to help you explore the stories God may be using to form you.

  1. What biblical story has made the biggest impact on you?
  2. What is your story?

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

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