5 Things You Didn’t Know About Thanksgiving

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On this Thanksgiving episode:

Nate, Gene, and Logan share what they’re thankful for this year (:28)
Nate officially welcomes Gene and Logan (9:40)
Gene looks at mercy and wrath in the latest “The Walking Dead” (11:32)
5 Things You Didn’t Know About Thanksgiving (19:58)

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Ep. 118: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Thanksgiving

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“Day by Day” by Citizens is used with permission. Check out their website: wearecitizens.net

2 Thoughts for Those Waiting to Get Into Ministry

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Transcript: Welcome friends! It’s time for another episode of A Clear Lens Podcast! My name is Nate Sala, and I’m glad you’re listening. If you are feeling frustrated, perhaps impatient, because you have the desire to serve God (whether that be through evangelism or apologetics or other means) but it seems like things are just not happening, there is no opportunity for you, then I want you to listen to this message, and I hope it encourages you.

I was chatting with a friend of mine who has the strong desire to serve full time in ministry, but he’s not quite sure how that should all play out. He’s got a full time job right now, a wife, and kids, and obviously whatever he decides will affect his family, especially if they have to relocate. I mean, he is actually talking about leaving the country for missions, but in the meantime what he’s doing is serving here locally in Las Vegas, when he can, and just praying and asking God for wisdom and clarity on a clear path for ministry.

There were two things that I told my friend, and I would argue that these two pieces go together; they’re like two sides of the same coin. Okay? The first thing I told my friend was: “The servant of God matters just as much as the service to God.”

We Christians are characterized as being the Body of Christ. And there are different parts of the body that we all represent, like someone is a hand, another one is an arm, Logan is the hair. We all, as Peter said, use our gifts to serve one another, to serve the same body. But we bring more to the service table than our mere gifts. We also bring our baggage. And I’ve seen more missteps arise out of thinking only in terms of our gifting and ignoring our baggage.

When I was saved in 2009, I remember immediately sensing an overwhelming desire to help my brothers and sisters. From my perspective, I saw an intellectually weak church in need of evangelistic training in the 21st century. And I remember feeling so protective of them, like I needed to take the church under my wing and care for them. So I started reading some apologetics books. Again, this was almost 10 years ago now. But you know what? God didn’t put me on stage right away. As a matter of fact, the first time I had the opportunity to speak at a youth group was 3 years later.

Now, some people might get frustrated in that time of waiting. Because the desire is real, ladies and gentlemen. The burden that God places on your heart, however that may be expressed in service, can even be overwhelming at times! I had a lot of nights where I laid awake staring at the ceiling just asking God when will I be able to help? How much longer must I wait? I know friends of mine who’ve gotten so frustrated with the waiting that they’ve jumped ahead of God’s timing. That’s a big mistake. And I know others who’ve gotten so tired of waiting that they have given up altogether.

I realize, now looking back, one of the reasons I had to wait so long was: my pride needed to be dealt with. See, before I was saved, I was someone who was very proud to say: I don’t suffer fools gladly. And I loved to tear people apart with my words and my quick wit. Because what was most important to me was appearing smarter than everyone in the room. It gave me so much pleasure and delight to dress someone down, especially in front of others, to just get that last zinger in, and then watch them get flustered and stumble and back their way out of the conversation. If I perceived ignorance, I had zero charity, zero grace.

But then one day, God gave me His grace and He saved me, in spite of my deep, ugly pride and all the rest of my detestable sins. He chose me and gave me grace. The desire to help my brothers and sisters immediately dropped on my shoulders, I sensed it right away. But the opportunity to do something about it did not come. That’s because my lessons in grace and true humility were still yet to take place. Now, imagine if God had immediately put a prideful person like myself in a position of influence to train Christians. I was nowhere near prepared on a spiritual level to be in that kind of position. My ego and pride would have ruined everything!

So God spent years and years working on me. As a matter of fact, even after I spoke to that youth group, I didn’t get another opportunity to do something like that again for another five years. But here’s the thing I learned in the process: “The servant OF God matters just as much as the service TO God.” And there are no shortcuts to this preparation process!

A.H. Strong tells a story about an impatient student. So the story goes, the student approached the President of the school and asked him if he could take a shorter class than the one offered. The President said, “Oh yes, you can! But it depends on what you want to be. See when God wants to make an oak, He takes a hundred years. But when He wants to make a squash, He takes six months.”

I’ll say it again, friends: “The servant of God matters just as much as the service to God.”

Okay, then, so God makes us wait. And He prepares us for service before He sends us. I see now that God made me wait so long because He was dealing with my pride. But in that waiting period, I was not idle. And that brings me to the second thing I told my friend: “As you wait on God, He develops in you what He wants to say through you.”

Friends, I started A Clear Lens as a personal blog back in 2013. By then, I had been studying theology and apologetics for about four years. But if I’m being completely transparent with you, I had nothing unique to say. If you go back to those first few posts (and you can if you do a deep enough search) I was simply parroting well known apologists, like William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland and Greg Koukl. I mean, those were the guys I read constantly, so of course I just regurgitated what they said.

I didn’t understand yet what this ministry could become or how A Clear Lens would be able to train up Christians to effectively communicate in today’s culture. The only thing I understood was: I was about to become a teacher. That’s what God was doing in my immediate circumstances, at the time. Now, the desires of my heart hadn’t changed in the slightest! I still wanted to help my brothers and sisters, and I had no idea how becoming a public high school teacher would fit into all of that, but I just did it anyway. God gave me the opportunity and I put 100% of myself into teaching. And here’s what happened, I started engaging with all kinds of students: gang members, juvenile delinquents, disabled, behavioral issues, mental issues, skeptics, atheists, buddhists. I watched a lot of them walk into my classroom completely checked out, didn’t want to hear what I had to teach. And I had to learn how to get them engaged with my lessons. And over the years, trying different methods and failing, and then going back into the Gospels and studying how Jesus taught and engaged His audiences, I finally learned how to get difficult people engaged with what I wanted.

And then bingo! That’s when I finally had something to say. The moment I figured that out, God put me back in front of different audiences — teaching First Date Evangelism. And the opportunities have not stopped since.

So if you have certain desires that you know God has burdened you with, but it seems like nothing is happening at the moment — let me encourage you with two truths! “The servant OF God matters just as much as the service TO God,” andAs you wait on God, He develops in you what He wants to say through you.”

So be encouraged friends! Be patient. Trust God and be diligent with every single thing that He places in front of you.

Ep. 117: How to Talk to a Non-Believer About Sin

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On this episode:

Nate shares 2 thoughts for those waiting to get into ministry (:29)
Nate welcomes Logan (10:22)
Logan analyzes the culture’s reaction to the death of Stan Lee (13:41)
How to Talk to a Non-Believer About Sin (24:42)

Sign up for our unique newsletter that contains material only for subscribers at (www.clearlens.org)! Also, if you get a chance, subscribe and rate us on iTunes! It’s quick and easy and helps us get our show out to more listeners.

Ep. 117: How to Talk to a Non-Believer About Sin

To download this episode, right-click here.

 

 

 

 

“Day by Day” by Citizens is used with permission. Check out their website: wearecitizens.net

What Does the Bible Say About Grace?

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Far too often, most of us get swept up in the activities and news of the day that it’s easy to become cynical. Through our television sets we’re bombarded by pundits who do little more than yell at one another and our social media news-feeds are weighed down by name-calling and character assassinations. As the holidays approach, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the importance of grace in each of our lives.

Contemplating Grace

I was going to write a quick piece on the biblical idea of thankfulness in light of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. I decided to shelve that idea once I read a great piece by political pundit, David French called, “The Dan Crenshaw Moment – There’s a market for grace in American politics”.

Last weekend, Saturday Night Live star, Pete Davidson made a wisecrack about the fact Dan Crenshaw, a man running for Congress and a military vet, lost an eye. A massive controversy ensued and some even called for Davidson’s job. Imagine everyone’s surprise when Crenshaw was invited onto Saturday Night Live and not only openly accepted Davidson’s apology, but took it a step farther and called for Americans to forgive one another, prompting French to write his article for National Review.

Grace is a Vast Subject

A lot can be said about the subject of grace. Entire books have been written on the subject and it would be nearly impossible to tackle such a massive theological concept in a short piece.

For example, grace is one of the pivotal aspects of the Reformation. “Sola Gratia” or, “Grace Alone” is one of the “Five Solas” that were to summarize the Reformer’s basic beliefs. It stated that salvation was by the grace and goodwill of God without merit from the sinner.

What is Grace?

Quite simply, as GotQuentions.org expertly puts it,  “God shows both mercy and grace, but they are not the same. Mercy withholds a punishment we deserve; grace gives a blessing we don’t deserve.”  

Grace is Foundational

Stuart McAlpine notes in his lecture for the C.S. Lewis Institute about the Grace of God that, “…the whole of the Christian faith is wrapped up in it.” From clothing Adam and Eve in animal skins to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Bible resonates with God’s unmerited grace.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 2: 8-9 that, “For by grace have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

GotQuestions.org goes farther and says that:

“The only way any of us can enter into a relationship with God is because of His grace toward us. Grace began in the Garden of Eden when God killed an animal to cover the sin of Adam and Eve. He could have killed the first humans right then for their disobedience. But rather than destroy them, He chose to make a way for them to be right with Him.”

Growing in Grace

 

I once said in my piece on forgiveness, we too often wait for someone who has wronged us to do something in order to deserve our forgiveness. The same can be said about extending grace to others as God extended it to us.

Often, we ration our grace to those we deem “worthy” of it. Yet, if we took the time to ask ourselves did we deserve the grace the Lord clothed us with, we’d be reminded that we do not. Scripture reminds us that all of us have fallen short (Romans 3:23). Just as we are in desperate need of God’s grace, there are people all around us who could benefit from being shown the grace that the Lord has shown us. Grace doesn’t start with them. It starts with each of us.

 

Ep. 116: What’s the Church’s Problem with LGBT Theology?

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On this episode:

Nate shares a couple of important thoughts for Christian voters (:29)
Nate welcomes Gene and Logan (10:24)
Gene breaks down the worldview of “Jesus At the Polls” (12:08)
What’s the Church’s Problem with LGBT Theology? (19:14)

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Ep. 116: What’s the Church’s Problem with LGBT Theology?

To download this episode, right-click here.

 

 

 

 

“Day by Day” by Citizens is used with permission. Check out their website: wearecitizens.net

A Guide to Purposeful Conversations

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Much of the bad communication we see online as well as in person could be improved by asking a simple question: “What is my purpose in saying this?”

Book Review: Our Hands Are Stained with Blood by Dr. Michael Brown

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“There is an unnerving trend toward a renewed anti-Semitic spirit, even among Christians, not only in the United States but worldwide”

Dr. Michael Brown warns in his book, “Our Hands Are Stained with Blood: The Tragic Story of the “Church” and the Jewish People”. After the tragedy that took place at the Tree of Life Synagogue this past Saturday, I recalled those words written by the man who is often described as the world’s foremost Messianic Jewish apologist and was once again reminded of how right he was.

News That Hit Close To Home

As I’ve stated many times here on A Clear Lens, I attend a Messianic Congregation. It was the historicity of the Gospel that led me on my journey into apologetics and ultimately, dedicating my life to Christ. It was important to me to find a church that was as close to the Christianity taught by the Apostle Paul as I could possibly get. Because Christianity was first a sect of Judaism, I looked to find a church environment that reflected that First Century spirit and was reinforced by sound, theological teaching.

When the details of Saturday’s mass-shooting rolled in, I struggled to find the right words. What could I say that would ease the heartache felt by so many across the country? Moreover, what could I say to my Jewish friends or my Jewish brothers and sisters with whom I attend Saturday services?

Words failed me. I was heartbroken. I tried to find a way to turn my sadness into something useful and the only thing I could think of was to revisit a book I read about a year ago from Dr. Michael Brown, “Our Hands Are Stained with Blood: The Tragic Story of the “Church” and the Jewish People” . Perhaps, in talking about it here (in some small way) I can make a dent in the monster that is anti-Semitism.

Buried History

Dr. Brown points out:

“In the words of Catholic scholar Edward Flannery:

The vast majority of Christians, even well educated, are all but totally ignorant of what happened to Jews in history and of the culpable involvement of the Church…It is of little exaggeration to state that those pages of history Jews have committed to memory are the very ones that have been torn from Christian (and secular) history books”

Dr. Brown’s book on that forgotten history isn’t terribly new. It was first published in 1992.  Admittedly, the book is emotionally difficult to get through. There are times I wanted to put the book down and walk away. Before I read this book, I thought I understood the depths of human depravity, but I was wrong.

Dr. Brown lists in specific detail, the horrors that Jewish communities faced in Europe throughout the centuries. Such as:

“In Prague, in 1389, the Jewish community was collectively accused of attacking a monk carrying a wafer. Large mobs of Christians surrounded the Jewish neighborhood and offered the Jews the choice of baptism or death. Refusing to be baptized, three thousand Jews were murdered.”

Or, “In 1243…[Berlin’s] entire Jewish community was burned alive for allegedly torturing a wafer…” 

“April 26, 1343. A ritual murder accusation is raised against the Jews of Germersheim, Germany. Thereupon, the town’s whole Jewish community is burned at the stake.”

Dr. Brown makes it clear that those who committed these heinous acts were Christian in name only. However, he rightly points out that sadly, many who think of themselves as Christians today, believe insidious anti-Semitic lies. As such, he does an incredible job of breaking down those lies and exposing them for the repugnant nonsense they are with both secular facts and biblical text.

Finding A Way Forward

The only way we can combat the lies is by learning the truth. Study history and in particular, church history… even the dark and ugly parts. I can’t stress enough how much I recommend “Our Hands Are Stained with Blood.” 

It is a difficult book to read on an emotional level but it is very informative. In light of the murders in Pittsburgh, the church should soberly look at its own history and come to terms with it. We shouldn’t bury that ugly part of our history. Only by exposing it can we truly find a way forward.

In the words of Dr. Michael Brown:

“The Church still owes the Jews the actual proof of Christianity’s truth. Is it surprising that the Jewish people are such an insensitive and barren field for the Gospel? The Church itself has drenched it in blood and then heaped stones upon it…Deep, repentant love is the only cure.”

Ep. 115: What Does the Bible Say About Ghosts, Witches, and Curses?

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On this Halloween episode:

Nate talks about two stories to read this Halloween (:29)
Nate welcomes Gene and Logan (11:41)
Gene and Logan play a game of “Pureflix Horror” (14:00)
What Does the Bible Say About Ghosts, Witches, and Curses? (21:42)

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Ep. 115: What Does the Bible Say About Ghosts, Witches, and Curses?

To download this episode, right-click here.

 

 

 

 

*African drum beat from “Best Relaxing Music” via YouTube
*Forest night sounds from “SoundEffectsFactory
“Day by Day” by Citizens is used with permission. Check out their website: wearecitizens.net

What Does the Bible Say About Ghosts?

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man standing on train tracks fading away

Allow me to tell you a ghost story:

“This truth was given to me in secret, as though whispered in my ear. It came to me in a disturbing vision at night, when people are in a deep sleep. Fear gripped me, and my bones trembled. A spirit swept past my face, and my hair stood on end. The spirit stopped, but I couldn’t see its shape. There was a form before my eyes. In the silence I heard a voice…”

Now you might think that this sounds like a scene from a horror movie, but it’s actually a direct quotation from Job 4:12-16. That’s right, it’s from the Bible!

This is not an exhaustive list, but here are some biblical passages that deal with ghosts or spirits.

What the Bible Says About Ghosts 

Interaction is Forbidden (Deuteronomy 18)

No matter what your view on ghosts is, the Bible is clear that we are not to dabble in any sort of attempted communication with the dead. This includes divination, fortune-telling, omen interpreting, or using a sorcerer, charmer, medium or necromancer (18:10-12).

The Medium of Endor (1 Samuel 28)

This bizarre story certainly sounds likes the title of a horror movie. In short, Saul was seeking guidance from God but when he got no answer, he turned to a medium. He asked the medium to call up Samuel, and to everyone’s surprise Samuel made an appearance. Samuel seemed angry to be called back from the dead, and declared to Saul that God was finished with him.

A Ghost on the Water? (Matthew 14)

When the disciples were on a boat in the middle of water, they saw a figure walking on the water. Their response was, “It is a ghost!” (Matthew 14:26). But Jesus doesn’t respond, “Ghosts? There are no such thing as ghosts!” Jesus instead told them, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

The Resurrection

After the Resurrection in Luke 24, the disciples thought that Jesus was a ghost. Jesus responded that he could not be a ghost because “a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Jesus seems to be saying that spirits do exist but that they do not have physical bodies.

Two Biblical Principles

I must admit that there are a lot of unanswered questions here. But there are two biblical principles that I think can help us answer some questions about ghosts.

1. The spirits of those who die do not remain on the earth.

The Bible seems to teach that the spirits of the dead can’t come back to live on the earth. Hebrews 9:27 says, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” There doesn’t seem to be an in-between.

In Philippians 1:23b-24, Paul says that he is torn on which is better: dying and being with Christ or staying on earth for the sake of the Philippians. For Paul there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground.

2. There are evil spirits in the world, also known as demons.

Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” There are evil spiritual beings all around us that we fight against every day. We are not to seek interaction with them but we are to be prepared for battle as we hold fast to Christ.

Explaining the Unexplained

But what about all of these weird ghost experiences? If ghosts cannot be the spirits of dead humans, then they must be either angels or demons. The kinds of ghost experiences I read about aren’t anything like how angels appear to people in the Bible. So my best guess is that these ghosts are actually demons in disguise. As Paul points out, “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).

Lastly, these realities aren’t something that you should be terrified of, “For he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

What are your thoughts about ghosts, spirits, and demons? Any other Bible passages you’ve found? Let us know below!

Ep. 114: Ratio Christi Wins Religious Freedom on Campus

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On this episode:

Nate talks about the age of the disciples and how that applies to us today (:29)
Nate welcomes Gene and Logan (9:22)
Logan analyzes the worldview of “A Star Is Born” (13:10)
Ratio Christi Wins Religious Freedom on Campus (20:29)

Sign up for our unique newsletter that contains material only for subscribers at (www.clearlens.org)! Also, if you get a chance, subscribe and rate us on iTunes! It’s quick and easy and helps us get our show out to more listeners.

Ep. 114: Ratio Christi Wins Religious Freedom on Campus

To download this episode, right-click here.

 

 

 

 

“Day by Day” by Citizens is used with permission. Check out their website: wearecitizens.net

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Ep. 117: How to Talk to a Non-Believer About Sin

On this episode: Nate shares 2 thoughts for those waiting to get into ministry (:29) Nate welcomes Logan (10:22) Logan analyzes the culture's reaction to the death...