The Challenge of Atheism

There are numerous forms of atheism, but what is at the center?

The starkest religious alternative to Christian faith is atheism. While it may seem strange to even describe atheism as a religious alternative, doing so is accurate because atheism is the dogma that there is no God, a position that usually requires a great deal of talk and debate about God.

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At the twenty-fifth annual meeting of the organization called American Atheists, its 44-year-old president strode to the lectern and opened with the words: “Happy Vernal Equinox and good morning. My name is Ellen Johnson and I am the President of American Atheists.” A very different picture from the previous president, Madalyn Murray O’Hair (who disappeared in 1995 and was recently confirmed murdered for money), Ellen Johnson is a newer picture of atheism. Slender, blonde, a self-described soccer mom, she nonetheless carries on the message of being freed from the restraints of religion and of wanting tolerance in a free society.

A Prayer for Election Day

One of the most important qualities that almost everyone ignores.

Here in my home state of Wisconsin, Tuesday is voting day. In all the political commentary these days, once again there is one quality that is almost never mentioned: wisdom. Young Solomon pleased God when he said, “Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” That is the issue for today, especially because the next president of the U.S. will be not just the most powerful person in the U.S., and not just in the world, but in all of history (given ever-increasing military might). Here, then, is a prayer we may pray for any election day…

Dear God,

You have said in your word that whenever we know we need wisdom, we should ask for it, and that you will give it generously.

As we take the extraordinary step to vote for our local, regional, and national leaders, we pray for your wisdom from above.

Teach Us to Pray

Jesus told us what to say when we talk to God.

Teach us to pray. That is what Jesus’ disciples said to him one day, and it should be our longing as well. Jesus’ answer was the so-called Lord’s Prayer. In it is a world of truth, a pattern of behavior, and a perfect picture of a godly disposition. It is good to let these words sink in…

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Our Father in heaven…

Whenever we pray we should address God in personal terms.

What difference do the death and resurrection of Jesus make today?

a reading about the resurrection and a lecture by Mel Lawrenz and Scot McKnight

[Audio link for “What Difference Do the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Make Today?” below]

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

— John 20:1-2

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How difficult was it for the One who is Lord of the universe—who had a hand in creation itself, who is the very force of life that holds living things together—to wake up from the sleep of death and set aside the burial cloths draping his body?

Prayer as Daily Dialogue with God

the best way to change a day

Many believers say they pray best when prayer is a continual dialogue with God during the course of the day. As one person put it: “I do not often pray for 15 minutes straight, but hardly ever does 15 minutes pass without me praying.” This is obviously not the kind of prayer where someone is down on his knees in a quiet room of his house. It is, rather, the idea that one can say a sentence or two to God anytime, anywhere, out loud or silently.

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Done many times over during the course of a day, this develops in us a steady heart-openness to God. It allows one to respond to God at the moment one sees any special act or blessing from God. It is to ask God questions during the day, the whole day, about what you’re seeing, the decisions you’re making, your choice of words before they come out of your mouth.

A Prayer for the World

Do you not know?
Have you not heard?

Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded? 

He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.

He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in. 

He brings princes to naught
and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.

—Isaiah 40:21-23

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Great Lord of heaven and earth,

We pray for our world.

The Resurrection

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” — John 20:1-2
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How difficult was it for the One who is Lord of the universe—who had a hand in creation itself, who is the very force of life that holds living things together—to wake up from the sleep of death and set aside the burial cloths draping his body?

The Crucifixion

They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. — Matthew 27:33-37

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Now came the time for the clash between good and evil, heaven and hell. The crucifixion of Jesus is both the most horrific moment in human history, and humanity’s only hope. That’s why we call the Friday before Easter, Good Friday.

Ordinary Prayer

How can prayer be a normal part of our days?

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[If you did not take the 2-question survey about prayer, it is not too late. Go here.]

Prayer is always an act of faith. It begins with faith, must be carried through in faith, and finished in faith. Every ordinary prayer prayed in the most ordinary way by the most ordinary person is a revolutionary statement of trust. It is to take a stand and say: I have questions only God can answer, I have a longing only he can fill, I bear pain that only a crucified Lord can understand. I need to speak with God!

When you read what the Bible says about prayer, it appears that God is far more interested in our bringing before him a steady flow of ordinary, even homely prayers, rather than great eruptions of spiritual energy. Prayer shapes us best as habit, a steady pulse of unhurried conversations with God. We have to trust that it is the right thing to do. And then we need to do it.

Risen

The movie is making a big impact, but what is the significance of the resurrection today?

The new movie Risen is having high-level impact on audiences. The world changed when the Son of God rose from the dead, repudiating the power of sin and death itself. But what does it all mean? How do the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ make a difference for us today? These are questions we should be contemplating in these weeks leading up to Easter.

Here is a brand new preview of Knowing Him: Devotional Thoughts About the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

Conocer a Cristo – Lecturas devocionales sobre la cruz y la resurrección

Knowing Him now available in Spanish

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Jesús es lo suficientemente intrigante como una figura histórica, pero es mucho más que eso. Jesús el Mesías es la fuente de gracia y verdad, perdón y confrontación, poder, sabiduría y vida. No es de sorprenderse que el apóstol Pablo dijera: «Lo he perdido todo a fin de conocer a Cristo, experimentar el poder que se manifestó en su resurrección, participar en sus sufrimientos y llegar a ser semejante a él en su muerte. Así espero alcanzar la resurrección de entre los muertos» (Filipenses 3.10-11).

Conocer a Cristo es un conjunto de lecturas devocionales que pone el foco en la razón por la que Cristo vino y qué logró para la humanidad mediante Su muerte sacrificial y resurrección triunfal.

Mel Lawrenz sirve al Señor como parte del equipo pastoral de la Iglesia Elmbrook en Brookfield, Wisconsin (EE. UU.), donde previamente se desempeñó como pastor principal. Tiene un doctorado en historia del pensamiento cristiano (Marquette University) y es adjunto en la facultad de Trinity International University. Es autor y coautor de dieciséis libros publicados por Zondervan, Baker, Regal, Leadership Network y otros.
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