P.R.O.O.F. of Life

Has God Spoken by Hank Hanegraaff

imageThe Bible Answer Man brings us yet another good addition to our apologetics library to sit aside The Apocalypse Code. Battling against the torrent  of semi-gnostic “secret” exposes published by authors such as Bart Ehrman purporting to reveal the falsehoods behind the Scriptures, Hanegraaff offers a flood of his own, laying out the various proofs that undergird the truth of the Bible that we read today.

Structured to provide the reader with an easily accessible tool for developing their apologetic chops, the book is organized logically around the succession of topics that support the truth of the Bible. This is important reading for any Christian who takes Peter’s command seriously to “give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”. Questions about the accuracy of the texts of the Bible, the places and objects of the Bible and progressive revelation of the Bible are organized into the three initial chapters concerning the provenance of the manuscript, archeology and the linkage of prophecy.

As he does on his radio program, Hank makes these intimidating  topics understandable to Christians not steeped in biblical research. Fact after fact ( with nearly seventy pages of references and bibliography to verify ) pour forth from his pen to counter the challenges presented to factual basis for the Bible. He counters popular theories such as the error-ridden transcriptions (by verifying the numerically superior autographs against which the modern Bible is tested) and holds the archeological findings that affirm the people and places of the Bible against the non-existent findings that contradictory holy books point to.

While Hanegraaff has contributed an immediately useful volume, there are a couple of areas that might be improved. His love for his “hankronyms” went a touch overboard here, seeming to artificially organize the information in order to match the spelling. Mnemonic devices are excellent for memorization but they usually work best in limited use. Organizing the entire book around the acronyms (and sub-acronyms) gave the reading a somewhat challenging flow. Organizing the materials similar to the format that he uses on his radio program might make it easier for readers to locate the facts that they want but don’t know in which direction to turn.

Minor issues aside, I found this to be an excellent book. Hanegraaff has a unique gift set that makes his books great additions to the Christian’s library as they battle against the onslaught of anti-Christian sentiment that pervades our culture today. It is not enough to answer “in faith” when asked why you receive the Scriptures as true when the facts are so quickly accessible to you.

I’m grateful to Thomas Nelson who provided this book for review.

Grace and peace to you.

Lent 2009 – 3 Final Steps to the Cross


Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:

“I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.”

But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”

Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you,” And all the other disciples said the same. (Matthew 26:31-35)

And so, Peter ultimately remains self-deluded. In a life altering moment, he tells the One whom he has acknowledged as The Christ that he will never deny him even when all others may. Does Peter honestly believe that or is he demonstrating an ignorance of the true condition of his heart? We are not told, but given our experiences with him, it wouldn’t be far fetched at this moment in history to lean toward an inner ignorance. Peter may have actually convinced himself that his loyalty to Jesus was pure and strong despite his numerous stumbles in the preceding three years. Do you think he was surprised at his first denial?

If any incident in Peter’s life puts a mirror up in front of us, it is these moments of denial. If asked when we are clear eyed and caffeinated, no Christian would perceive of a moment of stress when they would deny their love and allegiance to the Lord. Think hard though. Denial takes many forms beyond simply answering no to a question of association. Was there a moment when you didn’t speak up and should have? Has there ever been a time when being a Christian became an inconvenience and you put it in a secondary position? Failed to speak the truth when challenged by a non-believer?

Denial takes many forms. If you’ve read this far, it’s unlikely that you can claim ignorance. Are you unwilling to suffer the consequences of claiming Christ? The answer looms large this close to the Cross…

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Lent 2009 – 4 Final Steps to the Cross

PeterStepsAfter a day of parables and teaching, Jesus and the disciples withdraw from public ministry to spend time in fellowship and rest. This time for rest, especially before an important ministry effort, is clearly a critical component and yet, we allow worldly standards to define our work ethic. To halt action for rest in the middle of a ministry is called into question. The expectation is that the pastor is given his one day off per week and he is to be available all of the rest.

The Spirit speaks to us in the quiet and we must be intentional about seeking out the necessary moments of rest and restoration. Be accountable to God more and people less. Follow the habit of your lord.

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Lent 2009 – 5 Final Steps to the Cross


Tuesday of Passion Week

As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts our of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4)

Peter must have been still mulling over Jesus’ previous scorn toward the Pharisees who made a great show of their religiosity but who possessed no true faith in their hearts. Pointing out the sacrificial giving of the widow, the Lord makes the same point a second time. While others give for show a small portion of their wealth, the widow was fully committed. She gave all that she had to live on as a gift to the temple treasury, trusting in God to provide for her needs. Sacrifice is the name of the game.

Are you all in?

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Lent 2009 – 6 Final Steps to the Cross

PeterStepsMonday of Passion Week

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing  but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. The he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it. (Mark 11:12-14)

What an odd little vignette the disciples had just witnessed. Why would the Lord curse something so seemingly innocent as a fig tree, especially because He and they both knew that figs were not expected this time of year? As they considered this act, they followed Him into the temple where he again cleaned the temple, casting out those who would treat it like a cheap bazaar. Now, Jesus’ curse made sense. When Jesus speaks to and of the fig tree, he is directing his ire at the Temple and Israel. The ‘season’ spoken of in Marks recollection, is not Spring but the time of the Kingdom of God. He speaks prophetically of the Temple that he approaches and its lack of fruit, despite having the appearance of being fruitful.  

As we approach the cross with our Lord, we should carefully examine our own fruitfulness. Do you have leaves and make an appearance of your devotion to Christ but bear no fruit?

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Lent 2009 – 7 Final Steps to the Cross

PeterStepsThe next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the King of Israel!”

Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, you king is coming seated on a donkey’s colt.” (John 12:12 – 15)

We cannot turn away now,  the Cross looms large with all that it means. For some Christians, the celebration of the Triumphal Entry colors the solemnity of the week that follows. They want to shout Hosanna and remember the humble Lord descending in strength in Jerusalem only to avoid the humiliation of His Passion.

Walk with the Lord, all the way to Cross. Don’t turn away, don’t deny him. Carry your sins for yourself up the rugged wood of the cross and hang it there as you view the sacrifice made on your behalf.

Know the pain to know the joy.

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Lent 2009 – 8 Steps to the Cross


Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”  (Ac 5:1-4)

As we grow so near to the cross that the reality of Passion week becomes undeniable, we are reminded of the fundamental truths of the God that we serve. Just as Peter witnessed, the presence of God in the person of the Holy Spirit is immediate and real. We practice self deceit, as Ananias did in thinking that he could get away with his lie, keeping his actions to himself. Sadly, our interpretation of human relationships often colors how we view God. If we can pull the wool over the eyes of other people, we tend to think that we can fool God as well. The truth, of course, is far, far different. The Spirit knows our intimate thoughts and actions and his conviction works internally, with possible deadly results, as Ananias and his wife were soon to discover.

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Lent 2009 – 9 Steps to the Cross


Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For,

“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. Hue must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:8 – 12)

I find this ideal to be one of the hardest to reconcile in my life. I strive to be sympathetic, to love, to live in humility and yet, in an instant I will respond to a personal affront with and equal reaction. Why? As soon as the words or thoughts have left my mind, I’m dying to take them back all the while knowing the truth. Once issued, the words or thoughts can’t be squeezed back into the tube. I’m left to deal with the aftermath, the disappointment in myself and maybe the hurt of the other person. Is this what Jesus died for? So I could continue to react as I always did? Is this reaction just a lizard twitch, something reactive out of my amygdale or is it my stubborn refusal to release this part of my heart to the Spirit.

Peter gives me hope.

Failure after failure culminating in a thrice issued denial and still the Lord restored him. Peter’s words here are not meant to be instructions for us to modify our behavior on our own. They have the deeper meaning of allowing the Spirit to work in those dark recesses and to transform us from within so that our actions will be super-naturally loving, sympathetic, compassionate and humble. The reality of the cross looms near now, only nine steps away. The horror of the cross wasn’t meant to make us work harder to change ourselves as Peter soon learned. It was meant so that we could be transformed in ways that we could not even imagine.

Do you have hope?

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Lent 2009 – 10 Steps to the Cross


After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters-one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)  ( Mark 9:2-6)

Sometimes the best policy is not to say anything at all and yet, many of us are unable to stop the words from coming out of our mouths. At best, we risk sounding not so smart and at worst, we injure someone with our ill timed words. Peter didn’t like the silence that surrounded him at this moment of glory. He desperately wanted something to fill the space of quiet around him. Pragmatically, there is nothing wrong with Peter’s intentions and how he voices them. Spiritually though, he failed to wait on the Lord to tell him what his next step should be.

We continue to suffer from this fear of silence in our lives. When was the last time you had an extended time of silence in church? You’re there, the Spirit is there, and hopefully, the Father is present and all three (silence, Spirit, Father) are exerting pressure on your soul. It might be confronting a long held sin, or pressing you to move on another ministry initiative, or even just comforting you in their presence but we find the silence uncomfortable at best. Even in our times of prayer, the keyboardist or guitarist will inevitably succumb and begin to play.

Are we acting like Peter did at the transfiguration? Would he have been better off simply being present at this moment of glory? Find some silence and ask the Lord.

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Lent 2009 – 11 Steps to the Cross


A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly. (Proverbs 14:29)

Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a disagreement that they parted company. (Acts 15:37-39)

In your anger do not sin; Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26-27)

Walking alongside Peter all these days sometimes makes you wonder what Jesus saw in him. Actually, it makes you realize what Jesus saw in you. Despite the face you put on in front of the world, we’re all deeply flawed individuals who can in no way claim perfection. We watch Peter and say, I would never do that…until we do. You see, we’re every bit the Peter that we don’t think we are. As I’ve reflected on my own worthiness to approach the cross this year, I’ve thought about moments of anger that have seized me and thought about why this hasn’t been lifted from me.

I think that part of the answer is to be found in the anger of Jesus. We should get angry at acts that diminish the personhood of other people. We should raise our voice against injustice. Our hackles should get up against mistreatment of other souls.

There should be anger within the Church.

We should get angry when Jesus is just a marketing tool. We should get angry when the church turns into the mall. We should should show righteous indignation toward those who should be shepherds but who only spend their time bragging (or tweeting for crying out loud! Seriously, who has the time for that stuff? And who spends their day living vicariously through the activities of other people? Write a book, draw a picture, compose a song, go find your wife or husband and tell them you love them. Play catch with the kids. Don’t tell me in less than 140 characters that you’re going to do it. Oooops! got off an a rant there.) Get angry with people who run stop signs.

On the other hand, when you son misjudges a turn and runs his truck into the back of yours, let it go. Pray for him to grow up to be God’s man. Pray for his fantastic personality to be used for the good of others.

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