The Case for Christ – Review

Why would anyone move from hard atheism to a place of Christian commitment? More: what if that person is a recognised investigative journalist with a major US daily newspaper? What if that person’s workplace had a banner over the open office “If your Mom says she loves you, check it out!” Simple question: how do the claims of Christianity square with laws of evidence that any court would accept?

The Case for Christ chronicles the journey of Lee Strobel in his role as a journalist with the Chicago Tribune. His strong opposition to the Christian faith become apparent when, after a life threatening event, his wife is drawn to Christianity and eventually makes a faith commitment.

Strobel sets out on a journey to disprove the ‘myth’ of Christianity. His journalist craft has him seeking out leading experts in archaeology, medicine, philosophy, and legal practice. As Strobel works his way through his ‘key witnesses’ the dominos of his atheism start to fall over. Strobel is not prepared to give in, or give up. Tensions mount, and the turmoil is evident as his once vibrant relationship with his wife starts to look shaky.

As the plot develops, we’re exposed to a significant array of evidence supporting Christianity and its core truth: the resurrection of Jesus. We’re taken through the reliability of the eyewitness accounts; the powerful documentary evidence supporting the accuracy of the New Testament; the medical evidence supporting the actual death of Christ on the cross. Strobel is confronted with a wall of facts which he finds impossible to scale. So the man who set out to demolish what he regarded as a myth finds himself undone by the compelling truth about Jesus Christ.

The Case for Christ is well produced, accessible, and engaging. While there were a few  melodramatic moments, t is an excellent portrayal of Strobel’s journey from atheism to faith. The movie is also a wonderful resource as presentation of the truth of the Christian account. Churches, Home Groups, and individual Christians will be keen to use this to open up the reality of the good news, and to show the truth of Jesus Christ, who is the centre of it all.

The Case for Christ in cinemas from May 04. The book, The Case for Christ is available at major book sellers like KoorongThe Book Depository and Amazon

Is your faith really that attractive?

This is a troubling question. Who is supposed to find it attractive? And what would if mean for faith to be attractive? Is everyone supposed to agree with what I believe?

We know enough about life with God to know that not everyone agrees with us. Some find faith disagreeable, even odious.

But God calls his people to be different, set apart, focussed on living the life he had graced them with before a watching world. They were to reflect his character. They were to be holy, as he is holy. They were his treasured possession, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation (Exodus 19:6). No surprise that Jesus called his followers salt and light (Matt 5). No surpise that when Jesus ministered through the towns of Judea thousands flocked to him and hung on his every word. His words were winsome, his faith was attractive, his Kingdom is what they wanted to see.

Opposition was real too. There were some who hated his works and viewed his works as demonic. Opposition grew, he was rejected, abused and crucified. So, people did not always accept Jesus, either. That did not stop him loving them. His death and rising again meant new life for those who believe him. Something happened when people came under his rule: they became an attractive community, so wonderfully new that they enjoyed the favour of all the people (Acts 2:47). Jesus’ call to love one another was coming to beautiful expression. Even when persecuted, those who did not share their faith would sometimes remark, ‘See how they love one another!’ And then, as Peter writes to the scattered, persecuted church, he reminded them how the original call to Israel now belonged to the church:

…you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Pet 2:9)

Even in the hardest and most difficult times the church is to live a winsome faith. God’s people are to be an appetising taste of the new heavens and the new earth.

Here’s the question: is this what people see in me? Is this what people see in the church? Am I eager to do what is good? Am I keen to reflect this new life Christ has given me to everyone I meet today? Even those I don’t get along with? Do our churches have a culture which enjoys the favour of their local community – even if that community does not believe Jesus?

I have been pastoring churches for over 30 years, and I find this question disturbing, humbling and sometimes haunting. My comfort is Jesus’ promise that he is with me and his church always, and he has all authority and power to have his new creation overflow through me and his people. Hell has its fury, but it shall never overcome the glorious new community Jesus created when he rose from the grave. Living water keeps flowing.

So, I want my faith and my church to be more and more attractive. I want new life to be seen in me. I want the living water of Jesus to overflow in our streets and neighbourhoods.

I have been helped in this by reading Tim Costello’s “Faith” – it’s such a wonderful encouragement to live the attractive life of Christ in the mess of sin and the fall. Short chapters packed with punch and challenge – you could even read it as a devotional.

Want your faith to be more attractive? Beyond reading, pray that Christ will continue to transform your life:

  • For Christians – “God, what good things do you want me to do today?”
  • For Churches – “Lord, how do you want us to bring the goodness of your Kingdom into our community?”

So we may obtain everything you have promised


Prayer for the week

Almighty and everlasting God, give us the increase of faith, hope and love;  and so we may obtain everything you have promised, help us to love everything you have commanded. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen

(Adapted from The Book of Common Prayer, 1662: The Fourteenth Sunday After Trinity)

I love the way this prayer ties the receiving of everything the Lord promises with loving everything he has commanded. It is a powerful reminder that ‘living in God’s will’ is living in conformity to his will. It assures us the best life we can hope for is a life transformed into the likeness of his son Jesus.

In what specific ways does your life need to be transformed?

Pray this prayer for the week, and leave a comment to share you experiences.

Prayer for the Week

Almighty and merciful God, by whose grace your faithful people are able to bring you true and praiseworthy service: Grant, we ask, that we may so faithfully serve you in this life that we do not fail to attain your heavenly promises through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

[adapted from ‘The Book of Common Prayer’ 1662]

Do we really believe in the sovereignty of God?

This morning I read this tweet:

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…and I started to wonder (again) why some reformed churches tend to have a low growth rate, little emphasis on evangelism and a poor outward focus. It just doesn’t make any sense.

As IJM‘s Gary Haugen reminds us, the sovereignty and faithfulness of God – themes which resonate deeply in reformed thought and reformed preaching – are the bedrock of mission, every work of justice and compassion, every act of witness.

God is sovereign – so he knows my needs and the needs of my city. He is all powerful, he will give me what I need to do what he calls me to do (see Matthew 7:7-12)

When Jesus returned to the Father, he reminded his disciples – as he gave them his great commission to disciples the nations – that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to him. His presence and his resurrection power would embolden witness and empower everything we do to share the good news.

These wonderful realities must be at the forefront of all mission and ministry.

And I wonder, if mission, outreach, sharing the good news, and living the ‘new goods’ are not at the forefront of all we’re doing as churches and individuals, whether we actually believe in God’s sovereignty and faithfulness at all.

How Fragile We Are…

Journalist Alison Parker and Cameraman Adam Ward were shot dead yesterday as they went about their work reporting for a local television station in Virginia.

I have so many questions about US gun laws, and what I perceive to be a totally irrational desire not to place some restrictions on the availability of firearms in US jurisdictions.

My most persistent thoughts, however, surround the brokenness of our world, the brokenness of people, and how much we need to be put back together by the work of God in Jesus his son.

I do not know the faith context of Stevie Wonder and Sting, but this clip seems so relevant to the heaviness we must all feel after yesterday’s events.

How to respond to the “Marriage Equality” issue

I just  read an excellent article from Ryan Anderson about how the church can respond to the issue of marriage equality. Anderson frames his response by speaking about the role of ‘the church’. I get this, although I see the response in terms of the task of all Christians as the church, not some church hierarchy. Even so, Anderson makes a couple of great points:

  • we need to present a case for Christian sexuality which is attractive, appealing and engaging. We need to capture the moral imagination of this and the next generation
  • we need to develop sensitive ministries for same sex attracted people and those with questions around gender identity
  • we must learn ways to defend religious liberty in an age when one social agenda becomes non negotiable public policy
  • we must live out the truth of marriage and human sexuality

You can read the article at ABC Religion