Case for a Creator (Part 2)

I like the story of a little boy who was asked if he believed in God. He answered, “Well, yes I do.” When asked why, he said, “Well, I guess it just runs in the family.” Maybe your kids can say the same thing.

Not everyone’s story is like that, though.

When C.S. Lewis, who many of you may recognize as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, came to Oxford University he was an atheist. He had lost his mother at age nine and the rest of his life was spent in boarding schools. He had no use for God in his life and no faith whatsoever. But, while attending Oxford, he met a man who became his best friend—J.R.R. Tolkien. You know him as the author of The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien, along with some other friends challenged Lewis to investigate the evidence for God’s existence and the Bible’s inspiration. So Lewis did. It was from that investigation and the encouragement of friends like Tolkien that Lewis moved from atheism to a deep Christian faith. He went on to become one of the most influential theologians and most successful Christian apologist of the twentieth century.

Unfortunately not everyone has a friend like J.R.R. Tolkien.


The Case for a Creator (Part 1)

Twenty years ago, back when I was attending Algonquin Middle School in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, Lee Strobel was a pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in Algonquin, just a few miles from my house. Lee was a former atheist and still had several friends who were atheists, including one in particular who was a national spokesmen for American Atheists, Inc. One day, Lee and his friend came up with the idea of holding a debate where the case for atheism and the case for Christianity could both be laid out and the audience could decide where the evidence pointed.

The atheists choose Frank Zindler, a colleague of renowned atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair and a former professor of biology and science. Representing the Christian view was author and apologist, Dr. William Lane Craig. The news media—amazed that a church was unafraid to tackle the toughest objections by skeptics—was quickly abuzz. The church started getting phone calls from radio stations all across the country, and pretty soon over a hundred 100 stations singed up to broadcast the event.


The Bible (Part 5)

I’m reminded of a young mom named Peggy who was trying to explain the special significance of Easter to her kids in the back seat on the way to church one Easter morning. She said, “This is the day we celebrate Jesus coming back to life.” Immediately her three-year-old piped up, “Does that mean He’ll be in church today?”

Well, the answer is—yes! You may not see him, but I hope that you feel his presence this morning. I’d like to start by sharing the story of Charles Fulton Oursler.

Charles grew up in Baltimore, the poor son of a city transit worker. Although he was raised in a devout Baptist family, at just fifteen-years-old he rejected the faith of his family and declared himself an agnostic. In time he discovered a talent for storytelling. Throughout the 1920s and 30s Charles wrote a number of novels, detective stories, magazine serials, and even a few stage plays. He married a young woman who also grew up in the church, had children, but still practiced no religion and did not raise their children with any faith. Then, in 1935, the Oursler family toured the Middle East and spent a week in the Holy Land. On the journey home, Charles started writing a book titled A Skeptic in the Holy Land. He assumed that once the book was published, he would forget about religion; but instead, he found himself increasingly drawn to the person of Christ. Astounded at how little people knew about the life and teaching of Jesus, he decided that he would write the story of Jesus and, as he put it, “try to make it as interesting as a serial story in a popular magazine.” By the time he was finished writing it, Charles’ childhood faith had been restored. He received Christ as his Savior and over the next five years led his wife and two children to faith in Jesus. His novelization of the Gospels was finally published in 1949 under the title The Greatest Story Ever Told, which—as you may know—was adapted into a film by the same name.


The Bible (Part 4)

Michael Hauge knows all about storytelling.

Michael is a story and script consultant who works with writers and filmmakers on their screenplays, novels, movies and television projects. He’s also written a number of books about the art of storytelling and script-writing. According to Michael Hauge, there are five key elements that go into creating a good story. The first and most important element is this—it’s got to have a hero.

Every story needs a hero.

The story of Scripture is no different.


The Bible (Part 3)

Someone once said, “To be a person is to have a story to tell.”

Storytelling is a part of life, intrinsic to most cultures. Stories help people make sense of the world—life’s experiences, dilemmas and hardships. Stories can educate, inspire and build relationships. And human beings spend more of our free time immersed in story than doing anything else. Stories about things that aren’t true and people that don’t exist, for the most part. We watch movies and television, play video games, read books, comics and cartoons. We tell each other stories around the dinner table or the campfire. Even Jesus used stories to teach and tantalize his listeners. In fact, the Bible actually says, “Jesus used stories to tell all these things to the people; he always used stories to teach them” (Matthew 13:34 NCV).


The Bible (Part 2)

Nearly every family has a set of beloved stories they tell over and over. It may be how Grandpa came to this country with five dollars in his pocket. Or of an ancestor who fought in a famous battle. It may be the story of a romance, or a child’s rescue, or a moment of accomplishment. I enjoy telling the story of Ashley proposing to me.

In some ways, the stories we remember—and tell—shape us. They explain where we’ve come from. They shed light on who we are. They guide our steps as we move forward in life. That is one of the reasons the Bible is so important, or should be, because it is the story of all of us, from the first words of Genesis to the last lines of Revelation. And the stories of the Bible are more than just stories—they are the history of God’s relationship with humanity.


The Bible (Part 1)

Nearly a hundred years ago, a little boy in England received a stuffed bear as a gift on his first birthday. Soon after, his father, a playwright and novelist, began writing stories that featured the little boy, his bear, and other toys in the boy’s playroom, as characters. You know the bear as Winnie-the-Pooh. You know the boy as Christopher Robin. Since then, of course, Winnie-the-Pooh stories have been loved by generations of children, translated into more than fifty languages, and featured in songs, movies, and television specials. But it all began with a little boy and a stuffed bear as characters in a simple story.

Everyone here has a story, whether you have a stuffed bear or not. I have a story. You have a story. Some read like tragedies, some like comedies. Some are mysteries, and others are romances. Some are much longer than others, and some are just getting started. But everyone has a story.


Jesus Revealed: Part 3

H.G. Wells, who is famous for his fiction novels like The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds, once said, “I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”

His assessment couldn’t be more accurate. In fact, Jesus looms so large over human history that we actually measure time by him; we date our letters, our birth certificates, our checks, and everything else from the year of his birth. Jesus never traveled more than a few hundred miles from his hometown. He never wrote a book, never held a political office, never married, never had sex, never went to college, never visited a big city, and never even had a Twitter account. And yet, Jesus remains—as H.G. Wells keenly discerned—the most dominant figure in all history.

But the question is—who is Jesus really?


Jesus Revealed: Part 2

Jesus is the world’s preeminent person. The greatest event in human history was the coming of Jesus into this world. The greatest words ever spoken were his words. The greatest deeds ever done were accomplished by his hands. The greatest gift ever offered was his blood at Calvary. Jesus stands alone in all of history—the single most significant person who ever lived.

Yet countless people across the globe have no idea who Jesus really is. Mormons believe Jesus to be the spirit-brother of Lucifer. Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that he’s the Archangel Michael. Muslims claim that he was a prophet of Allah, but certainly not the Son of God. There are a lot of different interpretations of Jesus out there. A cartoon version of Jesus has made several appearances on long-running TV shows like The Simpsons and South Park. Celebrities like Ashton Kutcher, Ben Affleck, and Brad Pitt have all been spotted wearing “Jesus is my homeboy” t-shirts. In the movie Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, comedian Will Ferrell leads his family in prayer to an “8-pound, 6-ounce, newborn infant Jesus” wearing “golden fleece diapers” and watching developmental video about shapes and colors. Apparently, he liked the Christmas Jesus best. There was even a bizarre Canadian kung-fu/comedy/horror/musical about the second coming, called Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, which pairs Jesus with Mexican Wrestling hero El Santos to battle an army of vampires!


Jesus Revealed: Part 1

Jesus. There is no other name in heaven or on earth that is more loved, more revered or more controversial than Jesus.

At first glance, Jesus’ résumé is rather simple. He never traveled more than a few hundred miles from his hometown. He never wrote a book, never held a political office, never married, never had sex, never went to college, never visited a big city, and never even won a poker tournament.

Nevertheless, Jesus is the most famous person in all of history. More songs have been sung to him, artwork created of him, and books written about him than anyone who has ever lived. In fact, Jesus looms so large over human history that we actually measure time by him; we date our letters, our birth certificates, our checks, and everything else from the year of his birth.