Nick Jones

God, Life, Religion

Fine Tuning of the Universe

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Apologetics includes not only philosophical answers to questions, but also scientific answers to questions in defending one’s faith. When it comes to the beginning of the universe ultimately it takes faith to believe how it began because none of us alive today were there to witness the beginning of the universe. Enter the Fine-tuning of the Universe Argument:

  1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design
  2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance
  3. Therefore, it is due to design

The sticking point for most people will be number 2 as some will believe that it is due to chance. But let’s look at that for a minute or so.

The Big Bang is the most prominent theory as to the beginning of the universe. Basically, the theory is that roughly 13.8 billion years ago the universe sprang into existence as a singularity and has been expanding and cooling ever since. Now I’m no scientist, so you’ll have to forgive my lack of in depth knowledge as to the specifics, but according to the model everything had a beginning. We don’t know what caused the singularity, there was no space before it, in fact there was nothing before the Big Bang.

Now there are different ways to interpret this data. And since no one alive today was actually there, it’s difficult to say with absolute surety that one way is the way. The way I interpret the data is that God created the universe. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Now there is a fine-tunedness to our universe. Some will say that it was chance that our universe sprang into being, and that is is chance that our earth is in the right spot in the solar system, and that it’s chance that the various laws are the way they are. But the universe is fine tuned for life. And if any of these fine tuned numbers were off by just a little amount, there would be some significant problems for life. Here are just three examples, and remember these are the maximum deviation from the accepted values, meaning that if they deviated by those amounts we would have some issues.

  1. Gravitation constant – If this constant varied by just 1 in 1060 parts, none of us would exist.
  2. Cosmological Constant – If this rate varied by just 1 in 10120 parts, the expansion rate of the universe would either be too fast or too slow .
  3. Mass Density of the universe – If this rate varied by just 1 in 1059 parts, would either cause stars to burn too rapidly to form, or there would be insufficient helium creating a shortage of heavy elements.

The universe is so fined-tuned for existence it’s difficult to say that it was mere chance. Michael Turner, an Astrophysicist at the University of Chicago is famously quoted in regards to the fine-tunedness of the universe as saying, “The precision is as if one could throw a dart across the entire universe and hit a bulls eye one millimeter in diameter on the other side.”

The probability that this universe happened by mere chance is ridiculously remote. I believe the best explanation for the universe is that God created it.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.” –Psalm 19:1-2

For the previous post in the Apologetics click here. For the next post click here.

Chose the Good Part

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“But only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:42

Here’s the context. Jesus had just finished sharing the parable of the Good Samaritan. He had asked the lawyer that famous question, “Who was the neighbor?” To which the lawyer couldn’t even muster the ability to say “The Samaritan.” In the next verse we find Jesus traveling to a different town and two women befriend Him and are neighborly to Him.

Mary and Martha invite Jesus to their home and Martha begins the preparations as most good hostesses do. While Martha is busy buzzing around, Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to what Jesus was saying. Martha was upset as most of us would be if our sibling was not helping out and demanded that Jesus tell Mary to help her. Jesus’ reply? The above text.

When reading this passage I noticed a connection between this verse and Psalm 27:4.

“One thing I have asked form the LORD, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to meditate in His temple.”

The one good part that Mary had chosen was to sit at the feet of Jesus and meditate upon His words, to accept His leading, and to be fully engaged with Him. Mary chose the good part. How many times in life when we spend time with God do we choose the good part?

So often I come to my time with God quickly and with other things on my mind. Instead of choosing the good part, I choose the bad part. I choose hurriedness, I choose scattered brain, I choose to focus on me. Reading this helped me realize that the good part is slowing down and choosing Christ.

I realized that by slowing down, ingesting the words of Christ I choose the good part. I realized that instead of choosing worldly pleasures and my own righteousness, by choosing the good part I choose Christ’s righteousness. When Christ was talking to the church of Laodicea in Revelation, He encouraged them to buy from Him white garments and gold.

So often I come to my devotional time thinking I have it all together, thinking that I know what I need to know.  But when I slow down and understand the good part, I realize that I don’t have it all together, and I need to not just meditate on His words in the morning, but all through the day. Once I have it, it can’t be taken from me, but I can step away from it. Just as it is with His righteousness. When I buy the white garment of His righteousness I have it and it can’t be taken from me. Only I can choose to take the garment off.

This excites me as I hope it does you. Jesus is waiting every day for us to spend time with Him. Why not choose the good part today?

What is Righteousness?

I mentioned that one of the things that I have been studying as of late is righteousness by faith. But it might be a good idea to start out by defining righteousness by faith or justification by faith.

The problem that we humans have with justification by faith or righteousness by faith is that is defined as this:
“It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself.”

The first part doesn’t appeal to many people. How many of us really want to lay our glory in the dust? Most of us if we’re honest with ourselves would like to be famous. We want our fifteen minutes of fame. We try to find or create different ways in which to do that. And society is bowing to our desire. Look at how easy it is to become famous today, all you have to do is get a viral video and bam!

“It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself.”

–Ellen White

Yet justification by faith is the work of God laying the glory of man and woman in the dust. God can’t work with a person full of pride thinking they can do everything on their own. The reason He can’t is because that person won’t let Him work.

Here’s the thing, God only works with people fully submitted to Him. He won’t force anyone to anything they don’t want to. And when we submit to Him we are admitting that we can’t do anything to save ourselves.

The Bible teaches that we must be righteous in order to be saved. Jesus says in Matthew 5:20, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

If we even think that we can be more righteous than the Pharisees of old we’re mistaking ourselves. It doesn’t matter if we believe the truth, if we’re doing it for our own glory, we’re lost. Righteousness by faith means we submit to Christ, admitting that we can’t save ourselves and that we can’t be righteous in and of ourself. Then and only then does Christ give us His righteousness.

As Jeremiah said, “And this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The LORD our righteousness.'” It is Christ’s righteousness, not ours.

The next post in this series will deal with how we become righteous. (Click Here)

10 Things I’ve Learned From Being a Pastor

Every pastor has a list of things they’ve learned. Here are 10 that I’ve learned in the last nine years I’ve been a pastor in no specific order. It’s geared for other young pastors.

1. If you look young, you’re going to get the “young” comment. Everyone tells me it’s not a curse, but being a pastor in his early thirties that can still pass as a college student has some major drawbacks. Every church I have served in I have gotten this comment in one form or another, “You look so young.”

The problem with this comment is many times the attitude that comes with it is a belief that because you look so young it’s difficult to take you seriously and believe that you really know what you’re talking about.

2. Not everyone has the same goals as you. Not everyone is going to have the same goals for the church as you do. Don’t go in guns a blazing with your goals expecting everyone else to fall in line. Ministry doesn’t work that way. Ministry is servant leadership.

3. Learn to say “No.” If you can’t say “No” you’re going to be in trouble. Church members will expect certain things from you and if you’re always saying “Yes,” it means you’re saying “No” to your family. Your family should come before your job. Also, by always saying “Yes” you are enabling church members to avoid realizing the Spiritual Gifts and the ministry that God has given them.

4. Check your ego at the door. You’re not the most important person at church. Your ego may say otherwise, but remember Christ is the head of the church, not you.

5. Listen, listen, listen. So often we think we know the answers to everything. Listening is a difficult skill to learn. Listening is not taught at University or Seminary. Church members will thank you if you can make sure that you really and truly listen to their concerns when they share with you. Don’t be looking around for the next person to talk with, listen.

6. Read regularly. This is a tough one. With everything that a pastor does, how in the world do you spend time reading? Reading is where you will get your sermon ideas, illustrations, continue your education, and help you better your skills as a pastor. Aim to read between 15-20 non-fiction books a year.

7. Mentor someone. Andy Stanley says it best, “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone!” The church needs its members to be involved in ministry. You shouldn’t do it all. Your family will suffer, your personal life will suffer, your health will suffer. This goes along with number 3.

8. Exercise regularly. Without exercise our bodies become out of shape. Just like we must exercise our mind (see number 6) we also must exercise our bodies. Christ saved us so that He could use us. Let’s give Him the best we can give Him.

9. Make sure your available times are clearly stated. Be clear about when you’ll be in the office. Set up some office time so that if people want to meet you at the office you can tell them the times you are available.

10. Don’t neglect prayer and personal worship. And this doesn’t mean spend time reading the Bible in the section that you’ll be preaching on this week. Spend time abiding in Christ, spend time in prayer, spend time for your soul, not for your job.

I hope you enjoyed these 10 things I’ve learned. If you have anything you’ve learned or think that I have missed, go ahead and leave a comment letting me know what you have learned.

The Moral Argument

Apologetics is somewhat of a passion of mine. Apologetics is the defense of what you believe. You can be an apologist for Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Atheism, etc… So whenever you are defending what you believe you are in essence an apologist. The statements and phrases used in defending your faith are called arguments, and one that I want to look at today is called the Moral Argument.

The Moral Argument is I believe a difficult argument to dismantle. People keep trying to tear it apart but it keeps popping back up again when some of the logical conclusions of the detractors are considered. The Moral Argument goes something like this:

  1. If objective moral values and duties are objectively real, then God exists.
  2. Objective moral values and duties are objectively real.
  3. Therefore, God exists.

Some definitions:

Moral Values – A general category that refers to all that is ‘good’
Moral Duties – A class of moral values to which one is morally responsible or obligated

A lot of times when I share this argument with people the first thing they say is, “But I know a lot of atheists who are more moral than many Christians.” This may be true, but the argument here is not that belief in God is necessary for morality but rather whether God Himself is necessary for morality. One doesn’t have to believe in God in order to be moral. But the question is, “Is God’s existence for morality necessary?” I would argue yes.

There are certain universal beliefs as to what is immoral. Murdering someone is wrong, raping someone is wrong, stealing is wrong. These are all objective moral values, meaning that they are moral values that are true despite what people believe. We all hold these moral facts as true.

Another argument against I have run up against is that society has learned through the process of what is best for society what is moral and was is immoral. Another way of saying this is that everyone makes up their own moral code. This is moral relativism. The problem with moral relativism is that it is easily abandoned when something they value is threatened.

For example, if you believe murder is wrong but you believe that this is a personal belief and that everyone has the choice to choose what is moral in their own lives, then you must allow someone to believe that murder is right. How can you morally object to their act of murdering your spouse/child/significant other? You can’t. You can’t tell them they are wrong because their morals dictate that they are right.

Moral relativism fails. It has no legs.

There are many more arguments against that I could go into. But I just decided to talk about the ones I’ve most commonly interacted with. I find apologetics fascinating and an opportunity to talk with others about God rather than at them. The purpose of any apologetic argument is not to win, but to share and to connect. It’s a conversation point to help people think more.

Trust Your Heart?

“Trust your heart.” Have you ever received that advice? Princess Diana before she passed away was quoted as saying, “Only do what your heart tells you.” I know I’ve received that advice before. When a big decision needs to be made, especially in some Disney movie, the advice is, “Trust your heart. Your heart will know what to do. Your heart will never lead you astray. Listen to your heart.” But can we really trust our heart?

The problem with trusting our hearts is that our hearts can lie to us. Our hearts will tell us that everything is ok when its not. Our hearts tell us what we want to hear, not necessarily what we need to hear. Our hearts are liars. When we listen to our hearts we lead with our emotions. And many times when we make decisions based on emotion we can get into a lot of trouble.

Most importantly, our heart can tell us that we are righteous when we aren’t. Our heart can tell us that because we are going to church, paying our tithe, and follow the ten commandments that we are becoming more and more righteous in the eyes of God. The only problem is that the Bible tell us that our righteousness is as filthy rags. Our righteousness is nothing in the eyes of God. Check it out:

For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.

–Isaiah 64:6

You see, God tells us not to trust our heart. He says in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is more deceitful than all else, and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” The heart is more deceitful than anything in life. Everything else is less deceitful than the heart. Our heart has the potential of great evil more than anything else in our lives. Jesus, talking with His disciples in the Gospel of Mark says this, “From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

The heart produces these things! When we allow our hear to lead, when we trust our heart, we end up in a bad way. Yet there is hope. Christ says in Revelation 3 to “buy from [Him]…white garments so that [we] may clothe [ourselves].” The heart tells us we don’t need Christ’s righteousness. But Jesus says that unless we are clothed in His righteousness we will only be wearing filthy rags.

I want to buy the white garment that Jesus is selling. I want to let Him lead my life and change this deceitful heart. Don’t you?

Periscope Experiment

I started a Galatians series at the Sandy Seventh-day Adventist Church. With this series I decided to try out Periscope and add information that I couldn’t include in the sermon. This is the first one.

I’m Thankful

As I was doing some last minute reading over my sermon this morning, I took a short break to read a few articles at RELEVANT Magazine. Their headline article hit me hard: “11 Stats That Will Change the Way You Think About Consumerism.” As I was preaching a sermon on being thankful I found the article very appropriate for the topic.

Have you noticed how Thanksgiving has turned from a holiday spent with family and reminiscing on the things we are grateful for to a holiday all about stuff? You may think, “Come on Nick, getting presents for Christmas for people during a sale is good budgeting.” That may be true, but the question that I bring up is whether or not it’s a good idea to allow consumerism to sneak into a time which in the past has been dedicated to family and friends.

If you don’t have a problem with consumerism (which can be defined as ‘the preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods’) then maybe some of these statistics from the article might change your mind (link to the original article):

The amount Americans spend in a single weekend is more than half of the total they give to churches in an entire year.

Last year, Americans spent $57.4 billon on Black Friday Weekend alone. They gave $103 billion to churches over the course of the whole year.

Enough K-Cups were thrown out in 2014 to encircle the earth 12 times.

According to their creator, K-Cups are almost impossible to recycle.

Nearly 40% of Food in America goes to waste.

Americans allow $165 billion of food to be wasted every year. Globally, stunting due to malnutrition and lack of food affects 161 million children around the world every year.

In America, more money is spent on fashion accessories than college tuition.

The amount spent on shoes, watches and jewelry alone totals $100 billion

Wealthy nations waste almost as much food is produced in all of sub-Saharan Africa.

Food wasted in developed countries every year: 222 million tons; Annual net food production in sub-Saharan Africa: 230 million tons.

Nearly half the world’s toys are in America.

Despite making up just over 3 percent of the global population of children, American kids consume 40 percent of the world’s toys.

The average American household has more than $7,500 in consumer debt.

The medium annual household income for the global population is just of $9,700.

America creates more electronic waste than any other nation on earth.

Despite being less than a quarter the size of China, Americans throughout more than 1 million tons more electronic devices than the country. Relatively little of it is recycled.

Homes in the U.S. contain more TVs than they do people.

On average, houses in the U.S. have three working television sets.

12% of the population does more than half of the spending.

Despite being just 12 percent of the global population, the U.S. and Western Europe account for 60 percent of private consumption spending.

Plastic kills 1 million seabirds every single year.

Americans use 100 billion plastic bags annually.

When I read that this morning I realized that I live in amazing luxury. I have more than most of the world. I have a lot to be thankful for. I don’t need the latest and greatest. I have enough.

So, how do you feel after reading that? Let’s dialogue. Go ahead and leave a comment.

The Story

The Story

“But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess.” –1 Peter 3:15

 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Just recently I ran across an iPhone app called TheStory. I’m always trying to find different and new ways of sharing Jesus with people and this looked interesting. So I downloaded it, opened it up and realized I had to sign up for access. Usually when this happens it causes me pause, and this was no different. A lot of times when apps ask me to sign up to use them, I either delete them immediately or let them sit on my phone for awhile until I can do a little more research.

I’m glad I let this one sit. Just the other day I got around to checking it out and it’s an amazing tool in sharing the Gospel with someone. Through a six minute video (which you can watch here), the viewer is introduced to the purpose of Jesus Christ. The app also includes a way to do a short Bible study through the message starting with Creation, moving to the Fall, then introducing Jesus, and then looking at what happens in the end.

When you sign up for the app you are given your own “webpage” to send people through social media, text messages, email, etc… so that they can watch the video as well. It then keeps track of how many times the video has been watched, or how many times you have talked someone through the presentation if you use that portion of the app on your smartphone or tablet.

It’s a well done video and a well done app. I’m still working on how I can utilize it well. One idea I had which I’ve already set up is to embed the video on a page here on my blog. I’ve linked to it earlier in the post. I would encourage you to take a look. It’s a beautifully done video with a lot of thought put into what the narrator would say.

Now why bring this up? I mentioned in my last post (here) that a couple of themes have been coming up in the last year of my reading and study: Apologetics and Righteousness by Faith. So I’m going to be spending quite a bit of time on both in the coming months in my blog posts.

1 Peter 3:15 is a text that most Christian Apologetics point to as the basis for their purpose in defending Christianity:

“But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess.” –1 Peter 3:15 NET

The phrase here in the New English Translation which reads “give an answer” is the Greek word apologia which literally means “to defend oneself.” This is why we call the defense of Christianity “Apologetics.” Peter is encouraging his readers to make sure they know Christ and can give an answer to whoever asks about the hope that they have. When you meet someone who truly knows Jesus there is something different about them, and many times people question that because they see it.

Now it’s important to note the difference between an apology (expression of regret) verse an apology (defense of belief or doctrine). Apology can mean both. Christian Apologetics is the study and defense of the Christian faith. There are Atheist Apologists, Muslim Apologists, Buddhist Apologists, and the list could go on. But because I am a Christian, I will be focusing on Christian Apologetics.

I’m looking forward to the conversations we will have. You don’t have to agree with me to engage in dialogue. I will respect your beliefs and arguments, and hopefully you’ll do the same. Am I an expert on this? No way! I’m still working through many of these arguments and ideas and I want to journey with others who may have the same questions. So, here’s to the journey!

A New Move

Change

The winds, they are changing, at least that’s what it feels like. After five years of ministry in Southern Oregon I have accepted a call to pastor the Sandy Seventh-day Adventist church in Sandy, Oregon. I have learned a lot during my five years here. Just over two of them spent as the youth pastor of the Medford Seventh-day Adventist Church and Lead Pastor of Sonrise Christian Fellowship. And it’s been almost three years that I’ve been the lead pastor of Gateway Seventh-day Adventist Church and Sonrise Christian Fellowship.

Pastoring two churches is one of the hardest things I’ve done. There are some very unique challenges that one is presented with when pastoring two churches. At this point in time I am definitely looking forward to focusing all my attention and energy with one church family. Pastoring two churches has been a good learning experience as I have been able to solidify what I believe and stand for, and I am excited to see what God does as I join with the Sandy Church in doing ministry in Northern Oregon.

This move takes my family out of Southern Oregon and back up to the Portland area. Sandy is a smallish town on Hwy 26 heading out towards Mt. Hood. Their motto is “Gateway to Mount Hood.” As someone who loves mountains I’m excited. I have driven through Sandy several times and have always mentioned that it would be a neat town to live in. Here I actually get the chance!

So what will my focus be on the blog now that I am moving to a new area and my cancer ordeal is somewhat in the rear view mirror? That is a good question. There are a few things that I have been studying and reading about lately and I am thinking about using those as opportunities to begin discussion here. Two of the major things I’ve been looking into are apologetics and righteousness by faith. I’m sure that these two topics alone will create some very interesting commenting.

In the meantime, packing is taking priority as we must pack up an entire house (which now has much more stuff due to having a one-year-old). But I’m hoping to have a more regular posting schedule (I think I’ve said that before) once the move is done.

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