Monday, May 31, 2010

Are the Miracles of the Bible Real?

One of the things that I most often hear from skeptics is that they just can't accept the miracles found in the Bible. Miracles can sometimes be a real obstacle in acceptance of the truth found in the Gospel message because doing so often comes down to acceptance of the possibility of miracles. Not just the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus, but any and all miracles found in the Bible. For example there are the 10 plagues God brought upon Egypt. The second plague was the plague of frogs (Exodus 5:5-15). How could this possibly have happened?

I recently read a news story in my local paper of a real live plague of frogs in Greece. The title read "Flood of frogs shuts down major Greek highway". The story stated that a "horde of frogs" numbering in the "millions" covered a highway near the town of Thessoloniki, Greece. The frogs were so numerous that officials were forced to close the highway because several people had skidded off the road. This "carpet of frogs" occured two days in a row.

Of course I'm not implying God caused this "plague" of frogs in Greece, but it does show that the miracles of the Bible are not so far fetched as some think. God can do anything! That's what makes Him God. Since God created the entire universe out of nothing, then the greatest miracle of all has already occurred. That makes the other miracles of the Bible not only possible but rather easy to believe. Oh by the way, God is still in the miracle business!
Dr. Richard Tompkins

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Avoiding the Post-Christmas Blues

Christmas is now over and we are well into 2010. What about all those New Year's resolutions we made a couple weeks ago? We resolved to lose weight, to exercise more, to eat healthier foods, to be a better person, to stop our old bad habits, etc. But how many of you will keep any of these? Better yet, how many of you have ever kept a New Year's resolution? Here's mine for 2010: Eat more and exercise less. Why this one? That's because it's the only one I'm confident I can keep.

Here are some other actual unique resolutions I found on the internet:

I resolve to stop feeding the office plant leftover coffee and use water instead.

I resolve to try and get a law passed that requires every person on the face of the earth to use their common sense at least once a day.

I resolve to try real hard to stop eating meals from fast food resturants for 2 out of 3 meals a day.

I resolve to become as wonderful a person as my dog thinks I am.

I resolve to never take responsibility for my decisions, to never take the blam, to not stand by my promises, and to ignore the needs of the poor. In short, I resolve to become a politican.

That's the problem with resolutions; they are just too hard to keep so you might as well make some ridiculous ones or none at all.

As we get ready for the New Year, how can we be sure that the next year will be better than the one we just had? More importantly, how can we keep the Christmas spirit alive through this year?

When I was a kid, I remember two of my favorite songs that were played on the local rock and roll radio station (and yes I said "rock and roll" not rock!) were sung by Elvis Presley. It's not that I'm that big a Elvis fan, it was just that I happened to really love these two songs. One was "Blue Christmas". The other, however, was the one I liked the most. It asked the following question - Why can't everyday be like Christmas? The words went something like this:

"Why can't everyday be like Christmas? Why can't we keep that joy eternally? For if everyday was just like Christmas, what a wonderful world it would be!"

Well, why can't everyday be like Christmas? Have you ever wondered why January just seems to drag on or why all those New Year's resolutions go unmet? Why the joy you had at Christmas just fades away after the tree comes down? Afterall, Christmas is all about joy. We even sing "REJOICE, REJOICE" and "JOY TO THE WORLD". Yet "joy" doesn't last very long - sometimes not even long enough to return all those ugly ties.

Here's the truth - most people really do have a hard time keeping that Christmas high once the New Year begins. We call this the Post-Christmas Blues. In fact it can get so bad that people need professional help. Studies show that while most people suffer from a Post-Christmas let down, a significant number, 26%, of people suffer a condition known as post holiday blues that is serious enough to warrant taking special action. That's over one fourth of the population! So if you struggle with a big let down after the holiday season, you're not alone. Why is that? One of the major reasons is we confuse the joy of Christmas with the happiness of the event of Christmas. Then when it is over, the realities of living our daily lives takes over. We return to the same routine as we had before. We get into the same rut that we were in before the holidays. That's the problem with happiness - it depends on something external. If we want to keep the joy of Christmas all year long, then we must insure it is joy that we have at Christmas, not happiness.

Over the next several weeks I am going to present to you three things that will help all of us avoid the Post-Christmas Blues and to find joy during 2010 - three things that will help us to avoid returning to the same old rut that we were in during 2009. We have a new year, so we need to have a new beginning. A beginning that will last!

In Philippians 3:12-14, Paul outlines how believers should focus on reaching forward, letting go, and reaching the important goal. In other words, focusing on what is really important. From this passage we find that in order to keep that Christmas feeling and avoid the Post-Christmas Blues in 2010 requires us to do three very important things: learn how to value our time in the new year; release ourselves from the junk of the past year; and set new and important priorities for this new year. We will address this first item next week and the other two a few weeks thereafter. So stay tuned!

Dr. Richard Tompkins

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Is it ever wrong to be right?

Have you ever wondered if you have made the right decision about something? You may have pondered and pondered over what to do or what to choose before finally making a decision only to second guess whether you made the right choice or not. This has happened to me many times during my life. Not only that, I've sometimes made a decision that everyone told me was the right one only to discover that they and I were wrong. It is true that just because you have the right to do something doesn't make what you do right! But how can we know what are the right things to do? This is especially important when it comes to doing what God has determined to be the right things.

In the Bible, the word "righteousness" in both the Greek and Hebrew means to do the right thing and to be in the right, and a righteous person is one who does what is right. It does not mean one who is perfect or without sin or who has never sinned. Biblically, it means one who is viewed by God as doing the right thing. In the Old Testament that usually meant one who served God and obeyed God's commandments and laws. Jesus refined its meaning to mean one who conforms to the will of God. The Apostle Paul clarified this meaning as being in the right relation to God through Christ and something that comes only through faith in Christ.

There is a direct connection between righteousness and living in accordance to God's will that can only come through belief in Christ and living in the light of His perfection. No one is righteous in themselves (Rom. 3:10&20) but all who are in Christ are made righteous (2 Cor. 5:21) and do not need to continually repent in order to be viewed by God as righteous - even if they still sin at times (Rom. 3:21-26, Rom. 4:6-8, Rom. 8:1). Our faith, not our perfection, yields righteousness (Gal. 3:11-14). That doesn't mean we who are Christ-followers shouldn't repent when we sin; it only means that our righteousness in the eyes of God isn't based upon it.

Nor does this mean that it is ok to sin. Sin is never ok! The Bible clearly teaches that Christ-followers should never intentionally sin even if, through Christ, they have already been forgiven for that sin (Ps. 119:133, Rom. 6:1-4 & 10-12). Sin has and will always separate us from fellowship with God. The Bible clearly reveals that God's anger burns over sin. Sin is always self-centered and will always be wrong even if it appears to produce "good" or "right" things in the eyes of man. The great pastor and Bible teacher Oswald Chambers said it best: "The disposition of sin is not immorality and wrong-doing, but the disposition of self-realization - I am my own god. This disposition may work out in decorous morality or in indecorous immorality, but it has the one basis, my claim to my right to myself."

God's desire is for us to be conformed to His will and to choose to do so because we love Him. The truth is that the righteousness received through faith in Christ should move us to an ever deepening relationship with God, conforming us to His will, and thus should move us farther away from sin. God intends for us to do His will and only His will which can only happen as we grow closer and closer to Him. We Christ-followers sometimes choose to do things contrary to God's will because of our sinful nature but God desires for us to choose to obey Him not simply because He commands it (and of course He does) but more importantly because we love Him. If we are Christ-followers , God views us as righteous because of our faith but He desires that we also choose because of our love for Him to live righteously by living in accordance to His will.

We may have the right to choose to sin but having the right to do so does not make that choice right. Sinning is clearly a time when it is wrong to be right!

Dr. Richard Tompkins

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Bankrupcy of Relativism

One of the most perplexing dilemmas of the 21st century is the concept that truth as well as most everything, really is not absolute but rather relative – this is what we call relativism. It is the most widely held moral view in Western society today.

So what is relativism? Ultimately, it is the opposite of objectivism. According to relativism, there is no single, timeless truth existing independent of particular perspectives or methods. Societies and/or individuals decide what is right or wrong and values can and do vary for culture to culture and individual to individual. In other words, absolute (genuine) truth really does not exist because truth is only what you want to make it. What’s true for you may or may not be true for me.

So how did this kind of thinking become so prevalent? It’s been around for a long time – as long as there have been societies, there have been some sort of relativism. However, as a modern philosophy it grew out of post-modern deconstruction philosophy from the late 1800s gaining popularity through the entire 20th century, especially following the turbulent ‘60s. Relativism has permeated our thinking to the extent that it has become one of, if not the, principle drivers of cultural thinking.

However, relativism in all its forms has failed. It has failed humanity in three ways. It has failed because:
1. It provides no basis for genuine objective truth.
2. It leads to degradation of ethics and morality.
3. It produces a void in our hearts that leaves us with no purpose for life.

In short – it leaves us as individuals and as a society without hope. It is without a doubt a bankrupt ideology.

The foundational premise of relativism is that there is no absolute truth. But that alone is a self-defeating statement. It is a self-defeating statement to claim “reality can not be known” because in order to make such a statement requires us to know something about reality. To say that something can be true for one person but false for another fails to meet its own criteria for truth.

So then, what is truth? Here’s what truth is not:
- It is not what works for me.
- It is not what I want it to be or intended it to be.
- It is not what feels good.
- It is not what seems to make sense.

Simply, truth is what corresponds to reality.

Not only has relativism failed to provide a basis for truth, it has also failed to provide a basis for ethics and morality.

What if the majority of Americans decided to pass a law that said that blond hair is illegal and the penalty for having blond hair is death? What’s wrong with that? It can’t be immoral since that is what the majority believe and want? What if I decide that as an individual green eyes are bad and I’m going to punch everyone I see with green eyes in the nose? What’s wrong with that? It’s what I believe to be moral. Of course you can see the folly in such relativist logic (especially when it comes to little old me punching some big biker dude with green eyes in the nose).

Relativism produced the likes of Hitler, Mass Murderers such as Ted Bundy and other moral monsters. In the extreme it also produces people who see no need to care about others and people who are unchecked and unaccountable to anything but personal feelings/opinions.

Here’s the truth: Morals are not “descriptions” of the way things are or the way people may want them to be – morals are “prescriptions” of the way things truly ought to be. To determine those requires there be absolutes that must come from some source outside of humanity or else they will be only opinions and can not be argued as right or wrong outside of each individual’s feelings about them.

Relativism has and continues to produce a degradation of ethics and morals because it provides for no absolute basis for establishing them.

Lastly, relativism is bankrupt because it has failed to fill the void in our lives and leaves us with little purpose or hope. It robs us of a life based upon the foundation of truth and that keeps us from fully living the life that God intends for us to live. How – because it robs us of the truth of who God is and therefore a viable relationship with Him.

Truth comes from God, Morality comes from God, and Purpose for life comes from God. And all of these can only be found in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Relativism can not provide these. In fact, it will only eventually lead us away from them. Unfortunately this is what is happening in America today. Relativism is bankrupt so don’t allow it to bankrupt your life and the lives of those around you.

It is God’s desire for each of us to have an eternal relationship with Him and to also show others the way to do the same. This requires us to have a faith that is not only based on emotions/experience but on reason as well. Ultimately, faith will always be an issue of the heart; but remember, the road to and from the heart passes through the head.

To learn more about relativism read the book by Doug Powell, Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics (Nashville: Holman Reference, 2006).

Dr. Richard Tompkins

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Look Before You Leap!

Somewhere waaay back in the nineties, I watched a movie staring Steve Martin called Leap of Faith. The movie was about a con man who pretended to be a preacher who preyed on the fears and needs of people by tricking them into believing that he had some power from God to help them with what they needed so that he could get them to give him as much money as possible. Of course the movie was a farce but it did make me think about how easy it can be to get people to believe certain things if you can make them feel that you offer some truth or need for which they are searching. All you have to do is help them to place their faith in the answers you are offering. The truth is that everything involves and requires placing your faith into something or someone. You can’t live without having faith. We need faith!

Here’s the thing: In the end, everyone must make one or more faith decisions. Faith is a choice and it always requires a person to leap across a “faith chasm”. No amount of evidence can ever remove that “leap” it can only help shorten the gap. The final choice always requires faith. Everyone must choose to believe. In fact, everyone has already chosen to place faith in something. Even the atheist has chosen to place his or her faith in the fact that there is no God! In my view the atheist has made a poor choice of faith because it is not based on the best representation of the truth but it is a choice of faith none the less.

So what is the role of evidence and facts? We need to make every effort possible to ascertain the truth, as best we can, predicated upon as exhaustive an examination of the facts as possible. By doing so, we can make a faith decision based upon both the heart and the head.

It is for this reason that all Christians need to be able to know why they believe the way they believe. It simply is not enough to be able to say I believe this and that because genuine faith must be based on truth and it is being able to clearly articulate the why of our faith that points us and others back to its truth base. Ultimately our goal is to find the truth so that we can be set free and as we discovered last month, truth is found in Jesus Christ. So if we want to help people in their search for Him, then we must help people in their search for the truth.

You may ask: “Isn’t it better to believe through faith alone rather than believing because of evidence or proof?” Of course it is. This is the point Jesus was making to Thomas in John 20:29. However, the Christian faith has always been a verifiable faith. There is a vast amount of evidence that serves as proof of its truth. God has purposefully built this into creation, history, His Word, and His people and His intention has always been for us to use it for His purpose to redeem humanity. As apologist Frank Turek frequently proclaims, “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.” Why? It is because when all the evidence is examined and all the facts have been evaluated, belief in a Theistic God rather than no god is the faith system best supported by the preponderance of evidence. This process is not only valid for evaluating the claims of atheism but for every other belief system as well. Once the evidence is explored, people will find that it takes far more faith to believe in any other system than it does to believe Christianity. All the others require a much larger leap to cross that faith chasm. However, most people simply do not know or understand this fact.

It is the responsibility of the church and each individual Christian to be prepared to help others to see and understand this point. This is what Peter was commanding in 1 Peter 3:15. We must be prepared to not only tell people what we believe but why we believe it. We must be prepared to give the reason for our hope. It is this “reason” that leads us to the genuine truth and shortens that “leap of faith” that all must eventually take. Learning how to do this is the focus of the discipline known as “apologetics”. Now that doesn’t mean that there are not other very valid “proofs” of the Christian faith other than reason (such as miracles, healing, Christian living, etc.); however, it is my view that an examination of the evidence under the direction and power of the Holy Spirit is certainly one of the most effective tools for breaking down barriers to the message about Christ for the Western World today.

It is God’s desire for each of us to have an eternal relationship with Him and to also show others the way to do the same. This requires us to have a faith that is not only based on emotions/experience but on reason as well. Ultimately, faith will always be an issue of the heart; but remember, the road to and from the heart passes through the head. In the end, learning how to give the reason for our faith will not only prepare us to break down the barriers that block communication of the Gospel but will also give us more confidence, strengthen our faith, and enhance our personal relationship with the Lord. Christ’s Kingdom will be increased as a result.

If you want to learn more about how you can help others to "look before they leap" read the book by Frank Turek and Norman Geisler, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004).

Dr. Richard Tompkins

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Are you absolutely sure about that?

One of the most depressing times for me as a parent was when my children became teenagers. It seemed that I went from being the source of all knowledge to the dumbest person on earth overnight. Every thirteen year old in school was instantly smarter than I. During the ensuing years, it seemed that almost every bit of wisdom I espoused was questioned. I no longer could be considered as a source of truth. Truth became what all my children’s friends believed it to be.

Thankfully, this period in my children’s lives ran its course and in due time, my knowledge some how mysteriously returned (when they reached the age of 25 or so). Now, I never quite acquired the level of knowledge I had prior to their teen years, but at least I was once again viewed as a credible source of truth. Well this begs the question: What is truth? Did I ever have any ability to provide truth or for that matter, does anyone? Does truth even exist? This seems to be one of the most perplexing dilemmas of the 21st century. This is especially important in today’s relative thinking world where truth has been redefined to mean anything you want it to be. In other words, absolute (genuine) truth really does not exist because truth is only what you want to make it. What’s true for you may or may not be true for me.

Why is understanding what truth really represents so important? What difference does it make anyway? Here’s the thing: Unless we can establish the fact that a genuine, absolute truth exists, we can’t even establish the existence of God. For unless there is truth, there can be no God! Of course, this question about the existence of truth is not just a modern one. It is perhaps the most asked question of all human history. It was the question that Pilate asked Jesus before he sentenced Him to death (John 18:38).

So then, what is truth? Simply, truth is what corresponds to reality. If our understanding of truth is abstract, then it will correspond to an abstract reality. This is truth in the postmodern world. However, concrete truth is truth that corresponds to concrete reality. In fact, it is impossible to deny this definition of truth without using it. You see, we can not say that a concrete or absolute truth does not exist without making an absolute statement about truth (“Absolute truth does not exist.” – Are you absolutely sure about that?). Therefore, we can't deny the fact that we can know actual reality.

In fact, it is a self-defeating statement to claim “reality can not be known” because in order to make such a statement requires us to know something about reality. A self-defeating statement is one which fails to meet its own standards of acceptability or validity. The statement that we cannot know reality contains a statement about reality. Since it claims reality can’t be known, it fails to satisfy its own standard of acceptability or validity because you have to know something about reality in order to know if you don’t know it. Since it is self-defeating to say we can’t know reality, then we must be able to know reality. That makes truth concrete because it corresponds to concrete reality.

Here is a simple way to prove this is true. Examine it using one of the principle laws of logic – The Law of Non-Contradiction. This law states that opposites cannot both be true. A statement can’t be both true and false. It must be one or the other. The idea that there is no absolute truth violates this law because one must make an absolute true statement in order to say there is no absolute truth. Therefore the Law of Non-Contradiction is undeniable. Even those who deny it have use it to prove their claim.

Here’s the truth: There is such a thing as reality and it is possible to know the truth about it. Therefore, real truth is knowable, absolute, and represents the truth even if we don’t know it or refuse to recognize it as such. Truth is not what some organization or leader tells you it is, it is not what your friends say that it is, is not what culture proclaims it to be, nor is it what we may want it to be. Truth is what corresponds to reality. If absolute truth exists, and it does, then we can know it and we should make every effort to do so. Jesus said that if you know the truth, it will set you free (John 8:32). So seek the truth and live a life of freedom. But here is the really good stuff: Jesus also said that He is the truth (John 14:6) and consequently He is able to set us free (Galations 5:1). If you really want to know the truth and to live a life of truth, look to Jesus.

For more information about "truth" I suggest you read the book by Norman Geisler, Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1976, 1988, 2007) or drop me a note at

Dr. Richard Tompkins

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Resurrection: Illusion or Reality?

A while back my wife and I rented the move The Prestige. I have always loved watching magicians and I was especially intrigued by this movie. I guess you could say the movie has a special “magic” to it. But we all know that the acts of magicians are really only illusions, they’re not real. The fun is trying to figure out how they do it. But, I never can.

As we approach Easter, I can’t help but think about how for some the resurrection of Jesus is like a magician’s trick. After all, can people really come back to life? Besides, what’s so important about the resurrection anyway that we should even care one way or the other? Here's the thing: What makes the resurrection so important is that it represents what’s really significant about Easter. The Apostle Paul said in 1 Cor. 15:17 that if the resurrection did not happen, then belief in Christ is in vain. In other words, without the resurrection nothing else about the Christian faith is valid. It was the resurrection of Christ that made everything He said the truth. If Jesus really did come back to life, then He must be exactly who He claimed to be – the eternal God in human flesh.

So how do we know that Jesus’ resurrection really happened? How can we be certain that this is not just some illusion? First, we know it happened because His tomb was empty. This was never denied by anyone at that time. If the tomb was occupied, the authorities would have produced a body to disprove the Apostle’s claims.

There is also a preponderance of other evidence that point to the validity of the resurrection. Here is just a sampling of that evidence:

* The guards would have been killed if the body had been stolen.
* The disciples would not have allowed themselves to be beaten, imprisoned, and killed for something they knew was a lie.
* Over 500 people claimed to have seen Jesus after the resurrection.
* There are several accounts of the claims for the resurrection from non-biblical sources.
* The first witnesses were women, who in the first century weren’t considered credible witnesses; therefore, the writers of the Bible would not have used them to perpetuate a lie.

The most important proof of the resurrection, however, was the radically changed lives of the disciples and others after their encounter with the risen Jesus. One of these people was James the half-brother of Jesus. He considered Jesus to be delusionary during His earthy ministry but after encountering the risen Jesus, James became a radical Christ-follower even to the point of death.

Another and for me the most important example of a life changing encounter with the risen Jesus was that experienced by a man named Saul who later became the Apostle Paul. You see, he had not been a disciple of Jesus. He had been a disciple of the respected Rabbi Gamaliel who was part of the group of Jewish leaders who orchestrated the death of Jesus. Yet, after his encounter with the risen Jesus, Paul, like James, became a radical Christ-follower even to the point of death. This is why Paul could make such a profound and definitive statement about the importance of the resurrection in 1 Cor. 15:17.

Here’s the truth: There is no magic or illusion involved with the resurrection of Jesus. It happened just as Jesus, Himself, said it would. He, therefore, is exactly who He claimed Himself to be – the eternal God in human flesh. This Easter set aside some time away from the bunnies, eggs, and baskets to reflect on this truth.

The risen Jesus still provides life changing encounters with people and He wants to do that with you. If you would like to know more about how you can have a life changing encounter with Jesus, drop me a note at Have a blessed Resurrection Day!

Dr. Richard Tompkins