Monthly Archives: June 2015

Don’t Waste Your Off-Season

relax-727003_1920Nationals is over. The last speech has been delivered, the last ballot filled out, the last trophy handed over, the last competitor disappointed or cheered. The seniors are moving on to new arenas of life; for the rest, preparation for next season begins afresh.

How can you make sure that you don’t waste your off-season? Over the coming weeks I would like to answer that question in a series of posts. All but the most serious Apologetics overachievers will want to take it easy over the summer, and I understand that. So I am not going to be giving you instructions for an Apologetics intensive where you complete five cards a week and practice for four hours a day! Instead, I will be sharing a few practical tips that will help you make great strides in apologetics during the off-season.

Let’s start with Tip #1: get to know your Bible better. The Bible is obviously the foundation of apologetics. Jesus says in Matthew 7:24-25 (ESV), “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” Hearing and obeying Jesus’ words gives a solid foundation to our lives, and by extension to Apologetics. And the words of Jesus are found in the Bible. If we want our Apologetics house to stand firm, we must build it upon the solid rock of Scripture.

For many, summer is a more relaxed time of year. There are fewer activities, fewer places to go, less school to complete, and overall more free time. (For some, this is not the case and summer is even busier than the school year. I can’t help you there.) One great use of this free time is getting to know your Bible better. Ignoring daily Bible reading is never excusable, but during the summer with additional free time we definitely have no excuse! if you have struggled to establish a habit of daily Bible reading, summer is a great time to start. Get acquainted with your Bible so that when competition season comes around, you will be able to use your knowledge in round.

Case in point of what not to do: I was judging a round of Apologetics this past season, and one girl chose the topic of alleged contradictions in the Bible. She gave several examples, including the feedings of the 5,000 and 4,000 recorded in the Gospels. Since so many details are similar, mustn’t we conclude that there was one feeding that two Gospel writers recorded with contradictory numbers?

Her explanation was that the different Gospel writers rounded the number of men to about 5,000 and about 4,000. Something about that struck me as not being quite on target. But it wasn’t until later, when I had a chance to look in the Gospel of Matthew, that I realized just how wrong her answer was. Matthew records Jesus feeding the 5,000 in chapter 14. And Matthew records Jesus feeding the 4,000 just one chapter later in chapter 15. Oh!

So we must go with a different explanation entirely. The reason these accounts are not contradictory is not that “different gospel writers rounded their numbers differently,” but that there were two different feedings, one with 4,000 men and one with 5,000. This is why it is important to know your Bible. You may come to the right conclusion accidentally if you do not know your Bible (like correctly stating that the Bible is not contradictory). But if you have not reasoned correctly in order to reach that conclusion, you are on shaky ground.

So use the summer to get more acquainted with what the Bible says. It’s a wonderful book. It’s the only book God ever wrote! If you’ve never been able to stick to a reading plan, try using your Apologetics cards. Take the list of 100+ topics, choose one each day (or week), then find and study verses about that topic. By the end of the summer, you will know your Bible a lot better—and you’ll have more Apologetics cards!

So that’s my first tip for how to use your off-season profitably: Get to know your Bible better. Next time, Tip #2: Write a card a week.

There and Back Again

new-zealand-563759_1920J.R.R. Tolkien titled his classic work The Hobbit, or There and Back Again. While I’m not a hobbit, I did go “there and back again” recently: I flew to Guatemala for a week and then returned to the good ol’ U.S. of A.

Before I go any further, I want to tell you all not to worry: this blog is not going to change its focus from Apologetics to “whatever Caleb is doing at this particular moment in his life.” But since I did lead in to my Guatemala trip with some reflections on how missions relates to Apologetics, I figured I shouldn’t leave all of you hanging and wondering how the trip went. So, I promise this will be the last article about myself for a while. I’ll get back to “pure” Apologetics next time.

Back on The Hobbit, Bilbo ended his trip very ready to rest. But my team and I returned fired up for God’s mission in the world! We want to continue making an impact, right here in Little Rock. Calling a missions trip “life-changing” is cliché, but it truly was. I will live differently because I went.

Here’s why: the 30-40 people in the small local church/community we partnered with live on mission. They care deeply about the gospel and about making disciples of Jesus Christ, and are constantly involved in loving each other and loving those around them. Comparing my life to theirs, I want to follow their example right here at home as well as overseas. This trip helped me to see anew that our God is not the God of America, but of the whole world.

So what does this have to do with Apologetics? Three things.

  1. I hope it’s apparent in this past blog post or two that Apologetics does not exist in a vacuum. Apologetics is one part of our life, and that life is a holistic unit. We should always act in a manner consistent with what we proclaim inside the competitive Apologetics room. If we say that God has provided one way to himself through Jesus Christ, and that those who disbelieve that way will suffer everlasting torment, then our everyday life should reflect that reality. If we never share the gospel, if we never go (whether 10 miles or 10,000 miles) outside of our comfort zone to tell others the message about Jesus, then our lives betray our creedal confession. We may still believe the truth, but we’re not acting upon it.
  2. Getting a bigger picture of God’s work in the world affects our Apologetics. Take the simple Category 4 question, “How can a man know God?” One verse that comes quickly to mind is John 3:16 (ESV): ““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” I may have quoted that verse hundreds of times in my life, but I’ve never understood “For God so loved the world” like I do now after being in Guatemala.
  3. Apologetics is not just about abstract truth. It’s about truth in life. How should we live, since we have been given knowledge about Ultimate Reality? Many of the Analyze and Respond topics touch on these issues. How is living as a Christian different from living as an atheist, a pantheist, or a moralist? Feel free to share stories in Apologetics rounds to illustrate your answers. You don’t have to leave your individuality at the door—you should tell the judges how you personally have been impacted by the truths you’re declaring.

So that’s how my trip to Guatemala—and your personal experience too—relates to Apologetics.

I’m sure those of you who are visual would like to see some photos from the trip. I don’t have a smartphone (I affectionately call mine a “dumb phone”), but lots of my teammates do. So I just stole their photos. 🙂

Here are just 3 photos to summarize the trip.

Photo 1: We spent time with 25 kids at a local school for 4 days, telling them about the love of Jesus and playing a lot of fútbol. Another part of my group taught teachers and parents how to disciple their kids.

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Photo 2: Each night a member of our team taught a discipleship lesson at the house church (mine was “7 Profiles of a Disciple” from 2 Timothy 2), and then we just spent time with the local believers. 11377122_10205441880181453_4557496544044935879_n

Photo 3: we spent a day in beautiful Antigua, admiring the city and buying souvenirs to take home.

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