Atheist Encounters

When I was in high school, over 30 years ago, it was extremely rare to meet anyone in our small North Carolina town who was an atheist. I actually did know a few friends who admitted that they were in high school, but it was rare. And those who did admit it often experienced ridicule from other students.

But now, it is not so rare to meet people who proudly declare that they are atheists, even in small-town North Carolina. It has become much more socially acceptable to admit that you do not believe in God at all.

So the chances are good that you will find yourself with a co-worker, neighbor, fellow student or even a family member who does not believe in God. When that happens, what should we do?

The first and most important thing we should do is remember that such people are, in fact, people who have the God-given right to make their own choice. We should respect that choice and their freedom. We should respect them as people and not treat them as deficient or perverted.

Secondly, we should love them. One of the most powerful arguments against the existence of God is the failure of God’s people to show love to others. We are known more for our hatred and legalistic judging than we are for our love. Yet Jesus said that they world would know that we belong to Him by our love.

Third, we shouldn’t feel that we have to know every answer or defend every theological truth to have a conversation about faith. It’s okay to admit that you don’t know the answer or that certain teachings of the Bible are not clear to you. God doesn’t need us to defend Him or answer for Him.

Finally, understand that there is no question about or objection to Christian faith that is new. Atheists have been raising them ever since the church has existed. If you are inclined to understand how Christian scholars have answered some of these objections, then read some materials that will help you understand. Some books that might help are “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis, “The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?” by F. F. Bruce and “Simply Christian” by N.T. Wright. There are many others.

We do not need to be afraid of atheists. We should be praying for the opportunity to demonstrate the true love of Christ and the gospel to everyone. God is never taken by surprise. Trust Him.

Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC

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Sin Removal

Read Mark 2:1-17

Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17

I had two wisdom teeth removed on Monday. The process itself was relatively quick and painless. The old teeth had been hurting and were already heavily decayed. To remove them was the best way for me to insure that I wouldn’t have more serious problems later.

Since then I have been taking pain medication continuously. My mouth is still swollen and sore to the touch. Although I am fine otherwise, it will take several days before I can resume eating normally.

The decay was removed. Then the healing begins.

Our spiritual life often works like this as well. Once the Spirit has shown us some part of our hearts that has decayed in sin, we ask God to remove it. Often that removal itself requires some time, as we cling to our old habits and refuse to fully admit that we need to change.

Once we allow God to take out our decay, our Spirits may need time to heal: the rest of prayer, the medication of God’s word in scripture, the healing rinse of fellowship and worship.

Is there decay of sin that you are still holding onto? Won’t you let God do the surgery of His Spirit, removing the decay and giving you His healing strength? His grace is sufficient.

Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC

A Reason to Be Happy

Read Psalm 37:1-11.

“Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Psalm 37:4

Does God want us to be happy? Some Christians appear to think that our purpose in life is to be angry and frustrated and sour in our attitude all the time. Christians wind up being the social equivalent of the grouchy old man yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn.

I do not believe that being a Christian will automatically make everyone feel happy. Christianity does not teach us to ignore grief or pain. It does not teach us to pretend that everything is all right even when circumstances are bad. Grief and sadness and righteous anger are necessary human emotions. Jesus does not tell us to ignore our genuine feelings.

But there is no virtue in living with our attitude bent toward frustration. The Bible is full of talk about delight and joy. No matter how frustrated we become with our own life circumstances or the failings of others, we carry the joy of the Spirit of God with us. We should be able to sing the words of that old hymn, “There’s sunshine in my soul today!” Sing it and mean it!

One of my favorite songs in my early Christian life was an old Bill Gaither song that says, “this happy face that I’m wearing, you know Jesus put it there to stay, because the world didn’t give it to me and the world can’t take it away.”

So go forth and find your delight in the Lord. No one can take Him away from you. So even when you grieve or have frustrations, “you do not grieve like the rest of humanity that has no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). There is sunshine in your soul. Let it shine!

Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC

Tired of Doing Good

Read Galatians 6:1-10

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” Galatians 6: 9

I have to confess I get a little irritated every time I go out and see that someone has thrown trash from their car into our front yard. Almost every day I have to pick up trash that someone else has thrown out. It’s hard not to be angry at those people who are throwing trash on our lawn.

I have attempted to battle my frustration by making myself pray for the people who throw the trash. I think this is a good habit. It moves me from being angry and frustrated and redirects my energy to something more positive. And although God does not force people to change, I do believe God responds to our prayers.

There will always be destructive, lazy, selfish people in the world, people who will spend their time tearing down what has been built. There have always been people like that. The world sinks into despair when we give into the temptation to join the selfish and destructive. When people treat us that way, it’s easy to join them.

Our life in Christ calls us to be creators, builders, healers, people who repair the broken things. Not everything can be cleaned up and the job will never be completed, but God gives us hope in Christ that there is rebuilding and new life, not merely tearing down and using up.

Let’s not only pray together for those who mess things up, let’s pray that God will give us the strength to always be builders and healers.

Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC