3 Reasons Why I Deleted Fortnite – Episode #8

I first learned about Fortnite from some kids at our high school youth ministry at church who described playing Fortnite as a “sport.” And this wasn’t coming from a kid who didn’t know what actual sports were. This was from a kid who plays high school football!

Feeling intrigued, and looking for a little mindless distraction in my downtime, I decided to check Fortnite for myself. I downloaded it for free on my iPad, and began playing. I was instantly hooked.

For those who have never played Fortnite before, Fortnite is a first-person shooter game. It reminds you of video game classics like 007 James Bond Golden Eye on Nintendo 64, or for those of you who are little older, like Duck Hunt on the original Nintendo.

Now, imagine of 007 and Duck Hunt got together with The Hunger Games movie, and had a baby. That baby would be Fortnite. 100 people from around the globe are placed in arena, with the object being to kill as many people as possible without being killed, and to be the last person to survive.

It didn’t take long for me to see why Fortnite was so powerful with the high school youth at my church. It is tremendously fun to play, and gets your blood pumping as you hide from those trying to kill you in the game, or while you chased someone else down to kill. The game is full of adrenaline and dopamine hits all day long. You will literally find yourself holding your breath in the suspense this game is capable of constantly building.

Without a doubt, Fortnite is the most addicting game in video game history.

And I have to confess, that as a 36 year old man, who is a banking professional, with a wife, and living a very comfortable middle class life style… I was hooked.

So, in light of such, I would like to give you 3 reasons why I decided to delete Fortnite from my iPad.

Reason #1: It Is Crazy Addicting

What started off as simply a quest for some mindless distraction and form of entertainment quickly became a powerful drug that I found myself hard to say no to.

I found myself fitting in 30 minutes of Fortnite into my morning routine. It was becoming something of a devotional I would do before heading to work every day. And then when I’d get home, I would play Fortnite before my wife got home and we’d have dinner. Then after dinner, I would play Fortnite for a couple hours while chilling out. During my work week, I’d easily find myself playing Fortnite for 3-4 hours a day. And on the weekend, I’d easily play 5-6 hours a day. This lead to my next reason.

Reason #2: It Was Distracting Me From Things That Matter

Since becoming addicted to Fortnite about 10 months ago, I found myself reading less.

I’ve been losing weight lately, and have been trying to workout more. Fortnite has been hurting my “gainz” and the progress I’ve been making in our home gym. Sometimes I would choose Fortnite over an extra workout session during the week.

And the real dagger to the heart, I found myself telling my wife “hold on” more frequently whenever she’d ask me to do something. “I just have to finish this game!” I’d tell her, while she patiently waited on me to finish. I was acting like some sort of 14 year old man-child telling his mom something. My wife never called me out on this behavior, but I caught myself saying it, and I decided I just couldn’t do this any more.

Reason #3: Fortnite Conflicts With My Ethical Beliefs

For those of you who may not know, I am a Christian and a pacifist.

I take the Sermon on the Mount quite literally. I believe I am to love my enemies and to turn the cheek to whoever tries to do me harm, just as Jesus taught His followers.

And while Fortnite is “just a game” and probably as ethically innocent as kids playing Cops and Robbers, I found something in my spirit just wincing while playing a game that involves running around murdering people for sport.

And although it may or may not be a sin to play a mere game like Fortnite, for me, it was becoming sinful. And ultimately, I decided “as a man” I had to make a manly decision, and “put away childish things” like the apostle Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians.

So, I decided that I needed to “man up” and delete Fortnite from my life.

Fortnite was proving to be more than just a fun little distraction for me, it was something that was ultimately creeping over into the things that mattered much more to me.

Overcoming Addiction

But, it’s not just enough to delete Fortnite from my iPad. If all I do is delete Fortnite, it’ll eventually somehow find it’s way back into my life, or I’ll fill it with another game like Fortnite.

The key to overcoming any life challenging to addiction isn’t just to cut something out cold turkey, as that will leave a void in your life. The key is to replace addictive behaviors with other positive life affirming actions and habits that make you a better person.

For me, that means I’m going to replace my Fortnite addiction with things like working out more, reading more, spending more time with the Lord, spending more time serving my wife, and working on this blog and podcast.

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How to Make the “Best” Steak Ever

Steak cooked in cast iron skillet with blue cheese butter topping.

I cannot remember the last time I ordered a steak at a restaurant.  I know it’s been at least a couple of years.  

Why?

Because I see no point. Through much trial and error, over the years I’ve learned the fine art of making some really good steak.  And just about any time I order a steak at a restaurant, even a really nice restaurant, I always feel a tad bit disappointed.

It’s rare that I come across a steak at a restaurant that’s as good or better than what I make at home. And even when it is, it’s only incrementally better, and not worth the extra money you shell out at a restaurant for a steak. 

The truth of the matter is that making a killer steak is a matter of simple technique. Granted, those techniques can take time to discover and master. I’d say my journey has taken at least 10 years.  But that’s because I tried a lot of different things before finally narrowing it down to what is essential. 

Thankfully, because of this blog post, I’m going to save you years of trial and error. Simply follow my tips below.

Tip #1: Pick Your Steaks Individually, and Always Buy Fresh

Never buy frozen steaks, and never keep steaks in your freezer. Freezing your steaks will always degrade the quality of your steaks at the molecular level. Whenever you buy a steak, buy it at the grocery store and cook it the very same day.

And if your grocery store has a butcher and/or meat counter, always buy your steaks individually from behind the counter. Never buy the pre-wrapped steaks, as these are almost always the lower quality steaks, or they are sold in bulk, which prevents you from picking steaks individually.

You should always buy steaks individually, not only so you can ensure that they are the proper thickness (1.5-2 inches thick), but so you can ensure they have the best “marbling” (distribution of fat) that you can pick.

Not all steaks are created equal. So choose wisely. It only takes an extra minute or two, and the impact on flavor and texture can be like night and day.

Tip #2: Never Cook Your Steak Cold

Before cooking your steak, you should take it out of the fridge and let it sit on your counter for at least 30-45 minutes before cooking.

Taking your steak straight out of the fridge and cooking your steak on a high heat will result in a steak that doesn’t cook evenly in the center. It’ll suffer a sort of “shock” from doing so. As a result, you could cook a steak that looks nicely cooked on the outside, but still very cold and rare in the middle.

Resting your steak before you cook it is just as important as resting your steak for a few minutes after you cook. This also gives you some time to generously season your steak before hand, allowing salt to further penetrate and flavor your favorite cut of meat.

Tip #3 Season Generously, But Keep Your Steak Seasoning Simple

The perfect steak blend: Salt, pepper, and Chicago Steak Seasoning

Some purists like food guru Alton Brown believe a steak requires nothing more than to be generously seasoned with salt. Alton Brown believes this allows you to get the maximum amount of “beefy” flavor when you eat your steak.

I love Alton Brown, and I like his general philosophy here about keeping things simple when it comes to steak. As when it comes to steak, I’m all about that yummy beefy goodness.

But I think strictly salt isn’t going to do it for most people. I personally like salt, fresh cracked pepper (never powder!), and a little garlic powder, or my favorite steakhouse seasoning, “Chicago Steak Seasoning.” I personally prefer my steak to have a little “kick” to it, and a generous cracking of fresh ground pepper or Chicago Steak Seasoning really adds that extra level of spice I think most of us crave when it comes to a really good steak.

And if you want to occasionally make a special topping to go on your steak, like Bobby Flay’s blue cheese butter, I am entirely down with that.

But make sure whatever you do…. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER eat your steak with steak sauce. About the only time you will ever see me use steak sauce is if I don’t feel like my steak tastes very good, or if I’m just in a weird mood.

Tip #4: Cook Your Steak Slowly, And Never On A Grill

The only time you should ever cook your steak on a grill is if you have a large party.

Why? Three reasons.

First, you’ll never get a perfectly caramelized crust on your steak. Grill marks may look pretty, but they don’t have the same flavor that comes from a fully developed crust. That crust only comes from intense direct contact with a red hot skillet.

Second, grills have a lot of random hot and cold spots, are subject to flare ups and other extreme spikes in temperature, resulting in uneven cooks and very hard to control internal levels of doneness.

Third, when your steak cooks on a grill it loses juice and fat. Those juices and fat (flavor!!!) falls forever between the grill grates and burns up in the flames below.

That’s why there’s only two ways you should ever cook a steak.

You need to cook steak slowly, and you need to cook it either using a sous vide precision cooker (pictured below), or you need to “reverse sear” the steak by cooking it slowly in the oven at 225 degrees for about 45 +/- minutes (depending on what cut of steak you have).

By cooking slowly, you gently raise the internal temperature of the steak to the desired level of doneness, and the steak’s fat melts and infuses your steak with it’s full flavor potential. Your steak also better retains its juices, ensuring you don’t eat a steak that’s ever tough and dry.

I personally prefer the sous vide method, and it’s what they use in most high end professional restaurants. But if this tool seems a little intimidating to you, the reverse sear method is perfectly acceptable too. But seriously, don’t be intimidated by the sous vide cooker. With a sous vide cooker, you are simply warming your steak up in a hot water bath to the exact temperate you want (130 degrees for perfect medium rare). The internal temperature of your steak will never rise above the temperature of the water bath. If you set the water at 130, your steak will cook to 130, and hold there until you are ready to serve.

Once you go sous vide, you’ll never cook a steak any other way. I promise. And it’s super simple.

Sous Vide Precision Cooker

After cooking your steak with a sous vide cooker (or using a reverse sear), you simply finish the steak by lightly patting it dry and then searing it in a fire hot cast iron skillet.

When cooking in the cast iron skillet, I highly recommend using an oil with a high smoke point, such as avocado oil. This way your house will be a lot less smoky when you sear the steak in your pan, the oil won’t burn, and the flavor is completely neutral (it won’t taste like an avocado). It also makes it safe to add a little butter to the steak pan if you wish to finish your steak with some butter, garlic, and herbs such as thyme or rosemary. The oil will prevent the butter from burning.

Searing steak in a cast iron pan.

Bonus Tip: Never Cook More Than Medium Rare

Perfectly cooked medium rare steak (130 degrees)

I feel very dogmatic about this point.

Unless you have some religious or dietary/medical restrictions, you should never cook your steak above a medium rare (130-134 degrees).

Cooking your steak with an internal temperature above this point truly ruins your steak. This simply is not a debatable point. If you want your steak above this temperature, excuse yourself from the table and go get a burger at McDonalds, because you probably aren’t an adult and haven’t fully developed your taste buds yet.

Sorry to be rough, but it’s true. Deal with it 😉

So, make sure when cooking your steak to check the internal temperature of your steak with a digital instant read thermometer when you are cooking your steak (unless you are using a sous vide, which requires no internal thermometer usage). This way your steak cooks to the precise temperature you want it, and is the only way to make a steak perfectly.

7 Money Saving Tips – Episode #7

I want to help you save more money without telling you to do things like boycott Starbucks or cutting the cable cord. Of course, you can do things like that if you want. But, if you follow my financial tips below, you can save money while continuing to drink $5 latte’s and keeping your cable subscription (if you so choose).

Tip #1: Track your Spending, and Make a Budget.

There is no getting around this. You need to track your spending, and you need to make a monthly budget. As financial guru and author Dave Ramsey says in his Total Money Makeover book, “Tell every dollar where to go instead of wondering where every dollar went.”

Tracking your spending and making a budget isn’t hard. It’s not rocket science. It’s really very simple. Yes, it’s boring. But if you don’t do this first step, you’ll probably never save a single penny, and you’ll live perpetually paycheck to paycheck, no matter how much money you make.

However you do this is up to you. Whether it is on paper, on an Excel spreadsheet, using your favorite bank’s website, or using apps on your smartphone… the choice is yours. Just make sure you don’t skip this very important step. While I’ve tracked my expenses and made a budget the old fashioned way (paper and Excel), I highly recommend big banks like Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan, and Bank of America. Their website software is excellent and free for all account holders, and tends to be better than smaller credit unions, with data always being live and up to date.

Also, consider apps like Mint, or You Need A Budget, but realize that these apps have their limitations, and their ability to track your spending is often delayed several days.

Tip #2: Pay Yourself First.

One of the greatest personal finance books of all time, and is more than a century old, is called “The Richest Man in Babylon” by George Clason. In this fictional book about a man living in ancient Babylon, timeless financial advice is dispensed. The most important point in the book is that you must learn to “pay yourself first.”

The idea behind this is really simple. If you do not learn to pay yourself first, you will always be paying someone else. That is why the first check you write (apart from money you give in tithes/offerings for religious purposes), should always be to yourself instead of your debtors.

This means you need to systematically save your money, every month, without fail. Whatever you do and no matter how tight things are… pay yourself first. For failure to do so will always leave you in a situation in which you are constantly having to rob Peter to pay Paul.

And in order to actually practice this idea in reality, you should setup separate savings/checking accounts apart from your primary savings/checking accounts. Every time you get paid, transfer money to these separate savings/checking accounts so that you ensure you pay yourself first and foremost.

My wife and I, after completely blowing our Christmas budget in our first year of marriage, found this a very practical way to save for future Christmases. Afterwards we setup a “Christmas account” in which every month, we transfer money to a separate savings account that we use to pay for Christmas, birthdays, weddings, and other random “gifts.” As a result, we always have money every year for all the major holidays and events, and we control how much we spend. Because once it’s gone…it’s gone. As a result, Christmas and the other holidays are a lot less stressful, and we never have to worry about where the money is going to come from to pay for such things, because we systematically set aside money for the things we want to spend throughout the year.

Tip #3: Continue to Build Your Savings WHILE Paying off Debts.

If you have consumer debt beyond your mortgage, such as credit cards, auto loans, student loans, medical bills, etc, financial gurus like Dave Ramsey recommend that you have a $1,000 emergency fund on hand, and then any savings you have beyond that you should plow into debt reduction.

I admit, such isn’t terrible advice. But, practically speaking, I’ve learned this sorta thing is very difficult to do in a world in which monthly expenses can and do regularly fluctuate.

Instead of doing what Dave Ramsey recommends here, I personally recommend you take half of your excess, and put it towards debt reduction, and then take the other half, and continue to build your savings. First, this allows you to continually “pay yourself first.” Second, it provides the much extra needed financial cushion to protect you from the every day sorta expenses that randomly pop up in life. The $1,000 that Dave Ramsey recommends simply isn’t going to cut it for most folks, and you’ll probably find yourself perpetually stuck on the “baby step” of replenishing you $1,000 emergency fund more often than Dave would ever tell you about.

Yes, this might leave you in debt a little bit longer, and you might pay more in interest, but you’ll also have greater peace of mind as you both build your savings and reduce your debt. And if you get to a point where you have something like $5,000 in the bank, and you feel comfortable doing such, then feel free tossing extra money towards debt repayment. But whatever you do…. always make sure you pay yourself first.

Tip #4: Invest Your Savings and Make Your Money Hard to Access.

Truth be told, depending on your personal financial situation, you’ll probably NEVER need immediate access to more than a couple thousand dollars at any given moment due to surprise life events.

As a result, I personally recommend that any savings you have beyond a couple grand (decide what is best for you), that you completely invest all that money. I recommend those savings be invested in something conservative, like a high yield bond mutual fund, or some Index Fund/ETF. However, there is no need to let cash sit idle on the sidelines as it gets eaten to death by inflation, while your bank pays you less than 1% on your savings.

Invest your savings in something safe and conservative, and something that has a little more yield than your savings account. That way you’ll put your money to work so that it’s working for you instead of sitting idle, and your savings will continue to grow by the magic of compound interest. This way you further protect your money from you, as investing it makes the money harder to access and harder to spend. And, if for some reason you have an expense that’s larger than your checking account, you can always simply use a credit card to hold you over until you liquidate your investments to pay for those expenses (as they take several days to clear).

Of course, consult your CPA, financial advisor, lawyer, or other professional before making any investments. For a great book on personal investing, I recommend A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel. I also recommend A Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing by Taylor Larimore (et al). And don’t forget to check out The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley.

Tip #5: Make Yourself Uncomfortable.

Save so much that it hurts, if you can. If you are properly saving, you should feel a little bit of a pinch and a level of discomfort from the aggressiveness of your savings. Live modestly and frugally. Live below your means, not within them… and yes, there is a difference.

If you simply live within your means, you are virtually guaranteed to blow your monthly budget. Living below your means adds some additional padding and margin to your lifestyle, allowing for sudden unplanned expenses.

To live below your means, do practical things like own a gently used 2-3 year old car (NEVER BUY A NEW CAR EVER, UNLESS YOU ARE FILTHY RICH) . Drive your car for at least 250,000 miles, and make sure you buy something reliable like a Honda Accord.

And don’t always buy the latest and greatest in technology or fashion. Always be one or two cycles behind on gadgets like iPhone’s and laptops. Never stand in line to be the first to buy anything. Wear nice clothes, but buy them somewhere reasonable. Avoid luxury goods like Air Jordans. You’ll be better off financially wearing shoes like New Balance or Clarks. Buy something of good quality, but that doesn’t have a huge big name label.

For some great tips, I personally recommend the blog of “Mr. Money Mustache,” who practices extreme frugality. I don’t endorse everything he says or the way he says it, but, I have a lot of respect for the frugal lifestyle he lives and has extensively documented for others to see.

Tip #6: Save with a Purpose.

Know what you are saving for. Don’t save merely to save, or be frugal to frugal. That’ll kill you emotionally and spiritually, and people will hate you for it. Heck, you will hate you for it.

Instead, examine your life and determine what financial goals you want to achieve. Save towards buying a nice used car in cash, towards remodeling your home, towards going on a missions trip, towards starting a business… whatever you want. Just make sure you save for something you have a real purpose for.

Tip #7: Prioritize Giving.

Last, but not least, be sure to give, and to give generously. Live to give. God has blessed you with so much, not so you can selfishly spend on yourself, but so that you can be a financial blessing to others. Give to your church, give to charity, give to the poor, and put money back to work in your community to make it a better place. Don’t blow all your money on you, because it’s not really your money anyway, that money belongs to the Lord. We are merely the stewards of what He has given us to manage. So manage it well.

How to Make the “Best” Burger Ever

Best burger ever

If you wanna make the “best” burger ever, there are only 3 rules you must adhere to. Anything different and you’ll probably still end up with a something delicious, but it won’t be the best.

1. Grind Your Own Burger “Mix”

NOTHING beats a freshly ground burger. Don’t buy any frozen patties from Sam’s Club. Don’t buy any of the prepackaged stuff wrapped in plastic from your grocery store. If you want the most amazing burger experience, you need to grind your own burger blend.

It’s pretty easy to do. You don’t need to be a culinary expert to do this. You don’t have to be able to beat Bobby Flay at anything.

All you need is a meat grinder and some cuts of beef.

You can use a dedicated meat grinder if you want. But if you already have a Kitchen Aid mixer, I recommend buying a simple meat grinder attachment.

From there you can buy any assortment of meats you want and grind it up and call it a burger. They key is to make sure you don’t grind anything super lean. You want something with fat. Fat will keep your burger moist and juicy, and give you a ton of flavor (“fat is flavor.”)

And keep your meats cheap, don’t buy steak or anything ridiculous, as you’ll spend a lot of money for something that doesn’t give any more flavor.

For me, I keep it simple. I grind only two types of meat: chuck roast and boneless short-rib. It should be noted that not every grocery store carries boneless short-rib. If your grocery store has a butcher, most will trim the meat off the bone for you. I recommend this as doing it yourself can be a little tricky.

For every pound of chuck roast you buy, I recommend a quarter pound of short-rib. This will give you a burger mix of 75% chuck and 25% short-rib.

To make your burger mix, cut all your meat into small cubes. Chill it in your freezer for about 30 minutes (this keeps it from melting into a gummy texture when grinding.) Then simply grind your meat, season, and form your hamburger. Be careful not to over work the meat when forming it in your hands.

2. Generously Season Your Burger Mix… ALL Of It.

Salt and freshly ground black pepper is all you need.

BUT, if you wanna set your burger apart, I highly recommend a Chicago Steak Seasoning blend. When you season your meat be very generous. More is more when it comes burgers.

Now what I’m gonna say here is controversial. Many would say I am wrong. But that’s where I think they are wrong

You need to mix your seasoning into all of your burger mix, not just the surface!

Most folks making burgers say you should just season the outside of your burger patty. I find this to be lacking, especially if you make your burger patty a little on the thick side (like me).

If you only season the outside, then the inside of the burger will lack much in the way of flavor. And if only the surface is seasoned, then a lot of that seasoning will get cooked off when the burger crust forms.

If you season ALL of your burger mix, you will impart flavor throughout the entire burger.

However, after you season your burger mix and form the patty, I still recommend you hit the exterior with extra salt and pepper, as it will help form a better crust when you cook them.

I personally like to hit the outside with a lot of extra freshly ground black pepper. Season according to your liking.

3. ONLY Use A Cast Iron Skillet

Unless you are cooking for a large party…

Never. Never. NEVER cook your burgers on a grill.

You should only cook your burgers on a cast iron skillet.

The reasons are simple.

First, a grill will not really allow you to form a great crust on your burger. It’ll just leave grill marks. The crust on a burger forms when the entire surface is exposed directly to intense heat. The heat causes the crust with all its’ seasoning to caramelize, creating not only amazing flavor, but a great texture.

Secondly, if you cook a burger on your grill, all that amazing flavor from the fat (fat is flavor!) and all the juices from the burger will fall between the grates into the flames below. When cooking on the cast iron, all that juicy fat will be saved, and your burger will be so juicy it’ll run down your fingers as you eat it. Just as God intended.

BONUS TIP: Use 2 Slices of Cheese

I’ve noticed over the years, one slice of cheese just isn’t enough.

The cheese has a tendency to thin out and melt away a bit. But TWO slices of cheese, that’s where it’s at. Your cheese will be more creamy and full of flavor. And to better melt your cheese, I recommend putting a pan lid on top of your cast iron skillet as you cook it, as the heat from the pan will get trapped under the lid.

And I recommend a sharp cheddar cheese to top your burger! It has more contrasting flavor than boring old American or Colby cheeses.

How to “Defend” Your Christian Faith – Episode #6

Some of you live in bubble.

You live in a country in which most people would probably claim to be some sort of Christian. And if you are like me, and live in the “Bible Belt,” (Charlotte, NC) you live in a world in which many of your parents, siblings, friends, neighbors, and coworkers are probably Christians.  

But this is changing.

According to a recent Gallup Poll, the number of “nones” (people not claiming any religious affiliation) has doubled in the past 20 years.  Now, more than 20% of the population identifies as atheist, agnostic, or simply not having any religious identity whatsoever.

We live in a world that is skeptical (or at times hostile) to the claims of Christianity. Those outside of Christianity often see our faith as something that isn’t based on reason or anything factual or real. Some people believe God is a pure fantasy, and that our religion is no different than all the ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman myths, and one day will be treated as such. 

Consider the Following Quotes

Karl Marx: “Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opiate of the masses.”

Voltaire: “Every sensible man, every honorable man, must hold the Christian sect in horror. Christianity is the most ridiculous, the most absurd and bloody religion that has ever infected the world. Nothing can be more contrary to religion and the clergy than reason and common sense. If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities.”

Fredrick Nietzsche: “God is dead and remains dead, and [I] have killed him…”

Stephen Hawking: “Heaven is a fairy tale invented for people afraid of the dark.”

I believe more than ever, the world is asking many questions, and demanding answers. As Christians, we need to be prepared to respond to people.

1 Peter 3:15 “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense (apologia) to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;” (NASB)

What is “Apologetics?”

The word apologetics doesn’t mean to apologize. It comes from a Greek word “apologia” which means to “offer a reasoned justification, or to speak in defense” of a position.

As Christians we believe our faith is factual and true. And as a result, it is worthy of offering reasonable intellectual explanations and defenses of what we believe and why we believe it. As Christians we need to wrestle with these things. You don’t have to be doctors of theology, and you don’t have to be able to answer every question or objection in the world, but you should understand what you believe, why you believe it, and be prepared to offer reasonable coherent explanations to people about our faith.

It’s like in mathematics, it’s not just enough to solve a problem, you also need to be able to show the proof of how you solved a problem. In apologetics, we are essentially “showing our homework” regarding our faith.

Some rules for the road…

First, it should be noted that when we discuss our faith with people about what we believe and why we believe it, we must make sure we speak to them respectfully and with humility. Even if they don’t believe in God and say all sorts of blasphemous things, they are people created in His image, and are worthy of love and respect, even if they show hostility to you and our faith. 

Secondly, you’ll never convince someone to believe what we believe by calling them a butthole or treating them like a jerk. Once you do that, people will be constantly on the defensive, and never hear a word you say. How you say something is just as important as what you say.

Third, please don’t feel afraid to ever tell anyone that you don’t have all the answers or to admit when someone has a valid point. Be intellectually honest and curious. Always be willing to grow in your knowledge of truth. Ask hard questions yourself, and seek hard and solid factual answers. Don’t be a lightweight whose answers are no deeper than the first page of a Google search or information merely repeated from Wikipedia.

General “Philosophical Proofs” of God’s Existence

God is not a physical being that is subject to empirical scientific scrutiny. You can’t put Him under a microscope and perform tests on Him to test his existence. God is too big for any science lab, and debates over His existence are, by nature, outside the realm of scientific inquiry.

Therefore when we talk generally about the existence of God, we are talking about the world of philosophy, and in particular, a branch of philosophy known as “metaphysics.”

The following are some philosophical arguments I believe reasonably defend the existence of God:

“The First Cause”

Everything comes from something. God is the unmoved mover from which all things created originate. He is before all things, and the One who set all things into motion.  He is an un-created being from which all of creation originates.

“The Watchmaker”

Our universe is extremely complex and organized, subject to numerous laws that causes it in many ways to function like a clock. The complex laws by which the universe operate shows evidence of design.

If the universe were not “intelligently designed,” then everything that exists today randomly evolved from a massive explosion that created the universe. And this universe now miraculously contains conscious beings are now able to reflect not only on their own existence, but to look back in time and explain how they came into being by a random series of events. 

And, if Earth were only 2-3% closer to our sun, then the world would be too hot to be inhabitable, and life as we know it would not exist.  Yet life does exist, and it exists in great abundance, and our planet contains life capable of reflecting on its own existence. Such is nothing short of amazing if all of the universe just randomly came into being. Such seems highly improbable, so much so that I would dare call it absurd

“The Moral Argument”

We have a sense of things such as moral goodness and perfection. We may disagree on the specifics of morality and ethics, but we all still have a very real sense that there is something such as moral perfection, goodness, justice, etc. 

I like what C.S. Lewis said on this issue. He said “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”

“Transcendence”

This argument is less philosophical per say, but seems common to basic human observation and experience, based an an intuitive knowledge that seems fundamental to humanity everywhere. We look at the world and the universe, and in spite of all its chaos and destruction, we find great beauty and feel like there is something that exists “outside” of us that is bigger than we are, yet connects us all together. We identify this common transcendent like experience to be God, and it seems like we can find God in the beauty of every day things like a sunset.

Scripture makes this argument as well: 

Psalm 19:1: The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.

Romans 1:19–20 …that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

The Proof of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection from the Dead

Make no mistake about it, in my opinion, the best proof of God’s existence isn’t abstract philosophical arguments, but the actual bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This event was witnessed by over 500 people who testified of this event, and some even went so far as to record their eyewitness testimony in the historical record as individuals that claim to have seen Jesus Christ alive from the grave.

About the Eyewitness Testimony

The best source of this eyewitness testimony is the New Testament.

Some may discount the idea. But when you understand what the New Testament is, it simply cannot be dismissed because contains biased “religious writings.” 

Of course the New Testament is “biased.” It is written by people who claim to have either seen Jesus, or been the associates of individuals that claimed to have seen Jesus. It’s as biased as anyone claiming to be an eyewitness would actually be.

And we must understand, the New Testament isn’t just one part of the Bible. It consists of 27 independent books and letters that originated in the first century, many written within 2-3 decades of Jesus’s ministry. And it was written by individuals claiming to have seen Jesus, or to be the associates of those who were early eyewitnesses.

Their writings were preserved and copied and passed down to subsequent generations. It was only centuries later when these writings were officially bound together as one volume of documents known today as the New Testament. But prior to such, they were books and letters that existed independently of each other, and circulated among the churches as authentic accounts of what they had all come to believe. Today, we have over 5000 ancient manuscripts that have been preserved, all which claim that Jesus Christ was raised from dead. 

If you wish to research on how these documents came together and were circulated and eventually put together as one volume, I highly recommend the writings of the late and great New Testament scholar, F.F. Bruce, and his book “The Canon of Scripture.” 

These are real writings written by real people in the first century claiming to be eyewitnesses, or associates of the first eyewitnesses. Considering the following verses in which the early followers of the risen Christ, and consider their claims: 

1 John 1:1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—

2 Peter 1:16–18: For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.

17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased”—

18 and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.

These witnesses all claim to have seen Jesus risen from the dead. They saw, they heard, they touched.

These texts cannot simply be dismissed because they are the Bible. They are claims by people reporting to have seen, heard, and touched Jesus Christ. And we must take these claims seriously.  For either they happened in history as these eyewitnesses claim, or these were lies or mass delusions that the earliest followers of Jesus Christ invented. 

The Empty Tomb and Christian Persecution

If the early witnesses were liars or delusional, it’s been 2,000 years, and we still have an empty tomb, and nobody has yet to produce the corpse of Jesus Christ. 

If Jesus wasn’t raised, the religious and political leaders that were trying to refute the claims of early Christians could have easily produced Jesus’s corpse, and silenced their testimony. They knew where His tomb was, and never produced His body, because it simply wasn’t there. Instead they contrived their own story, and said the disciples stole His body even though it was under armed guard, guards who would have been executed for failing to protect Jesus’s body.

Instead of producing a body, the Jewish officials and the Romans that refused to believe decided to persecute the early Christians, by throwing them in jail, beating them, and even killing them.

And one of those who participated in this scheme was a man by the name of Saul of Tarsus, now known to us as the apostle Paul, who would eventually have his own eyewitness encounter with Jesus, and turn from a violent persecutor of Christians, to a preacher of the faith he once tried to destroy. And men would later persecute him over that faith, leading to multiple imprisonments over many years, and his eventual beheading under Nero, at which Paul is said (according to one account) to have “run” to his execution block, as a proof of his testimony.

But even in the face of great persecution, all these eyewitnesses still maintained their testimony. If it was all a lie or mass delusion, we would expect that some of his earliest followers would have changed their story, and denied that Jesus was resurrected. We would expect that some would have had a last minute confession that supported the claim of the Jewish and Roman leaders, that the disciples stole Jesus’s body.  Many could have easily recanted their faith and denied it all, and found release from the threat of death and torture. But none of them did that. They maintained their claim to the point of death. 

A Unique Messianic Theology

I’m indebted to this brilliant insight offered by New Testament scholar N.T. Wright and his book “The Resurrection of the Son of God.” 

In it, Wright argues that in first century second temple Judaism, all theologies about the Messiah that they developed at that time had to do with a conquering king that would overthrow the Romans by force. They expected an insurrectionist that would lead an armed rebellion against the pagan army that was occupying their land. And indeed, history shows that everyone that every claimed to be the Messiah during this period of time lived up to this theology. The Jews of this time period simply never expected or anticipated a Messiah that was peaceful, taught them to love their enemies, and that the Messiah would suffer, be crucified, and bodily resurrected.  Indeed, no Jew today believes this either. 

So, in this very Jewish world, there arose a group of Jews who claim their executed Messiah (of which there were many) all of a sudden was raised from the dead.  Well, being that there was no theological basis for any Jew at the time to believe such a thing could happen to their Messiah, on what basis did the Jewish followers of Jesus suddenly start claiming Jesus was actually raised from the dead?

The only reasonable explanation is simple. Jesus was raised from the dead, and that became the theological basis for which first century Jewish followers of Jesus would make this novel claim. 

The Jewish followers of Jesus would not have made it otherwise, just as no other Jews ever claimed any of their crucified Messiahs had been raised from the dead, as there was no basis whatsoever for them to ever claim such.  It was simply outside their realm of thinking, and therefore it would be intellectually and theologically impossible for them to make this claim… unless it really happened.

The Work of the Holy Spirit

All these proofs of are fine and good.

But as great as they are, there is something we must always remember. The preaching and defending of the gospel is subject to the powerful working of the Holy Spirit. God is at work in our lives, and the inner sense of the Holy Spirit we experience is the ultimate proof and defense of the gospel, as it works in us and in lives of others.

Few of us believe the gospel because we were simply diligent students of science, philosophy, and history, and simply reasoned “hey, all this makes sense in the same way 2 + 2 equals 4.”  There evidence for what we believe and why we believe it is reasonable and persuasive, but it can also be reasonably dismissed. 

Therefore, when sharing our faith with others, I like to keep the following passage in mind from the writings of the apostle Paul, who said: 

1 Corinthians 2:1–5: And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.

2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling,

4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,

5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

While the intellectual arguments for the existence of God and the defense of Christ’s resurrection are all nice and good, and are deserving of serious consideration, at the end of the day, our ability to take the “leap of faith” necessary to believe comes down to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives through the preaching of the gospel. With His working in our lives and the lives those we witness to, we will never be able to persuade anyone to believe.

In my own life, I have had moments of intense doubt as I’ve attempted to wrestle over some of the powerful arguments against Christianity. Everything from evolution to the type of “higher criticism” you read in Bible College and Seminary. And, while I can honestly say I cannot answer every objection to Jesus and the Bible, at the end of the day, I’m at the point in my life where I can say with great confidence that I believe that Jesus Christ is risen from the grave.

And, that confidence exists, not only because I’ve done my homework and looked at some pretty difficult things and wrestled with some pretty bold claims, but because I’ve had my own personal encounter with the Lord, and feel the Holy Spirit ultimately working in my life and heart.