Links Daily Devotional

Starting Point

“For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31, NIV)

Over the years I have listened to my father, Larry Nelson, give a number of golf clinics where he is often asked what the single most important tip he can give to someone just starting to play. His answer often surprises the questioners. This beautifully rhythmic and technically sound swinger of the club always advises them to simply learn to grip the club right and hit it hard.

Having heard this so many times over the years, I have become very compassionate for the poor souls next to me on the range who are just getting started in golf and have an experienced player telling them to work on all the complexities of the golf swing from the beginning: “Stand like this,” “put this here,” “keep a straight left arm,” “backswing on plane,” “your hands need to be here up top” and, of course, “keep your head down and swing slower,” because the ball magically goes farther and straighter when you do all that. This sounds ridiculous, but you’ve seen it. You might even be that friend on the range!

It is so easy to make things more complicated than they really need to be in golf, especially as we get started, and the same is true for our faith. We have so many different educational and faith backgrounds, preconceived notions and connotations of Christianity, the Church, and the Bible that often we might need to reexamine what the starting point and foundation of our faith really is or was. I believe that those of us who grew up “Christian” or going to church every Sunday probably need to do this just as much as those who are new to investigating the Bible and the whole idea of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Sadly, “because the Bible says so” is all the answer many of us have ever gotten.

Was your faith built on a house of cards? Did someone—whether a friend, media source, or academic environment—pull out one or two of your cards so that the whole thing fell down on top of what you believed to be your spiritual foundation? Or are you afraid if you investigate something with intellectual honesty you might discover fallibility in the religion you comfortably live by?

With much personal investigation I have great trust in the accuracy of the Bible, and I do believe it be God’s word. However, thousands upon thousands of men and women, Jews and Gentiles, chose to follow Jesus for more than 250 years after Christ’s death without the New Testament or the compiled Holy Bible that we have today. So what then moved people to follow Jesus if people couldn’t just respond with, “Because the Bible says so!” What then could have been their starting point? What should be ours?

I like where the apostle Paul started in Acts 17 (verses 16-34), when he was engaged in an intellectual discussion with a group of philosophers in Athens who had probably no foundation in biblical matters. He recognized that they were merely guessing with their faith. Paul taught that there was one God who created the entire universe, ruled over all things (including life and death), and required no guessing.

This God was much bigger than their manmade idols. He had done something no god had ever done before, and by this something he would change our way of thinking and so that we could come to him. This great something, so new and great, was not a declaration of a new religion; rather it was the defeat of death by a perfect man, Jesus Christ. The “proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead” moved many of them who had no Bible from hoping in religion to knowing personally the Creator of the universe!

If the foundation of your faith and relationship to God is built on a number of things that you have to do and perform and not built on the testimony, evidence, and trust in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead so that you may also overcome death and commune with your heavenly Father, then maybe you need to consider a new starting point.

Josh Nelson

August 22, 2013

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