This Series has created a safe place for our Middle Schoolers to ask BIG QUESTIONS and think about how Science and Faith can actually work together, rather than being AT ODDS with one another.
THINK ABOUT THIS:
At Odds is a three-week series designed to navigate the relationship between two important subjects: science and faith.
A conversation like this is so important at this point in your middle schooler’s development. They’re just now learning to think for themselves and ask deeper questions, and this series will help them exercise both of those skills regarding science and faith.
Your kids are learning that asking questions about God can actually grow their faith. So this week, make a point to share a question you’ve had about God with your middle schooler. Talk to them about how that specific question actually strengthened your relationship with Him, even if you didn’t find the answer!
Lee Strobel makes the case for the existence of an intelligent designer.
A former atheist, Lee Strobel is now a well-known apologist for the Christian faith. He is also a popular public speaker and an award-winning, New York Times best-selling author of more than 20 books including The Case for Christ,The Case for Faith and his newest release, The Case for Miracles. Educated at the University of Missouri and Yale Law School, Lee worked …More by Lee Strobel
THE ISSUE: Does current scientific data support the theory that the universe was created with intelligent design?
WHAT SKEPTICS SAY: Belief in an intelligent designer is a religious theory that has no basis in science. Scientific data supports evolutionary theory, and everyone knows it.
WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1).
THE DESIGN HYPOTHESIS
“A big, fundamental question, like belief in God (or disbelief), is not settled by a single argument,” said physicist-turned-theologian John Polkinghorne in Quarks, Chaos, and Christianity. “It’s too complicated for that. What one has to do is to consider lots of different issues and see whether or not the answers one gets add up to a total picture that makes sense.”
That’s the approach I took in my investigation. I probed six different scientific disciplines to see whether they point toward or away from the existence of an intelligent designer.
When I opened my mind to the possibility of an explanation beyond naturalism, the theory denying any supernatural existence in the universe, I found that the design hypothesis — that says there is a purposeful, intelligent, created order to the universe — most clearly accounted for the evidence of science. Consider some of the facts from my investigation:
The Evidence of Cosmology
Thanks to scientific discoveries of the last 50 years, the ancient kalam cosmological argument has taken on a powerful and persuasive new force. As described by William Lane Craig, the argument is simple yet elegant: First, whatever begins to exist has a cause.
Second, the universe had a beginning. Based on the data, virtually all cosmologists now agree the universe began in the Big Bang at some specific point in the past. Craig stressed that even alternate theories for the origin of the universe require a beginning.
The conclusion then follows from the two premises: Therefore, the universe has a cause. Even once-agnostic astronomer Robert Jastrow conceded the essential elements of Christianity and modern cosmology are the same: “The chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply, at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy.”
The Evidence of Physics
One of the most striking discoveries of modern science has been that the laws and constants of physics unexpectedly conspire in an extraordinary way to make the universe habitable for life. For instance, said physicist-philosopher Robin Collins, gravity is fine-tuned to one part in a hundred million billion billion billion billion billion.
The cosmological constant, which represents the energy density of space, is as precise as throwing a dart from space and hitting a bull’s-eye just a trillionth of a trillionth of an inch in diameter on Earth. One expert said there are more than 30 physical or cosmological parameters that require precise calibration in order to produce a universe that can sustain life.
The Evidence of Astronomy
Similar to the fine-tuning of physics, Earth’s position in the universe and its intricately choreographed geological and chemical processes work together with exquisite efficiency to create a safe place for humans to live.
For example, astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez and science philosopher Jay Wesley Richards said it would take a star with the highly unusual properties of our sun — the right mass, the right light, the right age, the right distance, the right orbit, the right galaxy, the right location — to nurture living organisms on a circling planet. Numerous factors make our solar system and our location in the universe just right for a habitable environment.
What’s more, the exceptional conditions that make life possible also happen to make our planet strangely well-suited for viewing and analyzing the universe and our environment. All of this suggests our planet may be rare, if not unique, and that the Creator wanted us to be able to explore the cosmos.
“If the universe had not been made with the most exacting precision, we could never have come into existence,” said Harvard-educated astrophysicist John A. O’Keefe of NASA. “It is my view that these circumstances indicate the universe was created for man to live in.”
The Evidence of Biochemistry
Darwin said, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” Biochemist Michael Behe has demonstrated exactly that through his description of “irreducibly complex” molecular machines.
These complicated, microscopic contraptions, such as cilia and bacterial flagella, are extremely unlikely to have been built piece-by-piece through Darwinian processes, because they had to be fully present in order to function. Other examples include the incredible system of transporting proteins within cells and the intricate process of blood clotting.
More than just a devastating challenge to Darwinism, these amazing biological systems which far exceed the capacity of human technology point toward a transcendent Creator. “My conclusion,” said Behe, “can be summed up in a single word: design. I say that based on science. I believe that irreducibly complex systems are strong evidence of a purposeful, intentional design by an intelligent agent.”
The Evidence of Biological Information
The six feet of DNA coiled inside every one of our body’s one hundred trillion cells contain a four-letter chemical alphabet that spells out precise assembly instructions for all the proteins from which our bodies are made. Cambridge-educated Stephen Meyer demonstrated that no hypothesis has come close to explaining how information got into biological matter by naturalistic means.
On the contrary, he said that whenever we find a sequential arrangement that’s complex and corresponds to an independent pattern or function such as books and computer code, this kind of information is always the product of intelligence.
“Information is the hallmark of a mind,” Meyer said. “And purely from the evidence of genetics and biology, we can infer the existence of a mind that’s far greater than our own — a conscious, purposeful, rational, intelligent designer who’s amazingly creative.”
The Evidence of Consciousness
Many scientists are concluding that the laws of chemistry and physics cannot explain our experience of consciousness. Professor J.P. Moreland defined consciousness as our introspection, sensations, thoughts, emotions, desires, beliefs and free choices that make us alive and aware. The “soul” contains our consciousness and animates our body.
According to a researcher who showed that consciousness can continue after a person’s brain has stopped functioning, current scientific findings “would support the view that ‘mind,’ ‘consciousness,’ or the ‘soul’ is a separate entity from the brain.”
As Moreland said, “You can’t get something from nothing.” If the universe began with dead matter having no conscious, “how, then, do you get something totally different — consciousness, living, thinking, feeling, believing creatures — from materials that don’t have that?” But if everything started with the mind of God, he said, “we don’t have a problem with explaining the origin of our mind.”
Students are praying all across America and the world. Millions have prayed for their schools at See You At The Pole. Many of these same students continue to pray through the year in groups on campus and at their church. Educators, youth leaders and parents are praying, including 100,000 mothers meeting regularly with Moms In Prayer groups.
Campus ministry begins with prayer. Through prayer God opens hearts, brings blessing to schools and changes lives. Prayer will literally transform the atmosphere on a campus. This generation of students will be reached with God’s love and truth as we pray.
Here are some ways to pray for your school:
Pray For Students…
Praise God for all that he is doing on campuses through Christian students.
Ask that Christian students will be strengthened in their faith in Christ, that they would be wise and serve others around them.
Ask that all students at your school would be protected and safe.
Pray that Christian students and teachers will minister to students who have physical, emotional and family needs.
Pray for unity on the campus among Christians and that together they will reach out to their school.
Pray that everyone on campus would have the opportunity to hear the gospel and clearly understand how to put his or her trust in Jesus.
Ask that students would come to know Christ personally and a spiritual movement would grow on the campus.
Pray for an atmosphere of respect and unity on campus, socially and racially.
Idea – pray for every student in your school by name. Simply take a yearbook and go through the classes, praying for each student. Make copies of the pages and share them with others in your prayer group. Pray for them often.
Pray For Educators…
Thank God for the many educators who honor God with their lives and faith.
Ask that God would give wisdom to the administrators, teachers and school board members, making God honoring decisions.
Pray that all school staff including teacher assistants, cooks, bus drivers and maintenance personnel would be encouraged in their work.
Pray that your school educators will experience the love and concern of Christ through Christian students and adults.
Ask that educators would come to know Christ personally and follow Him.
Idea – pray for every teacher, coach and administrator by name using your yearbook to remind you of who they are and what they do at the school.
Pray For Youth Leaders And Parents…
Praise God for parents who are praying for their children, and youth leaders who are investing daily in teens across America and the world.
Pray that families in your community would be restored by putting their faith in Jesus Christ.
Pray for wisdom for parents as they raise and guide their children.
Pray that youth leaders will be faithful and fruitful in the good work they do with youth.
Ask that youth leaders from churches and organizations will unite and reach out to every student by praying, caring and advancing the good news of Jesus.
Idea – make a list of all the youth leaders and pastors in your community and pray for them in your prayer group.
Internationally recognized praise band Planetshakers releases Rain Part 2 globally April 12 from Venture3Media (V3M). Available to preorder beginning today (April 5) at iTunes and Google Play, and to stream April 12 from Spotify, Apple Music and more, the new five-song digital EP from Planetshakers was recorded at Planetshakers Conferences in the Philippines and Malaysia in January and features over 29-minutes of music.
Beginning today (April 5), Planetshakers also releases the single “I Choose You” from Rain Part 2 to iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Google Play and more digital and streaming outlets everywhere. The song, which is led by Joth Hunt (who also produced and mixed the EP), declares that God is the one to look to, no matter what the circumstances.
This theme is further carried in the Hunt-led “Only Way” single, which released last month, is featured on the new EP and became an encouragement to this multi-talented worship leader through his battle with cancer.
“God had me write that song a week before I knew this was going to happen. It was the perfect tool God helped me to use to declare victory over the situation,” says Joth, adding, “It’s easy to sing these songs week-to-week, but when you are actually going through it, these lyrics become more…they become an anthem.”
Forming for the first Planetshakers Conference in 1997, Australian Christian Worship band, Planetshakers is passionate to see generations worldwide unite together to worship God. Their heart is to see people encounter God, be transformed by his presence and empowered to make a difference in their world.
Hailing originally from Adelaide, the Planetshakers Band is now based in Melbourne at Planetshakers Church, under the leadership of Senior Pastors Russell and Sam Evans.
With over 20 internationally acclaimed albums, the band tours annually to the USA, UK, Europe, South Africa, South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
Marty and Fern are the Christian hip hop duo Social Club Misfits from Miami, Florida. Their music centers around bringing the message of the Gospel and the love of Jesus Christ to ‘misfits’ all over the world. They each had individual music projects in process when they decided to collaborate on a song together in 2011. From there they released several projects and went on to form the band Social Club – earning loyal followers along the way. Their US album was featured in YLO100.
Calling himself a “broken vessel for the Lord” Fern brings a vulnerability and transparency to the music they create. He is a man with a past and admits God saved him from himself. “I just love God for bringing me where he brought me to – from where I was at. You know definitely like, in a pit. So, I just give thanks for that,” Fern says.
Drawing from that history and the realities of life now, Fern has a way of finding just the right words and crafting them so they reach the hurting parts of each person who listens to their personal stories and songs. When he speaks his words flow with a unique rhythm, reminiscent of the poetry found in the Psalms.
Marty grew up “playing the church game” until he was eighteen when God rescued him, not just once but over and over again. “There’s this idea in the church that things are okay. But there are people in the church who are broken… my journey stemmed from people who broke my trust and hurt me – cut me deep. And so, it put me on this long path of depression and sadness. And now I can honestly say I don’t even know how I felt that way because God rescued me and I don’t know who that person was,” Marty says.
And, that’s where Social Club Misfits direct their attention. They reach out to people, young and old, who’ve been hurt – whether by the church, family, someone, or something else. “People who feel like an outcast and feel as though they don’t belong because they don’t fit in. They aren’t a ‘popular.’”
“Our heart is to help you understand that if you are weird, God made you like that – and it’s okay. Embrace who God created you to be,” encourages Marty.
There are more than four thousand colleges and universities in the United States. I’m guessing that none of them heard a commencement address quite like the one delivered at Morehouse College yesterday. Robert F. Smith, a billionaire investor known as the wealthiest black man in America, told the crowd that he and his family would pay off the entire graduating class’s student debt. David A. Thomas, president of Morehouse, called Mr. Smith’s generosity “a liberation gift, meaning this frees these young men from having to make their career decisions based on their debt. This allows them to pursue what they are passionate about.” Mr. Smith’s gift may be worth about $40 million, according to Morehouse officials.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love” Imagine that you were one of the 396 young men graduating from Morehouse yesterday. I can think of three reasons you might decline Mr. Smith’s remarkable generosity.
You could do so out of a self-reliant determination to pay your debts yourself. You could refuse to feel indebted to Mr. Smith. Or you could consider yourself unworthy of such grace. Now let’s consider Robert Smith’s gift to the Morehouse graduates as a parable. The Creator of the universe considers our eternal life worth the death of his Son: “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Our Father loves us unconditionally: “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37–39). God’s love for us is unwavering: “His steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136:26). It “surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19). It is inclusive: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1). In short, God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).
Anything God has ever done, he can still do. However, for most of my life, I have struggled to accept God’s grace. It’s not that I think I can pay my spiritual debts myself and earn my way into heaven, or that I don’t want to be indebted to God. Rather, it’s hard for me to see myself as worthy of such love. I know my sins and failures, my guilt and shortcomings and weaknesses. I know how unlovable I truly am. You may feel the same way about yourself. It helps to remember that God’s love for us is not based on our character but on his: “God is love” (1 John 4:8). As a result, we can do nothing to deserve or to lose his love. But there’s another reason our Father values us so highly, one that has gripped me in recent days. Because God knows us better than we know ourselves, he knows what we could be if we were fully dependent on him. He knows the impact we could make on our culture if we were fully led by his omniscience and empowered by his omnipotence. He knows that what he did with his first followers, he can do with us. And he knows that what he is doing around the world, he can do in our culture as well. I’ve witnessed physical healings in Cuba. I’ve met people in Bangladesh who experienced dreams and visions. I’ve worshiped with believers in China who are risking their futures and even their lives to serve Jesus. Anything God has ever done, he can still do. What he is doing in one part of the world, he can do anywhere in the world. The difference is not in him but in us.
“When I am weak, then I am strong.” I wonder if the way many of us devalue ourselves is limiting God’s ability to use us. Our performance-based culture teaches us that we are what we do. But nothing we do is good enough to earn the approval of a perfect God. So, we settle for what we have rather than seeking all that God wants for us. And we wonder why our churches are not more effective in reaching the lost and impacting our culture. It’s not that our God is too small, as J. B. Phillips warned in his classic book by that title. It’s that we are. The fact is, we’re right. You and I are too fallen and finite, too frail and flawed to change our broken world. The good news is that admitting our weakness is the key to experiencing our Father’s transformational strength. God cannot do for us what we try to do for ourselves. But when we admit how desperately we need God, we hear his radical response: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Then we can testify: “When I am weak, then I am strong” (v. 10).
Being “poor in spirit” changes everything Jesus taught us: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). To be “poor in spirit” is to admit how desperately we need God. When we do, we make him our king and experience the “kingdom of heaven.” And we are “blessed” with his best for us and through us. Would God say that you are truly “poor in spirit” today, that you are utterly dependent on him? If not, would you pray for a vision of what your Lord could do with your life if you were? Would you then give him all you have to receive all he has for you? If we are not “poor in spirit” today, nothing will change. If we are, nothing will remain the same.
NOTE: God never spoke of the United States in the Bible. But the principles he set down in its pages are timeless and relevant to you today. If you want to know the Lord’s heart for our country, the best place to start is by looking in his Word, as I have done in my new book, How Does God See America? Please request your copy when you give today.
“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12 NLT
Because of the way middle schoolers’ brains are wired, it’s easier for them to see something outside of themselves than it is to see it inside of themselves. For example, it’s much easier for them to talk about the way they see others being underestimated than to actually share the ways in which they may be feeling or experiencing the same.
For many kids in this phase, the struggle is not only to overcome those who underestimate them; it’s to overcome the ways in which they underestimate themselves as well! Middle schoolers are often paralyzed by fear of failure or embarrassment, causing them to hesitate in trying new things because they underestimate their ability to succeed.
Having an older, wiser voice speak into the life of your middle schooler is a big deal. As they may tend to tune out your voice more and more as they move through middle school, they’ll be tuning their ears to other voices around them, making who they spend time with all the more important in this phase.
I’ve found myself playing a game I don’t like the past few weeks. Not that I don’t love games. This one, however, I don’t really like to play. It’s a game I have to play whenever I struggle with insecurity and comparison.
You can’t buy this game at Target and Amazon won’t ship it to you. The game is called Spot the Lie, and I learned it many years ago from Watermark’s lead pastor, Todd Wagner.
Todd plays the game with his kids. The concept is simple—whenever something doesn’t seem right or promises something it can’t truly deliver, you need to spot the lie, lest you think the lie is truth.
Snickers promises to satisfy. While it certainly does for a few short moments, the flavor quickly goes away but the calories, energy drain, and sugar crash stick around.
Those new cars that spouses buy for each other at Valentine’s Day and Christmas? You know the ones that show up in their driveway with a big red bow on them? Those cars are awesome until the first bills come in or the newer model comes out. That new car won’t satisfy your desire for stuff and an extravagant purchase won’t fix your hurting marriage.
The praise you get for crushing it at work, in the sermon, in the basketball game—fleeting. Great in the moment, but it goes away, replaced by the praise for another or a failure right around the corner.
Any commercial ever made for any game or toy for your children! They look so happy in those commercials. LIES!
You Must Spot the Lie
In each of these situations, you must spot the lie so you don’t believe something that won’t ever come true.
Another way to play this game is when your brain tells you things that just aren’t right. For instance, you might tell yourself:
I’m a fraud and I’m not good enough.
Or, I’m the worst and everyone is better than me.
My kids dislike me and my spouse and friends do too.
This team would do better without me.
Me, me, me, I, I, I… you get the picture.
For whatever reason, the last few weeks, I’ve really struggled with comparing myself to others. I desire their gifts, acclaim, and praise, and in the process I tear myself down and believe the lies.
Instead of losing this battle, I’ve had to play a lot of rounds of Spot the Lie. You might need to play this game as well. At some point, we all do.
6 Ways You Can Win at Spot the Lie
1. Fight the lies with truth.
Read God’s Word. Memorize scripture. Meditate on Truth. Ultimately, we can learn so much about our identity not from others, not from the world, not from the praise of man, but through God’s Word. Here are a few verses (with a brief synopsis) you might want to check out (and memorize):
John 1:12 – You are a child of God
2 Corinthians 5:17 – You are a new creation.
Genesis 1:27 – You are made in the image and likeness of God.
Galatians 4:7 – You are a child of God and a co-heir with Christ.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – You were bought at a high price.
Romans 8:1 – There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Side note: You need to know the main reason I write what I write is because I need it as much, if not more, than you do. Reading these verses is good for my soul, and helps me Spot the Lie and believe Truth instead!
2. Pray for change.
Ask God to give you the wisdom you need to stop believing the lies and instead believe truth. Sometimes my brain goes crazy and spins out of control. In those moments, I ask God for His wisdom (James 1:5).
3. Listen to good songs filled with Truth.
A few I’ve listened to the last few weeks:
Lauren Daigle’s song, “You Say.” I love this new song, and in it Daigle rightly says we should believe what God says about us.
“Who You Say I Am” by Hillsong Worship. In this song, I’m reminded that I am a child of God, I’m chosen (by God), and I am who He says I am (not who the lies tell me I am).
The hymn, “My Worth is Not in What I Own.” Recently recorded by Shane and Shane in their Hymns, Vol 1 album. The lyrics remind us to boast in knowing Christ, not in what we own, our wealth, might, or wisdom we posses.
4. Focus on others.
When I start to play the self-pity game, I instead choose to encourage and think of others. When I take the focus off myself, I can encourage those around me. In Romans 12, Paul reminds us to use our gifts. My gift is encouragement, and I love how Romans 12:8 says if your gift is encouragement, then encourage others! Whatever your gift is, use it/them, for the glory of God and for the good of others.
Too often we coddle our sin or just think it will go away. I want to fight my sin, whether it’s lust, anger, or comparison. John Owens famously said, “Be killing sin, or it be killing you.”
6. Engage others.
In those moments when I believe the lies, I want to run away and hide. I feel guilt, shame, and embarrassment, and the last thing I want to do is let others in. Rather, I know I need others to speak truth into my life, wound me with love, and encourage me. I need others to bear my burdens (Galatians 6:2) and to shine light into the darkness of my sin and lies.
You might have some other ways you have to fight the lies. Please share them below in the comments section.
On a much lighter note, I do love games. Here are three fun ones I recently started playing with friends and family.
Because God made you, you are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Your middle schooler receives mixed messages related to sex all the time. In the movies they watch, the songs they listen to, the things their friends talk about, the social media they see, and even the education they get at school, the messages on sex are both constant and inconsistent, making it difficult for them to know what to really think about the subject.
MATTHEW 5:27-28; PSALM 139:14a
Because God made us all, all of us are valuable.
Though your middle schooler may or may not yet be engaging in sexual activity, they’re definitely growing more curious about sex. But don’t worry! Curiosity is a natural part of growing and maturing—something your middle schooler is doing a lot of in this phase. Understanding their curiosity and not totally shutting it down is key to keeping the conversation about sex open between you and your kid.
1 CORINTHIANS 6:18
Because God made sex, sexual things matter.
Control can be a sensitive subject for many middle schoolers. They long for more authority in most parts of their lives, leading them to act out of frustration over what they perceive as a lack of control. They also struggle with self-regulation in this phase, making boundaries difficult to set and maintain.
1 THESSALONIANS 4:3-4; PSALM 139:14a
Because God made you, you are in control of your own body.
Understanding both their value and the value of others may be hard for your student at times. As middle schoolers, value is often based on immediate feelings. If your student doesn’t feel valued by others, it will make valuing that person (and even themselves) difficult to do.