What’s Wrong With the World?

Acts of violence and hatred have become so common we’ve become numb. Whether it’s another act of terrorism, a school shooting, or an incident of domestic violence, it has become far too easy to read the story and then move on with our lives.

I doubt anyone can look around and think, “Yeah, this is the way things should be.” No. Instead, we hear people giving their solutions to fix the problem: More education, Better laws, Tolerance of differences. We need to understand the problem before we can offer any helpful solutions.

Christians turn to Scripture to understand the world, and we know this is not the way God created the world. Sin always brings death – not immediate physical death, but death of relationships, trust, intimacy, etc. Christians throughout history have called this event “the fall,” because sin made all creation fall from holiness and shalom/peace. Where there was unity and peace, now there is division and conflict. The opening chapters of Genesis unpack the multiple relationships that have lost shalom because of the curse of sin…

Broken Glass Continue reading

Does God Have Feelings?

Glowing Tube

Would it be possible to hurt God’s feelings? Can we make God happy or sad? At first, it seems like there should be a quick and obvious answer.

If God is emotionless, then he would seem like a heartless monster. But if he is emotional, then he may be unstable and fickle. So how should we think about this in light of Scripture and the Church’s teaching over the last 2000 years?  Continue reading

Four Reasons to be Confident in the Resurrection 

Easter makes Good Friday good. Without the resurrection, that Friday would’ve been the most terrible Friday in human history. The only thing that could compete would be if Adam and Eve ate from the tree (Genesis 3). 

What would happen to your faith if Jesus never rose from the dead? Some people may be tempted to say, “Well, I’d still believe. Jesus’ teachings are still worth following, and he did die for our sins even if he didn’t rise from the dead.”

The Apostle Paul says this,“For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:16-17)

How Can We Be Confident in the Resurrection? 

(The following is a summary of the video above along with some of my thoughts added. The video is worth your time, it’s very well done.)

“I’m not saying they really saw the real Jesus. I don’t know what they saw. But as a historian, I know they must have seen something.”
(Dr. Paula Fredrikson, Boston University)



The Body 

They never found Jesus’ body. How did the disciples overpower the armed-guards and roll away the stone to steal the body? After they started preaching about the resurrection, the whole region was swarming with people looking for the body, but they never found it.

The Apostles

They were hopeless at best, cowards at worst. Their master and lord had been killed. Terrified and dejected, they hid from the authorities in a locked room to protect themselves from suffering the same fate as Jesus. These were not men bold enough to devise a revolution.

But something happened. Suddenly these men were in the streets of Jerusalem preaching about the resurrection. They set the world afire through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As the video above states, “liars make terrible martyrs!” They truly believed they saw what they said they saw. Not one of them ever recanted their faith, even while being tortured and killed for it. If they were lying, someone would’ve cracked and squealed. Instead, their courage came because they truly saw the risen Christ.

The Skeptics

James was the brother of Jesus. He thought Jesus had a few screws loose and didn’t believe his message until after Jesus’ resurrection. Suddenly, he does a 180 and becomes the leader of the church in Jerusalem (which endured incredible opposition and persecution) and he wrote the book of James in the New Testament.

Paul was so opposed to the resurrection he was essentially the leader of ISIS, arresting Christians and killing them if they refused to deny Christ. Paul tells his story in Acts 9 where he meets Jesus and is called as a missionary and teacher.

What happened in these men who were so opposed to the message of Jesus? They must have seen something…

The Church

If I was going to start a lie about the resurrection of Jesus, Jerusalem would be the last place I’d start that lie. That’s where he was just killed, so it’s not exactly a “friendly” crowd. Besides, if it’s a lie, these are the people who would know better. I’d start this new teaching somewhere far away from where I’m saying this miraculous thing happened!

It would have taken a long time for the apostles to agree on their story of what they saw and what it means. Instead, at Pentecost they immediately started proclaiming the resurrection the Church exploded onto the scene from the very place where Jesus was crucified.

Live With Confident Faith

There is always the need for faith. Yes, there are arguments against these “proofs.” If you are looking for a reason to doubt, you will likely find one.

But these are provided to encourage you that your faith does not need to be blind or unreasonable. There have been many times when my faith has been rescued and restored by the simple question, “What about the resurrection?” The Christian faith really boils down to that one foundational question… what happened to Jesus? If it was a big conspiracy, then you will deny everything else. But, if Jesus really did rise from the grave, that changes absolutely everything.

What does Palm Sunday have to do with Good Friday?

Palm Branch

On Palm Sunday we often talk about the Triumphal Entry, when Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey and the people gathered to cheer and celebrate him as a prophet, laying palm branches down before him in joyful celebration. This fulfilled multiple prophecies and it showed us a foretaste of Christ’s kingship where all peoples would worship him in glory. It seemed that the Messiah’s plan was being fulfilled, but only a few days later the religious leaders stirred the people against Jesus and they put him to death for blasphemy and treason.

Jesus’ triumphal entry may have begun while riding on top of a donkey, but was fulfilled while carrying his cross to Golgotha on Good Friday. Jesus was a different type of Messiah than the people expected or wanted. They wanted a savior from the Romans who would restore the glory and pure-worship of Israel.

He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it away by nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; he triumphed over them in him.
Colossians 2:14-15 (CSB)

Matthew 16:13-28 shows a helpful narrative to set Palm Sunday in context with Good Friday. Once Peter offers the first confession of Christ (“You are the messiah, the son of the living God”), Jesus then begins to tell the disciples that he must go to Jerusalem to suffer and die and be resurrected.

Peter’s rebuke (“Oh no, Lord! This will never happen to you!”) completely makes sense when you put yourself in the disciples’ sandals.

  • You’ve walked the dusty streets, watching Jesus place his hands on lepers. But instead of the leprosy transferring to his flesh, his purity cleanses them and brings healing. (Matthew 8:1-4)
  • You’ve trembled when confronted by the demon-possessed, and yet the demons were the ones who shuddered in fear when Jesus came walking along. (Matthew 8:28-34)
  • You’ve fought against storms on the sea, fearful that your ship was falling apart until Jesus woke up and told the waves to calm down… and they did. (Matthew 8:23-27)
  • During another storm Jesus simply walked on the water, even while it was threatening to sink you. (Matthew 14:22-33)
  • You’ve seen Jesus swarmed by thousands of hungry people and make enough for a small meal feast for the entire crowd… with leftovers. (Matthew 14:13-21)

So when Jesus begins to foretell his death and resurrection, the disciples are rightly shocked. This isn’t what they expected from their master who has shown such great power and authority. Why would he suffer like that?

And not only does Jesus rebuke Peter, he responds by saying, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” He essentially says Peter, not only must this happen to me, it must happen to you too… and to anyone else who wants to follow me. Cross carrying is at the heart of Christianity.

Jesus’ plan all along was to enter Jerusalem triumphantly. Colossians 2:14-15 reminds us Jesus was triumphant over the debt of sin by nailing it to the cross. His hour of greatness was not when he rode into the city on top of that donkey, but when he gave his life on the cross and when he rose victoriously over sin and death.

Note: This is an excerpt based off a sermon I preached on 4/9/17 at Emmanuel Baptist Church. When the sermon audio is online I will include it here when it’s available. 

How Can I Know God’s Will? (it’s not so difficult)

Discerning God’s will plays an important role in the Christian life. This is because we want to live obediently, not in our own self-determined way. If we trust God and if we are called to participate in his sovereign plan in this world, then it’s important that we don’t mess it all up by missing out on “God’s will.” Right?

But here’s the thing… we make this way too complicated and mysterious. In many ways, discerning God’s will is pretty simple. Read Scripture, and obey it. Don’t steal things (even if they’re little things, like someone else’ login to get free Spotify). Don’t cheat on your boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife… be faithful. Keep your word. Work hard. Be the same person when you’re at home, work, church, with your friends, and when you’re alone. This isn’t rocket science. Most things in life don’t require deep introspection to discover God’s will… just obey what God has plainly given in Scripture.

But what about the other stuff? What if you’re trying to decide a new major in college, or whether or not to look for a new job, or if you’re supposed to marry that guy/girl you’ve been dating? Here are three “simple” steps to living out God’s will in your life.

Telescope at Beach Continue reading

3 Things Every Christian Must Know

Man with Bible in Field

Theology is important. What you believe about God matters. But for the normal Christian (or the person who’s considering Christianity), it can be extremely overwhelming to know where to begin.

Here are three things every Christian must know. They are also useful for evangelism and sharing the Gospel with others, because this is a clear and simple way to summarize what is at the heart of Christianity.

The Essential Core:

Who God is: God is the holy creator of heaven and earth who made us in his image to love and worship and reflect him in this world.

What God has Done: Because we have sinned, and our sin has earned God’s judgment, He took the initiative to rescue us from the wrath we deserve. In love, God came to us in Jesus Christ who lived and died and conquered death on our behalf so we could be forgiven, made new, and adopted as sons and daughters of God.

Who is God Calling You to Be: As a son/daughter of God, my life isn’t my own, but God’s. I live for his glory and not my own. I live to do everything in a way that shows the light and love and saving grace of God to all people, inviting them to confess their sin, repent, and become children of God themselves.

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Are All Sins Equal?

We’ve heard it said many times: “Sin is sin. All sins are equal. Your sins and mine are different, but they’re the same before God.”

Like most things, this statement has the ring of truth, but it’s not entirely biblical. That also means it’s not entirely unbiblical either. The last thing I want to encourage is a hierarchy stating, “Which sins are the worst sins.” That would be unhelpful only fuel self-righteousness.

Sometimes sins are so close in nature and effect they are like comparing a red apple to a green apple. At other times it’s like comparing oranges with tomatoes. Both are rightly categorized as fruits, but the differences end there. Sin is sin. That is true.  But that does not mean they are all the same.

apples

Here is how different kinds of sins are equal, how they are different, and why it matters.
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