Friday, April 28, 2017
What does it mean to live as God's people in light of the resurrection? What does it look like to be born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead? How will the things we have confessed with our lips on Easter Sunday begin to show forth in our lives?
These are the kinds of questions we will be considering and contemplating this Easter Season in our series on 1st Peter - The Pilgrim's Promise. Notice I said promise and not progress. The Pilgrim's Progress is the classic tale written by John Bunyan in the 1600's about the journey of the Christian through trial and trouble to the Celestial City. It's an allegory - a great piece of literature - one of the first novels written in the English language. But this series on 1st Peter isn't about progress - it's about a promise. That's why we are calling it the Pilgrim's Promise.
The Apostle Peter is going to be our tour guide as we take a look at his first epistle - better known as 1st Peter. Peter is the perfect person to learn from about the Christian life and what it means to be Jesus' disciple because he was so imperfect in so many ways. Peter is an expert on the sinful human condition as well as being an expert on the grace and mercy of Jesus His Lord and Savior. I can see him saying along with Martin Luther and John Newton - "I am a great sinner - but Jesus is a great Savior."
Peter was one of the first of the disciples to be chosen by Jesus, along with his brother Andrew. "Follow me and I will make you a fisher of men". Peter was one of the three in Jesus' inner circle - Peter James and John. He had a front row seat to all the big events found in the Gospels. He was there for the teaching, the healings, the miracles. He walked on water for Pete's sake! He was there on Palm Sunday - there at the temple - there in the Garden - there at the trial - until his denial of course. He was there at the tomb and in the upper room. Peter was a witness of the resurrection.
Many believe that Peter was the inspiration behind the Gospel of Mark. He also wrote 2 epistles - 1st and 2nd Peter.
Peter was there at the Mt. of Olives, 40 days after the resurrection, as Jesus was preparing to ascend into heaven to return to the Father, when some of the disciples ask - "Now are you going to set up your kingdom Lord?" Instead Jesus basically tells them - No, you guys can take it from here. I will always be with you. But now, it's your turn.
As the Apostles began their mission and ministry, they endured hardship and persecution as they went out into the world to spread the Gospel of Christ.
All of the apostles would go on to die a martyr's death - except of course for John - who Jesus said would live a long life and die a natural death. Peter was martyred in Rome - he was crucified upside down because he didn't think he was worthy to die in the same manner as His Savior and Lord.
So after the resurrection, after Jesus restored Peter back to the fold after his betrayal, Peter went on to be a powerful proclaimer of the Gospel message, and would remain faithful to Christ to the end.
Peter writes his epistle to Christians in the early church who are undergoing trial, trouble, and tribulation - suffering, persecution, and pain. It is a letter of comfort, hope, and encouragement in the midst of sorrow, grief, and despair. As much as the early Christians needed to hear this kind of message, we need to hear it today as well.
We in America have not had to endure the kind of persecution that the early Christians did, or the kind of persecution that Christians in the Middle East undergo, but if you are a Christian you will have some kind of hardship or trial.
Peter writes in chapter 1 verse 6 - "Now for a little while you have been grieved by various trials so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold and tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor on the day of Jesus Christ."
Trials come in all shapes and sizes. My trials won't be like your trials and your trials won't be like mine. They're like blue jeans - mine won't fit you, and yours won't fit me. So what kind of trials are you going through? Physical - emotional - spiritual - psychological ? The important thing is to admit that we all have them. Let's just be honest about it. All too often we try to hide our troubles and act like we got it all together. I got news for you. Nobody's got it all together.
Everyone struggles - everyone has trials - everyone has issues - everyone is dealing with something. I have a book on my shelf by John Ortberg entitled - "Everyone's Normal Until You Get to Know Them". It's true. Everyone you meet is fighting a battle that you know nothing about. So be kind to them. Try to empathize and be an encouragement to them. And be honest with your own trials too - so someone can come along side you and help you in your time of need. The church is intended to be a hospital for the sick, not a country club for the healthy.
Many people even in the church seek out a theology of glory in this life rather than a theology of the cross. The problem with seeking out the glory story, where you have to be perfect and live in victory all the time, is that when you fail or fall short, it means either God doesn't love you anymore and He's punishing you, or you're just not good enough to be a Christian. And that can easily lead to a crisis of conscience - to depression and to despair.
Our comfort and hope is not in our own perfection or performance. Neither do our problems negate God's promises. Remember Paul's words from Romans 8 - "Nothing in all creation can separate you from the love of God that in Jesus Christ our Lord."
The theology of the cross means that Jesus is with us in the midst of our trials and tribulations, our sufferings and sorrows. It means that through our baptism and our faith in Him, because of His death and resurrection for us, we have died with Him and we will also rise with Him. His death is our death - His resurrection means our resurrection.
The Crucified, Risen, and Living Lord Jesus Christ is greater than all your trials, troubles, suffering, and pain. Your problems don't negate the promises of God. The power of Jesus resurrection is greater than all of these things - His power is like dynamite - stronger than even death itself. You've heard of the immoveable object vs. unstoppable force debate? Well that has at last been solved. Jesus resurrection is the unstoppable force that has blown the immoveable object of death to smithereens.
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope though the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." 1 Peter 1:3
Saturday, April 22, 2017
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
So, how was your Easter weekend? If you are full of faith, spiritually strong, and if everything is going well, then I'm sure it was a happy and joyous weekend for you.
But perhaps that description doesn't fit you at all.
Perhaps this Easter found you far away from God - and wondering how you ever arrived at such a place. To people looking in from the outside, everything might look pretty good. But deep down inside you know the truth about yourself. Your spiritual life is in ruins. Your heart is full of regret. You've said and done some things that you're ashamed of. You have turned away from what you knew about God and the Bible at some point, and wandered far away from Him. You didn't plan on ending up where you are, but that's the reality of the situation. And you're wondering if there can be a second chance for you.
If that's your situation, then this Easter season can be very good for you, indeed. By the way, Easter isn't just a day, it's a season that lasts six weeks long. All over the world – in every nation, on every continent, and in every time zone – millions of people are basking in the glow of Easter weekend, still celebrating the fact that Jesus died on the cross for their sins and rose again from the dead three days later. This is the foundation of the Christian faith for over 2 billion people worldwide.
Today many people feel ashamed to show up at church after they've been away for awhile. And it doesn't exactly help when the preacher puts on the pressure. One guy who hadn't been to church in a long time finally made it out one Easter Sunday, and as he was leaving after the service was over, the pastor grabbed him by the hand, pulled him aside and said to him, "Son, you need to join the Lord’s army!" The man replied, "I'm already in the Lord’s army, Pastor." The pastor was puzzled, "How come I never see you except at Christmas and Easter?" He whispered back, "I'm in the Secret Service." ;-)
The good news is that the resurrection of Jesus Christ can change all that. It turns fear into faith, despair into hope, sadness into joy, failure into forgiveness, and death into life. It changed Peter and the other disillusioned and discouraged disciples into bold and courageous witnesses for their Lord and Savior.
Imagine Peter's surprise when he was told that Jesus had not only risen from the dead, but that He had sent him a personal message: "Go, tell the disciples, and Peter!" Peter really needed to hear that word of comfort and encouragement after betraying his Lord just 3 days earlier.
Maybe you need to hear a word like that today as well. One of the great truths that Easter reminds us of is that the God of the Bible is the God of second chances. If you need a second chance from God today, ask Him to forgive your sin, your failures, your indifference, and your hard heart. Turn to God, ask Jesus to change your heart, and experience His love, mercy, forgiveness, and peace.
And let me know if you need help finding a good Christ-centered and cross-focused church.
Easter Blessings -
Friday, March 31, 2017
Thursday, March 9, 2017
Have you ever thought about what a great evangelism opportunity Lent is? You've got free dinners, evening services, meaningful messages, inspiring music, Christ-centered themes, all culminating in Holy Week and Easter Sunday.
What an opportunity! It’s ready made for inviting friends and family who do not know Jesus or have become disconnected from Him to come to church with you.
What an opportunity for the church to live out the fact that it's a mission outpost where Jesus gives life. Lent is a great time for our church to look for new ways of bringing the Gospel to the community. You think most everyone in town goes to church? Don’t be fooled. Demographic studies show that there is no portion of the country where church goers number more than 50% of the population.
So let's find those people and invite them to church this Lenten and Easter season. They’re all around us – at work, school, in your family. Now is the time for us to talk about what we can do to bring people to worship during Lent and Holy Week. Now is the time for us to pray about who we can invite to come with us to church.
In the book of Acts, when Paul finishes his speech to all the Greek philosophers on Mars Hill in Athens, he tells them, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom He has appointed, and of this He has given assurance to all people by raising Him from the dead.” - Acts 17
That’s why Lent is an evangelism opportunity. To repent means simply to turn around – to turn away from sin to see Jesus crucified for us. It’s done by God through the power of the Holy Spirit, but He uses us to extend the invitation to others. No one is left out. No one is excluded. There’s only one way - and His name is Jesus.
He lived for us, offered Himself for us, and died for us. And now risen from the dead, He gives new life to all who believe in Him. At the end of Lent comes Easter and the hope of new life through Christ's Resurrection.
What a fantastic Easter this will be for someone you bring with you to church this Lent, for whom God’s Spirit has the opportunity to work repentance and faith in Christ! So go on - bring someone to church with you on your Lenten journey this year.
Thursday, March 2, 2017
The Logic of Romans - by Rod Rosenbladt
Rom. 1 - The pagans without God's Word are screwed
Rom. 2 - The Jews are just as guilty as they are
Rom. 3 - The whole world is accountable to God - no excuses - we're all in the same boat
Rom. 4 - The only answer to the whole thing is justification in Jesus by faith alone
Rom. 5 - This brings true and lasting peace, but not "a peaceful easy feelin"
Rom. 6 - No, that doesn't mean you can do whatever you want
Rom. 7 - Yes, we have the victory, but that doesn't mean what you think it means
Rom. 8 - Nothing can separate you from God's love in Christ
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Thursday, February 23, 2017
Seven Reasons Why We Should Study History
1. History teaches us
2. History gives us insight
3. History reminds us
4. History cultivates humility
5. History is "family" history
6. History encourages us to give thanks
7. History is HIS story
Chesterton said that tradition is the "democracy of the dead". We as God's people would do well to learn about history and tradition, not only to learn from our mistakes, but in order to be connected to the invisible church of all times and places. In doing so we will be better equipped to give thanks for the past, have faith for the present, and hold hope for the future.
ht - nicholas davis
Monday, February 20, 2017
Thursday, February 9, 2017
Israeli archaeologists have discovered yet another cave believed to have housed some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. If they are correct, it would be the 12th “scroll cave” discovered in the past 60 years.
Researchers from Hebrew University in Jerusalem found Cave 12 near the archaeological site of Qumran, close to the location where the first Dead Sea Scrolls were first discovered in 1947.
Cave 12 contains shattered pottery jars (which held the scrolls), scroll casings, and strips of cloth that tied the scrolls, which were all over 2,000 years old.
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of nearly 1000 manuscripts containing parts of what is now known as the Hebrew Bible. These can now be viewed at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
YouVersion is a bible app that has been called "the world's most popular Bible program for mobile phones". It was started by a church from Oklahoma in 2008 and soon went regional, national, and then world-wide, and now features 1450 Bible versions in over 1000 languages.
There was an article recently in Christianity Today about the most popular Bible verse in the world according to YouVersion.
The verse is Romans 8:28 - "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose.”
That's not too surprising. It's a very well known and important verse. Romans chapter 8 is one of the most powerful and profound chapters in the whole Bible.
The surprising thing to me is some of the other favorite Bible verses from around the world. Romans 8:28 was the overall favorite Bible verse in 2016, but when you look at individual nations and their favorite verses, it becomes very interesting indeed.
For example, the nations of Israel and Afghanistan had the very same favorite Bible verse - along with France, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Cyprus. What's the Bible verse? Zechariah 14:9 - “The Lord will be king over the whole earth; on that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.”
I don't have to tell you that Zechariah 14:9 doesn’t typically show up on the lists of favorite Bible verses. But last year, these words from the Old Testament prophet Zechariah showed up as the top verse on YouVersion with the most highlights, bookmarks, and shares in two countries with little else in common - Israel and Afghanistan.
What does this mean? It means that even though Israel and Afghanistan are very different countries with very distinct cultures, their people are basically the same. They have the same wants, needs, hopes, dreams, and desires. And the people who are reading the Bible in both of these nations are longing for God to return as King, to come down from heaven to earth, to rule and reign with justice and righteousness, to come down and bring everything back to the way it was supposed to be.
How about you? What's your favorite Bible verse? If you don't have one yet, Zechariah 14:9 might be a good place to start.
“The Lord will be king over the whole earth; on that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.”
Thursday, January 12, 2017
Too often in our world, the nice day before turns into the terrible day after. The day before cancer, before the heart attack, before the bad car accident. What a difference a day makes.
There was a day before these events. A day with no thought of pain or death. A day of work, school, chores, dinner, and bills. A day spent with family and friends. A day with no thoughts of eternity or heaven. No thoughts of meeting your maker or meeting your doom. The assumption that tomorrow would be pretty much just like today. Not a second thought about any unexpected turn of events.
We all live in those days before. We are living them right now. There was a day before Pearl Harbor Day. There was a day before 9-11. We are living out those days right now. The sobering fact is that sometimes tomorrow doesn't always give us a second chance. There may be a different tomorrow on our schedule entirely. We just don’t know it today.
So who are you going to be today, tomorrow, in this new year, before you're compelled to be someone else? Who are you going to be - and what are you going to do? What are you living for? And what are you prepared to die for? How will you show forth who you are and what you believe? Your life is an accumulation of what you believe to be true each and every day.
Imagine that there is a world bank that credits your account each morning with $86,400. However, it debits what is left over at the end of the day. Every evening, it deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day. What would you do? Draw out every penny, of course!
The truth is that each one of us has such a bank in our lives. But instead of money it gives us time. Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest for good purpose. It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft. Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the day’s deposits; the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against the "tomorrow." You must live in the present on today’s deposits. Invest it so as to get the most from it. The clock is running, it is your future. Make the most of today.
It's a brand new day. 2017 is a whole new year. So as you bask in the glow of Christmas and Epiphany, here are a few things to consider in your new life this new year ...
Strive to live your life each day this new year as if the Gospel is really true.
Commit to fully living out your new life in Christ each and every day.
Lay down your sin and take up the good news of forgiveness and salvation in Jesus.
Let go of old grudges and any nagging guilt. Live your life determined to be useful and joyful.
Live each day in a such a way that, should all things change tomorrow, you will give witness to the unshakeable and unchangeable truth that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior.
After all, the whole reason Jesus came on that first Christmas was to give you a new life. He was born of a virgin so that He could grow up to be a man and stand in your place, to do what you couldn't do for yourself, to live a perfect life and die a sacrificial death for you on the cross, to pay the penalty for your sins, and on the third day rise again, so that all who believe in Him may be raised to new life as well. Oh, what a difference a day makes!
He comes to make all things new - and that includes me and you. Every morning that God in His grace chooses to give you, tell yourself that this is a special day. This is the day the Lord has made - I will rejoice and be glad in it. This is a special day, because it is one of the last days, one of the days of God's new creation, one of the days of God's salvation in Christ.
The Lord is at hand - His coming is near - the night is nearly over - the day is almost here.
And on that day, all those who are in Christ will surely say - what a difference a day makes!
ht - internet monk