Friday, December 23, 2011

Feature Friday: Love, Infatuation, . . . and Twilight

Ugh, I just can't stand the Twilight series.  There are a number of reasons why.  First, I'm not a teenage girl, so I am not attracted to Edward or Jacob.  Second, I am not a teenage girl, so I am old enough to know that vampires kill people and burn in the sunlight. . . not twinkle.  Third, and this one is important, I am not a teenage girl, so I know the difference between infatuation and love.  Do you know the difference?  Let me explain just a few of the differences and try, with my limited knowledge of Twilight, to connect the dots.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Theology Thusday: Does the Old Testament Teach the Trinity

A few months ago, I got an E-mail from a friend.  He quoted Genesis 1:26 and asked me who is the "us" mentioned.  That got me talking to him and a few other people about the Trinity and the Old Testament.  Does the Old Testament teach the Trinity?  If not, then why not?  If God really is one Being who eternally existed as three Persons, then why would He not feel like mentioning that in the Old Testament?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ezra: The Sovereign God Keeps His Word

                Last week, we left off with the temple about to be completed.  God overcame the obstacles the Israelites faced when they took a step of faith.  Today, we will see a success story and we will witness God’s amazing faithfulness to His promises.

The Completion and Celebration

Read Ezra 6:13-22
                We have finally made it!  The Israelites have completed the Temple!  Is there hope for God’s people?  Yes!  The sovereign God has rescued His people from exile.  He has brought them home.  He has overcome all of their obstacles.  Verse 14 tells us why the Temple was finished.  It’s because God Himself decreed it.  There is hope for God’s people because God is sovereign and God is with them!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Feature Friday: AGT-Something Wicked This Way Comes

Howard Stern is joining America's Got Talent as a judge.

I enjoy watching the occasional episode of AGT on my day off on Hulu.  Last season was incredible with the Silhouettes and Team Illuminate.  I was rooting for those two acts.  Not only is it fun to watch for the serious competition, but the show is fun to watch because of all of the failed auditions and wacky participants.  After all, anyone and everyone is allowed to audition!  That brings in a lot of entertainment.

Unfortunately, it also brings in a lot of things you may not want to see.  Last season featured an act from a male pole dancer who danced in high heels.  I found myself fast forwarding through his acts quite quickly.  The only judge who seemed to agree with me that this was distasteful and the opposite of entertaining was Piers Morgan.  That man has class and on many occasions he fought to remove acts that were distasteful and classless.  In many ways, he held the gates and protected the show from being overrun with poor content.  Alas, Piers Morgan is leaving the show.  And he has a replacement: Howard Stern.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Theology Thursday: Why do bad things happen to good people? Part 2

The votes are in.  Why do bad things happen to good people?  This is one of those questions that we all ask at one point or another.  But when we are going through those bad times, answers like this are the last thing we want to hear.  Its important to know the answers to these questions before the hard times come so that you have this foundation to help you stand through the storm.  Last time, we saw that really none of us are good people and so we should be marveled by God's grace when any good things happen to us.  Today, we'll take a lesson from the book of James and see that "bad things" are used by God to mature us.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  -- James 1:2-4

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Sovereign God Overcomes Obstacles

                Last week, God’s people had just returned from exile.  They returned to a ruined city and a broken temple.  They returned to a land with many old enemies who would love to take advantage of the vulnerable Israelites.  Will they be able to rebuild?  Will the enemies surrounding them cause trouble?  Is there hope for God’s people?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Feature Friday: Buying Dinner for a Mugger

If you read the news or listen to the radio, you've probably heard this story.  Julio Diaz (above) was approached after getting off the train by a teen with a knife.  After he handed over his wallet, the teen turned around to leave.  If I were Julio, at that point I probably would have taken out my cell phone and called the police while walking away.  I would be upset that my day had been ruined by such a scary thing and I would want that no good teen caught and punished and I would want my wallet returned.  I think that is how most of us would feel.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Theology Thursday: Can Demons Hurt Us?

The votes are in and today's question is: Can demons hurt us?  Whether you're a Christian or not, you've probably been scared of demons at one point or another.  Have you seen the Exorcist?  Have you heard strange, scary, and unexplainable stories around a campfire?  The devil and demons can be a scary thing to talk about, but what is true and what is Hollywood?  What is real and what is hype?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ezra: The Sovereign God Over the Hearts of Men

Last week, we left off in a bad spot.  The Israelites had been carried off into exile.  Their city had been burned.  Their temple was ransacked and destroyed.  Their leaders were murdered and their king was in prison.  Their freedom was taken.  For seventy years they lived as slaves.  And a question was left lingering.  Is there any hope for God’s people?  That’s the question we will be asking every week and we’ll be seeing a fuller and fuller answer every week.

The King did WHAT!?

Read Ezra 1
                Does King Cyrus not strike you as crazy?  The Israelites are his slaves.  He owes them nothing and they are in a position where they owe him everything.  What does he do with them?  He frees them!  Even if that was all he did, it would be above and beyond what anyone would expect.  He is giving up over 50,000 slaves!  What a guy!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Feature Friday: Secret Santa gives away $20,000

Did you hear about the real life Secret Santa?  On Tuesday of this week, a man who wished to remain anonymous handed out $100 bills to complete strangers.  He passed out money on bus stops, in laundromats, and all over town in Reading, Pennsylvania.  He said he got a lot of joy from being able to help people and he encouraged the people he helped to do something kind for someone else this Christmas season.  When it was all said and done, he had given away $20,000!  You can read more about it Here

What a great modern day Santa.  Do you know the story of the original Santa?  No, I'm not talking about the jolly guy from the North Pole who flies around in a magic sled pulled by mystical reindeer.  I'm talking about the man behind the legend, Saint Nicholas.  Have you heard his story?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Theology Thursday: Why do bad things happen to good people? Part 1

As a pastor, I get this one a lot.  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Its a tough question to answer for two reasons.  First, its an incredibly big topic with much more than just one quick answer.  It will take time to answer it in full.  That's why I've decided to make this a series.  This will just be the first piece to my answer and, if you'd like to hear more, you can vote on this topic again in the future (vote on the right side of the screen).

Second, this question is not asked when everything is great and we are happy with life.  People usually ask this question in the midst of tragedy.  The grief, pain, and sadness that go along with this question often make us angry.  All of those things put together make this a difficult discussion.  So let me start by saying, I'm sorry if that's you right now.  I hope and pray that God comforts you in your time of need.  I assure you that God is good and I urge you to let this difficult time cause you to rely on God more rather than turning from Him in anger and unbelief.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Is there hope for God's people?

The Ezra Project

As part of my studies at the Moody Theological Seminary, I have been doing an in depth literary study through the book of Ezra.  I’ve learned a lot and been convicted by God’s Word through this study.  As a result of that work, I’d like to share what I’ve gleaned with you.  Would you join me over the next five Tuesdays on this study?   You’ll be able to choose the depth of your involvement, but the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it.  I’ll give you reading assignments, study questions, and homework that will help you apply the book of Ezra to your life.  Its up to you how deep you want to go.  If you choose to study along with me, please let me know in the comment section of the blog and please share what you are learning and any questions you have.  I look forward to doing this study with you!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rest to the Glory of God

Do you remember the stories of the mighty prophet Elijah?  He's the man who prayed that God would hold back the rain and God withheld rain for three and a half years.  Then he prayed again and it rained.  He's the guy who outran a chariot drawn by horses.  He's the one who didn't just die like the rest of us, but was taken into heaven in a fiery chariot!  He's also most often remembered for standing up all alone against the many prophets of Baal and defeating them in a worship contest.

But do you know the story of his depression?  Elijah had been serving God hard.  All day, every day, he was going all out for God.  He preached to a people who didn't want to listen.  He rebuked a people who grew angry instead of repenting.  Every day he lived among a people confused by idols.  After his victory against the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, the evil queen Jezebel ordered him hunted down.  As if Elijah didn't have enough problems, he is now running for his life.  He is burned out, exhausted, hopeless, and afraid.  The prophet was depressed.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Lesson of the Seat Hogger

Normally, I put up Feature Friday blogs about a recent movie, song, or news article.  But since the big talk of the town is the new Twilight movie and I can't stand them enough to write about them in length, I'll be sharing something I saw in real life this week. 

So I was riding on the train this Wednesday when I saw this.  Notice anything wrong here?  There were a lot of people standing who had no seat, including an older woman not shown in the picture.  The seat in front of me, as you can see, was occupied by two plastic bags.  A few people who got on the train would actually look right at the seat, then at the guy next to them, and back at the seat.  But the guy sitting there looked the other way every time.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Theology Thursday: Darwin, Evolution, and the Bible

What is evolution?  Does the Bible disagree with evolution?  Has evolution been proven a fact?  These are some questions I intend to answer.  Answering these questions could take up volumes, so I will not be able to address every little detail.  I will try to summarize but this is going to be a lot of info.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Good Dose of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is coming up pretty quickly.  We all have a lot of things to be thankful for.  Our family, friends, jobs, homes, full refrigerators, cars, church, toys, and so much more.  A lot of times, we say we are thankful for these things because it is the right thing to say, even when we don't necessarily feel very thankful.  But think about some times that you really, truly have felt thankful.  Maybe it was when you were younger and your parents bought you a video game system for Christmas that you had been dying to get all year.  Maybe it was when your spouse surprised you with an incredible day all about you.  Maybe it was when someone stood up for you or defended you in front of others.  Can you remember a time you were truly thankful?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Slow to Speak and Tweet

You probably know this guy.  You may have seen him on commercials, follow him on Twitter, remember him from That Seventies Show, know him as Demi Moore’s husband, or watch him now on Two and a Half Men.  You may not have heard about the recent trouble he got himself into on Twitter.  

Penn State recently fired football coach Joe Paterno.  Ashton Kutcher read a headline about it and, without knowing the full story, he put his opinion up on Twitter.  Kutcher said, “How do you fire Jo Pa? #insult #noclass as a hawkeye fan I find it in poor taste.”  If you’ve been following the news or are really into college football, you know what a mistake this was.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Theology Thursday: Can Women Lead in the Church?

Most of us have never seen a female pastor or priest.  How come?  Is the church sexist?  Why can't women be leaders in the church?  What is the deal?

Well, not all Christians agree on this issue.  In fact, there are now several denominations of Christianity that are allowing women to be pastors.  So what is your opinion Pastor Mark? 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Do I have to go to church on Sunday?

Do I really have to go to church on Sundays?  As a youth pastor, I get this question a lot.  Teens in particular struggle with waking up early on Sundays, sitting through a sermon that is primarily geared toward adults, and being deprived from their video games for hours on end.

But, if we adults are honest, we struggle with those things too.  Sometimes its just been a long week and it would be so much simpler and easier to just stay home on Sunday morning.  There are Sundays when we attend church and for whatever reason just don't feel like we got much out of the sermon.  And that's not even mentioning the fact that going to church causes us to miss the first half of the game on TV.  These things are normal.  So... do I really have to go to church on Sundays?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Feature Friday: Terranova

Have you been watching Steven Spielberg's new masterpiece?  If you catch Terra Nova on Fox, you're in for breathtaking nature scenes, futuristic technology, and, best of all, dinosaur-packed action!

In the not so distant future, mankind's use of industry, cars, factories, and more has left the world extremely polluted.  Combined with over-population, the human race doesn't have long before its too late.  Laws limit a household to two children and purifying devices called re-breathers are needed to breathe outside air.  But there is hope. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Theology Thursday: Proving God Exists - Part 4

What makes something good and other things evil?  Why are some actions right and other actions wrong?  Why do almost all of us agree that stabbing someone out of jealousy is wrong but shooting someone in self defense and in defense of others is not?  Who decided how we ought and ought not act?  Are certain things right or wrong just based on our opinion?  Is it based on a certain set of laws?  Where does morality come from?

The Moral Argument

In our fourth attempt to prove the existence of God, we will be looking at another age old argument known as the moral argument.  This argument bases itself around the question, "Where does morality come from?"  There are several possible answers to this question, but only one answer makes sense.  The only logical answer to this question is that morality comes from a personal, absolute, transcendent being (God).  To read about this in depth, I highly recommend C.S. Lewis' book Mere Christianity.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Study, Do, Teach

I've been reading through Ezra for a class I'm taking and wanted to share some thoughts with you.  Ezra was a spiritual leader among God's people after they had returned from exile.  They had returned to a pretty ruined land and were in the process of rebuilding the city, the walls, the economy, the temple, and their relationship with God.  Ezra was used by God to lead the people in some of these areas, most important of which was their relationship with God.  Here is the verse that the whole book of Ezra is famous for and my thoughts on it.

 For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. -- Ezra 7:10

Friday, October 28, 2011

Marathons, Labor Pains, and Bus Rides

Have you heard the stories of Amber Miller and Rob Sloan?  I heard about them over the past few weeks and I find their stories, especially when looked at together, to be hilarious and pretty insightful.  I'll start with the bad guy in the story.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Theology Thursday: Is Swearing a Sin?

** Last week I covered the topic of homosexuality.  Username Richard the Atheist commented on my article to argue against me.  If you'd like to see my response to him, which is long (I warned you!), then CLICK HERE.**

Is swearing a sin?  The D word, the S word, the F word.  Do we offend God when we use this kind of language?  Should Christians use them?  My opinion may not be the clear cut answer you were looking for.  As a youth and children pastor, believe me, I wish I could say definitively that all swearing is bad.  That would keep the parents at church happy with me.  But, at the risk of drawing their wrath, let me share my honest thoughts on this issue with you.  Let me caution you, this article will get a bit explicit.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Jesus and the Cup

Where do you turn when times get tough?  What do you do when you're scared, frustrated, lonely, or angry?  My daughter Michaela starts with a pout and works her way up to a really strong cry.  My brother and I have punched walls before when life got rough for us.  As a kid I used to hide under my blanket in bed when I got scared.  Now, I have a tendency to either bottle things up or complain to my wife.  What do you do?  Where do you go?

Jesus sets a wonderful example for us in Luke 22:39-45.

Jesus is about to be tortured, beaten, scourged, humiliated, spat on, and crucified.  He knows this.  And worst yet, the wrath of God is about to be poured out on Him.  Could you imagine the weight of knowing that?  He knows He is about to be arrested and it is all about to begin.  Jesus finds Himself with all of these worries overwhelming Him.  And this is what He does.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Feature Friday: Edgar Allan Poe did WHAT!?

I'm a pretty big fan of Poe.  Casque of the Amantillado, The Masque of the Red Death, The Tell Tale Heart, and of course The Raven are classics.  A few days ago I heard that a new movie called The Raven is coming out in March.  I was really excited.  I was going to link the trailer here, but its a bit gory, so I'll just leave it to your imagination.

John Cusack will be playing Edgar Allan Poe in this movie which retells one of the most amazing parts of Poe's life.  A lot of Poe's poems and stories are dark and involve murders and deaths that range from a plague spreading in a ballroom to a man being buried alive behind a brick wall.  The movie focuses on a series of murders that occured in the 1800's.  These murders were exact copies of the ones that Poe wrote about.  This led the police to at first suspect Poe, but eventually Poe had to join forces to help the police catch this copycat killer.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Theology Thursday: What does the Bible say about homosexuality?

I recently got into a long conversation about homosexuality.  I was absolutely shocked to see that Christians I knew were claiming that homosexuality was not a sin.  I was even more astounded when this person began to twist Scripture to support his claims.  

My wife and I watch Modern Family every now and then.  Two of the main characters are gay men with an adopted child.  Gay marriage is now legal in six states in the US and there will probably be more to come.  Many celebrities like Niel Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser/How I Met Your Mother) and Ellen DeGeneres are out of the closet and proud of it.  With homosexuality becoming a regular part of our culture, Christians need to know what God has to say about this topic.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Bible: You're doing it wrong!

Among many other Memes on the internet, "You're Doing It Wrong," has become quite popular.  And because I am a Star Wars nerd, here is another good one.

In John 5:39-40, Jesus tells a crowd of people, "The Bible: You're doing it Wrong".  Take a look.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Making a Ding in the Universe

Steve Jobs, the co-founder and CEO of Apple, passed away just nine days ago on October 5.  It didn't take long for Facebook to light up for this man.  Dozens of people that I know changed their profile picture to the above photo, an apple logo, or some other commemorative picture.  Status updates featured lines like: 

"Goodbye Steve Jobs. You have changed the world forever and your legacy will live on. Prayers go out to your family and those that are grieving."

Other people tossed up inspirational quotes from Jobs on Twitter like this one:

“I want to put a ding in the universe.” - Steve Jobs

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Theology Thursday: Proving God Exists - Part 3

Disclaimer: In parts 1 and 2, I basically said that I don't think you can prove that God does or does not exist with 100% certainty.  Let me clarify what I meant by that.  I do believe God exists.  God exists whether you believe He does or not.  I believe this is the truth of the matter.  In addition, I believe that there is sufficient evidence for God's existence that it leaves you without an excuse if you choose to believe He doesn't exist.  Romans 1:19-20 says this.  What I meant by saying that you can't prove that God exists is that there is no argument that you can present to 10 different atheists and have 10 out of 10 of them convert from atheists to theists.  I don't believe this is so much a matter of having a lack of good arguments or proofs, as I believe this is the result of our tendency to "suppress the truth in unrighteousness" as Romans 1:18 puts it.  God is real and God does exist.  There is plenty of evidence but there will always be those who fight this truth.

The Fine Tuning Argument

This time around, we will be looking at a more modern argument for the existence of God.  This one is very heavy on science and math, but I'll try to avoid the numerical details and just give a basic understanding.  If you actually want all of the math, I'll provide some and I'm sure you can find more with a good google search!  Today's argument revolves around the way a great number of conditions in the universe and world come together to create a relatively wonderful environment for us to live in.  It can be considered a part of the Design Argument that we looked at last week.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Last Supper: Ripe with Meaning

Ever watch a movie where it just all comes together at the end?  Movies like Fight Club, Usual Suspects, Ocean's Eleven (12 or 13 as well), and the A Team are exciting to watch.  When all of the pieces line up at the end, its just awesome!  Whether its a mystery that is revealed in the end that was cleverly hidden through the whole movie or a plan coming together, it can often leave us thinking about it for a long time.  Its just like the Last Supper...

We remember the Last Supper every time we participate in communion at church.  I'm teaching Luke 22:14-20 to the children at church this Sunday.  As I've been reading it and preparing, I'm blown away by the amount of meaning packed into this event.  As Jesus shares this meal with His disciples, we can actually see the fulfillment of the Old Testament.  Its amazing how much is going on in these verses.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Theology Thursday: Proving God Exists - Part 2

As I mentioned in Part 1, I don't really think there is a way to prove 100% that God does exist.  But I do believe there are very strong arguments that can be made to defend the existence of God.  I hope these provide strength for your own faith and aid you in sharing your faith with others.

Today's age old argument is one that has only developed a stronger case over time.  It is the Design Argument.

The Basic Idea

Look at these two pictures.  In the first one, we see lines in the sand.  I have one question for you about the first picture.  How did the lines get there?  Now look at the second picture.  It is also a picture of lines in sand.  How did these lines get there?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Opportunities in Crisis

Ever have a bad day?  I mean a really bad day?  The kind of day where you want to punch through a wall.  The kind of day where just one thing after another goes wrong and the whole world seems like its out to get you.  The kind of day that leaves you collapsing onto your bed in exhaustion but too overwhelmed to think as a million and one things race through your mind. Have you had one of those days?

In Luke 21, Jesus describes a series of bad days that can hang with the worst of them.  Let me show you just two of those verses.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Feature Friday: Courageous

Good Christian movies are hard to find.  I remember growing up in youth group and watching movies like The Cross and The Switchblade.

While the message was good, the movie was pretty bad.  We Christians have really fallen behind in the realm of media.  Most Christian music when I was growing up sounded like it was a decade or two old.  It really is a shame.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Theology Thursday: Who is in control? Free Will vs. God's Sovereignty

Have you ever pondered this age old question?  Is everything decided?  Is the future set in stone?  Are you destined to follow a certain path?  Or, on the other hand, are you free to choose any of the many possible destinies before you?  Is the future undecided and solely up to our choices?  Are you a puppet obeying the script that God has written for you with no choice in the matter?  Or is everything up to us and God has no say in what we do?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Widow's Coins

This Sunday, I'll be teaching the children the story of the widow who gave her last two coins in offering to God.

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins.  And he said, "Truly, I tell you, this poor wedow has put in more than all of them.  For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."    Luke 21:1-4

Be Cautious When Judging the Offering of Others

Anyone standing by and watching the widow present her offering might have thought poorly of this woman.  We see it on Sundays at church too don't we?  The offering plate goes by and a person reaches into their pocket and tosses a few singles and some change or maybe a ten or twenty in.  If you are a regular attender at church then chances are at one point or another you've judged a person for that.  After all, a tithe or 10% would obviously be more than twenty bucks a week right?  Here you are giving an actual tithe and they are sticking in enough to buy a pack of gum.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Landau, Alladin, and Jesus

Even if you haven't been watching America's Got Talent, you've probably at least seen a youtube clip or heard talk about the Frank Sinatra singer with dreadlocks.  Just a few weeks ago, Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. went from being a full time car washer with a failing music career to nationally famous with a hot new gig in Vegas. I'll be honest, he wasn't my first choice on the show this season.  I was rooting for the Silhouettes at the end there.  But I still find his victory heart warming.  Don't you?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Proving God Exists: Part 1

Does God really exist?  Its a question I've discussed with many people.  Can it be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt with 100% certainty?  To be honest, I don't know.  There have been times in my life where I've answered with a yes and there have been times I have answered with a no.  Right now, I'm just not sure if a person can prove God does or does not exist.

However, I do believe that there is enough evidence for the existence of God that it leaves me certain He does exist.  There is certainly enough evidence for the existence of God that you don't have to feel foolish for believing in Him the way you'd feel silly believing in a unicorn or other fairy tales.

There are some pretty solid age old arguments that give lots of evidence for the existence of God and some modern ones as well.  Today I'll share the first of many.  The first is known as The Cosmological Argument.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Powerful Song About You and Me

Christy and I have really been getting into Smallville lately.  Its the show about Superman's younger years.  I have been noticing that the show makes great use of music.  A song always comes on during the most emotionally powerful parts of the show.  When the episode centers around Clark and Lana's love, it ends with the two of them holding hands while a romantic Lifehouse song is playing.  When the episode centers around Lex Luthor losing his mind, it ends with Lex in a straight jacket with a creepy Johnny Cash song playing.  The music of it amplifies the whole point of the story.

Did you know that there is a song in Genesis 1?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Theology Thursday: Can a true Christian have doubt?

A few days ago, a friend E-mailed me asking if doubt was compatible with belief.  Can a person who has doubt still pray effectively?  Is doubt dangerous for your faith?  I think these are great questions, because we all face doubt.  Whether we are confronted with historical or scientific data that seems to contradict the Bible, we go lose a loved one and wonder where God is, or we just simply come to a place where faith is hard to muster up... we all face it sooner or later.

But I don't think doubt is all bad.  Here is an edited version of my response to that friend.

Is doubt sinful?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

You can do it, Put your heart into it!

Two Sunday mornings ago, I went hunting.  Don't worry animal lovers, I wasn't hunting deer.  I was hunting for an iPad accessory so that I could hook up my iPad directly to a projector.  Every Sunday, I use a Keynote presentation to teach the 1st-6th graders a Bible lesson.  I usually use my Mac to run the presentation.  But the week Michaela was born, my Mac up and broke.  But with my baby girl in my arms, that was the last thing on my mind.

Friday, September 9, 2011

10 Years Since 9/11

I was a freshman in high school.  I left the locker room with my gym shirt and tight gym shorts on.  Why do they always make them too small?  I lined up with the rest of my class and we were cracking jokes about something or other when Coach Murry walked in.  He seemed a little shocked about something and with a shake of his head and a half grin he said, “Did you hear what happened?”  We all shook our heads no.  “Some idiot crashed a small plane into the Pentagon.”
Well that’s strange I thought.  We finished up PE and I thought nothing of it.  But by the look on my algebra teacher’s face when I walked into my next classroom, I could tell something was really wrong.  She turned on the TV and we watched in horror as smoke poured out of the towers on live television.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Holy Competition

So last week, a lot of people from my church took part in a Labor Day Basketball tournament.  The younger division's speaker had to cancel at the last minute and for a minute there, I thought I was going to have to share a message.  As I prayed and looked through the Bible for ideas, I stumbled across this incredible and amazing verse.

Now, before I give you the verse I have a question for you.  Are you a competitive person?  I used to think that I wasn't.  When I play sports, I do like to win.  But I've never been the guy who is losing his temper on the court.  Even when I'm playing against people that are a lot smaller than I am, I usually get walked all over because I just plain don't get aggressive enough.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Joy in Service

Michaela Lynn Brunke is here!!!!  I want to thank all of you for your prayers and support. 

Let me tell you, I absolutely love this little girl!  You know how I know?  I’ve never been a baby person.  All of my life, I have always thought and said that all babies look alike and none of them are cute.  They are just kind of weird looking and chubby.  But guess what?  I think Michaela is beautiful!  I don’t think I have every changed a diaper in my life.  Even when my nephew Malachi was a baby, I avoided diaper duty like the plague because that’s just gross!  But guess what?  Not only do I change Michaela’s diapers . . . I enjoy doing it!  It’s the strangest thing.  I enjoy cleaning her poopy diapers.  I love rocking her to sleep late at night when I’m tired and exhausted.  I love giving her attention when she wakes up, even when it interrupts important or fun things I’m doing.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Back to School and Life on Mission

Well, I am going to have to take a break over the next few days from the blog as the baby is coming soon. So... Check out this Devo from Dare to Share Ministries. It's about going back to school but you can easily take what they say and practice it in your workplace, community, or home.

Click Here!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Theology Thursday: God, Gods, and the God in Me?

A question presented to me today on Facebook was "What's the difference between deism, pantheism, and panentheism?"  This is actually a huge question, but let me try to give you an answer.  Its important to know these things as Christians because these worldviews are not only present in the religions of some of our neighbors and friends but also in movies and culture.  We need to understand them to be able to communicate the truth of the Bible to those around us.

I'll try to give five main categories along with their definitions, what the Bible says about them, and the negative sides to believing them.

Deism teaches that the universe was created and then later abandoned by God.  Essentially, God made the world and then left and He no longer answers prayers, does miracles, or really even cares about His creation at all.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Obeying your leaders

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.  Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.  Hebrews 13:17

If you're like me, then you love your pastors.  If you're like me, you admire these men and respect them greatly for what they are doing and the walk they have with God.

But if you are like me, then there have been times you haven't liked what your pastors have asked of you.  I can recall a few times in my youth group years when I was a new Christian that my pastor told me to throw away some of my CD's.  (CD's are old things that people used to play music by the way)  For a while, I disagreed and didn't listen and I held onto my Eminem and Insane Clown Posse CD's.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Feature Friday: Rolling in the Deep

I really don't think I need to tell you who this is.  Adele has seemingly come out of nowhere and grabbed the spotlight.  I hear her on the radio, covered on America's Got Talent, and featured on commercials.  There is no doubt that she has an incredible voice and loads of talent to sing the way she does.  Her song "Rolling in the Deep" seems to imprint itself deeply on practically anyone who hears it.  The passion and soul you can hear as she sings it have captured all of our attention.

Have you stopped to pay attention to the lyrics?  For the sake of copyright, I won't repost them here.

She is singing from a broken heart.  The fire that's burning in her heart is one of anger at the man who hurt her so deeply.  Examine the lyrics and you'll see that she carries scars from this relationship.  She got played.  She wishes she had never even met this Romeo.  In fact, she is at the point where she hopes he gets what he deserves and she even threatens him a bit herself!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Theology Thursday: Baptism in the Holy Spirit?

So I've decided to theme the days of the blog a bit.  I am going to try out Theology Thursdays and Feature Fridays.  The blog won't always follow that structure, but I'm going to try to answer theological type questions on Thursdays and do a devotional based off of current movies, shows, and music on Fridays.  Without further ado. . .

I wrote a devo last week about the Mach 20 aircraft and said that we all have the Holy Spirit sealed within us when we become Christians.  Then a friend basically asked, "If that's true, then why do the Christians in Acts 8 have to wait for the apostles to pray over them before they receive the Holy Spirit?"

Let me start by saying that this is not something that all Christians agree on.  When it comes to Christian theology, there are closed issues and open issues.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

That Which We've Seen and Heard

Evangelism is a scary word for most of us.  We feel frightened at the thought of sharing our faith with others.   Factoring family and friends into the equation can actually make us even more nervous and embarrassed.

As a pastor, I've sat through quite a lot of evangelism classes and seminars that offer steps to sharing your faith.  I've heard recommendations ranging from memorizing the Romans Road to wearing Jesus memorabilia like buttons or crosses.  I've studied the tactics of soap box preaching and seeker based Bible studies.

All of those things have merit and can be incredibly beneficial.  But sometimes its the simplest things that work.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Strength in Weakness

Christy and I went to see Captain America in 3D around when it first came out with a friend for his birthday.  While there were a few things that bugged me about the movie, I have to say I liked it.

One of the reasons I liked it so much was the theme that ran through the movie of heroes vs bullies.  A bully is someone who uses his strength to take advantage of others.  A hero is someone who uses his strength to help others.  As you probably know, Captain America got his superhuman strength and speed from receiving an experimental super soldier drug.  The scientist who created the drug has to decide which soldier will be the first they test it on.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mach 20, Spirit Power, and You

Have you heard about this thing?!  I saw it in the news today.

The Falcon HTV-2 is an experimental unmanned aircraft.  It caught my nerd attention when I realized how fast this bad boy moves.  It can reach Mach 20.  Mach 20. . . Mach 20!  That's 20 times the speed of sound for those less nerdy than I.  That means that this thing can move at 13,000 miles per hour!  No wonder its unmanned.  Could you imagine trying to fly that thing?  It can travel from LA to New York City in 12 minutes.  And to think it takes my flight 2 hours to get Christy and I from Chicago to Maryland.

I was thinking about how incredibly fast this thing can move when I recalled two stories from the Bible about fast moving people.  One guy in the Bible gets moving at some pretty incredible speeds, but nothing near Mach 20.  But another guy actually moves faster than Mach 20!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cowboys and Aliens

I haven't seen the movie yet, but the people who write the Soul Fuel devotionals have!

Check out this devotional from Dare 2 Share Ministries.

Click Here

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I Love Generous People

Do you know anyone who is really, really, really generous?  I don't mean the kind of person who gives you a few dollars when you're a bit short at the movie theater.  I'm talking about the kind of person who just buys people nice gifts out of the blue.  Don't you just love them?!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Was Jesus Created?

Rather than a devotional today, I thought I'd answer a question for you that I was asked recently.  Hopefully this helps you be better equipped to defend your faith.

A friend of mine called me up with some questions the other day.  He was visited by some Jehovah's Witnesses who pointed out a passage and told him that Jesus wasn't God but that God had created Jesus.  Now, if you are a Christian or grew up in church, you know that Jesus is God.  But, would you know what to say if presented with this verse?

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  Colossians 1:15

What would you say to someone who showed you that verse and said, "See the Bible says that Jesus was created.  He was the first born.  If He was created, then He isn't really God."?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Reboots and Mulligans

Have you heard about the new Spiderman movie scheduled to come out in 2012?  Don't believe me?  You can watch the trailer HERE.

You may have noticed something strange.  Its not part four in the Spiderman series.  Its a total reboot.  Tobey Maguire will not be playing Spiderman, there is a totally new Peter Parker.  In fact, all of the actors are new.  It's not even called Spiderman anymore.  Now, its "The Amazing Spider-man" (which you'll recognize as the original comic title if you're a nerd like me).  Marvel is completely starting over and taking everything back to the drawing board.  Its a fresh start.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Giving up the Elder Wand

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!! (Nothing too major, but I do talk about something from the new movie)

Have you seen the latest Harry Potter movie?  I saw it with my wife last night.  Without giving too much away, there is a scene in the movie where Harry gets the Elder Wand.  In case you don't know, the Elder Wand is one of three powerful magical items called the Deathly Hallows.  The Elder Wand is the most powerful wand in the world and with it a wizard would be unstoppable.  And it falls into Harry's hands!

What does Harry do with it?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed, Blessed, Blessing

Its Monday again.  This post will be more of a mix of my own commentary and thoughts than a devotional.  If you like that sort of thing, then dig in.  If not, normal devotionals start again tomorrow.

Ephesians 1:3

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

In the previous verses, Paul identifies himself and then prays for a blessing for the saints in Ephesus, namely that they would receive peace and grace from God.  Here, instead of praying for a blessing, He declares "blessed be God".  He isn't praying a blessing over God, He is saying that God is blessed.  The word for "blessed" here is "eulogetos" which can also be translated "praised".  He is saying that God is praised and blessed.  This is a mini declaration of worship from Paul who is honoring God with his words.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dealing with Anger

"In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold."  Ephesians 4:26-27

A friend of mine was recently caught in the middle of drama.  We'll call this friend Jim.  Sally told Billy a lie about Jim.    As a result, Billy is now mad at and not really speaking to Jim.  For the moment, this lie has wrecked that relationship.

Jim and I talked about it for a while and he finally asked, "Is it okay that I'm mad?  Is it wrong for me to be angry about this?"

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Nudge Method

As a youth pastor, I work with a lot of kids and teens.  When I notice a problem or fault or mistake of one of the kids, there are different ways to approach the problem.  You can just tell the kid what they did wrong and how to fix it.  You can just ignore it and let it slide.  One tactic I like is, for lack of a better title, the Nudge Method.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rescue Them

Check out this devotional from Dare2Share Ministries.  It challenged me to reach the lost God has placed in my life.  Click the link below.

Rescue Them

^ That one.  Click it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse died last Saturday.  For those of you who don't know, Winehouse was a very successful music artist who won five Grammys from one album alone.  She died at the age of 27.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ephesians 1:1-2 Dear Ephesians...

I'm going to be going through the book of Ephesians on Mondays.  I'm going to only do a couple of verses at a time and it may look more like a commentary than a devotional.  Hopefully, it will be a mix of both.  This might be more of a study type thing for anyone who reads it than a pure devotional, but if that's what you're looking for then you can find it here on Mondays.

Ephesians 1:1

Paul an apostle

Paul introduces himself here as the author of the letter to the Ephesians.  He also identifies himself here as an apostle of Christ Jesus.  The word apostle comes from the Greek word apostolos which has the meaning of a delegate or envoy or a "sent out one".  The title means that Paul has been sent out and commissioned by Jesus.  Paul can say this because the resurrected Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and called him.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Get Both Sides of the Story First

Passage: Proverbs 18:17 "The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him."

As a pastor, I've had to work out my fair share of disputes and disagreements between people.  I've heard the usual stories.   "Pastor Mark, Sally said BLANK to me."  "Jimmy just hit Bobby and Bobby wasn't doing anything wrong Pastor Mark"  Some have been more serious than that, but whatever the case, the funniest thing happens.  If I'm not careful, whoever talks to me first gets me on their side from the start.  Its funny what hearing only half of the story can convince you of.

My favorite example of this comes from Pastor Mark Driscoll.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

God-X Teens & Parents Only

A conference for youth has been brought to my attention.  Check out this video and let me know if you would be interesting in attending it!  Vote on the right side of the blog in the poll section!

P.S. If you are looking for the devo, scroll down ;-)

Do you lack sense?

Passage: Proverbs 11:12-13  "Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.  Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered."

I caught myself putting someone down behind their back the other day.  It wasn't anything too awful, I didn't reveal anyone's darkest secret.  But I spoke poorly of them and it was entirely unnecessary.  I wasn't talking to that person's mentor or pastor in an effort to lovingly help them.  I was talking to a mutual friend and this acid came out of my mouth.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The New Rebecca Black?

Check out this devotional from Dare 2 Share Youth Ministries.

How to start again

I'll be writing my own devos on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.  Days like today I try to find good ones elsewhere.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

If God forgives, why is there a Hell? Why not just let everyone into heaven?

Somebody sent me a text message today that asked that question.  It's a great question isn't it?  People don't like the concept of Hell.  Some people think God must be unloving to allow Hell to exist.  To be honest, I kind of don't like the thought of Hell.  A place of everlasting torment is not something that I would wish upon anyone... not even Hitler.  But there it is.  Hell.  If you don't believe in Hell, you can't believe in the Bible and you definitely can't believe in Jesus who speaks about Hell more than any other person in the Bible.  So what do you say about Hell?

I don't have all of the answers and after reading this, I don't think you will feel good about Hell.  I don't think we are ever supposed to feel good about Hell.  But there are some things I think we need to keep in mind about Hell.  I hope this helps as you think through the intense truth that while there is an eternal paradise in heaven there is also an eternal place of suffering that many people will endure forever.