Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Unto Whom?



For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11 ESV)

"For unto you," the angels said.  Unto whom?

When Jesus was born, there were shepherds nearby taking care of their flock at night. Shepherds weren't the most noteworthy of people. They did a necessary but dirty job that kept them far away from home for much of the time. Very few people aspired to be a shepherd, even after the great King David. Shepherds were like our modern day janitors. Was it a necessary job? Yes. Does doing this make you any less of a person? No. Was this position looked down upon? Absolutely.

There must have been loads of people nearby Jesus when He was born. Bethlehem itself was packed because of the census. There was no room at the inn after all. There were plenty of people around. Perhaps some farmers, merchants, and traders were there. Romans were certainly present. Certainly there were people around that were more "important" than shepherds.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Hobbit, Jesus, and Lord of the Rings

I can't wait to see the Hobbit!!!!

I'm a big fantasy nerd.  I love stories about elves, dragons, magic, and knights.  I have grown to love the Lord of the Rings trilogy through the movies and have only just begun reading the books.  And I've been eagerly anticipating the prequel movie that comes out this weekend.

Are you planning on seeing it?  If you are, keep your eyes open for some of the amazing Christian themes that run throughout Tolkien's stories.  J.R.R. Tolkien was a Christian and wove loads of his beliefs into his writing in a masterful way.  As a refresher before watching the Hobbit, here is a quick look at some of those themes as seen in the first three movies.  There are Lord of the Rings spoilers below (but not for the Hobbit).

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Super: Elijah is the Flash...Kinda


The Flash is one of those Superheroes that I don't think gets a whole lot of attention.  His only real power is his incredible speed which lets him do a whole lot of things like create whirlwinds by spinning or vibrate his hand so fast he can shatter glass, steel, and the like.  The stuff he does is really kind of cool, but he tends to be eclipsed by Superman who also has super speed on top of all of his other amazing abilities.  At least the Flash is faster than Superman as shown in this clip from Smallville.

Now, when I originally planned out the Super series, I intended on relating the story of Elijah and connecting him to Flash based on the way he outruns a chariot at the end of 1 Kings 18.  But the Lord led me in a different direction with this lesson.  Instead, I'd like to focus on what happened just before that.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Christmas is Here?



It's funny how Christmas seems to arrive earlier and earlier each year.  On my way to work today I heard Jingle Bells on a radio commercial.  Really?  Thanksgiving hasn't even happened yet!  Then when I was walking into the church, I saw it.  There was snow on the ground.  Not a lot, but it was there on the grass.  In the first half of November.  I guess Christmas really is coming.

Have you started Christmas shopping yet?  No?  Good!  I'd like to give you some ideas while your Christmas budget is still flexible.  Without further ado, here are some wonderful Christmas gift ideas!



Sorry if I failed to mention that these gifts aren't really great ideas for your loved ones this Christmas.  These are gifts for people around the world who are in desperate need of life's basic necessities.  It's hard to imagine their circumstances for those of us dealing with First World Problems like running out of space on our iPods and complaining the heater in our house is either a tad too cold or a tad too hot.  But for just 4 bucks, you can give a kid meds that will wipe out intestinal bugs in his system so that he doesn't go malnourished.  For 10 dollars, you can give a family in Africa seeds so that they can plant a garden and be fed for months to come.  For $25, you can help an impoverished mother become literate so she can provide for her family.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Super: Moses is Storm


I used to love watching the X-Men cartoon when I was a kid.  Ok, I also watched them all on Youtube when I was in college.  There was one X-Men that I always thought was cool but simultaneously never really liked.  Storm.  She was just too cool.  She grew up in Egypt and was worshiped as a goddess by a native tribe because of her incredible mutant-granted powers.

Her mutation allowed her to control the weather which sounds tiny until you realize all of the wild things she could do with it.  Controlling the wind allowed her to fly, toss enemies around like rag dolls, and even bring down aircraft.  Power over the clouds meant she could create spontaneous floods, blast her foes with lethal lightning, and blind everyone with thick fog.  Even when her enemies were unstoppable, she would blast them with arctic winds and freeze them solid.  The the X-Men had time for lunch and naps before they thought up a plan to stop the bad guy.  Storm was great.  Too great.  She was an "I win" button that made everything way too easy.

There is a man in the Bible who became that sort of legend and powerhouse to the people of God.  He too grew up in Egypt.  He too performed phenomenal miracles over nature that would cause Storm's powers to look like the magic tricks you see at a child's birthday party.  He too was an "I win" button and no situation the people ran into was unsolvable with him around.  But Moses didn't start out that way. The movies you've seen may have painted a very different picture than the truth in the Bible.  Moses actually starts off as a bit of a loser.  So what turned him into the hero we know?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Super: Joseph is Professor X


Since the year 2000, hearing the name Professor X has drawn up images of Captain Jean-Luc Picard in a wheel chair for people all around America.  We see him as the very powerful, yet humble, old, and balding leader of the X-Men.  But as X-Men First Class showed us, he wasn't always this way.

In fact, the comics that trace Professor X's origins reveal he was a slightly different man in his youth who hadn't yet received the hard lessons of life.  In his younger years, the chairless Charles Xavier was rich, intelligent, and even a gifted athlete.  With his psychic abilities that allowed him to read minds, see glimpses of the future, and even control other people altogether, Charles explored the world.  He was an adventurer seeking fame, fortune, power, and even love.  

One day, a battle of biblical proportions with an alien who was bent on destroying the world and appropriately named Lucifer left Charles a changed man.  An injured spine paralyzed him from the waist down and stuck him in the wheel chair he would become known for.  The powerful Charles Xavier had been humbled and seen just how short this life might be.  He decided to make his life count and spent the rest of his time on earth forging a legacy he could be proud of.  He founded Professor Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters and formed a team of X-Men with the goal of seeing man and mutant live at peace.

It's interesting how life experiences that knock us down can lead us to realize what really matters and guide us to make the most important decisions of our lives.  Joseph from the Bible was a young man very much like our mutant friend Charles.  He has a privileged childhood, a talent to see the future, and it takes some rough experiences to lead him to his calling in life.  Here's his story.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Responding to God's Word


Have you ever been sitting in church listening to the preacher go on and on and wondered when the sermon would be over?  We've all been there, but in Nehemiah chapters 8 and 9, we see Ezra stand up and read from the Bible for four hours (possibly more)!  While I don't recommend our preachers start knocking out Lord of the Rings lengthed sermons like Ezra, I think we can learn from the response of the people.  Here are four tips to help you respond to God's Word whether you are listening to a sermon or reading on your own.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Reversals for All


Harry Potter starts his story as an unwanted nephew living in a storage space under his abusive family's stairs.  He ends up the most famous, respected, and powerful wizard in the world.  Aladdin begins as a street rat who's gotta steal to eat and gotta eat to live while Jafar is the second most powerful man in Agraba using the Sultan as his puppet.  By the end of the tale, Jafar is imprisoned and destined for servitude but Aladdin gets the girl and will one day be the ruler of the kingdom.  We love a good flip-flop in a story.  One story in the Bible is absolutely filled with them.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Super: Samson is the Incredible Hulk


Hulk: The Engine of Destruction

If you've seen any Hulk movie or read any of the comics, you know what the Hulk does well.  SMASH!  In Marvel's Avengers, we saw this as the Hulk chased down Black Widow in SHIELD's flying fortress and ended up wrecking the whole place.  There are Hulk comics that end with the Hulk being the only living person left on earth after nuclear fallout has killed everyone else.  It's just him and the cockroaches.  There's an animated movie called Planet Hulk that starts off with Hulk being locked in a spaceship and shot into outer space because the Avengers realize the Hulk will destroy everything on earth.

When it comes to superheroes the Hulk is definitely Super but the jury is out on the hero part.  He's just as likely to make things a hundred times worse as he is to save the day.  His blinding rage and anger consume him.  That's why almost all of the Hulk's stories end in disaster.  There is a man in the Bible who fits this description.  His name is Samson.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Little Help from My Friends


I remember watching The Wonder Years growing up.   I honestly don't know why I liked the show so much. I was too young to really get what was going on episode to episode.  All I really remember is that Kevin crushed hard for Winnie.  And I remember the theme song and its famous chorus "I get by with a little help from my friends."  I pretty much know that whole song by heart because of The Wonder Years.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Bragging About Our Little Kingdoms


He closed his eyes to sleep after a long day of work.  His mind raced for a while about the things he had forgotten to do and his plans for tomorrow.  But slowly slumber crept in to give him the rest he needed.  The darkness of sleep washed over him.  He dreamed of the ocean.  The waves crashed in and receded back from the shore.  But then the clouds grew dark and the waves grew violent.  Lightning flashed over the stormy skies.  And Daniel beheld visions fit only for a nightmare.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Super: Release Your Inner Hero [Gideon]



Have you seen Captain America?  It was good, not amazing, but pretty good.  Steve Rogers starts off as this scrawny nobody.  No powers, no abilities, nothing that makes him special in any way whatsoever.  He gets jumped in the alley and needs his buddy to rescue him.  He’s so weak that he tries to join the army and they won’t let him in!  Finally, he makes it and he’s a trainwreck.  He can’t keep up.  He’s no good.
But what he does have are his convictions.  He’s got the kind of convictions that lead him to charge straight into the enemy camp all by himself at the end of the movie.  And because of those convictions, he is given great power and leads the team to victory.  The Cap's story is a lot like the story of Gideon in Judges 6-7.  You may want to read these two chapters as I'll only be sharing a few verses.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dark Knight Rises and So Can You!


Now that I'm back to writing after my break, I can finally write about some of the great movies that came out this summer!  Among them is Dark Knight Rises!  It's probably for the best that it's taken me time to get to this one because there are so many twists and plot points to spoil.  By now, the majority of you have probably seen it, but be warned, "There be spoilers ahead."

Batman Begins was a movie about falling to or mastering one's own fear.  Dark Knight was about justice and morality from the common folk on the street to the politicians we idolize and how even great men can fall.  Dark Knight Rises picks up right there with an absent Batman and a devastated Bruce Wayne.  It is a movie about rising out of the ashes and not letting anything keep us down.

Batman really takes some hard falls in this movie.  Just when you think things can't get worse. . . they do again and again.  When the movie starts, he is out of shape, has a bum leg, and is an emotional wreck over the loss of his love, Rachel.  His company is failing because he sunk its money into a supposedly failed clean energy project.  On top of all of that, the people of Gotham hate Batman for the killing spree pinned on him in the last movie.

But come on, he's Batman!  He picks himself up, does some push-ups, gets a fancy knee brace, puts on the Batsuit, and jumps back into the action.  He even picks up a sidekick in Catwoman.  There's nothing to it.  Right?

Wrong!  Things go from bad to catastrophic.  Bane shows up and destroys Batman in every way possible.  Everything this guy has going for him is gone in the end.  Even the things that make him a Superhero are taken away.  His super wealth?  Bankrupted through a crazy stock exchange robbery.  His super gadgets and Bat-mo-tumbler?  Stolen by Bane through an elaborate sewer demolition plan.  His super butler?  Walks out on Mishtah Wayne.  His new super sidekick Catwoman?  Betrays him in a heartbeat!  But at least he's still got his super ninja skills and fighting styles right?  Oh, wait no, did you hear that snap?  That was Batman's spine getting broken.


The man is completely and utterly defeated.  He is left in a pit in what most of us would consider a hopeless situation.  In fact, hope itself is what taunts him in the form of sunlight pouring down from the only way to escape the pit he is in.  But everyone tells him its a futile hope.  No one can escape.  Give up.

Have you ever been down in the dumps?  Have you ever been discouraged?  Have you ever been so beaten that you were left with only the tiniest shred of hope that things would get better?  Have you ever just plain run out of hope?  Maybe you were living a lie and got caught and it seemed impossible to fix the broken relationships in your life.  Maybe you went through a really rough break up.  Maybe you lost your job.  Maybe you lost someone you loved in tragedy.  You're not alone.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Processing Benghazi



Benghazi.  A few days ago, if you had said that word I might have replied with "God bless you."  Now its a word I'm hearing all over the place.  If you haven't kept up with the news, a US consulate (sort of like a small embassy) was attacked on Tuesday night in Benghazi, Libya.  Four Americans are dead including the US ambassador to Libya while more were wounded.  I don't have all of the facts and I won't pretend to, but there are two things I'm hearing floating around Facebook and the internet that I'd like to respond to.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

More Than Normal



After taking a break from my blog over the very busy summer, I'm back to writing again.  I'm not sure if I'll be writing three times a week again this year.  We'll just have to see how it goes.  As this new school year starts, I wanted to share a word from Daniel with you teens and young adults, though it certainly applies to everyone.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Women Shouldn't Speak in Church!?

Summer has been VERY busy and sporadic for me.  Instead of updating Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, I'm just going to put up a new post whenever I can over the summer.  No promises, but hopefully, when I do get to them, you'll find them helpful and encouraging.

I found this on my Facebook wall the other day:

Hey Mark! Do you mind addressing how the Bible treats women in your next blog post? Specifically, 1 Cor. 14:33-35

This is a great question. So let's look at the passage.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Judges that give Two Thumbs Off


I'm going through Judges with the youth group and came across a really rough story that gave me a pretty strong warning.  Judges is a tough book to study and go through because it was a time when everyone, including most of God's people, had turned away from God and were living in tremendous sin.  The time period is summed up at the end of Judges with its final verse.

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.  (Judges 21:25)

Imagine a world where nobody cared what God or anyone else thought.  Imagine a place where everyone did whatever they wanted and whatever they thought was right.  People took what they wanted and only looked out for themselves.  This is the time of the judges.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Apparent Contradictions: Does the Changeless God Change His Mind?


We've all heard that the Bible has contradictions.  I've been taking some time to debunk some of them and you've voted this next one in today.  So feast your eyes on these next two verses and think about them for a moment.

God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?  --  Numbers 23:19


When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.  --  Jonah 3:10

Friday, May 18, 2012

Feature Friday: Avengers - Made To Be Ruled


**Teensy Weensy Spoiler Alert: I'm gonna use a quote from the movie but nothing that really ruins the plot.  Just wanted to give fair warning to my spoiler paranoid friends.

Finally, a movie that has it all!  Its been a long time since I saw a movie this good.  Obviously, Avengers is an action packed flick with loads of special effects and crazy combat scenes.  But its more than just an explosion fest to herald in the epic summer movie season.  This movie actually has substance.  The dialogue is great and the movie touches on some great themes such as the strength of teamwork and the question of what makes a true hero.  Be warned, there is some swearing and obviously violence, but nothing over the top.  I highly recommend it and give it two thumbs up!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

When Dad Says No


That's a picture of my daughter Michaela.  Before you call DCFS, I'll fill you in on a secret: The picture is totally photoshopped.  I love her with all my heart and I delight in her.  I'm happy when she smiles and it makes me sad to see her upset.

This morning, I was holding her and eating my breakfast.  She is at the point now where we are feeding her the standard mushy baby food but also giving her a few small solids like Cheerios.  So every time I brought my English muffin up toward my mouth, she would reach out to grab it and try to eat it.  I'd lovingly look at her and say, "No, no, no, this is for Daddy."  She'd stare at me with her pretty eyes and start playing with the tablecloth.  I'd take another bite and she would reach out again.  This happened the whole time I ate.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Apparent Contradictions: God or Satan?


 First order of business, I apologize for my lack of updates lately.  I took a trip to California two weekends ago with family and was busy before and after prepping and catching up.  Now I'm back and hope to resume my normal Tuesday, Thursday, Friday routine.

You guys have voted in the next apparent contradiction for me to debunk today and it is the one found in the following verses.

Again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, "Go, number Israel and Judah."  -- 2 Samuel 24:1

Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel.  --  1 Chronicles 21:1

Both of these passages are telling the story of the same exact event.  So the question is "Who incited David to number Israel?"  2 Samuel says that God did it.  1 Chronicles says that Satan did it.  Is the Bible calling God and Satan the same person?  Did the author of Samuel (likely Samuel) and the author of Chronicles (likely Ezra) disagree?  What's the deal?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Apparent Contradictions: God sends an evil spirit


How many demoniacs were there in the region of Gerasene... one or two?  If God can't change, knows the future, and is never wrong then how did the prayers of Abraham and others change God's mind?  Was Jehoiachin eight or eighteen when he became king?  If God cannot be tempted, then how was Jesus tempted three times by the devil?  Who incited David to number the people... God or Satan?

There are a number of things that are quite confusing at first glance in the Bible.  One such category of confusing parts are the apparent contradictions.  As Christians, we have to be honest and open about these.  We can't cover our eyes and shout at the top of our lungs whenever someone brings them up.  We have to be ready to respond with a reason for our faith as 1 Peter 3:15 tells us.  There are statements made in the Bible that do indeed look like contradictions.  But I believe when you examine the original languages, culture, context, and study hard, you will find that they are not truly contradictions.  I'd like to spend some time examining these individually and will begin tossing them up on the poll for you to vote on.

The first apparent contradiction we will look at involves these two verses.


Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the Lord our God is holy!  --  Psalm 99:9


The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the harp, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand.  --  1 Samuel 18:10

The conflict arises when we understand what the word holy means.  To be holy is to be apart from sin.  When the Bible says that God is holy, it means that He is sinless and separated from sin.  If this is true, then how can God send an evil spirit to Saul?  Is this not an evil or sinful action that incriminates God?


What is the Evil Spirit

"Evil spirit" comes from the Hebrew ruwach-ra’a.

The word ruwach means spirit. It refers to the immaterial part of life that moral creatures have such as humans or angels. Whenever the Bible refers to a spirit sent from God, it always means some sort of divine agent like an angel.

This word ra’a can be translated as both evil or harmful. But it does not mean evil in the sense of sinful but in the sense of bad. For example, the word ra’a is used in Hebrew to describe spoiled fruit or the Chinese food you left on the counter for three days with no refrigeration. That food is now evil, ra'a, harmful, bad. So this spirit is not necessarily “evil” in the sense we normally think of with that word today.  Just as we would not call the spoiled Kung Pao Beef sinful, this word ra'a is not always referring to a moral quality.  Instead its referring to what sort of effect something has on a person.  Its better to translate ra'a using the word harmful as the ESV Bible does.  

So, in the context of this passage, it is best to translate this as a harmful spirit or angel. This is a divine agent sent by God with the purpose of harming Saul.

Is it Sin for God to Harm Someone?

 Actually, no. Its very natural for us to think of harm or pain as a bad thing.  But harm can be a good thing and often it is.  It is a pain in your hand as you reach out to a fire that tells you not to touch the flame. It is pain when a parent smacks the bottom of a toddler who keeps trying to run into the street that teaches them not to take that dangerous action anymore.  Harm can be a good thing and there is no reason not to believe God was using this harmful spirit for good. In fact, Romans 8:28 tells us that God uses all things for the good of those who love Him.  

Why Did God Want to Harm Saul?


The harmful spirit came after Saul began growing jealous of David.  Saul knew God had removed him from being king but instead of stepping aside he clung to the throne.  As David rose in popularity, Saul wanted him dead and would even throw spears at him.  This harmful spirit may have been a way God was trying to rebuke and discipline Saul to get him off of his violent path. God allowed David’s music to ease the harmful spirit on Saul. This gives more reason to believe that God was using this whole experience to try to break Saul of his jealousy and get him to embrace David.

Conclusion

God does not sin.  At first glance this may look as if God is guilty of doing evil, but, when we look closely and carefully, we see that God is still holy and good.  The passage is best translated with the words "harmful spirit."  God uses this harm to bring about repentance and good like a father might lovingly discipline a child.

Please send me any apparent contradictions you've found in the Bible, vote at the top right of the site for the next one you'd like me to cover, and be sure to look deeper when you think you've found a contradiction in God's Word!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Faith, Works, and Salvation


At young adult life group last week, we talked about James 2:14-26.  The whole passage is summed up in these two verses.


So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.  But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.   --  James 2:17-18

It got me thinking about the tricky relationship between faith, works, and salvation.  Why is it tricky?

Faith is of the utmost importance in the Christian's life.  In fact, without faith, there is no forgiveness, no relationship with God, and no salvation.  Hebrews 11:6 says, "And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him."

So what about works?  Are works as important as faith?  Most people I've talked to say that you need to do good things to get to heaven.  Is that true?  The Bible is very clear that no amount of your own good works can get you into Heaven.  Take a look at Romans 3:10-18, Isaiah 64:6, and Galatians 3:11 if you disagree with me.  The Bible tells us that the only way for us to be saved is faith in Jesus.  Again, check out John 14:6, Galatians 2:16, and Ephesians 2:8-9 if you think there is some other way.  

But works can't have nothing to do with it right?  James just said that without works, faith is dead.  According to James, there is real, living faith and fake, dead faith.  How do I know which one I have?  James says that the key is works. 

But wait a second, I thought we just said that our works don't save us!  We did, but that doesn't mean that works aren't a part of the equation in some way.  Like I said, there is a very tricky relationship between faith, works, and salvation that is easy to get wrong.  Let's look at the options for how faith, works, and salvation interact in a different way.

Option 1: Works = Salvation + Faith

We talked about this one already.  Galatians 3:11 says, "Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for "The righteous shall live by faith."  Works do not save you, so this one can't be right.  It also looks pretty backwards to say that works produce faith.

Option 2: Faith + Works = Salvation

This one is a much more commonly held belief.  Many people believe that they need to believe in Jesus in order to be saved and forgiven.  But they don't stop there.  They also believe that they need to be a good person.  Basically, Jesus did some of the work to save them, but they have to pitch in their fair share of the load.

The problem with this view is that verses I've previously mentioned like Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly tell us that we are saved by faith alone and that works has nothing to do with it.  Holding this view is very arrogant because you are looking at Jesus' finished work on the cross and saying, "That couldn't possibly be enough to save me.  I'll add all of my amazing good deeds to what Jesus did for me and that will surely win my salvation from God.  Jesus couldn't do it alone for me, but with my help, we got me saved."  

Option 3: Faith = Salvation + Works

If faith alone saves me, then where do my works come in?  Look again at James 2:17-18.  What is it that the works are doing?  They are showing or revealing the person's faith.  Works are a bi-product of having faith and they serve as evidence of that faith.  Faith in Jesus doesn't just produce one thing, it produces two.  Faith in Jesus produces salvation and good works.  This is what the Bible is talking about when it speaks about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5.  Its the faith that causes a Christian to take action.  Because we believe, we obey. 

Whenever I come across passages in the Bible like this, I try to ask myself two things.

Am I trying to earn God's love, forgiveness, or favor by any works of my own?


This is an important question because I think it is in our nature to try to earn God's love.  We innately feel like we have to be good enough, pray hard enough, or whatever the case may be.  Its hard to truly accept that God's love and our salvation is a no strings attached gift from Christ.  So, I find it helpful to check myself every now and then to see if my motives for reading the Bible, serving in ministry, or obeying God have begun to take the oh so subtle turn toward earning God's favor.  If they have, I repent and remind myself of the amazing grace God has poured on me, not because I earned it, but because He loves me.


Does my life display works that confirm my faith is real and not fake?

Its also easy to just let your faith and relationship with God go into auto-pilot.  You keep doing the same old and stop any real sort of growth.  When this happens, people around you don't even notice very often because the same old seems good enough to them.  Really, the only people who can honestly tell tend to be ourselves and God.  So, we need to make it a habit to check in on ourselves and honestly ask if our relationship with God has been vibrant and life-changing lately.  If not, we need to pull out of auto-pilot and spend time seeking God to bring our hearts and affections back to Him. 

So spend some time today evaluating your own faith and thank God that salvation is a free gift from Jesus that you don't have to earn!

PS: I hope to address the theology question about David/Saul and God sometime this week.
   



 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Who's the Fairest?






Hi everyone!  I have a big weekend that I need to prepare for over the next few days.  I'm going to be devoting most of my energy and time this week to that and cutting out some of the other things I regularly do.  I know some of you come here regularly for a devotional thought, so, instead of leaving you empty handed, check out this article from Dare 2 Share Ministries.  Have a great day!



CLICK HERE

Friday, April 20, 2012

Feature Friday: Discerning good and bad movies/music/tv and more


Is it OK for me to watch ________?  It swears a little, but can I listen to _________?  As a youth pastor, I get those kinds of questions a lot.

Media like movies, music, books, and television are more than just pass-times.  Each of them has messages that they are conveying whether those messages are obvious or not.  This is especially obvious when we look at movies.  Have you ever left a movie theater inspired or changed in some way.  The movie Up moved me to tears and made me want to spend more time with Christy.  The movie The Grey left me discouraged.

Movies, music, television, and other forms of media influence us.  They plant ideas in our heads.  They encourage us to emulate the characters. . . not always in good ways.  They paint a picture of what is important in life.  As Mark Driscoll says, "They preach sermons."

When I was a new Christian, I used to think music and movies couldn't influence me.  As a new Christian, I was trying to give up swearing to honor God and I was failing miserably at it.  That's when my youth pastor told me to stop listening to Eminem and ICP.  If you didn't already know, every other word in their songs is a swear word.  I gave up their music and suddenly it was easy for me to stop swearing.  That's when I realized the stuff we watch and listen to influences us, whether we admit it or not.

BUT, we can't just give up watching, reading, or listening to anything that includes bad things like immoral sex, swearing, violence, rape, etc.  If we did, we would have to stop reading the Bible!  What we need is wisdom and discernment to make sure that the things we are letting in front of our eyes and ears are not influencing us to sin. Below are some guidelines to help you make those decisions.  But first, let the spirit of this verse guide you as you think about this issue.


Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.  --  Philippians 4:8

What rules have my parents given me?

This is short and simple.  If you are a kid, then honor your parents' rules on this.  If they say don't listen to music that swears then honor them in that.  Follow their rules.  Its as simple as that!

What areas of sin and temptation do I especially struggle with?

Figure that out and avoid media that contains those things!  Years ago, I couldn't stop swearing and a major reason was that everyday I was listening to an hour minimum of music that swore non-stop.  Do you struggle with lust and have a hard time keeping your thought life pure?  Then let me suggest that shows, movies, and songs that talk about sex are bad for you.  That means you should probably avoid B96 and shows like How I Met Your Mother.  If you were an alcoholic, it would be stupid to go to a bunch of parties where alcohol is served.  The same thing applies here.

Does it make sin look normal, good, fun, or rewarding?

The Bible's stories and content are full of sin.  Lot sleeps with his daughters.  Judah solicits a prostitute.  Jacob is a deceitful coward.  The list goes on and on.  But the Bible shows those things for what they are.  It shows that they are sin.  It shows the terrible consequences that come from them.  It also doesn't give us every sinful detail. 

Many movies, music, shows, etc. do the opposite.  They portray people living lifestyles of sin and imply that those actions are normal, good, and healthy.  In increasing ways, they give us more and more of the lurid details.  They even go as far as claiming these things are rewarding!  Going back to How I Met Your Mother, Barney sleeps with hundreds of women in a life full of one night stands.  Is this character shown as heartbroken, disease ridden, or immoral?  Not really.  He is happy, successful, wealthy, charming, and one of the funniest characters on the show.  These are subtle messages that work their way into our thinking and influence us.

If a show is constantly telling you that sin is normal, good, fun, or rewarding, then its only a matter of time and exposure before you begin believing those lies.

Does it make righteousness look strange, boring, foolish, or unrewarding?

A show  or song can portray sin as a good thing.  Likewise, it can make a holy life look like a bad thing.  A prime and funny example is Ned Flanders on the Simpsons.  He is the go-to Christian guy on the show.  Often times, his faith is portrayed as silly and dorky.  A more serious example are the myriad of shows and movies that portray virgins who are waiting for marriage as losers.

If a show constantly portrays what the Bible says is right as strange, boring, foolish, or unrewarding, then its only a matter of time and exposure before you begin agreeing with those messages.

Am I being entertained by something that grieves God?

For this one, you have to look at what portion of the show or song you are enjoying.  Be honest.  When you watch Saw 4, what is it that is entertaining you?  For most people who enjoy those movies, its the gore.  So the entertaining part of the movie is watching a human being get tortured.  Does that sort of thing entertain God?  Nope.  We have a problem here.

You can argue that  you know its fake and would never really be entertained if this happened in real life.  I would argue that the fact that you draw entertainment from pretending a person is being tortured reveals something sinful within your heart.  I would also argue that if you keep feeding that sinful corner of your heart's weird and perverted desires, you will end up stepping closer and closer to that sin in real life.

On a similar note, I honestly can't understand how Christians can listen to music that swears nonstop and talks about sex and violence.  What profit is there in that?  What are you training your mind to think about?  Why are you OK with being entertained by sinful things?      

What is my personal level of maturity?

If you show a five year old a movie that has one joke with a swear word in it, they will likely be repeating that word for days trying to get a laugh.  If you show a fifty year old Christian who doesn't swear that same movie, he probably wouldn't be tempted to go around swearing in the slightest.

Part of this comes down to the very tricky issue of knowing your own maturity level regarding various issues.  Are you mature enough to hear a swear word without repeating it?  Are you mature enough to watch a movie with a person dressed immodestly and not have lustful thoughts?  Are you mature enough to look away from that movie when you need to?  These are tough questions to answer honestly.  I'd encourage you to error on the side of caution.

Conclusion

Those are questions I tend to ask myself when I'm considering a questionable movie or song.  Its a tricky subject because its not an issue we can address legalistically.

The movie Crash, for example, is filled with bad language, racism, violence, and even has a scene where a woman is sexually abused.  Yet I fully recommend that movie to Christian adults mature enough to handle it.  Why?  Because that movie leaves you disgusted with racism and disgusted with the way the characters are treated.  It causes you to hate the sin you see in it and that is a very good thing.

In the end, we Christians need to realize that everything we spend time watching, reading, and listening to has an influence on us.  We need to weigh the value of it all.  We need to make sure we are not sticking temptation in front of our faces to do its worst.  We have to be careful to discern the messages in media to take what is true and reject what is false.  I hope these questions will prove helpful for you as you process through the things you watch, read, and listen to.  Let's be careful what we allow to influence us.

PS. Pluggedin.com is a great Christian website that reviews tons of movies, shows, songs, and more.  Check it out.  I tend to visit it before going to see a movie I'm not sure about.  You may find it helpful.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sins of Omission


"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."  --  Edmund Burke


I don't know if you've heard that one before, but its a pretty famous quote.  Movies that aim to inspire us to courage often throw this line in somewhere.  Books that cover the horrors of the holocaust, wars, and other injustices often use this line right at the beginning or the end.  Its very common for this quote to be used for the larger than life type of situations where it is clear to us all that good men and women need to stand up and do something rather than just let the world be as it is.

But does that apply to everyday life as well?  On Tuesday, I wrote about the way Jesus would bravely defend those in need and fight against those who would oppress them.  So what about the person who gets bullied at our school or the guy at work that nobody treats well?  What about the shouts we hear outside our house of an angry man yelling at his wife?  What about the person on the bus or train in front of us who looks so depressed?  All throughout the day, are we the kind of people who do nothing?  If we do nothing, can we really call ourselves good?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Theology Tuesday: Passive or Agressive?


Turn the Other Cheek?  

Its one of the most quoted verses in the entire Bible.  But what does it look like in real life?  Should Christians never stand up for themselves?  Should we allow others to harm us and take advantage of us?  Should we let people cut us in line, cheat off of us at school, and bully us?  Is it ever OK for a Christian to fight back with words or fists?  Must we always be pushovers?  What does the Bible say about this?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Feature Friday: Halfway. . . Mansion?


I was reading the news this week and came across THIS news article.  A beautiful mansion right on the water in a luxury neighborhood in Florida might be getting turned into a drug and rehab clinic.  On top of the fact that its a mansion on the beach, this place also has a full-time professional chef, an on call staff, a private pool, a baby grand piano, a home theater, and who knows what else!

Let's be honest, that's the kind of place most of us dream of living in someday.  But we know its only a dream.  There's only two ways to get a home like that.  You can be a genius or savant who works hard and gets rich.  Or you can get lucky and hit the lottery, either by being born into the right family or by landing the magic megaball ticket.

But apparently, now there is a third option.  You can become a drug addict and go to rehab.  This has actually been causing a bit of a stir in the neighborhood and in general.  People have cried out that this will make the wealthy neighborhood unsafe and hurt its value.  Let's be honest, that's very possible.  In addition, some of the neighbors simply don't want to be near those who need rehab.  Others have argued that drug abusers should not be rewarded for their mistakes with such luxury as it sends a very confusing message.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Excuses, Excuses


I love my wife.  Even when she has a problem with something I'm doing, she doesn't yell at me or criticize me.  She lovingly expresses what she'd like me to do differently.  What a godly example.

So this week, she had asked me to start cleaning up after myself more around the house.  I used to do this pretty well, but lately I've been slacking and she's been picking up after me.  As we were talking, I found myself trying to excuse my behavior.  But when I look at what these excuses are really saying, they just fall apart.

Excuse:  I'm at work all day, when I get home I want to relax a bit.
Implication: So I should be able to sit around from 5 PM til bedtime without lifting a finger around the house.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Theology Tuesday: Does Prophesy Happen Today?


 What is Prophesy?

This is a huge part of answering this question because there are actually two different categories when speaking of prophecy.  There is "Prophecy" and there is "prophecy".

Prophecy

In the Old Testament, there were men called Prophets who spoke the very words of God.  They would say things like "Thus saith the Lord..."  In fact, they wrote down the words that they spoke and their writings became part of the Bible and we treat them with God's authority to this day.  These are men like Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and others.  In the New Testament, we see men who did similar things.  We call them Apostles.  This includes Peter, James, John, Paul, and others.

This kind of Prophecy (upper case P) is fully authoritative, 100% accurate, and always to be obeyed.  This kind of Prophecy produces Scripture.  This kind of Prophecy can be defined as "Declaring the very Words of God."

Friday, April 6, 2012

What Jesus Endured and Accomplished on the Cross

 
Today is Good Friday.  Its the day that we remember the death of our Savior as a sacrifice in our place.  But do we get it?  The only place I've ever seen any really violent deaths is through the television.  When I hear that Jesus was crucified, I don't have any experience to draw on to fully understand what he went through.  My guess is that most of you are in the same boat as well.  A crucifixion is so far from reality to us that its hard to comprehend.  So let's look briefly at what our Savior endured for us.  This will be detailed and may make some readers feel uncomfortable.  It should.  The goal here is not gore, but the truth of what our Savior went through for us.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Holy Thursday


Today is Holy Thursday.

Today is the day we remember the Last Supper, Jesus' agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, His betrayal and arrest, and the beginning's of His false trials. 

One thing that tends to get missed is a message that Jesus shared with His disciples right after the Last Supper.  He shares with His disciples some of the most beloved and powerful pieces of the whole Bible.  I believe He wanted these ideas to guide them through His coming death and resurrection.

So as we prepare for Good Friday and Easter Sunday, lets take a look at what Jesus said to His disciples in preparation for the most significant weekend in all of history.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Theology Tuesday: Women and Head Coverings



Did you know that in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, Paul says that women should wear head coverings, like hats, in church?  If you had never heard that before, you may now be wondering why we don't do that in most churches these days.  If its in the Bible, why don't we follow it?  Somebody recently asked me this question and my honest answer was that I hadn't studied this issue a whole lot.

I asked Christy for her opinion and she said she wasn't sure.  We decided we would have to look into it and we both decided that whatever the Bible convinced us that it was saying was what we would do.  With a smile, Christy said, "Cool, I may get to go buy some cute hats!"  So, as I lay out what I've found, please have that same attitude.  Be willing to follow whatever the Bible says, rather than making up your mind first and trying to excuse away what the Bible is saying.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Feature Friday: John Carter and a Whole New World

 
*Warning: Minor spoilers below (Very minor)*

Chances are you haven't seen John Carter.  There was a lot of hype and many trailers building up the latest sci-fi movie.  But sadly, very few people were lured into the theaters to watch the man on Mars.  In fact, its been reported that Disney expects to lose $250 million dollars on the movie!!!  As a movie, I thought it was pretty good and entertaining.  However, a lot of the women are scantily clothed so depending on your maturity and weaknesses in that area, you may want just want to avoid seeing it.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

What a Funeral!


Yesterday, I was tossing out some trash in the alley and I saw my neighbor Joe out and about.  He's an 86 year old Italian guy who grows tomatoes in his backyard.  It had been a long time since I had last talked to him because he stays in his house pretty much all winter.  The last time we had talked, his wife was sick and I had been praying for her.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Theology Tuesday: Can God make a rock so big He can't lift it?


I love debating theology and talking apologetics.  I love it when people bring me tough questions about God and hang out long enough to talk through the answers.  But what about this question?  What do you do with it?  How do you answer it?  Can God make a rock so big that even He can't lift it?

I've Only Heard It Two Ways

Tons of people have asked me this question and, as far as I know, its always been for one of two reasons.  More than half of the time that people ask me this question, its meant as a goofy joke question to stump you sort of like asking if the chicken or egg came first or like telling someone to repeat a tongue twister.  The goal is to have fun and watch people squirm through the riddle.  In this case, you don't really need an answer.  Talking it through is half of the fun and everyone is happy in the end.

Less often though, the question comes from a very different motive and goal.  There are some people who have posed this question of me as if it were the deathblow to any and all arguments for God.  They'll often add a word like, "BOOM!" at the end of the question to show just how much trouble you are in because they themselves have come up with the most clever, original, and effective proof that God is not real ever.  I exaggerate a bit, but has anyone ever brought this question up to you like this?  In this case, you kind of need to know how to respond in order to defend your faith.  So what can we say?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Feature Friday: Second Thoughts on Kony 2012


So last week, I shared my thoughts on Kony 2012.  There was something I overlooked that I would like to address.  In addition, very shortly after I shared my thoughts, I found out about some really unfortunate events that I also want to speak to.  So, here are my second thoughts on Kony 2012.  If you have no idea what I'm talking about, click the link above to read my first article.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

God Does the Heavy Lifting



Ever feel like God was asking you to do something beyond you?  I'm not talking about just the ridiculous, but the more normal stuff too.  Are you shy and bad with words and then the Holy Spirit urged you to share the gospel with a stranger on a bus?  Are you quick to anger or from a long line of yellers or drama queens and then read that Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers"?  Have you made a mess of things and know you need to confess but feel overwhelmed by the possible consequences?

Its easy to feel overwhelmed by some of the things that God asks us to do whether we read it in His Word, hear it from our spiritual leaders, or just plain feel convicted in our heart.

Before I went to college, I worked my butt off over the summer to save up enough money to buy a macbook and pay for some of my tuition.  When the summer was over, I was ready to buy my laptop when the Holy Spirit convicted me.  Suddenly, I realized that I was about to get something for myself and I hadn't given any of my money in the offering plate to God.  I strongly felt like the Holy Spirit put a number on my heart to give to my church, but, if I did that, I wouldn't be able to afford my laptop.  I was worried I wouldn't be able to make it through my first year of college without a laptop.  It seems small to me now, but I remember feeling a bit overwhelmed by what God was calling me to do.

God does that though, doesn't He?  He asks us to do these overwhelming and huge things for Him.  It happens in the Bible all the time.  Take Moses for example.


So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt."  --  Exodus 3:10

Now talk about an overwhelming task!  "So Moses, listen.  The Pharaohs, you know those guys right?  They've been oppressing the Hebrews as slaves for about four hundred years now.  So why don't you go and tell them to stop it?  Then free the Hebrews and take all one million of them out of Egypt.  Sound like a plan?"

As you can imagine, Moses was totally overwhelmed.  Moses tries to get out of it five times.  Take a look at what he says and how God responds.


Attempt #1


But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"  And God said, "I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain."--  Exodus 3:11-12


Attempt #2

Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?"  God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"  --  Exodus 3:13-14

Attempt #3

Moses answered, "What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, 'The LORD did not appear to you'?" Then the LORD said to him, "What is that in your hand?" "A staff," he replied. The LORD said, "Throw it on the ground." Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. . --  Exodus 4:1-3

Attempt #4

Moses said to the LORD, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue." The LORD said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say."  --  Exodus 4:10-12

Attempt #5

But Moses said, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it." Then the LORD's anger burned against Moses and he said, "What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do.  --  Exodus 4:13-15

Five times Moses tells God that he can't do it and reminds God of all the things that could go wrong.  Five times!  But what does God do in each case?  Does God tell Moses to go figure it out on his own?  No.  God tells Moses that in one way or another, He will provide.  To paraphrase...

Moses:  God, who am I to stop Pharaoh and save the people?  God:  I will be with you.

Moses:  But I don't even know what to say if they ask who sent me.  God:  You need my name?  Here, its Yahweh.

Moses:  What if they don't believe my story and think I'm crazy or lying?  God:  I will perform signs and miracles through you.

Moses:  But God, I don't know how to speak or lead.  I can't do this.  God:  I made your mouth and I will give you the right words to say.

Moses:  You've got the wrong guy!  Send someone else!  God:  You're getting on my nerves here Moses, but I will send Aaron with you so you don't have to go alone.

And we know the rest of the story too.  When Pharaoh said no to Moses, did Moses have to do the convincing?  Nope, God sent the ten plagues and Moses just sat back and let God do the heavy lifting.  When they are trapped between the Pharaoh's army and the Red Sea, did Moses have to save the day?  Nope, he just had to hold up a stick and God took care of the heavy lifting by parting the entire sea.

God does the heavy lifting.

When God asks us to do overwhelming things, its easy for us to freak out and be too afraid of what might happen to actually do it.  We worry about looking foolish and failing.  We worry about not having what it takes.  But the beautiful thing about God is that He doesn't leave us to do it alone!  He is with us.  When He asks us to do something for Him, it doesn't matter if we have what it takes because He certainly does!

You may not know what to say to that stranger on the bus, but doesn't the Holy Spirit who lives within you?  You may not have what it takes to control the future and all of the possible obstacles or outcomes, but doesn't almighty God?  You see, when God calls you to do something, He doesn't leave you with the heavy lifting.  He takes that upon Himself and gives you the strength and grace you need.  The heavy lifting isn't for you to do.  You know what is for you to do?  Trust and obey.

Back to my laptop story.  The Holy Spirit had put a number on my heart to give to God and my church in the offering.  The number was bigger than 10% of what I had made that summer.  If I gave that money, I couldn't get my laptop and I was kind of worried that I'd fall behind in school without one.  I trusted God and gave the money anyway.  About a day later, without me sharing this story, my dad told me he wanted to help me pay for my tuition and my mom told me she wanted to help me pay for my laptop.  It doesn't always work out that quickly and neatly, but I learned a lesson that day.  I was so worried about the future that I almost let it scare me out of obeying God in the present.  But when I obeyed, God reminded me that He is big enough to take care of all of the details and that I should leave the heavy lifting to Him and just concern myself with obedience.

Whatever it is that God has called you to do that you are struggling with, I urge you to trust him.  Whether its as small as my college laptop issue or as big as the Exodus story, God is able to do the heavy lifting.  He will do His part.  Will you trust Him and obey?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Theology Tuesday: Proving God Exists - Part 6

Proving God: Jesus' Testimony

We've looked at a whole lot of different things to examine the evidence that God exists.  Rather than turning to science or philosophy, today we are going to examine the testimony of a single witness.  Imagine you are on a jury in a courtroom.  A crime was committed and there are various witnesses being called to the stand.  There are two conflicting stories that emerge as the witnesses are questioned.  Half of the witnesses tell one story and the other half tell another.  Both stories cannot be true as they say completely opposite things.

So what happened?  How would you, as a member of the jury, decide?  Would you take into account the character of the witnesses?  Would it change the way you felt if you found out that one half of the witnesses were gang bangers and the other half of the witnesses were police officers with clean records?  What if one of the witnesses was Martin Luther King Jr. or Mother Theresa?  Would that sway your thoughts?  What if one of the witnesses who stood up to testify was Jesus Christ Himself?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Feature Friday: Kony 2012



In terms of going viral, the Kony 2012 video might as well be the Bubonic Plague.  In about two weeks, this video has been viewed over 70 million times!

The video that's all over the internet was put out by the Invisible Children with the express purpose of exposing the horrible war crimes of Joseph Kony with the goal of causing the American people to make so much noise about it that it forces our politicians to stay involved in stopping him.  If you have not seen the video, I highly encourage you to watch it in its entirety.  You'll have to set aside 30 minutes of your time, but it is worth it.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Giving 100% for God

*I've decided to move Theology Thursday to Theology Tuesday (or maybe Tough Tuesday...).  Thursdays have become a more and more busy day for me lately with meetings and weekend preparations.  Tuesdays are less packed and it will be easier to tackle the tough questions then.  So, Proving God Exists Part 6 will be up on Tuesday.*

I was reading a bit in Colossians today when an old verse struck me in a new way.


Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men... -- Colossians 3:23

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Cool Kills


Last weekend, I went to an Acquire the Fire conference with the youth group.  The speaker brought a really good message that I'd like to share with you.  His name is Mike Guzzardo.  I'll be paraphrasing what he said and sharing what I learned.


We all want to be cool.  No one epitomizes this more than Tom from Parks and Recreation.  But we are all like Tom in one way or another.  We want people to like us.  We want to be popular.  We want to dress in style.  We fear being uncool.  We fear wearing a lame outfit.  We fear being made fun of.  We jump through a lot of hoops to be cool.  But what is cool?



Cool is this ever changing thing that only matters because we think it does.  What was cool in our parent's generation is now totally lame.  What is cool today will be lame in less than ten years.  Cool doesn't even make sense half of the time.  Cool has told guys to wear their pants halfway down their waists and told girls to take those stupid tongue sticking out pictures on Facebook.  But we do it to be cool.  Is it worth it?


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Theology Thursday: Is Jesus Still Human in Heaven?

 
The second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, became flesh as John 1 tells us.  God became a man in Jesus Christ.  He lived a human life, went through our human struggles, and even faced human temptation.  He suffered real human pain and faced a real human death and was able to die in our place because He truly was one of us.

But then He rose from the dead.  Was He still really human?  Was He a ghost? 

What about when He ascended into heaven?  Is He still human up there?  Why would He be?  Don't we all become angels up there or are we just spirits without bodies?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Hope Beyond Death

My Great Aunt Mona passed away last weekend.  Death is usually such a sad thing and often it can be tragic.  But the passing of Aunt Mona was different.  Mona was 92 years young.  She was always out and about, making phone calls, and was even driving until a few months ago!  She was much loved with family that adored her and many who were blessed by her life.  She went peacefully in her sleep.

Just knowing those things makes her death more sweet than sad.  Our memories are of a healthy, strong, and loving woman.  There was no pain.  She really lived a full life.

But what really turns this time of loss into a time of celebration is her faith.  Mona didn't just go to church, she knew God.  She was a woman of prayer.  She spoke often of God and the Bible.  She knew where she was going when she died because she had trusted Jesus Christ as her Savior.  Mona is not dead.  She is alive and well with her Heavenly Father.  She has been separated from us, but she has been united with Christ.