Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ephesians 1:4 Chosen Long Ago

Some time ago, I began a study through Ephesians on my day off (Monday) and I put up my notes and commentary on Mondays.  But, being my day off, I quickly got tired of typing it out and tossing it on the internet.  But I have decided to make those notes available to you again.  Here are my notes on Ephesians 1:1-2 and here are my notes on Ephesians 1:3.  Without further ado...

even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.  -- Ephesians 1:4a

Friday, February 24, 2012

Feature Friday: Pastor Faces Execution

This is Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani.  He is a Christian pastor in Iran.  Schools in Iran are required to educate students on the religion of Islam.  Pastor Youcef protested this forced religious education and was arrested in 2009.  Since then, the charges against him have been ramped up to apostasy and evangelizing Muslims.

He was brought before a judge and ordered to repent of his actions and of Christianity.  His response?

"Repent means to return. What should I return to?  To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?"

The judge answered him, "To the religion of your ancestors, Islam." 

Pastor Youcef simply but bravely replied, "I cannot."

He has been sentenced to death for refusing to recant Christianity.  According to the American Center for Law and Justice, he recently received his final execution order.  What this means is that he will likely be executed very soon.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Theology Thursday: Why do bad things happen to good people? Part 3

The votes are in and we are returning to our third installment of this question.  Why do bad things happen to good people?  This is a very difficult question and if you are going through a hard time right now, this may not be very helpful.  I think we need to address this question for ourselves before the hard times come so that we have a foundation to stand on in the midst of the storms of life.  During the storm, its difficult to focus on anything other than the lightning and flooding.  So, lets ingrain these lessons now and be ready when life gets tough.

In our first look at this question, we saw that really none of us are good people.  We are all sinners who have rebelled against God and deserve Hell.  Because of that, we should be shocked by all of the good things that God blesses us with that we don't deserve.  In our second look at the question, we saw that hard and difficult times are often the only ways for us to grow in character and learn valuable lessons.  Just like we press through the pain of exercise to gain physical strength, it is vital to press through the pain of loss, conflict, and more to gain strength of character.  That brings us to our third look at the question today.  Why do bad things happen to good people?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Processing Whitney Houston's Death

I sat down to write my Tuesday devotional and wanted to address the recent death of Whitney Houston.  I got distracted with a few phone calls but got back to my computer after a while.  I jotted out an outline of what I wanted to say when I got distracted by a few more phone calls and some E-mails.  That's when I noticed an E-mail from Dare 2 Share ministries.  In the E-mail was a link to a very well written reflection on Whitney Houston's life and death that actually said a lot of things I wanted to say.

So today, instead of hearing from me, please click on the link below and take some time to read Dare 2 Share's article.  I hope you find it helpful in your walk!  Also, don't forget to vote on Thursday's topic at the top right of the screen!

Dare 2 Share Whitney Houston

Friday, February 17, 2012

What Goes Around Comes Around

I've been studying the life of Jacob again as I'm teaching the kids at church about him.  What has been striking me this time is the way Jacob's sins are visited back upon him.  Check this out...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Theology Thursday: Is Abortion a Sin?

Before we start, lets take a moment to recognize that for many this is a deeply emotional issue.  Pregnancy is a life changing event and many women wind up pregnant before they are ready to have a baby.  Most women who have an abortion wrestle with the decision and don't make it lightly.  Many of these women go on to struggle with the decisions they have made wondering what could have been.  This is a sensitive issue.  My heart truly goes out to women who find themselves in a situation where they face this decision.  And shame on the boys who claim to be men in their lives who have left them with so few options that abortion seems to be best.

With that said, let's address the question.  As Christians, our view of right and wrong must come from the Bible.  On issues not directly addressed by the Bible, we must allow the Bible and its principles to guide us.  So let's ask the question and look to the Bible for answers.  Is abortion a sin?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Lesson from a Bar Last Friday

Pastor Mark was at a bar last Friday night celebrating a friend's birthday party.  We had a fun time playing Jenga and catching up and, for those who might be shocked about this scenario, no we did not get drunk.      Moving on...

While I was chatting with a friend, I started to notice a voice behind me growing louder and louder.  Finally, I turned around to see a man sitting in a booth staring angrily at me.  He was pointing wildly in the air and kept saying, "What's this?" to me.  I had no idea who he was or what he was talking about.  I thought maybe he wanted to know what song was playing.  Here is how the conversation went.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Feature Friday: Its Elementary My Dear Watson

Christy and I went out to see the second Sherlock Holmes movie on Wednesday at the two dollar show in La Grange (which is actually now the $5.50 show, but that's another story).  It was actually quite entertaining and a pretty fun ride.  Like the last movie, Holmes is a substance abuser with questionable morals.  Overall though, I'd recommend it.  Just make sure you watch with discernment.

What I love about these movies and the old school Holmes books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is the crazy deductive skills of Sherlock Holmes.  Nothing escapes him.  He can look at you and tell you what you ate for your last three meals based on some crumbs on your shirt, a stain on your collar, and a scent on your breath.  He can enter a room and tell you how many people have come and gone over the last 24 hours.  My favorite from this movie though is when he and his hyper intelligent brother try to out deduce each other.  They take one look at each other and start saying things like, "I see you bought a new bow for your violin."

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Theology Thursday: Why is slavery allowed in the Old Testament?

Well, you've voted it in, so let's answer the question.  The Old Testament has lots of laws about slavery.  But why didn't God just make slavery illegal altogether?  He certainly could have by laying it out as, "Thou shalt not own slaves."  Instead, God lays out numerous laws in Deuteronomy and Leviticus that spell out how slavery was to work in Israel.  So why on earth is God supporting slavery instead of banning it?

Why is this important?  Because "intellectual" types who are opposed to Christianity, whether atheist, agnostic, or whatever, have claimed the Bible could not have been written by God because it contains moral outrages such as slavery.  They argue that slavery of any form is completely unjust and the fact that the Bible allows it proves that it could not have been written by a good God.  So what do you say to that?  Let me warn you, my answer is not short.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Most Expensive Meal Ever!

Did you know the Bible tells the story of the most expensive meal ever?  Can you guess what it was?  Actually, we don't really know much about the meal.  We only know it was some sort of red stew.  Figure it out yet?  This Sunday, I'll be teaching the kids at church about Jacob.  But I'd like to share a little bit with you today about his brother Esau.  Esau makes a terrible mistake that I believe we can all learn from.  Let's set the stage...

Friday, February 3, 2012

Feature Friday: Wolf Pack Tactics

Date night this week was the first time Christy and I went out without Michaela.  We saw The Grey because I am a huge Liam Neeson fan.  Unfortunately, the movie was a bit of a disappointment.  It attempts to tackle big themes and issues like depression, faith, death, and more but the answers the movie gives to life's big questions are just plain wrong and discouraging.  Overall, I wouldn't recommend it.

Its about a group of men who end up stranded in a fierce snowy tundra.  While trying to survive the cold and find civilization, they realize that a pack of hungry wolves wants to make them their next meal.  As the wolves attempt to divide and conquer and the men led by Liam Neeson fight for their lives, Christy and I saw some interesting analogies for our spiritual lives.  Without further ado, I present to you some survival tips that should help whether you are up against a pack of wolves or more everyday things like temptation to sin or even attacks from the devil.

Survival Tip #1: Safety in Numbers

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Theology Thursday: Is Downloading Torrents a Sin?

Ready for the short answer?  Is it a sin?  YEP!  Do you like that answer?  Does that bother you?  Do you disagree and want to continue doing it anyway?  Before I give you my reasons, let me ask you this.  If God told you to stop doing this, would you?  If God showed you that it was a sin, would you actually listen and stop downloading torrents?  Would you choose to obey Him even though it meant giving up your free music and movies?  If you said yes, then please keep reading and honestly consider what I have to say.  If you said no, then you have an idol issue that you need to deal with.