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. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Feature Friday: Jeremy Lin and You

I know, I know, its a little late for me to be jumping on the Jeremy Lin train.  Everybody, everywhere has said everything you could possibly imagine on the topic of all things Lin.  But rather than talk about his accomplishments, I'd like to encourage you as his brothers and sisters in Christ to do a few things for him.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Theology Thursday: Is Hell Real?

*I apologize for typos, I have a packed day and don't have time to go over this with a fine comb yet!

As far as serious subjects go, its hard to get much more serious than when talking about Hell.  If Hell is real, then it should definitely be a scary and saddening thought.  Thinking of anyone suffering in a place of eternal torment is heart-wrenching.  Hell is not pleasant to think about.

Out of that discomfort with the thought of Hell, modern opinions are changing.  While 74% of Americans believe in Heaven, only 59% believe in Hell.  Rob Bell recently released a book called Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived.  In his book, Rob proposes that Hell is nothing more than the evils we commit in this life and that no one will actually be separated from God in Hell forever.  Instead, Bell proposes that everyone will one day be reunited with God because God's love will win everyone over (Bell has claimed that's not what he necessarily believes, but that's hard to accept given the way his book lays this out).

So is Hell real?  Is it just some old myth that we have outgrown?  Is it foolish and silly for a modern and educated person to believe in such a childish thing?  Was Hell simply made up to scare people into religion?  Does the existence of Hell mean that God is evil and cruel?

Its Not Up to Us

Whether or not Hell exists is just not up to us.  I hope you don't have a hard time agreeing with me on this.  Its either real or not.  Its the same with the fabled water city of Atlantis.  If I really want it to be real but its fake, then my wanting it to be real doesn't make it real.  If I hate the idea of it and don't want it to be real but it actually is real, then my disgust of it won't make it stop existing.  We all have opinions of whether or not Hell is a good idea or a bad idea.  We all have opinions of whether it should exist or shouldn't.   We can imagine if we were God what we would do.  But at the end of the day, our opinions and guesses don't make Hell any more real or any less real.

Can I be honest?  As a Christian, I understand that God is just and that sin has a penalty.  I get that.  But if I'm totally honest, I don't want to believe in Hell!  To me, it seems like a terrible idea.  I have family members who don't believe in Jesus.  Should they suffer and suffer and suffer forever when they die just because they didn't accept Jesus?  What if they were more or less nice people?  I don't want Hell to be real.  There comes a point in my mind where even Hitler has suffered for enough centuries and should be let out.  How do you feel?  Do you want to believe in Hell?

But again, the bottom line is that we don't get to choose and our opinion just doesn't make it so or make it not so.  What we need is revelation from God about what is true regarding Hell.  As Christians, we look to the Bible for that.  If you have trouble believing that the Bible is God's Word, then please CLICK HERE for notes on this and HERE for a sermon I preached on this.  So, let's look to God to answer this question for us.

What's the Bible Say?

The Old Testament prophet Daniel says...

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.  --  Daniel 12:2

The New Testament writer and apostle Paul says...

without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved--and that by God. --  Philippians 1:28

God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.  He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power  --  2 Thess 1:6-9

The New Testament writer and apostle Peter says...

if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.  --  2 Peter 2:9

The New Testament writer and brother of Jesus Jude says...

They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.  --  Jude 13

The New Testament writer and close friend of Jesus says...

Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.--  Revelation 20:14-15

To sum it up, the Bible teaches that there will  be a day of judgment.  On that day, some will be condemned to a place of darkness and fire.  This place is a place of punishment.  This place is everlasting.

What's Jesus Say?

Most people I know regard Jesus as the most loving person to ever live.  Did you know that Jesus spoke of Hell more than any other person in the Bible?  Let's just look at what Jesus has to say about this from the gospel of Matthew.

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca, is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.  --  Matthew 5:22

"I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.  But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."  --  Matthew 8:11-12

"As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  --  Matthew 13:40-42

This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  --  Matthew 13:49-50 

If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.  --  Matthew 18:8

"Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'  --  Matthew 22:13

"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?  --  Matthew 23:33

And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' Matthew 25:30

All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. . . Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  --  Matthew 25:32, 41

I would certainly agree that Jesus is the most loving man who ever lived.  Yet He believed that Hell was real.  He warned us of it often.  The God-Man Jesus said very clearly that there was an eternal place of fire, darkness, weeping, gnashing of teeth where the wicked would be sent after judgment.

Is Hell Fair?

Now this is a tough question.  Let's be honest, we don't all agree on what exactly is fair and what is unfair.  A few weeks ago, I was talking to a group of friends about a couple that is dating.  Guy A and Girl A have been dating for over a year but they aren't engaged yet.  A different girl, Girl B,  is interested in Guy A and she has been trying to get his attention and holding out hope for a future relationship with him.  Is that fair game?  Is it fair for her to try to get his attention and text him or Facebook him while he is dating?  Well, none of us could agree.  Some said that it was fair game until they were engaged.  Others said it was fair all the way up to til they were married.  Others said it wasn't fair at all because they were dating and Girl B needs to back off.

My point is, we don't agree on what is fair.  So, is Hell fair?  Fair according to whom?  Ultimately, the only person who can say what is truly right and fair is God.

God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day.  --  Psalm 7:11

The Bible tells us that God is a righteous judge meaning that His judgments are always correct and right (fair).  Yet in the same breath, the Psalmist writes that He expresses His wrath every day.  According to the Bible, God is the One who created Hell and He is the one who will send sinners there on judgment day.  Despite this, the Bible tells us that God is a righteous Judge.  Is Hell fair?  Well, it appears that God believes it is.

Does it feel or seem fair to me?  I'll be honest.  No, it doesn't.  It is truly hard for me to grasp how my loved ones who have not accepted Jesus, will suffer in Hell FOREVER.  How could their limited number of sins not be paid off over eternity?  There are loads of ways that theologians have tried to answer this.  Many of them make sense.  But instead, let me just say this.

Could it be, that if God says something is fair and I disagree and think it isn't fair, could it be that I am the one that is wrong?  Could it be that my sense of justice is off and His is right?  Could it be that my understanding of fairness is skewed while God's is perfect?  Could it be that I am failing to grasp just how infinitely holy God is and therefore I am failing to grasp how serious it is to commit one sin against Him?  Could it be that if I disagree with God on this, that I am the one that is wrong?  After all, the Bible does say...

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  --  Isaiah 55:8-9

How Should We Respond?

First, don't argue with God.  The Bible is very clear.  Hell is real and God thinks that is fair.  So, don't rise up arrogantly and say that God is evil for sending people to Hell.  Don't stand as judge over God and declare Him unfair.  Don't claim that if you were God, you would do the right thing and get rid of Hell.  Instead, humble yourself and heed the Word of God.  Even if you don't like it, believe it.  Even if you don't agree with it, declare that God is just and right and you must be mistaken.

Second, get yourself out of the line of fire!  Hell is real and we all, as sinners, deserve to go there!  Grab on to the only way out God has made!

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. --  John 3:16

God loves you and desires to rescue you from Hell so you can live eternally with Him in heaven.  But your sins have separated you.  So turn to faith in Jesus to be saved.  Jesus lived the sinless life you and I have failed to live, suffered the wrath you and I deserve, and rose to give eternal life you and I could never earn.  Put your faith in Him today.

Third, take up the call to share the good news of Jesus with the desperate world.  According to the Bible, our family, friends, coworkers, classmates, and all are heading to Hell without Jesus.  Let's share this great news of salvation with anyone with ears!

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"  -- Romans 10:14-15

As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments.  Also, if you are interested in exploring this topic further, check out Erasing Hell by Francis Chan.  I apologize for typos, I have a packed day and don't have time to go over this with a fine comb yet!