Good News for Dead People – 8 Obeying the Gospel

RisenI used to want a horse. But, somewhere along the way I realized that if I got a horse I would have to feed it and water it. Horses also don’t know brush or train themselves, and they don’t clean up their messes, if you know what I mean. So, if I got a horse I would get more than just a horse, and probably more than I wanted.

I have been guilty, and maybe you have, too, of viewing the Gospel like many of us view horses. I have incorrectly believed and taught that the Gospel was everything that had to do with becoming a Christian, and with the initial steps of Christianity. Continue reading

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Good News for Dead People – 7 Jesus is Better

RisenThe book of Hebrews is devoted to one common theme: the superiority of Jesus.  The author covers subjects ranging from faith to animal sacrifices, and from angels to the kingdom of God, but all of that information is given to prove one essential point: that Jesus is better (1:4; 7:19,22; 8:6; 9:23; 10:34; 11:16; 11:35,40; 12:24).

Better than what?  Well, the short answer to that is, everything (especially everything the Hebrews writer mentions; see below).  But, the more important point is that Jesus is just plain better because of who He is—because of His nature. Continue reading

Good News for Dead People – 6 The Right Jesus

RisenThe gospel is not just the good news that we can be saved from Death. It is the good news that Jesus Christ can save us from Death.

The thing is, we often think of Jesus like He is an idea or a character. We talk about His teachings and His miracles. We refer to Him like we refer to famous writers: “Have you read Frost?” Or like we talk about actors: “Did you see the latest Tom Cruise movie?”

What I am saying is that rather than thinking about Jesus in terms of who He is, we think about Him in terms of what He said and did. Continue reading

Collecting, part 2

Warren Moon trading cardsI collected sports trading cards for three main reasons: 1) because that was what cool kids did; 2) because they looked neat; 3) because I hoped to strike it rich (would you call that gambling?).

I did not collect sports trading cards for particularly good reasons: 1) for the love of sports; 2) out of admiration and respect for particular players; 3) as an investment in my future grandkids’ retirement.

I have discovered that I, and many other human beings, have a similar problem in other areas of life. We collect “beliefs,” “philosophies,” and even “doctrine” and “theologies.” And we often collect them in the wrong way for the wrong reasons.

I used to tell other kids at school that I didn’t go to dances because “it was against my religion.” Continue reading

The Importance of Shame

Two of the most important concepts in Christian living involve shame.

These are difficult concepts for American Christians to fully grasp, however, because of our limited understanding of the concept of shame. Our sense of honor and disgrace has been so colored by a broadening individualism that when a member of society does something contrary to social norms we often don’t know whether to applaud their uniqueness or condemn their behavior. Our collective list of taboos has been shrinking.

But, shame has been and still is an incredible important cultural motivator in much of the world. So called “honor killings” in Muslim societies, in which family members murder fellow family members who have brought shame on the family name, illustrate the concept in an extreme way. The principle, though, runs deep in many cultures, and still maintains a small foothold in the Western world. We still teach our kids that what they do reflects on their family, on their parents, on their church and their school. Continue reading

Resurrection, part 2

We live in a world of anxiety and anticipation, a world of death, taxes, disease, unemployment, and poverty. But, it is also a world of enjoyment, comfort, peace, family, and beauty. We live hoping for something better, but half-expecting the worst. We live a suspenseful existence.

All of us wait, like the disciples did on that Saturday nearly two millennia ago, for something we have a vague idea about, but we know for sure has not come yet. Those few men and women who had walked and talked and shared meals with Jesus were so certain that He would be the salvation and release they had been longing for. But, on that Saturday, Jesus was dead–and so was most of their hope. Continue reading

Resurrection, part 1

I had been a preacher for roughly one month. I had never yet been called to the hospital late at night, but that January night I got dressed around bedtime to go sit with a man I had never met because his wife, who I had also never met, was in the emergency room.

It was her fortieth birthday. She and her husband had been out celebrating over dinner, and returned to the house to settle in for the night. She had been complaining of a headache for most of the day, but had enjoyed her birthday, none-the-less. But, as she prepared for bed in her bathroom, she began vomiting violently and then passed out. Her husband called an ambulance, they rushed her to the hospital, and that was how I found the situation. Continue reading

Real Health Care Reform, part 3

Haven’t read parts 1 or 2 yet? Here are the links: part 1 and part 2.

I wonder what it felt like to be a first century leper. I know it had to be painful and frustrating because of the nature of the disease. But, it also had to be lonely and depressing. To be unable to be a part of society, unwelcome in the marketplaces, and unwilling to spend time with friends and family for fear of passing the destructive skin disease on to them must have been horribly difficult. Continue reading

Real Health Care Reform, part 2

Here is a link to part 1, in case you haven’t read it yet.

Have you heard? Glenn Beck has warned you to run away from a church that teaches “social justice.” So, I want to be upfront with you, and to let you know that I, as a preacher, can’t help but teach social justice. Jesus made serving the needy and oppressed a priority in His ministry, God berated the Israelites over and over again for not pursuing justice for the poor, and Christians today must focus on serving others, especially those in physical distress.

But, to be fair to Mr. Beck, I don’t think he intended to use the term in such a broad manner. In some follow-up discussion, after his comments comparing the idea of “social justice” to Nazism and communism received a huge Christian backlash, Beck explained that what he means by “social justice” is the idea that a church should make it their goal to bring about redistribution of wealth and other charitable ideas by the use of political power and the government. Here is a portion of what he said: Continue reading

Real Health Care Reform, part 1

The infamous health care reform bill heads to the President’s desk today to be signed into law. I am saddened, but not because I am especially opposed to the bill. I am anxious, but not because I believe this is a sign of the government taking away our freedom. I am hurt, but not because Congress passed a bill that was the target of intense public opposition. I am disappointed because we Christians have not fulfilled our mission, and this bill is a glaring reminder of that fact. Continue reading