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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Exhibit A

Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV) 8For my thoughts are not your thoughts,neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

As Easter fast approaches I find myself more and more interested in apologetics, the defense of the Gospel, not so much to prove God exists but to be aware of the objections and struggles that we all have in our faith walk. I know that there are going to be lost and wanderers being called from the North, South, East, and West on our city and I want to be prepared to share my faith journey with them and to carefully listen to their objections. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt I could never totally remove every one of their objections because admittedly not all of my objections have been fully answered that is why they call it faith. However, I do believe that the Bible provides significant information to shrink many objections made. I have been reading Tim Keller’s book The Reason For God and thoroughly enjoying the depth of his theology, scriptural knowledge and application. One specific objection has grabbed my attention for a number of years and my interest has been reignited since God has placed on my heart a call to reach wanders (Ezk. 34) and the lost (Luke 15). The objection of How Could a Good God Allow Evil and Suffering? The idea that the presence of evil and suffering in our world provides evidence to disprove God’s existence is incomplete and flawed. Keller says, “Tucked away within the assertion that the world is filled with pointless evil is a hidden premise, namely, that if evil appears pointless to me, then it must be pointless. The reasoning is, of course, fallacious. Just because you can’t see or imagine a good reason for why God might allow something to happen doesn’t mean there can’t be one. Lurking within hard-nosed skepticism is an enormous faith in one’s own cognitive faculties.” Look at Joseph’s story in Genesis he goes through hardship, evil, and suffering. If God had not allowed Joseph to suffer he would have never been able to save a nation and prevent hundreds of thousands from suffering throughout the surrounding nations. Joseph would have never been the man he became without the suffering he endured. God’s purposes were accomplished in and through his life. I want to be careful to say that no one is grateful for the tragedies that life brings. However, on the other hand the wisdom, character, experiences and grace provided to us during those times are matchless in value and in building our faith, they are not for sale, rent, lease or loan. Could it be then that the presence of evil and suffering in our world can actually prove God’s existence along with creation itself acing as evidence in God’s favor. The question that remains is by what standard does the world make it’s judgement? By which standard does the atheist or non-believer in God measure injustice and evil? Keller says, “If you are sure that this natural world is unjust and filled with evil, you are assuming the reality of some extra-natural (or supernatural) standard by which you make your judgement.” For example if we base it on evolution’s idea of natural selection that relies in the strong surviving by bringing death, destruction and violence on the weak then this would be perfectly natural and no injustice or evil can be seen in just doing what comes natural. The issue of suffering, tragedy, and injustice is a problem for everyone not just Christians or believers. It provides just as big a problem for believers and non-believers concerning their belief in God. If we think for a minute that abandoning our belief in God makes it easier to deal with the presence of evil and suffering in our world we are sadly mistaken. I can not see one benefit for unbelief based upon the presence of suffering and evil in the world. The overwhelming truth is there is no ultimate answer for suffering and evil save God’s sovereignty. We must also take a sharp look at God’s grace in all of this. In His sovereignty and by His grace He takes on our suffering and misery and faces down evil in the flesh in the form of Jesus Christ. Even in the depth of our greatest suffering we have Emmanuel God with us in the form of Jesus Christ. When we take a deep look into the incarnation of Jesus Christ coming to earth, clothing Himself in humanity, experiencing suffering, enduring the cross, and defeating satan, sin, and death in the resurrection we find powerful consolation realizing that Jesus is present in our greatest sufferings. We do not face evil and suffering alone we face them side by side and face to face with Jesus in the power of the the Holy Spirit. We have a hope that goes beyond this life and it’s present sufferings. We have a hope that evil will be vanquished forever and love wins. Our God doesn’t want off the hook for evil and suffering in the world He put Himself on the hook, the cruel cross, in order to defeat evil and suffering and offer us hope in the face of the worst possible suffering known to mankind. Jesus understand our pain and suffering. Jesus understands injustice. Jesus understands what it feels like to face evil. Jesus knows what it feels like to be abandoned. Evil and suffering do not prove that God doesn’t exist. People who have experienced evil and suffering and overcame it by faith in Jesus Christ reveal that God does exist. We act as living testimonies, trophies of grace. I can not explain why evil and suffering take place in this world but I sure will not abandon my faith just because they do. I trust in Isaiah 55:8-9 that reminds me that God’s ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts. I find comfort in that truth. I find comfort I am not the standard by which the world is judged just or unjust God is. I find comfort in knowing even while this world was filled with evil and suffering God sent His one and Only Son, Jesus, to come and reconcile the world to Himself through suffering and paying sin’s ultimate penalty, death. I find comfort in knowing that God’s ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts because I can say with confidence I would not exchange my child’s life for anyone else’s on the planet. God sent His Son to be a ransom for many and to put an ultimate end to evil and suffering. One day that mission will be accomplished when the world is reconciled back to God. Until then whatever you are going through, what ever you are facing call out to Jesus and He will answer. Don’t run from God, run to God. Be encouraged!
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Posted by on March 19, 2012 in City on a Hill Church, COAH

 

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Search Party

Currently we are in a series called Rescue Me. I believe that the next few weeks leading up to Easter are going to be critical for the church. Not just City on a Hill Church but the church universal. Every year in March or April there is a time designated to celebrate Easter. Easter is a time recognized in this country and of around the world as a holiday where we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There’s no mistaking happy holidays for Easter instead it’s a time where most recognize the significance of Easter even though it is been highly commercialized the chocolate, Easter bunnies, jellybeans and the like. There is still an understanding that Easter is all about Jesus it’s always been about Jesus and it will always be about Jesus. Easter is also a time where so many folks are looking to go to church or to reengage in their faith. I feel such a sense of urgency over the next few weeks because I know that there is a spiritual preparation and an awareness in the hearts and lives of many in our city. It is my hope that the people of city on a Hill church and churches around the city will recognize this divine opportunity and will do everything within their power to invite and encourage folks to come out on Easter Sunday. For me Easter starts at sunrise at the baptism service. Baptism signifies the outward sign of an inward change. I love the significance of Easter sunrise baptisms. On the morning that we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ the son of God rising from the dead we get a beautiful word picture from creation as the sun rises in the east over the waters of North Gandy beach. We provide everyone being baptized with five invitations for their friends, their coworkers, neighbors and loved ones to witness their sacred moment. Receiving a personal invitation to someone’s baptism really raises the chances that people attend the baptism and attend Easter Sunday services directly following the baptism. It’s just a great way for them to feel included an important. It is equally a powerful witness to the grace of God in their lives. I believe every day God gives us divine opportunities to reach someone for the cause of Christ. We just have to be cognizant of these opportunities and we need to be willing to act when these opportunities present themselves. Studies have shown people will respond to an invitation and most of the time they respond in a positive fashion. My prayer is over the next few weeks that God will draw his nets from the North, the South, East, and the West and that he will use ordinary people like me and you to extend an invitation. When I started prep in the series Rescue Me I had lost people and wanderers in mind. I started praying months ago for Easter services and for this series because I know that is God’s desire that everyone come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. While I recognize I can’t control the decision that they make, I can control whether or not they receive the opportunity to accept or reject Jesus Christ by presenting the gospel and a life lived to the glory of God. Every Friday for the past few weeks and all the way up until Easter I will be at North Gandy beach praying over the waters and over that location. In my minds eye I can see the faces of so many precious people whose lives have been changed by God’s grace. I see their family members, friends, church family members, and neighbors standing on the shore witnessing the most significant decision that they will make in their lives. My heart grows with anticipation as the weeks get closer the intensity of my prayer increases knowing that there is a spiritual battle taking place for the souls of men, women and children in our city. We have two more weeks in the Rescue Me series and then it’s Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday kicks off Holy Week that leads us right into Easter Sunday. On Easter Sunday I’ll be sharing a message entitled The Journey of a Skeptic, we will take a look into the life of Thomas. Between now and then I know that every week is critical every Sunday, every day, every moment is critical heaven and hell, life and death hang in the balance. Jesus spoke more about heaven and hell than any other prophet in the Bible. Jesus made it very clear there are two final resting places for the soul. One is in heaven with God with Jesus as the mediator between God and man reconciling us through his life, death, burial, and resurrection. Easter is the time we celebrate Jesus us final victory over mankind’s three greatest enemies Satan, sin, and death. It is in the awfulness of the cross that we see the justice of God and the grace of God come together. Objects of wrath become objects of affection and the rightful wrath of God is satisfied through the death of Jesus on the cruel cross. The resurrection of Jesus reveals Jesus’ final victory over our final enemy which is death and he offers us eternal life. That’s option number one. Option number two is hell. If hell was not a real place, Jesus would not have spent so much of his time speaking of hell as a real option for those who deny God and rebel against. Easter is a critical time because it acts as a mirror into the souls of men. It allows us to see a loving and merciful God offer his son as the ultimate sacrifice so that we might have life. It also allows us to see that there is a hope that goes beyond this life and into the next. The hope that we have comes from faith in Jesus. It really starts by us crying out to God saying rescue me, save me! We ask God , “Do for me what I cannot do for myself.” In doing this we recognize that we are not self autonomous, we admit that we need God, we need forgiveness, we need reconciliation, we need grace. I have such a sense of urgency in my heart that even now as I sit here in this place preparing this blog my heart goes out to those spiritually lost and in need of rescue, to those wanderers who have been made prey for wild beasts. It is my sincere prayer and hope that they listen to the still small voice of God calling them. That they listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit as he leads them to safety. That they recognize there is a search party looking for them. It is equally my prayer that every Christ follower will recognize they are a point man on a search and rescue mission for their friends, family, coworkers, schoolmates, neighbors and our city. My prayer is that we will all use our story for God’s glory and I can’t think of a better time to do that than Easter Sunday. It is my prayer and hope that we will baptize 40 or 50 folks at sunrise on Easter Sunday morning. It is my prayer and hope that the shoreline will be filled with hundreds of witnesses of God’s incredible grace. If you don’t have any place to worship on Easter please consider this your invitation to worship with us at City on a Hill Church. It would be our honor and privilege to celebrate Easter with you. If you haven’t been to church in a while come on home:) Be encouraged!

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2012 in City on a Hill Church, COAH

 

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Just 2 B Justified

Have you ever been tempted to cover something up to keep yourself out of trouble? Do you remember the feelings you had when you were trying to figure out how to get out of it? The feelings of guilt, fear, remorse, anger that it happened to you or that you made a mistake? It doesn’t have to be something earth shattering to make the point it can be something simple but the emotions and feelings are still the same. I remember when me and my buddy were home hanging out while our girls were out. We had prepared some food and I was grabbing the salt shaker. Now my wife has a set of dishes that everything matches plates, bowls, mugs, you get the picture. Well when I grabbed the salt shaker it slipped from my hand and took a big and noticeable chip out of it. Me and my boy were like, Oh no! Right away we started thinking we’re gonna be in trouble. He said, ‘Hey dude just hide it. She’ll never know.” To that I said, “Oh no she’ll know! I told him I would rather tell her what happened and get her a new one then carry the guilt of keeping a secret and the fear of her finding out and being disappointed in me. When she got home I told her what happened. She didn’t even make a big deal about it. She said, “Honey that’s alright no big deal. We can just try to fix that one or get a replacement.” I felt justified. I felt free of guilt, shame, fear, and remorse because I wasn’t trying to hide anything from my wife and there was nothing standing between us in our relationship. I came clean and received a clean slate. While that may be a small scale incident it can speak volumes to us in our relationship with God. To be justified means to qualify as bail or surety, to judge, regard, or treat as righteous and worthy of salvation, to set free from an obligation or the consequences of guilt. Justification is simply “the act of God declaring men free from guilt and acceptable to Him” You and I weren’t built to carry guilt. We have a accuser who does his best to try and keep us from God by telling us to hide things from Him. By telling us we don’t deserve forgiveness or a second chance. When we choose to believe that accuser we run far from God because we feel guilt, shame, fear, and remorse. We don’t realize all that God has done for us it leaves us empty and we have a deep longing just to be justified. If I would have kept that little secret from my wife it would have damaged our relationship because I would have had to operate in guilt and fear. It would have put a strain on our fellowship and every time we sat down to eat I would be waiting to hear, “Would you pass the salt? Hey where is the salt shaker?” And then I would be dealing with breaking her trust and maybe even her doubting my love for her or her trust in me. I chose to be up front and honest and to deal with it so that the accuser couldn’t step in and drive a wedge in our relationship. The accuser tries to and is rather successful at keeping people far from God. I only hope that we would all open our eyes and realize God is closer than we think. Ask yourself these questions. “Who does God justify through faith? The ungodly! Who did Christ die for? The ungodly! That means those without God. Ungodly. Why does God justify the ungodly? Why did Christ die for the ungodly? Because that’s the only kind of person there was. The clearest message of Jesus and the deepest message of the Bible is “God’s mercy, not our merit.” When it comes to our salvation we are neither saved by our merits nor justified by works. We are justified, declared righteous before God, solely through faith in Jesus Christ because of God’s mercy and Christ’s merit. We walk through this life carrying guilt, fear, shame, and remorse and more importantly a deep longing and desire Just to be Justified. When we put our trust in God Hope rises up from within us! Sin may have spoiled our glory but God’s glory is far greater. We just need to be honest with Him and admit our need for Him. The accuser can’t accuse us of something and hold it over our heads if God already knows about it. We can keep a short account with God. Let’s live our lives by trusting God so much that we don’t give accuser anything ammo. It is God’s mercy, not our merit that puts us in right standing with God. Not only do we need to forgive ourselves we must also be forgiven by God. Many times we are unable to forgive ourselves until we have received God’s forgiveness. Christ gave His life on the cross to take our place. He became our substitute. He took our penalty and punishment. We can’t be good enough to make up for all of the wrong. Christ died to offer you and I a second chance. We have to get past the guilt, fear, shame, and remorse and receive God’s forgiveness. God considers us righteous because of Jesus’ death. So God has forgiven our sin. This means that we will not suffer punishment from God for our sin. Our salvation is complete. We become God’s friends, although we used to be his enemies. This happens through Jesus’ death. God raised Jesus to life. And the result is that we too have a new life (Romans 6:4). Because of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Christ’s death satisfies God’s wrath for sin. Christ’s resurrection offers us new life and hope in Christ. Both are reliant on our willingness to come clean with God. When we can shout with joy about the things that God has done for us. God sent Jesus Christ to die on our behalf and to bring us back to Him. Our joy is founded in everything that God has done for us. He has made us his friends. Joy is the inner animation of the soul and it comes from being justified. It comes from having the guilt lifted from us, the absence of fear, the removal of shame, and the forgiveness that melts away remorse and a hope that goes beyond this life. Check out Romans 5:1-11. Be encouraged!

 

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