On Sunday, October 27, I had the privilege of preaching at Wildwood as a part of the “FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about Christianity” series. The topic of the sermon was, “Is salvation really by grace through faith?” In case you missed this Sunday and wanted to listen to the sermon, or in case you heard the message and wish to either listen to it again or share it with a friend, we have posted the sermon audio here.
You can either listen via the embedded media player below or download it to listen to later on your device of choice.
My son is 6 years old. I love 6 years old. It is a magical age when many new concepts in the world around us gain clarity. Take this example (for instance):
Josh is blessed to have two sets of very generous grandparents. For most big events, visits, etc. Josh will get a little bit of money from his Grams and Po or Grandma and Grandpa. This sum is usually not large, but is large enough to prompt Josh to ask if we can go to Toys ‘R Us or Target and “get something.”
So, Josh arrives at Toys ‘R Us with his $10 bill and proceeds to ask me again and again, “Can I buy this?”
“No Josh. You cannot afford the 1,000 piece Lego replica of the Death Star. It costs $490 more than you have.”
“No Josh. You cannot afford the XBox 360. It is $300 more than you have.”
“No Josh. You cannot afford the brand new bicycle. It is $100 more than you have.”
I am serious. I really think these conversations are cute. They are the product of an optimistic (if not naive) mind that truly thinks he has enough for most everything in the store . . . even if $10 will buy you almost nothing at the toy store.
I was thinking about this today as I prepared for the Sunday morning sermon at Wildwood this week in our “FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about Christianity.” This week, we are probing at the question, “Is salvation really as easy as ‘by grace through faith?'” The heart behind this question is the perspective that we should be able to earn our salvation by our good works . . . that salvation should be a work we do for God and are rewarded with the prize of eternity, NOT a gift that He gives to us out of His generous Spirit.
As I reflected on the “our works = our salvation” equation, I was reminded of my son in Toys ‘R Us. Basically, we are showing up in eternity with our $10 worth of good works, hoping to be able to buy anything in the store. The problem is that eternal life with our Holy God is much more expensive than we think.
Thankfully, we have a God who has given us more than just $10 worth of opportunity. He has given us much, much more through Jesus Christ. This Sunday, we will look at this idea more as we explore Matthew 5:17-40, as well as other New Testament passages in pursuit of an answer to the question, “Is salvation really by ‘grace through faith?'” Join us in either our 9:30 or 10:50 service to find out more.
This past Sunday as a part of our “FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about Christianity” series at Wildwood, I preached a message on the question: “What about those who have never heard about Jesus?” In case you missed it and would like to listen to it, or in case you heard it and want to share it with a friend or listen to it again . . . I am posting it here.
You can either listen here online or download to listen to it later.
As you are aware, we are in the midst of a series at Wildwood Community Church entitled “FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about Christianity.” We have addressed several questions over the past few weeks, and will continue to answer more questions over the weeks ahead.
I recently came across a video (it is about an hour and a half long) of Pastor Tim Keller from NYC in a Veritas Forum addressing many of these same questions. This is an interview/debate format. Very good stuff and worth your time . . .
It is diverse in altitude. The Dead Sea is nearly 1,400 feet below sea level, while Mt. Everest skys nearly 30,000 feet in the air.
It is diverse in climate. The Atacama Desert of South America receives only 15 milimeters of rain each year, while Mt. Wai’ale’ale on Kaui receives as much as 500 inches of rain each year.
It is diverse in economics. The GDP per capita of Haiti is only $770, while in Qatar, the same number is $102,768.
It is diverse in access to health care. Nearly 1 billion people in the world do not have access to clean drinking water, much less a timely MRI of an injured appendage.
It is diverse in religion. In 2013, there are 21 “major” world religions. Though roughly 2 billion consider themselves Christian, there are roughly 4 billion people who follow a different faith.
We are used to a world of this kind of diversity. In the day and age of Google, wikipedia, and satellite television, we are more aware of the diverse world around us than at any other time in the history of history.
The diversity of climate is marvelous to us. We see the extremes of nature and our jaw drops open at the diversity of our creator.
The diversity of the condition of human life, however, greatly bothers us. For those of us living in the “first world” we vacillate between guilt over what we have and a sense of mission to alleviate suffering worldwide. Organizations like World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, Compassion, Charity:Water and others tap into this sense of compassion and passion to connect the resources of the developed world with the needs of the developing one. As we reach out to help bring clean water or adequate food to those in need, we do not feel arrogant or unloving. In fact, it is humbling and an act of love to reach out to those in need.
However, when it comes to the religious diversity in the world, we feel differently. In our world today, one of the most controversial things a person of any faith can claim is a statement of exclusivity when it comes to relating to God. For any religion (of the 21) to claim to be the only way a person can have a relationship with God seems quite arrogant and unloving. But is such a sentiment truly wrong?
Last week in our “FAQ” series at Wildwood, Pastor Bruce Hess spoke about how Jesus claims to be the only way to have a relationship with God. In fact, In John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. NO ONE comes to the Father except through Me.” The apparent implication of this statement is that the 4 billion non-Christian people in the world are in great peril. Far more dangerous than just going hungry or dying of dysentery (like those living in physical poverty), people living apart from Christ (the spiritually poor) are in danger of eternal punishment and separation from God.
Knowing the very real danger humanity is in without Him, Jesus commissioned His disciples to go into “all the world” making His disciples. But even with the most aggressive of missionary strategies, today, 2 millennia after Jesus issued His Great Commission, there are still people on the earth who are considered “Unreached” with the Gospel of Jesus Christ . . . there are even places on this planet where people have never heard anything at all about Jesus Christ. Meanwhile, I live in a town of just over 100,000 people with hundreds of churches, K Love, and a Mardel’s Superstore. Given the stakes, this seems unfair. As a Christian thinking about the words of Jesus in John 14:6, I can’t help but ask, “What about the other 4 billion? Does God care about them?”
This Sunday at Wildwood, we are going to look at this question together as I preach a sermon entitled, “What about those who have never heard about Christ?” Like the rest of the questions we are asking in this series, there are answers to these questions. We will be looking into God’s Word together this weekend to explore what those answers are. Please make plans to join us in either our 9:30 or 10:50 service this Sunday at Wildwood. Hope to see you there!
In the summer of 1995 I had the privilege to go to Russia. Our plane landed in Moscow and we were met in the airport by our tour guide who had arranged a bus to take us to the hotel. On the bus ride into the city, I purposely sat close to this native Moscovite to hopefully learn something about life in Russia. Since I grew up in the 1970’s and 1980’s, I had a natural fascination with this enormous country as the former U.S.S.R. was the ying to the United States yang in world politics throughout that time period. In the summer of 1995 the iron curtain had been torn, and now we could freely visit this great nation and talk to people about what life was like under communist rule. So, I sat close and listened as our tour guide named Sergei entertained us with many stories about life under the banner of the hammer and the sickle.
He showed us where the Russian tanks were positioned on a prominent bridge during the early days of Glastnost. He pointed out the distant spire of Saint Basil’s Cathedral on the horizon. He shared with us what the Kremlin looked like. All of these stories were interesting to me, but there is one story that particularly caught my attention. The interesting thing about this story was that it did not involve tanks or troops or great architecture. No, in all of Moscow the story I heard that I remember most vividly did not involve any of these things. Instead, it involved paint. No kidding.
It seems that when President Ronald Reagan was coming to visit Moscow for a nuclear arms summit in June of 1988, the Russians wanted to put their best foot forward to impress their American counterparts. The cash poor Soviets did not want the Americans to see their deteriorating financial situation. To show financial weakness would be to lose yet another battle in this cold war. However, the Soviets did not have enough financial resources to fully renovate all of the great city of Moscow. So, Russian officials came up with a resourceful solution . . . they would remodel and repaint only the buildings that lined the exact route and rooms that President Reagan would actually drive by or sit in. So, in the days leading up to the summit, the Russian government went to work putting a fresh coat of paint and doing minor repairs to the streets and buildings where Reagan would be. As the day drew near, though, the Soviets realized they needed to speed up their progress. So, they came to a creative solution. They would only repaint the exterior of buildings two stories up (these buildings were easily 10 stories tall.) The thought was that Reagan was an older man who probably could not see beyond the second floor anyway. . . so why waste good paint.
I was thinking about that story today as I reread Acts 5, and the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira. It seems that this husband and wife team, inspired by the generosity of their fellow brothers and sisters in the early church, had sold a piece of land and were voluntarily going to give that money to the local group of Christians to help meet the financial needs of others. . . a noble task and a generous gift. However, a problem existed. It seems that after selling the piece of land, Ananias and Sapphira decided to keep a portion of its proceeds for themselves. Now that practice would not have been a problem (God never commanded the early Jerusalem church to sell all their land and give all the proceeds to the new church) however, this couple still wanted to be recognized by the apostles and others for giving everything, even when they “only” gave a lot. To put this in today’s dollars, it would be like selling your house for $100,000, giving $75,000 to the church, but telling everyone that you gave all the proceeds of your home sale to meet the needs of others.
Now I don’t know where you come from, but $75,000 is a lot of money. We might expect God to be excited by the large financial gift that Ananias and Sapphira had given. We might expect Him to look the other way, and ignore their creative accounting because of His desire to get more money into the church. However, that is not what God does. In fact, God does not let this slide one bit. God strikes both Ananias and Sapphira dead, a temporal judgment for the sin they had committed. The question then becomes, why did God strike this couple dead after their generous gift? Sure they lied, but what they did was mostly good. Why the strong judgment?
I believe that God acted so strong and swift in response to Ananias and Sapphira because He wanted His people to know that it was not just external actions He was after, but our internal heart attitude as well. For centuries the Pharisees had made an art form out of external obedience to the exclusion of heart level holiness, and God did not want His new church to fall into that same trap. God is not just interested in our actions, but in our attitudes as well.
To put it another way, God is not an aging President who rides down the streets of our lives only able to see about two stories up. If that were the kind of God we served, we could decorate the visible areas of our lives with fresh coats of good works, and draw His attention away from the sin and struggle that we deal with seven stories up or on the streets less traveled. In fact, our God is a God who sees not just selected streets, but the entire city of our heart. He not only sees 10 stories up, but He sees completely through our entire heart. That being the case, how should we respond?
I believe that the story of Ananias and Sapphira ought to remind all of us to be completely honest before the living God. He sees the sin in our lives anyway, we might as well be honest before Him about it. As we saw in Acts 5, lying to God gets you no where. As we see in 1 John 1:9 (“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.”), being honest with God leads to forgiveness and restoration of fellowship with our merciful heavenly Father. So take some time today and be honest before God in prayer. Don’t try to detour God around the sin in your life, be honest and confess it to Him. God does not want to be lied to, and His eyesight goes all the way to the top of our lives. His forgiveness is sure and swift when we ask Him, but trouble comes when we try to deceive God. The problem with Ananias and Sapphira was that they tried to lie to God. Let’s not make the same mistake.
This past Sunday at Wildwood, I preached a sermon as a part of our “FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about Christianity” series. This week’s question was, “If Christianity is true, why are there so many hypocrites?”
Below you will find the audio of this sermon. You can either listen online via the embedded media player, or download the audio to listen later. If you missed the sermon, or heard it and want to share it with a friend . . . now’s your chance!
This Sunday at Wildwood, we will be continuing our “FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about Christianity” series by looking at the question: “If Christianity is true, why are there so many hypocrites?”
This question is frequently asked in many different forms:
Sometimes people see Christians who live more immoral lives than non-Christians, and so they wonder about the power and reality of Christianity.
Sometimes people have been treated poorly by Christians in the past who have talked the Christian talk, but have walked a crooked walk.
Sometimes people see high profile examples of infidelity by Pastors, greed by church leaders, etc.
Or, sometimes, people just think that Christians are just plain phony.
You have heard these questions. I have too. This Sunday, we will reflect on these ideas together. I hope you plan to join us at 9:30 and 10:50 in our worship services!
Also, take a moment to watch this humorous video below. I love this video. The people in this video live the life that many of us live . . . an imperfect life, regardless of how “perfect” it might look to someone else. Some might call these people hypocrites. However, I think calling them hypocrites would be a vast misunderstanding of the term. Hope you can join us Sunday as we talk about this more!
On Sunday, September 15, I preached (in tandem with Mark Burget) a sermon on “Why we should believe in miracles?” Specifically, the message talked about the biggest miracle of all, historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ . . . as well as looking at why God performs miracles. In case you missed the message, or if you would like to listen to it again, I have posted it here to my blog.
To listen to the message online, use the imbedded player below:
To download the message to listen to it later, click on the link below:
I love sports. In fact at one point in my life, I thought I would either grow up to be the starting point guard for the Chicago Bulls or the next Al Michaels. In my 12 year old mind it was a toss up.
One of the things that sport’s personalities are especially good at is talking in cliches. Some people like to complain about sport’s cliches (Give 110%, “the intangibles,” etc.); I, however, choose to embrace them. One of my favorite sport’s cliches is the term “miracle.” Sportscasters LOVE to call things miraculous . . . even things that we see on a regular basis. What do I mean? Here are a few famous sport’s “miracles”:
“The Music City Miracle” – In January 2000, the Buffalo Bills had a playoff victory all but secured against the Tennessee Titans before Frank Wycheck threw a lateral across field to Kevin Dyson who scored a touchdown as time expired to win the game for Tennessee.
“The Miracle on Ice” – Against the backdrop of the cold war, a group of youngsters from the U.S. defeated the more experienced Soviet Union in ice hockey at the Lake Placid Olympic Games. Al Michaels famously quipped as the game ended, “Do you believe in miracles? YES!”
“Danny and the miracles” – This one is especially painful for OU fans. Back in the 1988 Final Four, Kansas star Danny Manning led the Jayhawks passed the heavily favored Sooners to win the national title.
“The Miracle at the Meadowlands” – Back in 1978 the Giants had the Eagles defeated. All they had to do was take a knee and run out the clock (with less than 30 seconds remaining). Strangely the Giants decided to try to run a play and fumbled a handoff that was scooped up by Herm Edwards (“You play to win the game”) who rumbled 28 yards for a game winning touchdown for Philadelphia.
“The Miracle Mets” – In 1969, the New York Mets had not ever won a title. This unlikely group won 39 of their last 50 games en route to winning the World Series over the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles.
See what I mean? Everywhere you look, in most every sport, we are talking about miracles. But, are these really miracles? Of course not. The game is never over until you hear the final gun (cliche) and comebacks are always possible. Coaches can always lose their composure (cliche) and make a bad call. Home ice advantage (cliche) is worth something. When we use the term miracle in sports, we basically mean either an upset or a crazy comeback victory. Upsets and comebacks are exciting, but they are certainly not supernatural in origin.
However, there are claims that events of truly a supernatural origin HAVE occurred on this planet. Things like:
A pair of humans walking on water
A defiant man being swallowed by a fish and living inside that fish’s belly for three days before becoming a strangely effective evangelist in a pagan city.
A flood of epic proportions killing all humanity except one family.
A dead man resurrecting (as predicted) three days after crucifixion.
Now these events are not just comebacks or upsets . . . they are truly acts of God. However, as Bill Kraftson says, “If there is a God who can act, then there can be acts of God.” Last week at WIldwood, we saw the evidence that there IS a God in the universe who acts to pursue a relationship with you and me. This week, in our “Frequently Asked Questions About Christianity” series we will be talking about why we might believe that the miracles listed above (as well as many other) actually have occurred. Specifically, I will be inviting my friend Mark Burget (an attorney) to help us examine the evidence about whether or not the biggest miracle of all (the resurrection of Jesus Christ) actually happened. Can this significant miracle stand up under the trial of history? We will look at the evidence this Sunday morning at Wildwood in our 9:30 and 10:50 worship services. Hope to see you there!