Archive for April, 2014

God’s Not Dead (Or Else We Wouldn’t Be Here Talking About Him)

April 30, 2014

Title: God’s Not Dead (Or Else We Wouldn’t Be Here Talking About Him)
Text: Genesis 1:1, Psalm 14:1, Proverbs 1:7
Time: March 28th, 2014

A movie was recently released called “God’s Not Dead,” which is based on the story of a young college student who was challenged by his atheist professor to prove God’s existence. The movie (I haven’t seen it yet) is about how this student responded to the atheist’s challenge. Now the statement “God is not dead” might also be a response to the famous Time magazine cover in the 60s that proclaimed the death of God. An article written inside covered the so-called “Death of God” theologians like William Hamilton, Thomas Altizer and other, who wrote that in the new secular world God has been put to death through modern science and the modern worldview. Nietzsche, the famous German atheist philosopher, wrote extensively on how the western world had put God to death through its rationalism. Obviously, what these philosophers and theologians are talking about isn’t that God has literally been put to death, but rather that the idea of God has been gradually dying in the consciousness of men and women for a long time. While belief in God remains fairly high, the reality of God’s actual presence in the lives of men and women today is indeed low. It seems that more and more people today are willing to live their lives as if God were dead, as if God were unnecessary, as if atheism were true. Now few people would actually profess atheism – that takes a certain type of person with a lot of fight in them, and also, I might add, a pretty big ego, seeing that an atheist must believe that while the vast majority of people in the world, 90 plus percent, is wrong about the question of God, he alone is right. However, most people, it seems today, are perfectly willing to live almost as if God didn’t exist. And that is becoming more common with every passing year. Now in tackling the question of whether God exists or not there are different ways to come at the question. Some people approach the question of God from the standpoint of assumptions and presuppositions. In other words, whether for theism (the belief in one God) or atheism (the disbelieve in God), we must all either assume that God is or that God isn’t just to even begin a conversation on the subject. Yes, there are those called agnostics who claim they can’t tell whether there is a God or not, so they supposedly sit on the philosophical and theological fence waiting for more evidence either way. But I’ve found that agnostics are usually atheists who don’t know they are atheists, or don’t want to admit it. Now atheists usually assert that believers in God must assume that God exists, but they, atheists, come to their position by reason and reflection. Therefore, they claim, it’s more reasonable to not believe in God than to believe in him. What I’d like to do today is show that we all have to assume that God exists, either consciously or subconsciously, in order to simply function in life. In other words, we’re all believers in God in one way or another, and that’s a pretty strong clue that God’s not dead. (more…)

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Easter’s Not Over Yet – Some More Observations

April 30, 2014

Title: Easter’s Not Over Yet – Some More Observations
Text: Luke 22:59-60, 23:3-7, 12
Time: April 28, 2014

It always bothers me that culture turns the corner on holidays like Christmas and Easter so quickly. The day after these most famous Christian holidays and already people have moved on, moved past the special day. It’s too quick for me. Why? Because I’m still thinking Easter because of all that I’ve heard or seen during the holiday season. I can understand from a secular, commercial standpoint that stores would quickly take down their holiday signs and sales, and begin to look forward to the next upcoming advertising push; but for Christians and Christian churches it makes no sense. I’ve been known to give Christmas messages after Christmas, and Easter messages after Easter. I don’t always do it, but I feel again this year that things have just gone too fast, too soon after the holidays. So I’d like to deal once again with some Easter season issues. As I do every year I’m always on the look out for anything new that I can learn every holiday about something in the Bible concerning – if it’s Christmas, the birth of Jesus; if it’s Easter, something new about the death, burial or resurrection of Christ. Well, I wasn’t disappointed this year because I did in fact find a few things from the biblical text that I hadn’t noticed before. I was reading in my daily readings of the One Year Bible – which I encourage everyone to read from if you don’t have a daily Bible reading plan – and I stumbled upon a couple of new observations from the Gospel of Luke. One of the bad things about reading the One Year Bible readings is that they aren’t on schedule with the major holidays in the Christian calendar. There aren’t Christmas readings on Christmas day, and there isn’t a Easter reading on Easter Sunday. That’s one of the weaknesses of the One Year Bible, but it’s also one of its strengths on the other hand, because it schedules Christmas and Easter readings at other times of the year, reminding us of these great holidays all year round. Well, I’m reading along after Easter and I’m reading an Easter passage in the Gospel of Luke and I find three things new I hadn’t seen before. I’d like to talk about them this morning. First, there’s the possibility that Pontius Pilate is using sarcasm towards the Jews when he says, “I find no basis for a charge against this man (Jesus).” I’ll explain. Second, there’s a possible reference to territorial prejudice when people refer to Jesus and his disciples as from Galilee. And third, there’s the strange description of Pilate and Herod becoming friends after their dealings with Jesus. It’s not at all obvious why they would become friends, nor is there any further explanation why they became friends, only that they did so become friends afterwards. Let’s try to makes sense of these observations as we think some final thoughts about Easter 2014. (more…)

The Essence of Easter

April 23, 2014

Title: The Essence of Easter
Text: 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
Time: April 21, 2014

If we were to boil the holiday of Easter down to its essential parts, what would they be? Or in other words, if we were to summarize the essence of Easter, how would we? It’s popular today for people to say to someone else, “Give me the short version,” or “Put it in simple terms for me,” or “Break it down for me.” What they mean is, “I don’t have a lot of time, so give it to me in a nutshell.” In our busy and fast paced world, we get used to commercials and salesmen and advertisements getting quickly to the point. We’re used to bite-sized presentations that take about thirty-seconds to one minute to get to the point. Well, today I’ve got a little more to say than thirty-seconds, but I’ll try to keep it under thirty minutes in length in getting to the point. After all, it is Easter today and we are celebrating the day, so let’s understand what the essence of Easter is in the process. What is the essence of Easter? Well, Easter is a little different than other holidays, for example, like Christmas, because Easter is really a combination of a number of things – it’s not all just one event. Think about it. With Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. But with Easter we are remembering three different things. First, we remember Christ’s death on the cross on Good Friday. That’s part of Easter. Then, we remember his entombment or burial for three days. Then, finally, on Easter proper, we remember his glorious resurrection on Sunday. So it’s not just one thing, like Christmas is mostly one thing, the birth of Jesus. Easter really encompasses three things, which I’d like to talk about this morning. Now it’s curious because sometimes people get the three things confused or get themselves out of sequence. Even churches sometimes get things mixed up at Easter time. For example, I’ve noticed lately that large mega-churches sometimes have Easter service on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to accompany the large crowds they anticipate during the Easter season. This approach makes it nice if you’re traveling to and fro visiting friends and family out of state. However, it does confuse things a little bit. For instance, some churches are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead on Good Friday, which is normally the remembrance of Christ’s death on the cross and burial in the tomb. So if you skip his death and burial, or just right to his resurrection, you’ve got things out of sequences, and you’ve missed remembering the total holiday properly. Also, sometimes people wish each other “Happy Easter” on Good Friday, which again is technically rushing things and out of sequence. The mood of Good Friday is supposed to be markedly different than Easter Sunday. And so forth. This all happens because Easter is actually three different things we are remembering. Let’s talk about these three essential things using 1 Corinthians15:3-4 so we can remember the holiday in a richer way. (more…)

The Amazing Crucifixion Prophecies of Psalm 22, Part 3

April 23, 2014

Title: The Amazing Crucifixion Prophecies of Psalm 22, Part 3
Text: Psalm 22
Time: April 20, 2014

I said last time that I’d try to finish up the prophecies of Psalm 22 by going through any of the prophecies I might have missed in my first two messages. I’d like to go ahead and do that today by mentioning three more prophecies. But before I get into these I’d like to take a minute to point out what might indeed be a prophecy, although it’s a little hard to tell. It’s Psalm 22:9-10, “Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” Now the reason I say this section “might” be a prophecy of Christ is that the New Testament doesn’t say it’s a reference to Jesus – which doesn’t necessarily rule against it – but also, it isn’t specific enough to say with certainty that it could exclusively apply to Jesus Christ. It also isn’t dealing specifically with the crucifixion, as the other prophecies in this Psalm. But it could very well be a reference to Jesus because it talks a lot about birth, womb and his mother. Any Christian knows that these are familiar themes, not around Easter time but during the Christmas holiday – although they certainly apply to any time of the year, including Easter. Now why could this verse be talking about Jesus? Because as Messiah, he didn’t just appear out of nowhere; he was born of a virgin, as Isaiah 7:14 prophesied, so he had a mother, who we know as Mary. The Messiah was born of a woman, grew up and became an adult. That’s the uniqueness of the Incarnation. Again, something we celebrate more at Christmas than at Easter, but is perfectly appropriate to mention anytime. Is this a reference or veiled prophecy of Christ? Possibly, although it’s not nearly as clear as the other prophecies in the chapter. I mention it here in passing because I need to do some more exploring, reading and studying on it before I put it definitely in the category of prophecy. Yes, much of it applies to Christ, but then again, it could apply to others as well. We’ll leave it an open question for now. But the other three passages I’ll be looking at today I’m very confident are prophetic passages. First, there’s the verse in Psalm 22:6 that says, “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.” There’s a lot of prophetic messianic material here. Second, there’s the sentence in Psalm 22:14 that states, “My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.” Now at first this might not seem significant, but as I’ll explain later, it has great importance in connection with Christ’s death. Finally, three, there’s the verse in Psalm 22:17 that goes, “People stare and gloat at me.” Again, this is pretty obvious in relation to the whole crucifixion scene. But I’ll talk more about it shortly. Having gone over the main prophetic verses found in Psalm 22 in the last two messages, today I’ll just finish up on lesser know but still power prophetic verses from the same chapter. I hope this builds our faith, as did the last two messages. (more…)

The Amazing Crucifixion Prophecies of Psalm 22, Part 2

April 23, 2014

Title: The Amazing Crucifixion Prophecies of Psalm 22, Part 2
Text: Psalm 22
Time: April 19, 2014

Like I said last time, the most famous prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the atoning death and crucifixion of Jesus Christ are found in Isaiah 53. I’ve given many messages showing the detailed prophecies concerning Christ in this Old Testament source, but believe it or not the famous Isaiah prophecy is not the most quoted source in the New Testament. What is the most quoted Old Testament prophecy in the New Testament and Gospel accounts? Psalm 22. I bet you didn’t know that. I bet you are surprised by that. It’s the most under reported prophecy in the Old Testament, although the New Testament writers knew it well. So let’s get to know it well also. Now last time I tackled three of the verses in the Psalm 22 prophecy concerning Christ’s crucifixion. Today, I’d like to cover three more verses. There are actually more than six verses of prophecy in Psalm 22, but I’ll just deal with the main prophecies as they pertain to the Lord’s death on the cross. I’ll also deal with the more obvious prophecies, although we shouldn’t think that these are the only ones in the chapter. I plan to do another message and catch any of the other, smaller prophecies that I might have missed. But in order to do justice to the most obvious prophecies in Psalm 22 I’ll only deal with three more verses today. First, I’ll talk about the reference in Psalm 22 that says, “My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth,” as an indication of Christ’s thirst on the cross. Of course, the Gospels report that Jesus said, “I thirst.” Second, I’ll cover the verse that says, “They have pierced my hands and feet,” which is an obvious reference to the method of his execution – crucifixion. And finally, third, I’ll deal with the verse that explains, “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” Again, clearly a reference to the Roman soldiers dividing up the purple robe of Jesus. Now what’s amazing for us Christians is that while we are familiar with these New Testament references, such as the fact that Jesus was thirsty on the cross, that his hand and feet were pierced, and that his robe was divided between the soldiers, what we usually don’t think about is that these things were all prophesied in the Old Testament one thousand years before in the Book of Psalms. We can see how important it is to know the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. In the early church there was a debate as to whether the Old Testament should even be included in the Christian Bible. I’m glad wisdom prevailed and it was included, because it’s really important and essential for understanding the New Testament. Let’s turn to it now to get a fuller understanding of our Lord’s death on the cross, how these events were all spoken of one thousand years beforehand. (more…)

The Amazing Crucifixion Prophecies of Psalm 22, Part 1

April 23, 2014

Title: The Amazing Crucifixion Prophecies of Psalm 22, Part 1
Text: Psalm 22
Time: April 18, 2014

The most famous Old Testament Bible prophecies concerning the atoning death of Jesus on the cross are found in Isaiah 53, the whole chapter. If you’ve never taken the time to sit down and review this famous prophetic chapter, please do so soon because it will truly astound you how a Bible writer could describe the event of the crucifixion so accurately hundreds of years before it took place. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time teaching and preaching about the prophecies of Isaiah 53 so I won’t go back over them again today – although I plan on going over them again at another time because they certainly deserve further review. But today I’d like to go over the second most famous Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ’s crucifixion found in Psalm 22. Now this section often escapes the notice of Christians, and the Isaiah prophecies get the most attention around Good Friday and Easter, but the Psalm 22 section deserves a serious review because it’s almost as amazing as the Isaiah prophecy. Psalm 22 gets pretty detailed in its description of the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and again, it was written hundreds of years before Jesus died, so it’s all prophetic. In order to talk about the most important parts of the prophecy I’ll divide it up into six parts, three parts for today and another three parts later in another message. So today I’ll talk about the first three prophetic verses as they relate to Christ’s crucifixion. Now what’s interesting is that some of the references in Psalm 22 are specifically mention in the New Testament accounts of the crucifixion as they are being fulfilled, while other parts of Psalm 22 aren’t specifically mentioned by the Gospel writers, but we can easily identify them as related to the day Christ died. So I’ll just go through the prophecies one by one and try to draw the parallels between the Old Testament description of Christ’s crucifixion and the New Testament’s reporting of it at the time. The first verse I’ll talk about today is the famous utterance of Christ on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Many people recognize this as what Jesus said on the cross before he died, but most people don’t realize that it’s an exact quote from Psalm 22. We’ll talk about it. The second verse I’ll mention in Psalm 22 is where it says, “All who see me mock me, they hurl insults, shaking their heads,” which is clearly a reference to most of the crowd surrounding the cross of Christ at his crucifixion. Finally, I’ll talk about the verse in Psalm 22 that says, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint,” which is a clear description of the physical suffering Christ endured during his crucifixion. As we can begin to see, the Old Testament references aren’t merely symbolic, they are accurate descriptions of what actually takes place on Good Friday. That’s amazing because they are prophecies given hundreds and hundreds of years before. I hope this will strength your faith and give you a deeper appreciation for what took place on the cross two thousand years ago. Let’s explore further. (more…)