Category Archives: God’s Kingdom

Baseball, Pizza, and the Resurrection

Pizza

Supreme. It’s a pretty powerful word that unfortunately in our culture has been reduced to the kind of pizza we eat at Pizza Hut. The word actually means strongest, most important, or most powerful. It is the thing or the person that is superior to all others. It’s not a word that should be used carelessly, and when it comes to deciding who we will allow to be supreme in our lives, we really need to exercise great discernment and caution.

When we were small children, perhaps our parents were supreme in our lives. My father was a large man – both in size and in presence. His voice could boom, and it did when he was excited. I remember when I was 6 years old playing infield on my t-ball team and threw out a base runner for the first time ever. My dad, who was also my coach, jumped up and down in the dugout and roared with excitement. It nearly made all of the other 6 year olds in the dugout cry! I remember to this day the great feeling of not only knowing that I got the base runner out but knowing that I made my dad – the one who was supreme in my life – happy with me.

11From then on, I remember trying to do things that would re-create that moment between me and my dad. I wanted to have him jump up and down and roar his approval of me like that again and again. When I was in grade school, I played whiffle ball with my friends on the school playground at recess. It just so happened that I could hit the ball pretty far, so I asked my dad if he would come by at recess and watch me hit. I’m sure he didn’t have the time nor the desire to do so, but the next day as we ran to the ball field for morning recess, there was my dad, sitting in his car waiting to watch. I don’t know if I hit the ball well that day or not, I just know that I wanted to please my father and make him excited about me again like he was before. He was a big deal to me because he was supreme in my life back then.

You and I have since grown up, and no longer are our parents supreme to us – but someone has most likely taken their place. There is someone in our lives who is more important than all others, and the challenge for the Christian is to fight the temptation to put our spouse, our children, or some other human in that spot. Christ must be the one who we allow to reign supreme in our lives. We must recognize Him as the most important – superior to all others – and live our lives in light of this. Just as I had a driving desire to please my earthly father because I saw him as supreme, so should we desire to please our heavenly Father because He is supreme.

Supreme2

Read these words from the Apostle Paul about the supremacy of Christ from Colossians 1:15-20: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Paul clearly states that Christ is supreme (preeminent) because He is “the firstborn from the dead.” His resurrection from the grave (an event we celebrate this month with great rejoicing!) has propelled Him to supremacy over all things and all people. Because of the resurrection, Christ is the strongest, most important, most powerful One and is superior to all others. May we be reminded of this once again as we celebrate His resurrection this month, and may we live in such a way that we affirm His supremacy over us by our worship, our obedience, our delighting in Him, and our desire to please Him in all we do.

Sunday’s Advent Sermon in 18 Tweets

tweet

Sunday was the second Sunday of Advent, and I preached on 2 Peter 3:8-15. You can listen to the entire sermon here. I saw that a pastor friend of mine condense his Sunday sermon into tweets (140 characters or less), so I thought I’d try. It really boils the message down to the essentials!  Here goes…

Advent is a season of waiting, but waiting is hard. We’re tempted to give up, so Peter gives us perspective.

2 Pet 3:8 But do not overlook this one fact beloved that with the Lord one day is as 1000 years, and 1000 years as one day.

2 Pet 3:9a The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you…

2 Pet 3:9b …not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

God “delays” because every moment that passes is another moment that a non-believer can repent and believe.

But, the Lord will return. Judgment will come. His patience will end. It will be unexpected for the unprepared.

God’s judgment of sin, the wicked, and the unrepentant will be absolutely, categorically complete.

Therefore, Christians must live lives of holiness and godliness while waiting. And it looks like this:

1. Be diligent (make haste) to be found by Him without spot or blemish (1 Pet 3:14)

Make haste to continually forsake sin and diligently practice prayer, praise, Scripture intake, worship, communion, fellowship.

By the way, we do all of this on Sundays together!

2. Be diligent (make haste) to be found by Him at peace (1 Pet 3:14) But how?

Phil 4:6 Don’t be anxious about anything, but pray and make requests of God with thanksgiving.

Phil 4:7 And when you do, the unexplainable peace of God will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

3. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation. (2 Pet 3:15)

2 Cor 5:20 We are ambassadors for Christ as God makes His appeal through us.

Every day the Lord “delays” His return is another day for us to be ambassadors for Him to unbelievers.

In conclusion, while you await His return, grow in holiness and godliness – and share your faith!

You Go To Hell If…

I’ve always liked Tony Campolo. He came and spoke at my university 25 years ago, and afterward, he spoke with about 6 of us guys back in our dorm. His articulation of the gospel of Jesus (through his words and lifestyle) was compelling and convicting – and still is. He’s 78 years old now, but his message is still as powerful as ever. Recently, Stephen Bracht, a guy from my church, spent a few weeks in Philadelphia working on his master’s degree. He told me that while he was there, he and his classmates had lunch with Campolo. Someone filmed it, and I got to watch it. It was vintage Campolo. Here’s a small clip from that luncheon – and by the way, my friend Stephen is the guy in the red!

[youtube]http://youtu.be/27Q7AsTwLLk[/youtube]

I’m A Liturgical Baptist (If There Is Such A Thing!)

liturgyThe church I pastor is a baptist church.  We were founded almost 40 years ago by a conservative baptist church planter, and our statement of faith would make most baptists very happy.  But join us on a Sunday morning, and you might seriously question our baptist roots.  Why?  Because we incorporate a good deal of liturgy in of our worship service.  We’re “liturgical baptists” (crazy, I know!), and here’s why.

Our lives are ruled by liturgy.  At its most basic meaning, liturgy is a customary repertoire of ideas, phrases, or observances.  Every day, our culture presses its liturgy upon us, and often, we succumb to it without even knowing it.  And it shapes us.

So, when we gather together as Christ-followers and Christ-worshippers on Sunday mornings at Foothills Fellowship, we engage in a counter-cultural liturgy.  This liturgy consists of singing, prayer, confession, the public reading of the Scriptures—including the assurance of our forgiveness from God’s Word, the preaching of the Word, and receiving communion.

We are called as God’s people to be shaped by Lord and by His Word.  Therefore, our liturgy on Sunday mornings is designed to shape us in this way.  Our prayer is that this shaping on Sunday will make for a meaningful and beneficial time of worship and will serve as a model for the rest of the week as we resist the shaping of our culture’s liturgy and allow ourselves to be shaped by the Lord.

Here’s an interesting blog post I stumbled across by a former Bob Jones fundamentalists turned catholic priest about the move of more and more churches doing what we’re doing.

The Consumation of God’s Kingdom

This is an addendum to my sermon on September 4, 2011.

AN EVENING OF ESCHATOLOGY

On September 27, 2009, Desiring God and Bethlehem College and Seminary hosted “An Evening on Eschatology” at the Downtown Campus of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. It was a discussion/debate moderated by John Piper (pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church and founder of Desiring God Ministries) about the return of Jesus with Jim Hamilton (professor of New Testament at Southern Seminary in Louisville), Sam Storms (pastor of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City), and Doug Wilson (pastor of Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho).  I showed two clips from this during my sermon.  Click the image below for the video in its entirety:


MAIN BELIEFS ABOUT “END TIMES” PROPHECY

Historical Premillennialism
This belief was held by a large percentage of Christians during the first three centuries of the Christian era.  The Antichrist first appears on earth and the seven year Tribulation begins. Next comes the Rapture. Christ and his Church return to earth to rule for a Millennium. The faithful will spend eternity in the New Jerusalem which is a gigantic cubical structure, some 1,380 miles height, width and depth, which will have descended to Earth.

Dispensational Premillennialism
Declared a heresy in ancient times, was reintroduced circa 1830. Premillenialism received general acceptance by most Fundamentalists and other Evangelical Christians after the publishing of the Scofield Reference Bible in 1909. As in Historic Premillennialism, the Tribulation is believed to precede the second coming of Christ, and the subsequent establishment of the millennial kingdom — a thousand-year golden age on Earth. The Final Judgment follows the millennium. But, theologians are divided over the timing of the Rapture. Many Premillennialists search world events and signs in the heavens for some indication of the Tribulation, which they anticipate will arrive at any time.

Amillennialism
Amillennialists believe that the millennium is not an actual physical realm on Earth. They do not believe that it will last 1,000 years. Rather it began at the time of Pentecost and is currently active in the world today through the presence of the heavenly reign of Christ, the Bible, the Holy Spirit and the activities of Christian faith groups. Both good and evil will continue in the world during this time. Lawlessness, a falling away from the Church, and persecution of Christians will increase in magnitude. Finally, the current Church Age will end suddenly at Christ’s second coming. A type of rapture will happen when Christ returns: believers will rise to meet Jesus in the sky. All will then shortly return to Earth. The Day of Judgment will then occur. Events described in The Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21) and in most of the book of Revelation are seen as occurrences which have already happened, or which are symbolic in nature and not to be taken literally. The Antichrist is looked upon figuratively and not as a real person.

This belief was held by many leaders of the early Christian church during the first and second centuries. Simultaneously, other leaders — perhaps the majority — taught a version of premillennialism that is very different from today’s dispensational premillennialism. St. Augustine (354 – 430 AD), often called the “Father of Amillennialism” was largely responsible for the establishment of amillennialism as the formal church belief. It remained the generally accepted system throughout Christianity until after the Reformation in the 16th century. Many Christian denominations — including the Anglican Communion, Disciples of Christ, Lutheran, Orthodox, Reformed, Roman Catholic, and some Baptists continue to teach Amillennialism.

Postmillennialism
This belief arose during the early 19th century. Postmillennialism involves the view of last things which holds that the kingdom of God is now being extended in the world through the preaching of the gospel and the saving work of the Holy Spirit, that the world eventually is to be Christianized, and that the return of Christ will occur at the close of a long period of righteousness and peace, commonly called the millennium.  The theory is based on the perception of a gradual movement towards social perfection. The entire human race is converted to Christianity, including the Jews. A millennium of peace and righteousness follows. After the millennium, Jesus returns to earth, resurrects the dead believers, and conducts the last judgment. The Rapture and Tribulation are largely ignored.

Preterism
This is a belief that the events prophesied in the New Testament have already happened. The great war of Armageddon in the book of Revelation occurred in the late 60’s and early 70’s AD when the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, many Jews were killed and the rest were driven from Palestine. When Jesus talked about the end of the world, he did not mean that the physical world would be no more. He taught that the old worldview held by various contemporary Jewish groups was coming to an end, to be replaced by a new concept, the Kingdom of God. Thus, all of the major elements in the book of Revelation (Tribulation, Armageddon, Rapture, etc.) actually took place in the first century.

No Millennialism
Most skeptics and liberal Christian theologians largely interpret the contents of the books of Daniel and Revelation as having no prophetic information for our future. Many regard Revelation as being composed of visions, hallucinations or nightmares of the author, of little meaning for Christians today. Some believe that the purpose of the book of Revelation was to stiffen resolve in the early Christian movement to withstand persecution by the Roman Empire. Thus, its purpose was to predict persecutions and other events that were to happen to the early Christian church. They also reject the apparent prophecies in the Book of Daniel. They believe that Daniel was written early in the 2nd century BC, long after most of the events had actually happened. It was history recorded, not their future prophesied.


THE RAPTURE

Some of the above positions contain the belief  that the church will be “raptured” or “be caught up” in the air to meet Jesus – but there are different beliefs about when the rapture will take place.  Here’s a look at the main beliefs about the Rapture:

Pre-Tribulation Rapture
The Rapture happens just before the Tribulation, so that believers will not have to experience any of its disruption and pain. The main difficulties with pre-trib are contained in the Olivet Prophecy of Jesus. In Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, Jesus describes the terrible destruction and loss of life of the tribulation period. The disaster is believed to be so intense that no human (Christian or non-Christian alike) would remain alive, except that God shortens the duration of the disaster for the sake of the believers. Jesus then continues by describing his return towards earth immediately after the terrible devastation. From this passage, it is obvious that the rapture will follow the Tribulation. The supporters of the “pre-trib” position suggest that Jesus will have a total of three comings: the first during the first century; the second at the start of the tribulation, and a third at the end of the tribulation.

Post-tribulation Rapture
The faithful experience the full horrors of the entire Tribulation and are raptured only at the end of the 7 years. The main problem with this theory is that there are many Bible passages which state that Christ’s return will be at a time that cannot be predicted. But the Tribulation period starts with the arrival of the Antichrist and an interval of peace. Precisely 42 months later, a sudden shift occurs, a peace treaty is broken, and devastation begins. These would be well defined dates that would allow an accurate prediction of the end of the Tribulation. There are other weaknesses to this theory.

Mid-Tribulation Rapture
The Rapture happens 42 months into the Tribulation. Up to that time, the Antichrist brings peace to the world. After 42 months, events take a sudden turn for the worse. Some supporters of the “mid-trib” position suggest that there will be many mini-raptures.

Pre-wrath Rapture
This is a new theory, promoted by Marvin Rosenthal, former director of Friends of Israel, and others. Their view teaches that the church must experience most of the Tribulation, and then be raptured towards the end of the Tribulation period.

Partial Rapture
This theory teaches that the faithful born-again believers are raptured just before the Tribulation. Newly born again believers are are raptured during or at the end of the Tribulation.

God, Goods, and Hoarding

I will admit that I have watched a couple of episodes of “Hoarders” on A&E.  I’m fascinated by how incredibly bizarre the lives are of those who hoard.  Their houses are packed from top to bottom with things that they just can’t find the willpower to part with. They hoard and stash valuable things all the way down to gum wrappers until there is hardly any room in their homes for them to move around…and that’s when the cameras show up.  The people featured on this show have a serious problem, and their hoarding is often a result of some mental or emotional illness or disorder.

But I don’t hoard like that.  I’m not like them.  I throw things away, and I even give things away to those in need – sometimes.  Plus, I’m married to a woman with the gift of hospitality, which is accompanied by the gift of housecleaning. She has taught me well!  Hoarders have a problem.  I don’t.

Or do I?  Obviously the kind of hoarding featured on the show is the extreme, but after reading this quote by one of my Christian heroes, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I’m not so sure I don’t have a problem myself.  He wrote these words in his benchmark book, The Cost of Discipleship:

“Earthly goods are given to be used, not to be collected. In the wilderness God gave Israel the manna every day, and they had no need to worry about food and drink. Indeed, if they kept any of the manna over until the next day, it went bad. In the same way, the disciple must receive his portion from God every day. If he stores it up as a permanent possession, he spoils not only the gift, but himself as well, for he sets his heart on accumulated wealth, and makes it a barrier between himself and God. Where our treasure is, there is our trust, our security, our consolation and our God. Hoarding is idolatry.”

I’m not convinced that having a savings is sin, nor am I convinced that I should give everything I own away and expect God to replenish me anew every morning with the things I gave away the day before.  Many of the things I have are things God has given me that I need for the sustenance of me and my family.  However, I have many things I don’t need.

I’ve moved my family 11 times in the 18 years I’ve been married.  I’ve hauled a lot of things from place to place to place.  I’m also well aware that there are many in my scope of influence who do not have what they need.  I have dabbled in hoarding, and I don’t think I feel very good about it after all.  May the Lord continue to press on us the truth that He has blessed us in order to be a blessing to others, and may He remind us often of these words penned by the Apostle Paul.

I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.  As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.” (2 Corinthians 8:13-15)