Category Archives: Theology

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.

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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.

Ashes, Dust & Repentance

AshWed2015

Today is Ash Wednesday, a day that begins the season of Lent for Christians. There are 40 days (minus Sundays) until Easter, and the season of Lent is a time for Christians everywhere to prepare themselves to celebrate that glorious day. Tonight, I will observe the beginning of the Lent season with my congregation by administering (and receiving) ashes on our foreheads.

Tonight, my congregation will be reminded that the Lent season is all about preparing for Easter through repentance and renewal. We will be reminded of our sin, and we will be called upon to repent. In our service tonight, we will sing together, we will recite Scripture together, we will pray together, and we will receive a cross of ashes on our foreheads. The ash will serve as a reminder of the biblical principle from Genesis 3:19 which says, “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” And because we are dust, and because to dust we shall return, repentance and renewal is essential. We will be reminded again tonight that full and complete reliance upon our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is essential.

The practice of placing ashes on the forehead has its roots in the Old Testament (book of Ezekiel) when an angel of the Lord was told to “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.” Tonight will be a night when we will be reminded of our sin (reminded to sigh and groan over it), and then encouraged to begin a time of remembrance and thanksgiving for the work of Christ on the cross when He – once and for all – forgave us of our sins and cleansed us from all of our unrighteousness.

Lent is to be marked by discipline and fasting with the goal of death to sin, but our eyes must not stay down. They must look ahead to Easter, a day when the fasting comes to end…a day of unbridled laughter and celebration. A day when all creation rejoices and marvels at the gift from God: our Savior, Lord, and King, Jesus Christ.

Richard R. Potter “Dad” Mar. 6, 1944 – Mar. 13, 2013

One year ago today, I received a call that I did not expect to receive. It was from my brother-in-law saying that my dad had suddenly died.

Yes. I knew my dad had stage 4 cancer, but I had just been with him a week earlier, and although he was skinny and weak, it seemed like he had more time left. He was up and around quite a bit. He celebrated his birthday with the family and even went to church. I was planning to return to Ohio to visit him in April. But on Monday, March 12, my mom said that my dad was having a bad day. So I sent him a text – expecting that I would talk to him soon on the phone or on Skype and then see him in person in a few weeks.

I still have the text conversation with my dad from that day on my phone. I wrote: “I hear you are not having a good day. I’m sorry that you are hurting. I am praying for you and will continue to do so. Love you.” He wrote back: “Think I’m messing around with the flu. Thanks for your prayers and love. I appreciate you so much. Love Dad.” That was the last conversation we would have. He was taken to the hospital in the middle of the night and passed away the next day. March 13.

Death sucks. Losing your dad sucks. Living without your dad sucks. I’m not happy that he’s no longer here. He was only 69 years old. Way too young. I miss him and still experience waves of sadness and disbelief that he’s gone. I know my siblings do too.

I believe that my dad is with the Lord, and I often find myself asking the Lord to tell my dad that I love him, that I’m happy for him, and that my family is ok. This is not something I ever envisioned myself doing – asking the Lord to speak to someone who has died – but death has a funny way of tweaking one’s theology.

I dream often about my dad. Most of the time he’s sick and frail in my dreams and the dark cloud of his impending death is present. So today – on the one year anniversary of his death – I’m posting a picture of my dad when he was healthy. He loved New Mexico, and this is a picture of us after taking the train to Santa Fe and preparing for a delicious NM feast! This is how I hope to remember him and dream about him once the nearness of his death has passed.

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Good News? Really?!

In Luke’s gospel, he calls what John the Baptist preached “good news.”  (Luke 3:18)  However, the news that Luke called “good” included burning in an unquenchable fire.  (Luke 3:17)

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John preached that when Jesus comes, He will separate the wheat (those who repent and follow Him) from the chaff (those who don’t repent and follow Him).  Jesus will gather the wheat and protect it from the unquenchable fire, but he will gather the chaff and throw it into said fire.  Luke calls this “good news.” Really?  Good news?

Truth is – sin leads to death (an unquenchable fire).  The good news is that repentance changes everything.  Repentance evokes the protection (the salvation) of God, which was won by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  You can’t have good news without first understanding the bad news.

Theologian Darrell Bock explains, “The preacher must bear good news as well as news that exposes sin. A preacher of God’s message must be balanced in delivering both messages. Forgiveness cannot occur except where one realizes responsibility for sin and repents of it.” (Luke: The NIV Application Commentary, p. 117)

Are you proclaiming the good news in its entirety?
Carefully.
Tactfully.
Lovingly.

The good news isn’t good without the bad news too.

Did Jesus Sin When He Was Young?

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In Luke 2, we see 12-year-old Jesus staying behind in Jerusalem for three days without telling his parents. They leave to head back home after celebrating the Passover Feast, thinking he is a part of their caravan of relatives and friends, only to discover at the end of the day that he is not with them. It’s every parent’s nightmare, and Jesus deliberately put them through it. Luke’s account says that his parents were panicked and in great distress. It took them another two days to finally locate Jesus, and when they did find him in the temple, Jesus (seemingly nonchalantly) says, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Did Jesus dishonor his parents by doing this? Did he disobey them? Isn’t is a bad thing for a child to deliberately stay behind when his parents are expecting him to go back home with them? On the surface, it looks like 12-year-old Jesus may have committed a sin toward his parents. But the Scriptures later confirm that Jesus was without sin. So what’s the deal?

The “deal” is in the context.  One has to wonder why Luke included only this event from Jesus’ childhood.  In the episode before this event, Jesus is an infant.  In the episode after this event, Jesus is 29 years old.  So why did Luke include only this event among all the other things that Jesus did growing up?  Maybe it’s because Luke saw this event as being pivotal to the developing revelation of who Jesus really was.

In the infant episode Luke records right before this, Simeon and Anna declare Jesus to be the long-awaited Messiah.  In the episode following this (Luke 3), Luke introduces us to John the Baptist – who was appointed by God to ready Israel for the coming of Jesus.  John declares that Jesus is the Messiah and will soon come on the scene.

The temple episode is also one where Luke reveals Jesus’ Messiahship, but it takes a little work to see it.  But, when we see Jesus’ actions in the context of his Messiahship, then we see that he in fact did not sin against his parents.

Twelve-year-old Jesus was making a point.  He was in his final year of studies before he would go through his bar mitzvah and become an adult in the Jewish community.  He was beginning the process of pulling away from his earthly parents (as all Jewish boys that age would be doing), but for Jesus, this process would have been even more heightened by the fact that his “real” Father is God – not Joseph.  He was breaking away from his earthly parents and transitioning into a relationship of submission to his heavenly Father.  As an adult, Jesus would say, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38)  The temple episode is the beginning of this transition.  It’s no wonder Luke records that his parents didn’t understand what Jesus was doing.

Jesus was giving them (and us) a glimpse into his true identity as Messiah – even at this young age.  As one scholar puts it, “This event was a temporary unveiling of Jesus’ relationship with his Father.  It remained a secret epiphany, a momentary glimpse through a curtain into a private room.” (Commentary on Luke by Howard Marshall, pg. 129)

So, did young Jesus sin? No.  Did what Jesus did confuse and scare his parents half-to-death? Yes.  Does what Jesus did require an understanding of context for us to be assured that he did not sin? Yes – at least for me.

Luke records that upon being found by his parents, Jesus went home with them and “was submissive to them.”  What a fascinating childhood Jesus must have lived!  Fully man (or should I say “fully boy”) and fully God.  There were probably a lot of things he did that confused his parents, relatives, and peers.  I wish more about his childhood would have been recorded, but Luke – and the other Gospel writers – chose not to.  The temple episode, then, was so significant that it was the only glimpse into his childhood we get.

Jesus is the Christ, the long awaited Messiah, the glory of Israel and a light of salvation for the rest of us.

Faith vs. Reason

Faith says to God: “I believe what you say.” But reason scoffs.

When we pay attention to reason, God seems to propose impossible matters in the Christian Creed. To reason it seems absurd that Christ should offer His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper; that Baptism should be the washing of regeneration; that the dead shall rise; that Christ the Son of God was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary, etc.

Reason shouts that all this is preposterous. Are you surprised that reason thinks little of faith?

Reason thinks it ludicrous that faith should be the foremost service any person can render unto God.

Let your faith supplant reason!

From Martin Luther’s Commentary on Galatians