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mindstorm Blog

Preaching and the Progress of Life

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Back when I joined this website 10 years ago life was different than now. I remember joining so that I could talk about Final Fantasy VII with others while I was in class. Over time I would join in the religious debates of Off Topic. I had no idea who I would be today.

Life is exciting and God has been more gracious to me than I deserve. Life has had its ups and downs since I joined and I am in one of those high periods of life. As a simple example, just over the last few days I have walked along the ocean shore with my beautiful girlfriend, I have laughed with friends and family, and I was given the opportunity to be a guest preacher at a local church.

I do not know where life is going to take me but I am excited to see where it will go. I am blessed and I hope to be a good steward with those blessings by being appreciative and thankful for all things.

With regard to this past Sunday, I was asked to preach at a local church. This church's attendence was about 200 people being not only the largest congregation that I have preached to but this is the first time I was asked to preach in a church that was not my own. The pastor of this church was even so kind and gracious to me as to invite leaders of other churches in the area of themselves are in search of a pastor. I am not certain that a church position will come of it but I was at the very least blessed with the opportunity.

Just because I have grown to know so many of you here I am providing a link to any who might be interested in viewing my sermon. Expect to see a nervous guy who stumbles over his words. I am not yet perfect in my craft. I am not yet comfortable in front of crowds. Even still, I am satisfied with the result of my efforts. It's not perfect but I seek to speak of one who is perfect.

A Cynical Response to the Internet's Cynicism

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Go to the comments on Youtube, any news website, or even people's personal facebook page and you will quickly see a strong cynicism. The internet is home to those who enjoy bringing insults to others for here the anonymity brings safety.

Those who are the most cleaver with their insults seem to win the day and receive the most likes, thumbs up, or karma. Where anyone and everyone can spout their opinion a competition of pride and superiority runs lose. Whether it be correcting grammar, taking advantage of grammatical ambiguity, or mockery over differences of opinion, the internet is a place where adolescent jeering gains the greatest jeering.

A form of it has been referred to as trolling which at its root is simply being a prick simply because one is able. This is always at the expense of others and is used as a means of uplifting one's own glory while diminishing the worth of another. It is done for the lols, so to speak.

But is this truly the way in which we are to behave? Darwin's survival of the fittest is being fought not with claws or weapons but with sarcasm, trollishness, and disdain.

This way of speaking to one another is not only common within the dark corners of the internet but is found within normal conversation. Is this how we are to speak to one another?

Within the Christian Scriptures the Apostle Paul has something to say about it. Ephesians 4:29 states, "Let no corrupting talk come out of your moths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." 

We are not to be a people who live for the sake of our own benefit but we are to live for the sake of one another. This does not simply speak of giving money to charities or not physically harming one another but we are to actively work to encourage one another.

As for those of us who are Christian, 1 Thessalonians 4 and 5 each have sections of text which give reasons for rejoicing regarding death. Chapter 4 speaks of how living believers should not mourn as those who have no hope because those who have died before us will be resurrected from the dead just as Jesus was raised for the dead. Chapter 5 then speaks of how those who are in Christ should live differently because of the hope of our own resurrections. At the end of each of these sections Paul tells his readers that they should "therefore . . . encourage one another" and chapter 5 adds that they should also "build one another up."

Those of you who are Christian I commend to you that you should look into these words. For if Jesus called us not only to be holy but also to live on a mission to lead the rest of the world to know the grace that can be found in Jesus Christ should it not be that we actively work to build up the church? And not the church only but should it be that Christians should not be known for the same cynicism as can be found on the internet? Be a people who are known for loving another another.

Love your neighbor, Jesus commanded. Let it begin with your words. Certainly, not your words only but let your mouth be tamed so it does not bite but edify and encourage. Live not for the lols but for the sake of others so that God might be glorified.

The day no more children die

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All are aware of the Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT. Just logging onto Facebook I saw that most people had something to say about it. Some responded with anger. Some responded with sympathy. Most responded with some mixture.

Asside from the emotional response that it seems we all received as a result of this horrible murdering of 20 children, everyone has differing opinions on how the government should respond. Should the government restrict the use of guns? Should teachers themselves be equipped with them?

Religious responses have also come about. Some are angry at any mention of religion while others are saying that this is a judgment from God because of the wickedness that America has become.

I am not one to say why God does or does not do something. I do not know why 20 children and 6 adults had to die. Tragedy is but an understatement explaining what happened. Why a person would commit such atrocities is unfathomable within our minds.

We long for an existence free from such attrocities: a place where children are not murdered, people do not die of cancer, women are not abused, and men are not violent toward one another. We know within us that this is not how the world supposed to be.

Such motives are not always brought about by religious extremists like that of those who attacked the World Trade Center. The problem is not always incorrect beliefs about the world. The problem is much deeper. The problem is our very nature.

The Bible would agree. These things are not good and they are a result of of being in a world corrupted by sin. This corrupted world is the one in which we live and we grow almost accustomed to most of the atrocities around us.

We think nothing against the hatred we have against our brother. We excuse ourselves saying our hatred is justified. And indeed, we may very well have a justified hatred for specific others. However, we deserve no less hatred directed towards ourselves.

In Adam Lanza, the one who committed this atrocities, we see most explicitly who are are apart from Christ. I am not arguing that a person needs to be a Christian in order to be a good person. What I am arguing is that nothing but the grace of God causes us from committing atrocities ourselves. We are more desperate for the grace of God than we realize and we ought to seek after him accordingly.

This evil within us needs not last however.

There is a hope and that hope is Jesus. The good news of Christianity, the reason for which so many of us find hope in Jesus is this: though this world might be broken now there will come a glorious day when there will be no more pain, no more tragedy, and no more hatred. This fallen world will be made new.Wewill be made new.

Let us who claim to follow Christ therefore not spend all of our energies arguing that the hope of the world is more guns. The Second Amendment is not the hope of the world, Jesus is.

Let us also not be so quick to say that this tragedy is the judgment of God upon our sin. Yes, God does judge sin but sometimes tragedy happens simply because we live in a fallen and corrupted world. Let times of horror, tragedy, and hatred be the times when we most vividly display the mercies and love of God upon our neighbors.

Let our tongues be forever telling of the grace of God and the future hope that we have in Christ.

Urgency in Preaching

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Every week the average congregate knows what to expect from Pastor John Doe when he stands in his pulpit week after week. The content will be true. The content will even be based upon the text. However, that average congregate must force himself to sit through Pastor John Doe's mundane and emotionless sermons. His most evangelistic invitations are routine and repetitive. Some who listen are simply bored. Some show excitement but more out of feelings of obligation. Some do not believe Pastor John Doe even believes his own message. What is the problem here for Pastor John Doe? Certainly the problem could be a spiritual problem for him but this pastor seems to have lost his sense of urgency.

The intention behind this writing is to reinforce the urgency of the preacher within his proclamation and to look at what this accomplishes from within the pulpit. If those who call themselves preachers of the Word of God truly believe that the only way people can be reconciled with God is by way of proclaiming the truths of God then he ought to take great pains into acknowledging the necessity of gospel proclamation with great urgency from the pulpit. If the preacher does not express urgency from the pulpit then the message preached can give the impression of unimportance to the hearers.

Hell is real. This statement alone ought to be enough to drive the preacher to be a more faithful expositor. He must not only proclaim that there is a coming judgment but he must believe it to be true allowing it to effect his thinking and way of life. As John Piper states, "I must feel the truth of hellthat it exists and is terrible and horrible beyond imaginings forever and ever. 'These things will go away into eternal punishment' (Matt. 25:46). Even if I try to make the 'lake of fire' (Rev. 20:15) or the 'fiery furnace' (Matt. 13:42) a symbol, I am confronted with the terrifying thought that symbols are not overstatements but understatements of reality. Jesus did not choose these pictures to tell us that hell is easier than burning.(1)

Eternity is at stake and a right view of both heaven and hell is a necessity for faithful and urgent preaching. Faithful preachers are to believe the realities of hell when they speak and this impacts both the message and delivery of every sermon. Heaven and hell is of eternal consequence and speaking during the sermon in a way that is cold, casual, indifferent, or flippant does not do justice to the gravity of seriousness that eternity brings. If passion or pathos is not deeply ingrained in the preacher's message, even if his content is good and his life credible, his listeners will conclude that whatever does not grip the preacher's soul may not be particularly important.(2) Arguing that such things as jokes are unwelcome in the pulpit in a way that is lifeless is not the goal but so intensity being gripped by the reality of eternity should have tremendous impact upon the preacher and his preaching.(3) Their preaching [is to be] a life or death matter, for the flood [is] coming, the enemy armies [are] marching, the fires of hell [are]burning. It [is] vital that man hear from God.(4)

The God who is unseen and unapproachable has made himself known by the Word and the preacher is to continue to make himself known by way of the Word. Just as the Scriptures were written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name, may it be too that this is the very reason that the preacher proclaims the good news (John 20:31). For what other purpose is there to preach the Word? Preaching with urgency has as its purpose the of instilling of faith. Preaching that is in harmony with Gods' communication plan will make its aim to call for a faith response in the hearer. The purpose of preaching cannot be to promote church causes, . . . moral reform, . . . [or] the preacher's agenda. Whatever the subject of the sermon, the underlying purpose must be to direct the hearer toward confidence in God.(5)

Because of the weight of eternity, the seriousness of hell, and the need for gospel proclamation, the preacher is to gain the burden from the Lord as the Old Testament prophets called it. As John Piper says of himself, I want to give as strong a conviction as words can convey that the work of preaching is to be done in blood-earnestness.(6) Paul himself says too of himself in 1 Corinthians 9:16, For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! The preacher when called to preach is to gain a sacred oughtness that will cause him to proclaim the life-giving gospel with great fervor despite difficulty.(7) Evangelistic preaching is first and foremost . . . driven by internal conviction, a compulsion, even a propulsion.(8)

The eternal destinies of men and women are at stake every time he preaches. . . . He is driven, knowing the difference that obedience to the truth of God can generate. Like Jeremiah, there will be times when the preacher, because of his own humanity, will not want to speak for God; but he will find that God's word is a fire in his bones and he cannot remain silent (Jer.20:9).(9) In order that the preacher live this out in his life he must first remember who he was before being reconciled to God. Before genuine urgency can ever take place within the pulpit the preacher must have spent much time meditating upon a simple question, Do I believe it? If he does, he must preach the gospel with urgency. He must let his heart break for not only the lost outside his church walls but for his immediate hearers. He must not only believe the gospel but he must also believe his text each Sunday is of dire consequence.

The preacher must be eager to preach, and not preach only but to preach the Word, just as Paul throughout the New Testament. Eager to preach defined much of his ministry as he preached before Jews and Gentiles, in jail and in the middle of the Areopagus, at sea and in ship wreck, to Agrippa and Bernice, at Ephesus and in Rome.(10) Paul understood what it meant to be urgent in his preaching. He had a burden of the Lord from the beginning of his ministry until his death. He was, in essence, a possessed man who like Peter before him could not help but speak of what [he] has seen and heard (Acts 4:20).

Beyond the inward compelling, those who lead the flock of God are commanded within the Scriptures to preach the Word of God so that they might lead their hearers to salvation (Matt.10:7; Luke 10:9; Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-18; Luke 24:46-48; John 20:21). As Paul commands to Timothy to preach the Word within 2 Timothy 4:1, pastors are to preach the gospel if not only for the sake of their hearers but out of obedience to God. All who are in Christ are given the message of the gospel and they must be generous stewards of that gospel.

Aside from urgency effecting the inward man of the preacher, urgency expresses itself outwardly in content of the message and demeanor. Without urgency pastors can gain a too lighthearted demeanor of casualness, carelessness, and a general attitude that expresses to the congregation that nothing of eternal and infinite proportions is being spoken of from the pulpit. With seriousness comes a blood-earnestness that some might quickly associate with unfriendliness. The urgent truth of each message we preach should inflame our personalities and spread with fervor that befits God's powerful Word.(11) With the preaching of the weight of sin and hell comes, as John Piper has put said of it that gladness and gravity . . . woven together in the life and preaching of a pastor in such a way as to sober the careless soul and sweeten the burdens of the saints.(12) He continues, Love for people does not take precious realities lightly, and love for people does not load people with the burden of obedience without providing the strength of joy to help them carry it.(13) In other words, let the realities of hell motivate you but allow the joy of salvation to also motivate.

This burden for urgency does not simply influence the demeanor of the preacher but the sermon preparation itself. This means the sermon's text must first change the preacher while he is in his study. "Not only must you paint them a clear picture of Jesus, but you, as God's preacher, must incarnate the truth you are preaching about the Savior as well. The passion of preaching Christ should emanate from our total being, demonstrating that we are experiencing the Spirit's work in our own hearts as we preach. We must spend more time pleading with God to open the eyes of our listeners and less time worrying about remembering our illustrations, our punch lines, and our transition statements."(14)

If the preacher does not perceive that the congregation is in need of the Word of God specifically then his preaching of that Word is greatly influenced. The urgency to have the gospel preached should cause the preacher not to run to manipulative evangelism techniques or topical preaching that does little treatment with the text but to the preaching and expounding of the Word of God that contains the message of salvation. This talk of urgency is not solely for the purpose of motivating the preacher but its end goal is to further persuade him to the truth of the text and contagiously grip the hearts and souls of the congregation so that they might be more faithful worshipers of God. This urgent conviction influences the purposes of the preacher while in his study.

How this effects is not simply being more evangelistic at the invitation at the end of the sermon but the sermon itself looks differently. Urgency causes preaching to not merely be teaching but through persuasion calls the hearers to faithfulness. The expositor preaches theology, preaches Scripture, preaches context, but these things are never to be separated from the life-changing gospel. In his study and words his life is to be so ingrained with the gospel that he cannot help but relate all things to the good news found in Christ. Simply speaking about the things of God is not enough for him, he is compelled to call for a faith response to the clear gospel account that he details. The Peril of God's wrath, the Promise of God's love, and the Option offered to all men in God's Son. This theme, however it may very in the intensity and explicitness of its declaration, is never missing in a good sermon. This is the primary and ultimate test of whether or not a sermon is biblical, is Christian.(15) As such, the preacher does not simply preach in order to convince people of his convictions regarding secondary issues but he is compelled most to convince people of the central truths of Christianity. No secondary issue, no outside influence, no persecution, no struggle can stop the possessed preacher to keep from speaking the gospel in such a way that his hearers will know who to look to rather than the things of this world.

Preaching with urgency requires a response to that gospel. Whatever text the preacher might have for his sermon, he is to know not merely the content of the text but how that content is capable of changing the lives of those to whom he proclaims. It makes sense that one can hardly expect a sermon to impact people who don't sense the critical nature of the sermon. If you are not moved by the message, they likely will not be moved. Unfortunately, it does not take the audience long to process whether your message is marked 'urgent,' or if it's just another piece of mail to file away.(16)

One component within the sermon whether or not the message is of importance is the aspect of warning. Not to be confused with threat, sincere and humble warning expresses to the congregation an alarm as if to catch their attention. Warning sounds the alarm expressing to the people that there are consequences to not following the message. Without warning there is a false sense of security that softens the message to the point of the congregation perceiving the message to be irrelevant and unimportant. "The importance of preaching with urgency can hardly be overstated. This is clearly not a tactic but rather an orientation of the preacher to his sermon. Urgency cannot be added by the simple inclusion of certain phrases or gestures at well-timed junctures. It is a component of preaching that exists when the preacher himself is captivated by the sermon he is standing up to deliver, and it permeates his delivery with an unfeigned, unrehearsed sincerity."(17)

Such a desire for the pastor to see his hearers follow by faith the Word of God is one that causes the person to be text-driven and being text-driven causes the pastor to these convictions. The text-driven preacher therefore stays on message because he knows that only the Bible gives him the authority to declare the truth that every generation so desperately needs.(18) Urgency in preaching is the result of the preacher being captivated by the need of his specific text for his hearers. Urgency must not only be for evangelistic messages at revivals but for when the whole counsel of God's Word is preached. Is it not that all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16)? Urgency is not only to be apparent for bring people to initial faith but for all preaching to all people, especially believers. The faithful preacher must be urgent in not merely making converts but to make disciples of all nations.

Before the sermon even begins when the message is on the mind of the preacher he must call to God for passion, urgency, and conviction. The preacher must believe the text he will be preaching from matters long before he enters the pulpit because it is likely not to enter during the sermon itself. The need for the message to be preached, regardless of that message as long as itis text-driven, must first convict the preacher of his own need for it before he is every able to show others their own need for it. If you sense a lack of urgency in the days prior to the sermon, then linger in earnest prayer until God grants it. Ask Him to give you His perspective of the text you will present. Plead with Him to show you what's at stake for your congregation if they choose to ignore it.(19) Greg Heisler advices regarding prayer, Ask the Holy Spirit to burn into your heart the burden for lost souls to come to Christ through the preaching of the cross.(20)

As for the introduction to the sermon itself, the sermon's sense of urgency must be apparent from the beginning. Long, drawn-out introductions can at times point people away from the urgency of the message. Rambling and speaking too long within an illustration does not simply cause disinterest but wastes people's time when it could be used encouraging peoplein the gospel. Words cannot be wasted on trivial things. Those opening moments of the sermon are to be designed in such a way as to express to the congregation that this message is of importance. That they lean forward and listen due to the preacher's urgency is the goal. Whether or not they initially believed the message to be of importance, that they know the preacher believes it to be important is a must. Specifically with regard to the conclusion to sermons, sermons with a sense of urgency do more than simply summarize what was stated within the body of the text but is a passionate and concerned last moment call for the hearers to grasp the overarching content of the message. Though obviously having an invitation, the conclusion is an urgent call for all to be obedient to the text preached. This moment ought to reflect the challenge a coach gives moments before a big game.

Romans 10:15 proclaims, How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news! Preaching matters because God has spoken. God has spoken through his Word and for those he has called to proclaim that Word, they must do so faithfully and with great urgency. No message matters more than the gospel of reconciliation between God and man and the preacher must believe it, he must live it, and he must proclaim it. Urgency in preaching ought to drive the preacher to be bold in his proclamation with nothing to stop him because of his conviction, his conviction that the gospel is worth proclaiming. Urgency is not so much the goal but it is the outworking of the gospel working in the preacher's life. As such, if anything else can be gained from this writing, remember the gospel and proclaim it like you believe it.

___________________________

(1) John Piper, Brother We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry (Nashville: B&H, 2002), 114.

(2) Paige Patterson, Ancient Rhetoric: A Model for Text-Driven Preaching, in Text-Driven Preaching, ed. Daniel L. Akin, David L. Allen, and Ned L. Mathews (Nashville; B&H, 2010), 31.

(3) John Piper, Supremacy of God in Preaching (Michigan; Baker Books, 2004), 103.

(4) Wayne V. McDill, The Moment of Truth: A Guide to Effective Sermon Delivery (Nashville,B&H, 1999), 5.

(5) McDill, 15.

(6) Piper, Supremacy of God in Preaching, 54.

(7) Ramesh Richard, Preparing Evangelistic Sermons: A Seven-Step Method for Preaching Savlation (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2005), 19.

(8) Ibid.

(9) Patterson, 30-31.

(10) Kyle Haseldon, The Urgency of Preaching (New York; Harper & Row, 1963), 25.

(11) Michael Fabarez, Preaching That Changes Lives, (Nashville; Thomas Nelson, 2002), 103.

(12) Piper, Supremacy of God in Preaching, 55.

(13) Ibid., 56.

(14) Greg Heisler, Spirit-Led Preaching: The Holy Spirit's Role in Sermon Preparation and Delivery (Nashville; B&H, 2007), Kindle location 838.

(15) Haseldon, 41.

(16) Fabarez, 100.

(17) Ibid.

(18) Ned L. Mathews, The Disciplines of a Text-Driven Preacher, in Text-Driven Preaching, ed. Daniel L. Akin, David L. Allen, and Ned L. Mathews (Nashville; B&H, 2010), 88.

(19) Fabarez, 101.

(20) Heisler, Kindle location 1435.

An unpostable post.

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I had technical issues posting this in Off Topic, let's see if it is as bad here.

Let's do this. I'm ready for an argument.GS user

Due to time constraints I myself am not ready for an argument, but I can respond to your first point.

Here in John 1:1 you presuppose English grammar is to work the same way upon a completely different language. Essentially, the article does not work the same way in Greek as it does in English and to base an entire argument on this without actually knowing Greek is bad argumentation. If you were to actually attempt to read the Greek and acknowledge article usage then you'd see that articles behave extremely different in Greek than English. A simple example of this would be the lack of such thing as an indefinite article. In fact, theretrullyis no "definite" article but simply an article that does not necessarily denotedefinitcy.

However, I do know Koine Greek.

John 1:1 states this, "?? ???? ?? ? ????? ??? ? ????? ?? ???? ??? ???? ??? ???? ?? ? ?????." Here is a breakdown of the usage in a very literal translation.

?? ???? (In beginning) - Note here in this verysentencewe would expect in English for an article to be here but it is not due to different usage.

?? ? ????? (was the Word) - "?" is the article in its nominative usage.

??? ? ????? (and the Word) - same as above.

?? ???? ??? ???? (was from the God) - "???" is the article but is in reference to????its accusative form.

??? ???? (and God) - No article here as you say. However, the lack of article is not here does not mean that it is "a God" as we would in English but it is referencing back to the previous usage just two letters before. Here we see what is refered to as the anaphoric usage of the article in that it references back to a previous usage of the same word before. The???? here is the exact same God mentioned just before. One could thus easily understand the text to say this, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and this God was the Word" or purhaps, "the Word was this God." Certainly there is no demonistrative pronoun in this sentence but the meaning would be the same with or without it.

?? ? ????? (was the Word). - And finally, this God who is spoken of was - is, in fact - the Word who is spoken of. This Word, as verse 14 suggests, became Jesus. The Word is the Son of God incarnate, the invisible God made visible, Jesus Christ.

Also of note, to refer to this word we are discussing as the definite article is wrong in and of itself. As there exists only one article in Greek there is simple the article. What does this article typicially denote? Rather than it expressing how "definite" a noun might be it expresses attention. Or rather, it functions to direct the reader's attention.

This exact usage of the Greek article is not limited to John 1:1 but it is also used elsewhere. Take for example Ephesians 2:8 which begins "For by grace you have been saved" and can also be translated "For by this grace you have been saved." This "grace" relates back to the proceeding verse which states, "so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." This grace is but the same grace just as this God in John 1:1 who was the Word is the same God who was with the Word.

Also of note, much of your debate is simply trying to read the Bible without acknowledging the doctrine of the Trinity. You seem to think Jesus' humanity and Jesus' Godhood are contradictory but every orthodox (little "o") Christian to have ever lived would say that he is both fully God and fully man.

The World is Screaming

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I came into contact with a song that I fell in love with upon hearing. It's The World is Screaming by Bradley Hathaway.

A fallen star shoots across the sky.
And a woman with no family wishing to die.
A mother buries her newborn son.
And a father in his office holding a gun.
A little girl touched in places she should never be.
A little boy left to live alone in the streets.
A wife who doesn't know how to be faithful.
And a husband that can't seem to keep his cool.

And the world is screaming [4x]

Fistful of anger and hearts full of hurt.
Dreams that took gothemland dead in the dirt.
They say the temperature is rising and the water will too.
Isn't really anything that we can do.
There's plenty of bread but the corrupt won't share.
Where are all those who are supposed to care.
We're all waiting for a messiah to come.
But we can't agree on who he is or which or so on.

And the world is screaming [4x]

He came in a manger he was born in a stable.
And he did what no man before he was able.
And he lived a perfect life he forgave us or not.
Convinced a few that he was the Son of God.
But his Father was good, his Father had a plan.
So he handed him over to be killed by man.
They beat him and they beat him and they hung him on a tree.
He asked his Father "Why have you forsaken me?"
But his Father was good, his Father had a plan.
So he raised him back to life and now he is sitting at his right hand.
He listens to us, he hears our pleas, he joins with us on our knees.

And the world is screaming [4x]

And the world is screaming.
And the world is screaming.
And the world is screamingbut you can't tell me nobody is listening.

Being a New Creation

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Perhaps there are two ways we can worship God - by worshipping him for who he is and by worshipping him for what he has done.

At the least in the moment in looking back across the vast majority of my worship experiences and general amazement at God I have done so with the mindset of the former. Though such a thing is of great worth in and of itself, perhaps I do not and have not worshipped God enough because of his actions.

Then what has he done? Certainly here I could get into a discussion regarding Jesus being our high priest, our intercessor, our sacrifice, and our redemption. I could also speak of such principles like that of the Substitutionary Atonement. However, I will, at the least in the moment, hold that off for a moment and speak more individually and rephrase the question.

What has Jesus Christ done in my own life? He has made me a new person.

As I have once had in a signature and as is stated above from 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new." Just a quick reading of this passage brings me to near tears because of what he has brought me from.

Then in what way am I a "new person"? In what way has Jesus changed my life? Well, you see, I was once a religious person. Typically with that response people become confused. I will explain.

I grew up as a mama's boy who wanted nothing more than to make my parents proud of me. What then would make her more proud than me than joining the church, getting baptized, and being of high standing moral character? As such, that is exactly what I did. As time passed, I gained not only the approval of my mom and some of my family but I gained the approval of many more.

I became the young "preacher boy" who even adults would admire. I gained social status in church, I gained respect for high moral character from friends, and I gained the trust of everyone. I loved it and was enthralled with how amazing and holy I was.

By the time high school ended I continued farther with going to a university to gain a degree in Christian Studies. The professors loved Jesus and taught him well. However, the Gospel message of Jesus Christ still did not click in my brain. The knowledge I was gaining did nothing but make me more arrogant and more proud as anyone who knew me would testify.

Soon I fell in love and found who was to be my "preacher's wife." I was loving life.

That is, until she left. I felt like I lost everything. I lost the one I thought was to be the love of my life, and I lost my moral superiority complex due to much sin in my life. What had been so important to me had been lost.

Previously I had been placing my faith in my own moral character, my knowledge of Scripture, a girl, and my own ability. However, all of it came crushing down and all I could do was call out to God for help.

I told God that nothing else mattered to me in this world outside of God himself. God then became my goal rather than the means to my own goals. Though I knew much of the things of God and had been claiming to follow him (in fact, thought I was), I did not know Jesus.

In giving Jesus my hopes, dreams, wishes, and desires I became a new person. Things may not have gotten better immediately after these events but something within myself changed. I finally understood grace.

With my fall I realized that I was in need of God and despirately so. As such, what room was there for moral superiority and pride? If I were to be made right before God it would be because of his work, not my own.

After many years of "following Jesus" I had finally found joy in Christ.

Certainly there have days since when life has sucked and when I have not been of most noble character, but Jesus is now my hope, not merely the means to my own end.

Life since has been an interesting journey as I have slowly been transformed into a closer image of my savior. I certainly have a long ways to go but my God has shown much mercy in saving a wretch like me.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

T'was Grace that taught...
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear...
the hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares...
we have already come.
T'was Grace that brought us safe thus far...
and Grace will lead us home.

The Lord has promised good to me...
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be...
as long as life endures.

When we've been here ten thousand years...
bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise...
then when we've first begun.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

There is a since in which the above is not as coherent and organized as I prefer. This is in part because I haven't done enough thinking about these things. Much of my mind wonderings is typically about more "abstract" theology and philosophical thought than personal experiences. As such, a lot of the above is what I have observed of myself after the fact, not during the events.

The Preeminence of Christ

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I was asked to speak of Paul's understanding of Christ as according to Colossians 1:13-18 and I figured I post my response here.

Who is Christ to the Apostle Paul and in what manner do we who preach Christ think of Christ as according to Colossians 1:13-18? In following the line of thought from the context immediately preceding the text, Paul thanks God for and prays for the Christians at Colossae for their work in the ministry. In this prayer Paul seeks strength from the power of Christ for the purpose of their endurance and joyful patience in sharing the grace that has been bestowed upon them. To what extent does Jesus Christ have power? Under what authority does Jesus govern the heavens so that they might live lives fully pleasing to God?

Paul begins in verse 13 with explaining that it is by means of Jesus Christ that they who are inheritors of God's grace are delivered from their own sin and God's wrath by way of transferring them into the kingdom of God. By way of Jesus' authority as God's beloved Son those who were enemies of God, slaves of sin, receivers of the curse of Adam, and servants of Satan are welcomed into the kingdom and family of God with full pardon of sin and an inheritance of being saints of light in both this life and even more so in the kingdom to come.

He who imparts this undeserved gift is one who is the visible manifestation of the invisible God. The infinite is bound and expressed within the person of Jesus Christ, the Son and visible manifestation of God himself. He is the representative of God the Father and the one through whom the will of God is most exceededly accomplished. The visible representation is not the only way in which God expresses himself through Jesus, but it is by way of Jesus, the Word of God made incarnate, that the creation itself came into being. As God spoke, the speaking was through Jesus – by him all that has breath is to call creator, by him all that exists finds its origin, by him every law of the created order, whether moral or within physics, finds its law-giver. There exists nothing within the created order that comes before him or is above him because it is by way of Jesus Christ that everything has its being.

Jesus Christ, being of utmost power and authority is the one through whom the laws of the universe is defined. Through nothing but his grace and joy does the creation itself continue to exist because by him, through him, and for him does all that exist continue to be.

As governor and lord of all of creation, he is also the head of the church. Under his authority, will, and work do those who call themselves of God find their mercy, grace, power, and allegiance. Through this power that is bestowed upon Jesus Christ the church as his bride and his body find their own power. As the body of Christ, the church itself represents as ambassadors the one through whom the creation finds its origin and redemption. Through him, his creation of the world, his atoning death upon the cross, his defeat of sin and death by way of resurrection, and his continued lordship of all of creation at the right hand of God does the church and the world find its God, its savior, and its soon coming king.

Hating Hell

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There are some days I wish I were a Universalist.

Now do not get me wrong here, I am very much theologically conservative and believe the only way to know God is through Jesus. As such, to put it bluntly, apart from Jesus one will know nothing after this life but eternal hell. This is not a doctrine that I am willing to change.

However, some days believing this doctrine to be true absolutely sucks. Let me explain.

About 6-7 months ago I transferred to a new location for my job so that I might be able to go back to seminary. As such, I have met knew people and along the way have tried, as American Christianity calls it, to be a "good witness." I have sought to be a kind and generous person who mentions Jesus enough to be known as "that guy" who is a little bit too much odd for God.

Though I never would have considered my coworkers to be mere projects, I have perhaps done this unintentionally by thinking of them as people who must be evangelized rather than as friends who need Christ just as I do.

Up until this point believing that Jesus is the only way with them hasn't been an issue. However, I now consider them to be my friends.

Between the many laughs at work and the many invitations to the bars at night (where I awkwardly only eat and order water), I have grown to care for me not as simple "evangelistic projects" but as friends. This evangelistic project of mine has become personal.

Can I say that believing your friends and portions of your family are going to know nothing but the wrath of God is a difficult thing to grasp?

Tonight I went with three friends out to a bar after work. Though he did not have to for his benefit and not even because I was in financial need, a homosexual friend of mine paid for my food.

I'm not entirely certain as to why, but this act of kindness broke me. During the 35 minute drive home I spent the entirety of it in tears as I prayed for him and the rest of my friends.

If I might be able to use understatement, I do not wish for my friend Danny and his partner to go to hell. My emotions and response to this statement is all over the place. Beyond this, I am speechless.

Christianity, Simply Put

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This here that I wrote was not thought out in terms of keeping any type of beat or rhyme but merely is the way the content laid itself out. I would not even consider it poetry. This is simply the message of Jesus.

You, man, were created by an infinite God.

He is good, he is holy, and he is righteous.

In the beginning the earth was good.

We knew God, we walked with God, and we lived in peace.

We broke that peace and sought to make war with God.

We became dead in our sin, we deserved eternal death.

God said, "You broke it but I'm going to buy it,

For I will make the earth shine with my glory!"

He promised an imperishable seed called the Son of Man,

He is good, he is holy, and he is righteous.

He died the death that we deserve and paid the dept of sin.

Through this Son of God we might know this redeemer God.

This giver of life did not stay in the grave but rose from death.

Through this teacher we called Hosanna we too shall raise.

On that last day when he returns he will fix what was broken.

We'll know God, we'll walk with God, and we'll live in peace.