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Friday, February 21, 2014

Would a Good God Send People to Hell? Message Outline

Would a Good God Send People to Hell?
Luke 16:18-25
Know Why You (Can) Believe, Part 8

1.    Know that how we live has consequences
Luke 16:19–22 (ESV) 19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried,

2.    And that if we die without repenting our fate is irreversible
Luke 16:22–26 (ESV) 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’

3.    So we must hear and heed God’s offer of mercy now

Luke 16:27–31 (ESV) 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ”
Questions for Discussion:
·      What do you think about this statement? “An individual should arrive at his or her own religious beliefs independent of any church or synagogue” Do you agree or disagree and why?
·      List some of the reasons that people find hell offensive. Discuss why these reasons are so.
·      Do you agree with this statement or not and why: “If God were not angry at injustice and deception and did not make a final end to violence—that God would not be worthy of worship.”
·      How might confidence in God’s ultimate judgment lead to less violence among people now?
·      If you were to ask 10 people on the street why they think a person might go to hell, what do you think they would say? How would you answer the question?

·      Discuss why Abraham replies to the rich man that if his brothers wouldn’t hear Moses and the prophets, they wouldn’t be convinced if someone were raised from the dead. What are the implications of this for our hearing and heeding of God’s word?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Reasons I Love My Wife

Recently I've been telling Kat that I may be the front man for this operation that we call our family, but that she is the force behind the scenes that makes it all work. After seeing a post by Michael Hyatt about 10 reasons he loves his wife, I decided to write my own. So here goes: 

10 reasons why I love Kat:
  1. She loves God and is deeply committed to knowing him through her pursuit of him in prayer, personal bible study and worship. 
  2. She is a passionate worshipper of God.
  3. She is tenaciously committed to our family and ruthlessly protective of our marriage. She claims our kids see me as their hero. I don't know if that's true, but to the extent that it is, it’s  because she has served as my parenting coach, letting me know when one them needs my attention for a conversation, date, or day trip. Plus she has persistently built me up in their eyes.
  4. She is ridiculously low maintenance. She has a complete absence of a desire for things.
  5. She loves me and is my greatest encourager.
  6. She seems incapable of what the Bible calls the fear of man. She is not intimidated by anyone regardless of who they are. This enables her to be a great help to people, striking the right balance between toughness and tenderness, without being troubled by what they think.
  7. If Kat were the only mother in law in the world, mother in law jokes wouldn’t exist. She adores our daughter in law Kim. She loves and respects my parents and is very inclusive with them. For instance she invited my mom to go with us to China to get Noelle. 
  8. She loves our church body and is deeply immersed in its life.
  9. She is the toughest person I know, having persevered through what are some days blinding headaches. She has had a constant headache for more than 20 years. Not long into that process, after many prayers for healing, she flipped a switch in her soul that said, this pain is not going to define my life. By far her greatest ministry and fruitfulness have been in the years since and perhaps not in spite of the pain, but because of it.
  10. She loves to laugh, oh and by the way, she is beautiful!
Incidentally, Kat wrote a post late last night that I didn't know about when I wrote the above. It relates a bit to what I wrote. You can read her post here.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine’s Day and Atheism

Today is Valentine’s Day. This holiday bugs me. Yesterday I saw a tweet from a young teenager who said, “I hope I get something tomorrow.” I’m not exactly sure what she meant, but likely she is hoping for some kind of attention from a teenage boy or perhaps any teenage boy today. I know it's mostly innocent fun, but what I also know is that if she goes through today and doesn’t receive what she was hoping to receive, she is likely to be asking herself at the end of the day, “what is wrong with me?” What a challenge it is to teach our young girls a healthy sense of their worth in God’s eyes!

Perhaps we need to hear, on this holiday more than any other time, and not just for the young girls in our midst, the words of the apostle John in 1 John 3:16-18, “let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” Those words came after a challenge to be practically involved in meeting needs.  Part of what Jesus calls his followers to be and do is to minister to people in need. One of Jesus’ most haunting parables is in Matthew 25:31-46 where he speaks of believers and unbelievers being by revealed by whether or not their lives are characterized by practically meeting needs or not.

Theologian Alistair McGrath shows another reason why we must get this kind of practical love straight, “One of the most obvious lessons of history is that atheism thrives when the church is seen to be privileged, out of touch with the people, and powerful.” (from The Twilight of Atheism) I’m working this week on answering this objection to the Christian faith: Hasn’t science disproved the need for God? The questions betrays  a “god of the gaps” view of faith where people only believe in God because they can’t explain how things work in the world. That’s a lousy basis for faith. The greater reality according to McGrath and my own personal experience is that many wander into atheism for reasons having nothing to do with science. Sometimes its because they’ve encountered a church or a person who claims to be a Christian but acted in a way that caused them to turn against God.

For all these reasons we need a robust vision of how God calls us to practically love, not just with our words but in how we invest our lives. I'll be discussing this further on Sunday at Bethany PlaceYou can see the scripture, outline, and discussion questions for Sunday’s message here.

Hasn’t Science Disproved the Christian Faith? Message outline

Hasn’t Science Disproved the Christian Faith?
Romans 1:18-25
Know Why You (Can) Believe, Part 7

Romans 1:18-25 (ESV)
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Three lines of evidence for the existence of God. (there are several others)

1.    God makes sense of the universe’s beginning

2.    God makes sense of the universe’s complexity

3.    God makes sense of objective Moral Values

Questions for Discussion
·      To what extent do you value education?
·      Do you think Christian parents fear their children getting too serious about science because they are concerned that it will turn them against God? What are the possible responses to this challenge?
·      What evidences for God mean the most to you personally?
·      How can a person rekindle a thirst for learning?

·      Have you been guilty of ridiculing those who believe differently than you rather than seeking to challenge the ideas they hold?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A C.S. Lewis story I hadn't heard

I'm doing a lot of research getting ready to preach on science and faith this Sunday at Bethany Place. I came across a post on Justin Taylor's blog regarding the age of the earth. The post consists of three videos with some explanation. At the beginning of the 2nd video, John Lennox, a British math professor relates hearing C.S. Lewis lecture in person. It's a great story. Once you open the page, scroll down to the 2nd video. 

How Old is the Universe from Justin Taylor's blog on the Gospel Coalition site. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Stunning Friendship

Nik Ripken's teen age son had died. He and his family were working as missionaries in Africa. Kenya was their base, but their focus was one of the most dangerous places on the planet at the time, Somalia. The organization they formed did humanitarian work in Somalia with a goal to share the gospel, but there were precious few converts. His organization hired Muslims to work alongside them in helping provide food, water, and shelter for people there, many who were in desperate need.
Here Ripkens describes something that happened to them the week of their son's funeral:
Probably the biggest surprise of the week came on Thursday when Omar Aziz, our senior Somali staff member still living in Mogadishu, appeared at the front door. I was stunned to hear him say: “I have walked here from Somalia. I had to come to help bury our son, Timothy.” As soon as he had received word of Tim’s death, this dear Muslim friend had started a five-day odyssey. He had walked through minefields, deserts, and mountains. He had crossed rivers and national borders. He had hitched rides and he had ridden on cattle trucks. And he then arrived at our home hundreds of miles later with only the clothes on his back. I have never been quite so humbled. And I have never seen such a demonstration of friendship. Omar Aziz would sit between Ruth and me at the funeral. 
from The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected (p. 132)
I mention this story because I'm spending time this week on the objection to Christian faith: Isn't religion the cause of much of the violence that's taken place in history? Of course, the answer is yes. Some respond to this by trying to outlaw religion, or ridicule it, or at least to intimidate people of faith to keep their religion private. But within the Christian faith itself lies the greatest hope for peace among people of different faiths. I think the story above is a powerful instance of how this works. Two men from radically different religions and parts of the world, one of whom had moved his family all the way around the world with the specific purpose of seeking to lead people like the other to Jesus, form such a strong friendship that one dramatically risked his life to be with the other at his son's funeral. To my mind, this incident flies in the face of the thought that the solution to peace in the world is to persuade persons of faith, Christians in particular, to not take their faith too seriously and by all means to keep it to themselves. Sunday at Bethany Place, we'll examine a passage that partially explains why this is so. You can see the text, outline, and discussion questions here.

Isn’t Religion the Cause of Much of the Violence in the World? Message Outline

Isn’t Religion the Cause of Much of the Violence in the World?
Know Why You (Can) Believe, Part 6
Romans 12:14-21

How can we demonstrate that the Christian faith provides the best hope for peace amongst diverse groups of people?

1.    Invest in hurting people

Romans 12:16–17 (ESV)  16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.

2.    Do all you can to relate well with all people

Romans 12:16–18 (ESV)  16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

3.    Do practical good to your enemies

Romans 12:14–15 (ESV) 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

Romans 12:19–21 (ESV) 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Questions for Discussion and Further Reflection
1.     What does it mean to bless? What does it mean to curse people?
2.     What hardships do you believe qualify as persecution?
3.     How do we account for the violence done in the name of religion in general and the Christian faith in particular when Jesus clearly taught that his disciples should love their enemies?
4.     What role does empathy play in loving people who are different?
5.     How does pride contribute to strife and enmity?
6.     Why do you think Paul uses the phrase, “if possible” in verse 18?

7.     What do you think that it means to leave vengeance to the wrath of God?