Stunning Views in Vacationland

My family and I spent last weekend at one of our favorite places on Earth: Wells, Maine, USA. Those of you connected with my Facebook page know that time involved coffee, reading, and some amazing views of God’s workmanship. It also involved a pretty awesome conversation with my 8-year-old son, Anthony. We were throwing a football around on the beach, enjoying the sights and sounds of the ocean. Watching the waves roll in gave us the opportunity to talk about our Creator. I told him to think about every single grain of sand on that beach and every single drop of water in that ocean – God created it all from NOTHING! If this is the work of His hands, how magnificent must our God be? If we stand in awe looking at nature, will we not fall to our knees and praise the King of kings when we someday stand before Him?

The Top 5 Objections to Christianity Exposed has identified the top five objections to Christianity. Those who have left the church and those who were never part of the church share the same top five. 

-The Christian faith and I have different views on social issues like abortion and gay marriage. 
-Some Christian groups are too intolerant. 
-I don’t like how some Christian groups meddle in politics. 
-Many Christians are hypocrites. 
-There are lots of religions, and I’m not sure only one has to be the right way. 

There is an omission so glaring that I had to re-read their list to make sure I wasn’t missing it. Do you see it?  Amazingly, not one of the top objections to Christianity even mentions Jesus! These objections reinforce what we already know: most people aren’t unbelievers because of a lack of evidence. They’re unbelievers because of a lack of obedience. Putting our faith in Jesus means we’re no longer living for ourselves, but for Him. 

We’ll explore all of this and more in Jesus: Fib, Dead, or God? And look out because we finally have an official release date! We expect to be live on all retailers beginning November 20th! The clock is ticking…

Excerpt from “Jesus: Fib, Dead, or God” 9/24/21

Americans drink about 400 million cups of coffee every day. We drink more coffee than soda, tea, and juice combined. It’s serious business. For many, coffee is an integral part of their daily routine. So much so that over half of all coffee consumers would rather skip a shower in the morning than skip their coffee. I must say these stats are very comforting to me. It’s nice to know I’m not the only lunatic who sometimes goes to bed already looking forward to the next morning’s black coffee. 

In terms of variety, there seems to be as many ways to take your coffee as there are coffee drinkers– hot, iced, cold-brew, nitro, cappuccinos, lattes, frappes, espressos, flavors, sweeteners, different types of beans; it’s endless. Some people get their fix from local coffee shops, and others brew their own at home. Personally, I make most of my coffee at home. With a coffee maker right in my office, it’s both convenient and budget-friendly. I also think the coffee tastes better from a mug than in a paper to-go cup.

The only problem is the temperature. As good as the coffee is when brewed hot and fresh, it goes downhill in a hurry as it sits in the mug and cools off. To combat this, I’ve worked out a system where I brew the coffee into a special covered thermos that keeps it molten hot. I can then pour it into my mug in small increments and enjoy it at my preferred temperature.

There’s iced coffee on the other end of the spectrum, which is also delicious, especially when the weather is sunny and hot. Here in New England, many welcome the change in season from Winter to Spring with a change in coffee from hot to iced. 

In summary: it’s great when it’s hot, it’s great when it’s iced, but it’s lousy when it’s lukewarm. 

Do you realize that our faith in the living God is also lousy when it’s lukewarm? I call this a Room Temperature FaithSomeone with a Room Temperature Faith is not “on fire” for God, nor are they a diehard atheist. Instead, they’re undecided, uncommitted, and generally indifferent. Rather than follow the facts to their only logical conclusion, these people choose to draw no conclusion at all. They remain on the fence, which is a treacherous place to be. 

Pastor Todd White tells a true story about an atheist who has a dream. The man dreams he’s in a vast field, and there’s a fence that goes right up the middle. On one side is Jesus with a group of people, and on the other side, there’s the devil with another group of people. The guy stands up on the fence, and all of a sudden, he’s by himself. The devil comes back into the picture and says, “There you are; I was looking for you.” And the man says, “Hey, I didn’t choose Jesus, but I sure didn’t choose you.” The devil says, “Sure, you did. I own the fence.” The man woke up a Christian.

What I’m telling you is, “I’m not sure” means you’re rejecting Jesus as GodParadoxically, when you avoid deciding, you are actually choosing to be an unbeliever. Jesus said, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” In other words, there is no middle ground.

Love Requires Hate- 9/10/21

Adolf Hitler was responsible for the genocide of about six million Jews and the killing of over 50 million people overall. That’s an unfathomable level of evil. So would it seem right to you if, after unapologetically sinning until he committed suicide, God rewarded Hitler and welcomed him into heaven with open arms?

Of course not. And the reason that idea is so repugnant to us is that we are created in the image of God. God is perfectly just, so we are made with a deep yearning for fairness and justice. We can even see it in our children. Virtually as soon as they can communicate, they begin to let us know what they believe is “not fair.” I say that as someone who was recently told to “Take a chill pill, Dad” by a five-year-old.

Because we naturally yearn for justice, deep down, we know that sin must be punished. God cannot be perfectly good and also be apathetic toward evil.

In contrast, what we’ll often hear from unbelievers is, “Jesus preached love, so you’re not living like Jesus unless you support [insert virtually anything].” Sound familiar? 

Do you see the error in that position? The argument basically says: God is love, so He cannot hate. But the reality is that God is love; therefore, He must hate (that which is evil). 

This illustration from Pastor Paul Washer helped me understand that, to truly love that which is good, we must hate that which is evil. 

  • I love babies. Therefore, I must hate abortion.
  • I love Jews. Therefore, I must hate the holocaust.
  • I love African Americans. Therefore, I must hate slavery.

Friend, as Christ-followers, we are in the business of loving what He loves and hating what He hates. Naturally, that information is not determined by what pop culture deems offensive this week; rather, we find it in the unchanging authoritative Word of God, the Bible. We’re living for an audience of One.  

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” -Romans 12:9-10

Softserve Salvation? 8/27/21

The original Pinkberry Frozen Yogurt (froyo) restaurant opened in January 2005 and quickly exploded in popularity. It gained a cult following amongst celebrities and became a trendy must-visit spot in Los Angeles. With so many people driving across the city and waiting in lines of 20-30 minutes, Pinkberry was dubbed “the taste that launched 1,000 parking tickets.”Pinkberry sparked a nationwide soft serve “froyo” craze, with froyo restaurants popping up on seemingly every corner. Competitors like 16 handles, Froyo World, Kiwi Spoon, and Sweet Frog jumped into the market to capitalize on the demand. One of the primary appeals of these soft serve froyo restaurants is the level of customization that is literally at the customer’s fingertips. The yogurt dispensers and topping bars are generally self-serve, so the customer is in control. The pricing is calculated based on weight, allowing the customer to fill their cup with exactly as much and as many yogurt flavors and toppings as they so choose. These restaurants often market themselves as frozen yogurt done “your way.”When it comes to froyo, having it “your way” can be wonderful. But what about when it comes to our faith in the living God? Popular sentiment in our culture today is that all religions lead to heaven and you can indeed have God “your way.” But there’s a problem. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, says He’s the way. “Woke” thinking in our culture today says personal experience is king and you must live “your truth.” But Jesus, the King of kings, says He’s the truth. And finally, the internet glorifies “living your best life,” but Jesus, the Living God, says He’s the lifeWhat I’m saying is that being born again through the Good News of Jesus Christ is not a way to heaven. It’s the only way to heaven. This declaration may sound closed-minded to some, which would be understandable if it were Christians who decided that Jesus was the only way. But it wasn’t a Christ-follower who said it, it was Christ himself! Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” -John 14: 5-6 With only one way to get right with God, there is nothing more loving we can do for someone else than to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. I pray that He puts you in a position to do that today.

Unbelievers are building with no Blueprint- 7/30/21

My kids love building Lego sets. It’s a fun challenge that requires serious focus. They know that when they open that Lego set, the manufacturer has provided every part they’ll need to build the finished product. But it’s not just the parts. The manufacturer also provides a photo of the finished product and an instruction manual showing how to put it together. Consider how critical these things are. The entire process revolves around them. The pile of parts you start with looks mostly like a big mess, but the photo of the finished product lets you know what you’re striving for. To get there requires referring back to the instruction manual every step of the way.If the Lego set provided the parts only, how effective would that be? My kids could build and build all day long, but it would be a waste. They may very well build something that looks nice
to them, but how would they have any idea if what they built is what it’s actually supposed to be?

They wouldn’t.
 And the reason is that it’s only the manufacturer who dictates what the finished product is supposed to be. My son may put together a building that looks great to him, but if
the manufacturer designed it to be a spaceship, his efforts were misplaced.

So it is with our lives. Only our heavenly “Manufacturer” dictates what we, His creation, are supposed to be. “So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Gen 1:27) To find our life’s purpose, we need to stop looking inside ourselves and start looking to God. Pastor Rick Warren explains this
principle in his best-selling book, A Purpose Driven Life. “Contrary to what popular books, movies, and seminars tell you, you won’t discover your life’s meaning by looking within yourself. You have probably tried that already. You didn’t create yourself, so there is no way you can tell yourself what you were created for.”

Unbelievers have a huge mess of legos in front of them and have decided to go without the instruction manual. They may sincerely be trying to live a good and moral life, but they’re sincerely wrong. They are trying to be their own god and make up their own moral code as they go. Where the Christian’s truth claims are derived from an authority outside of and greater than themselves (God and His Word), the unbeliever’s truth claims are necessarily based on human authority, also known as one’s opinion. 

These people are walking through life blind, but they’re
not hopeless, because there’s still time for them to put their trust in Jesus. As believers, it’s our job to share with them the Good News. It’s a great day to do just that! Today is the day the Lord has made. 

Jailhouse Salvation- 7/16/21

In the book of Acts, we read how the Apostle Paul and his companion Silas were stripped, beaten, and thrown in prison for preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ. What ensues is amazing:“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly, there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself. We are all here!” The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved- you and your household.” Acts 16: 25-31You’re probably familiar with this passage, and for good reason. It’s an awesome reminder that we serve a chain-breaking, miracle-working God. We serve a God who makes roads in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. He’s a way-maker! But there’s even more to this story. Stick with me here… Recently, I’ve been reading about the meaning and significance of water baptism. One of the main points I’ve heard preached is that once someone gets saved (born-again), they’re then supposed to be baptized. The two go hand in hand. Salvation occurs by putting our faith in Jesus Christ, and baptism is the way we publicly show the covenant we’ve made with God. Specifically, it’s a public demonstration of the death and burial of your old self, along with your re-birth as a new creation, purified from sin.Now I had never thought about this passage in the context of baptism, but check this out. Let’s pick it up from verse 29 and continue…“The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved- you and your householdThen they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized.” The jailer and his household get saved in the middle of the night. Paul doesn’t tell them, “Hey, let’s set a date sometime soon to meet at the river so you can be baptized.” No, the jailer and his household are immediately baptized in the middle of the night! This urgency should be instructive to us regarding the importance of baptism. If you’re saved and dragging your feet about getting baptized, there’s no time like the present!

These People have to be Nuts- 7/2/21

Do you regularly find yourself thinking, “these people have to be nuts” when you read about current affairs, politics, or pop culture? It’s tempting to conclude that our world must be more out of control than ever before. But check out this Bible verse written almost 2,000 years ago: “Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.” -Romans 12:2 The Apostle Paul was telling his people way back in the first century: listen, we’re living in a rebellious generation. So don’t live the way unbelievers live. Instead, be transformed by the renewing of your mind. And how does someone renew their mind? Through the word of God. In other words, look to the Bible to guide your life, not secular pop culture.So take comfort and take courage, friend. This isn’t some new trend. We build our lives upon the solid rock of Jesus Christ, not the constantly changing quicksand of the ways of the world. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8).

This Blew My Mind- 6/18/21

I learned something recently that blew my mind. To explain it, I’d ask you to please read this beautiful passage about Jesus. Take your time through it… 

“He grew up like a small plant before the Lord. He was like a root growing in dry land. He had no special beauty or form to make us notice him. There was nothing in his appearance to make us desire him. He was hated and rejected by people. He had much pain and suffering. People would not even look at him. He was hated, and we didn’t even notice him. But he took our suffering on him and felt our pain for us. We saw his suffering. We thought God was punishing him. But he was pierced for the wrong things we did. He was crushed for the evil things we did. The punishment, which made us well, was given to him. And we are healed because of his wounds. We all have wandered away like sheep. Each of us has gone his own way. But the Lord has put on him the punishment for all the evil we have done. He was beaten down and punished. But he didn’t say a word. He was like a lamb being led to the slaughter He was quiet, as a sheep is quiet while its wool is being cut. He never opened his mouth. Men took him away roughly and unfairly. He died without children to continue his family. He was put to death. He was punished for the sins of my people. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death. He had done nothing wrong. He had never lied. But it was the Lord who decided to crush him and make him suffer. So the Lord made his life a penalty offering. But he will see his descendants and live a long life. He will complete the things the Lord wants him to do. He will suffer many things in his soul. But then he will see life and be satisfied. My good servant will make people right with God. He carried away their sins. For this reason I will make him a great man among people. He will share in all things with those who are strong. He willingly gave his life. He was treated like a criminal. But he carried away the sins of many people. And he asked forgiveness for those who sinned.”

Ready for the stunner?  That was written 700 years before Jesus was born.  That’s Isaiah 53 from the Old Testament of the Bible. It’s the major Jewish prophet Isaiah predicting the coming Messiah who would save the world.

Let that sink in. Jesus said he came not to abolish but to fulfill Old Testament prophecies. Here we have an Old Testament prophecy written 7 centuries before his birth, yet it reads like it could be Jesus’ biography!

Mind… blown. The more I re-read it, the more the level of specificity amazes. God sure didn’t leave any room for doubt about who this is referring to. That’s our Savior! The Messiah. The King of kings. The Lord of lords. Jesus Christ.

Dog Lovers Will Understand…. 6/4/21

My wife and I got our first dog, Gregory, in 2009. We purchased a doggy bed and were firm that he would NOT be sleeping on our bed…

Yea, that lasted about a week. 

We can’t help it. We love him! Our bed is the most comfortable place in the house, and we’re happy to share it with him. Of course, there is an important rule: he needs to be clean to sleep on our bed. Unfortunately, bulldogs have a tendency to roll around outside in the dirt. They also sometimes end up getting bit by ticks. As much as we want him to be with us, we obviously can’t allow mud or ticks to be carried into our bed. 

The good news for Gregory is that I want to be with him, so much so that I’m willing to clean him up when he inevitably makes a huge mess of himself. Now there are a few ways it can play out when I call him in for a bath: 

1. He can ignore me. He can continue playing, acting as if I don’t even exist. He can do this even though he’s living in my house. Maybe he thinks the cozy roof over his head somehow made itself. 
2. He can try to handle it himself. Rather than coming in to take a bath, he can do his best to avoid mud and shake off whatever dust he does come into contact with.  
3. He can come running when he hears the sound of my voice. 

Spoiler alert: there is only one scenario that ends with Gregory sleeping on our bed. If he ignores me or rejects my offer for a bath, it’s a no-go. He needs to come running when he hears my call! Sure, he made a mess of himself. Bulldogs always do. But no matter how dirty he gets, I can wash him completely clean, and he’s clear to enjoy the most comfortable spot in the house with us.

Moral of the story? My bed is a clean, peaceful place that I share with my bride. Gregory, by nature, rolls around in dirt and picks up ticks. He doesn’t have the capacity to remain clean. I want him to enjoy the bed with us, but that can only happen if he answers my call so I can wash him completely clean. 

The Bible teaches that God shares heaven with His bride, the church. God is perfectly Holy and therefore cannot tolerate sin, shame, or guilt in his presence. Humans, by nature, are sinners. Every one of us carries some measure of guilt and shame. We don’t have the capacity to live in perfection. God wants us to join him in heaven, but that can only happen if we answer His call so he can wash us completely clean by the blood of Jesus. 

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” -1 John 1:7