Heaven and Hell – and a Lot of Questions

1157789_38642466So on Sunday we’re talking about hell. I know a topic that is…well…divisive to say the least. Some pastors love talking about – hellfire and brimstone – and all of that. Other pastors avoid it because they don’t know what to do with it.

But I want to deal with it honestly. I want to deal with objections. I want to deal with the Biblical passages. And I want to deal with this doctrine and topic in light of Jesus Christ.

So if you’ve ever had questions about hell, well you’re in good company, because I have lots. And I’m going to do my best to deal with them, talk about them, and hopefully even answer some of them.

And we’ll also talk about heaven, an equally misunderstood topic. And I’m going to do my best to do it all in 30 minutes. So if you’re around, are interested, and have ever wondered about heaven or hell – this is the Sunday to be there 🙂

Leadership Limits: The Art of Knowing When You’re Done

877270_52065388 Here is the truth: God created us all with limits.

This is just a simple fact, but one that so many of us don’t realize or accept. In fact, if you read through the creation accounts in early Genesis you’ll start to see that God created Adam and Eve with limits too. Limits remind us of something – that we need each other. We can’t do it alone.

And here is how this relates to leadership.

Leaders are often reluctant to embrace their limits. They push harder, they work longer, and dig deeper. None of this is bad in the short-term, but in the long-term it’s disastrous. To pretend that you can lead and push through and not acknowledge your limits will kill your leadership. It might not today, and it might not tomorrow, but it will happen.

When you refuse to admit you’re tapped out, you are actually denying part of the essence of leadership: relying on and empowering others. Pretending you don’t need anyone or don’t have any limits doesn’t help you, and it certainly doesn’t help your organization, business, or team. Limits are inherent to who we are, and knowing them helps us to lead better and longer.

Of course self-discipline, drive, and a strong work ethic are crucial to leadership. But so too is knowing when you start to run dry.

So here are two questions I ask myself at least once a month. And I think they are good questions for anyone in leadership to ask. It’s this:

  • Have I not asked for help this month when I needed it? 
  • Have I embraced both my limitation and my responsibilities?

These two question help me stay on track and I hope they help you too.

Is Jesus God or is Jesus…Jesus?

question-markI’ve found that my 4 year old has a way of asking theological questions that are both complex, and completely obvious. He asks the questions that I often just take for granted.

Like last week we were driving home after daycare, and I was listening to a sermon in the car. And Hudson stops me and ask this question, “Dad…Is Jesus God, or is Jesus…Jesus”. And right away he gets to the heart of a difficult but true thing that I don’t think many of us get. Because the answer to his question is yes. Yes Jesus is God, but Jesus is also…Jesus. Hudson was trying to understand, are Jesus and God the same (the answer is yes), but is Jesus also Jesus distinct from God (the answer is also yes).

This confused Hudson to no end, because it is confusing, because I was trying to explain the Trinity to a 4-year old. This is the heart of the trinity where we have one God (Jesus is God), but three persons (Jesus is Jesus distinct from the Father and Spirit).

My point isn’t to resolve or explain Trinitarian theology in a short blog post. My point is actually much broader than that. What my 4 year old is teaching me is that I need to dive deeper into my faith and understanding. He is pointing out obvious questions that I think we need to wrestle with that have implications for our faith. I think because we are so “comfortable” with Christianity that we stopped asking some of the obvious questions that matter.

Here are just some Hudson has asked me in the past month:

  • Is Jesus God or is Jesus…Jesus?
  • If Jesus died on the cross did God die then too?
  • If Jesus is always with me why can’t I see or hear him?

These are all questions that matter, questions that are worth thinking about, questions that should drive us deeper into faith. So my whole point of this post is really simple: what questions about faith should you be asking and wrestling with? Which ones have you maybe overlooked? Which ones are just accepted but not really understood for you? And how can you start to learn and grow? Because asking questions, searching for answers, praying, and searching the Scriptures is part of the quest of faith and growing with God. And if you don’t have any questions that’s okay, just spend some time with Hudson and he will soon have one for you J

The Life of Theological Debate

663092_26111643I have a confession: I love theology. My wife has a confession probably as well, she would say I have an obsession with theology. I read way too many books, listen to podcasts, and half of my suitcase on our vacations is filled with books and highlighters to read while on a beach.

So that is the context for the next thought I have. While I love theology, I’m not a huge fan of theological debate in church. It is not that I’m intimidated by conflict, by discussion, or by contrasting viewpoints. The reason I’m not a big fan of debate is that debate often devolves into something so un-Jesusy (I know, not a theological word for someone who reads so many books).

The point is that when people start talking about Jesus, they for some reason, stop looking and sounding like Jesus.

There is nothing wrong with discussion around theology. I love it, need it, and actually search it out. What I’m not a fan of is people using theology as a springboard to prove their own intellectual prowess, certainty, or general “rightness”. What this means is that when people enter into a theological debate they are generally not interested in learning or growing, but being right and proving the other person wrong. The point becomes about winning rather than growing. And this is where, for me, I tend to exit the conversation. I love discussing, being challenged, and growing; I just don’t find that debates help with that. Jesus tends to ask questions, debates give up only clear cut answers. Debates are about shutting off the conversation by being right, rather than opening up a conversation by admitting our humility. So while I’m not scared of theological debate, I’m much more interested in growing in theological depth. I just haven’t found the two often connected.

Perhaps you’ve had a different experience than me, and that’d be great. But either way I have a challenge for you. The next time you find yourself in a theological debate, ask yourself this question: am I trying to be right, or help people grow?

Because the answer to that one question can change the whole thing…

The gods of Greed, Hate, and Sex

On Sunday we looked at a difficult passage in the Bible. Some passages are difficult because they are hard to understand, confusing, or out of our context.

This passage was hard for none of those reasons.

This passage was hard because it called us to repent. It called us to follow Jesus. It reminded us that we live in an age with gods all around us that vie for our attention, worship, and loyalty. We live in a world where greed, sex, hate, violence, power, and self-image seek to hgodsave us follow them.

But our calling as Christians is to follow Jesus because following the path of greed, sex, hate, or power simply ends in darkness.

So on Sunday we listened to the call of Jesus to leave those things behind. That just as how 2000 years ago people were called to leave behind Athena the goddess of war, Dionysius the god of sex and wine, or the emperor the god of power and image; we are called to leave behind all the gods of our age if our witness is to have any power.

Jesus is clear in Revelation that if we compromise our character, it compromises our message. That while each god has its own temple in the world; he has no temple but us.

So this Lent we ask a deep question: “What does it mean to live faithful to you in this world”

This is a question worth spending time and reflecting on today, this week, this month, or for the rest of our lives…

Sermon Notes

Big Idea: Stay true…Live Differently

Take Aways…

  • The Spirit is whispering…are we listening?
  • The gods of Pergamum
    • Asclepius ~ known as the savior who healed
    • Athena ~ goddess of war and wisdom
    • Demeter ~ bathed in bull’s blood goddess of grain
    • Dynoisus ~ son of a god and human mother, drank to connect with him
    • Zeus ~ known as creator, life-giver, and had a huge alter
    • Emperor ~ had the right “to give or take life”, known as “lord”, declared “son of god”
  • In a pluralistic world compromise dilutes and confuses the message
  • Deep witness is shown through difference
  • You are Jesus’ temple in the city, you are his representation
  • Jesus says don’t tolerate compromise, because it is killing your light, witness, and life.
  • Our world is dominated by subtle gods of Greed, Sex, War, Self-Image, and Selfishness
  • Stay true, and turn to follow Jesus

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What surprised you? What made you think? What made you laugh? What did you take away? How has the Spirit been speaking to you over the past few weeks? What “gods of our culture” are the most difficult for you to resist? What are some reasons for that? How is Jesus asking you to follow him, and him alone? How does compromise kill our message? What message are your actions sharing about you?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Spend some time with your kids watching TV. Yes watching TV. Look at the ads that are there. Ask them what they are showing, what they are teaching. Is it that if you have this “thing” you’ll be happy? Is it that if you look “this way” you’ll be accepted? Talk through the messages they receive, and share with them the message of the Bible. That God loves them as they are and that greed, lust, and hate lead to darkness.

Challenge for this Week

Repent from any of the gods of our culture that have captured you


New Year’s Questions ~ Not Resolutions

We often make resolutions about how we are going to improve, and change. But as everyone knows we rarely keep these for the month of January let alone the whole year. So rather than giving you a list of goals I want to ask you some questions that might awaken something in you, shape you, challenge you, or inspire you. If you consistently ask them I truly believe this year will be different for you and better than last year. So here are some New Year’s Questions:

  • What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
  • What wastes the most time in your life?
  •  What is the one decision you know you need to make but have been avoiding?
  • What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
  • Who has God put in your life to encourage, support, or mentor?
  • What’s one experience you want to have this year? Who do you want to share it with?
  • And lastly where is Jesus already active in your life?

What question resonated most with you? Which one fell flat? Which one is a real challenge?

And even better what questions would you add to the list?

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

On Sunday we had planned for a missionary to come and speak, but in light of all that has happened in our faith community this week, it didn’t seem to fit. After discussion with the staff and elders, we all agreed it would be best to have someone from our community share and reschedule the missionary’s talk for another date.

So that means I’m writing a sermon I wasn’t preparing for this week. Often life makes us do things we weren’t preparing for. But I’ve had a few people say why not pull an old sermon rather than write something new? It is the easier option, the faster option, the less stressful option; but it is not the right option.

I’ve learned from many different people, and mostly from my dad over the years, that rarely is the easy option the best option. Rarely is the quick and easy fix the right thing to do. So on Sunday I’m going to be discussing the question “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People”?

An easy topic to speak on? No, not at all. But the right topic? I hope so.

So on Sunday I want to discuss what do we with the difficulties we encounter in our lives. Because sooner or later we all run into obstacles. So I want to discuss why that is, and even more importantly, what are we to do when those difficult times come. How are we personally to respond? How, as a community, do we respond? And what can give us hope and assurance in a difficult time?

Are any of these questions easy to answer. No. But rarely are worthwhile questions easily answered; that’s what makes them worthwhile…

The Art of Asking Great Questions

A little while back, sitting in a hot tub with friends, I was asked a great question.

We were getting to know new friends a bit better and at one point they asked me. What’s the best memories you have of your dad? What were the best things about him?

That is a beautiful question. Deep, open, vulnerable, and welcomed. So I got to talk about my dad for a bit. It was beautiful.

Those are the types of great questions that take relationships deeper. Ones that open up not only conversation, but someone’s soul and heart.

Why not make a practice of asking deeper questions – beyond “How was the week”. Why not ask what did you learn this week? Where did you find joy?

So what are some of the great questions you’ve been asked?

Share some good questions here. But more importantly, share them with friends and family…

Lent and Death

Over the past few days I’ve been reflecting more and more on death. Often during Lent I try to reflect on sacrifice, Jesus’ death, and what it all means.

It’s not something we often talk about is it?

Death isn’t a dinner party topic. Sacrifice isn’t something you share at picnics. I think that’s because its heavy, real, and difficult. But just because something is difficult, doesn’t mean it should be avoided.

So for the next few weeks of Lent every now and then I’ll post some of my thoughts on death, sacrifice, and meaning found in the dark. It might be heavy, but by going through some heavy thinking and reflecting now, it can help later.

So to begin the process maybe take some time and reflect on these questions:

  • What makes death so hard?
  • What questions about death or sacrifice do you have?
  • Why did Jesus have to die anyway?

Then over the next few weeks I’ll post some of my thoughts. But to start, what are your thoughts?