Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Behold the Lamb of God coming to Lincoln

Behold the Lamb of God is coming to Lincoln Thurs. Nov. 29th. It is hands down the best Christmas show (and album) Brooke and I have ever heard. We're going again this year so if you're interested in joining us or want more details, come find me!

You can listen to the entire album here.


Named one of the 10 best albums of the decade, Behold the Lamb of God is a collection of songs about Jesus. Since 2000, Andrew Peterson and his friends have performed Behold the Lamb around the country, telling again and again this "true myth", as C.S. Lewis called it, this tale that's bigger than life, but is—astonishingly—true. The tour has become a yearly tradition not just for Andrew and the other artists on the tour, but for families and churches who attend the concert each season. The live concert, like the album, is a community effort, featuring singer/songwriters Jill Phillips, Andy Gullahorn, Ben Shive, Andrew Osenga and more, and over the years has featured artists such as Alison Krauss, Derek Webb, Sandra McCracken, Buddy Miller, Phil Keaggy, Sixpence None the Richer, David Wilcox, Pierce Pettis, Mindy Smith, Ron Block, Brandon Heath, Bebo Norman, Stuart Duncan, Eric Peters, and Randall Goodgame—all in the name of proclaiming the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Fighting Temptation Like Tim Tebow

On Tim Tebow...

Ever since I was old enough to hold my head upright on my own, I've always been just a one-sport fan. Even as a little kid, football has been my game of choice and—as a Denver native—the Broncos and Buffaloes were my first love. So I was thrilled that arguably the best quarterback ever to play the game recently got picked up by Denver. So excited, in fact, that I've toyed with making Peyton Manning t-shirts that simply say "Elway who?". (I get a cut if you make them and get rich). But I was bummed that Tim Tebow went to the Jets in the process. I admit, Tebowmania was alive and well in my house last fall. I was doubly pleased that he seemed to be a level-headed and outspoken Christian (those two don't come together as often as I'd like in the public forum).

He's also outspoken about his virginity, which made him a prime candidate for what happened a couple months ago (I know, I know, "Real current, Jared"). A website that makes a profit by facilitating affairs offered a reward of one million dollars if anyone could get Tebow to lose his virginity before marriage—or prove that it had already happened.

My first response when I heard the news about the bounty this website had offered—which site shall remain nameless—was "Poor Tim! As if any guy needs more temptation, especially someone that famous!" But as I thought about it a little more, I decided it might actually be advantageous to know that behind every tempting beauty stands an entity that is only plotting your very painful (and very public) demise.

So my reaction shifted quickly from "Poor Tim!" to "Lucky Tim!". After all, he's now been warned and can prepare for temptation ahead of time with the truth that there is a plot for his downfall hidden inside the temptation.

On the rest of us...

It was then that I was reminded of a couple verses:
    Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
(1 Peter 5:8 ESV)
    Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
(Ephesians 6:11 ESV)
    But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
(James 1:14-15 ESV)
 And I realized something. We have all been warned and can prepare for temptation with the truth that there is a plot for our downfall hidden inside the temptation. Your pet sin may not be lust. It may be anger, jealousy, or pride. You name it. And despite what some preachers may tell you, Satan may not personally be orchestrating each of your tempting moments. Usually our own sinful nature is perfectly suited to the task. But these two are in collusion. We don't have to divide out which temptations are from our own flesh and which are from the devil. We just need to fight them with the weapons available to us through the gospel and Scripture.

So we all need to be fighting temptation like Tim Tebow. And no, I don't mean putting verses on eye black beneath your eyes. I mean being on your guard like there's a bounty on your head. I mean availing yourself of the weapons of the gospel, of the truth, and of grace. I mean walking through your day with the awareness that there is a malicious entity out there actively plotting your downfall. Because, well, there is.

Monday, July 23, 2012

5 Reasons a Thoughtful Person Would Begin Their Religious Quest With Christianity

Lee asked me to write a couple posts in a response to a question we got from someone at Redeemer. The questions were simple enough: "What makes Christianity right and all the other religions wrong?" and "Why Jesus?". The answers are a little harder than the questions (which is usually the case). But I thought I would share something from my blog that I think is a helpful precursor to these questions:

Five Reasons A Thoughtful Person Would Begin Their Religious Quest With Christianity

1. Christianity is testable. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19) In Christianity objective evidence exists and matters. It literally hangs the entire religious system out for objective scrutiny, inviting people to test it. You can make decisions for or against the Christian worldview based on objective evidence. This explains perhaps why Christianity is the object of "affection" for atheists when attacking religion. How long will it take you to investigate the claims of Christianity? It might take a week, it might take years, but at least you can investigate them.

2. Salvation in this system is free. There might be glimmers of grace in Hinduism and Buddhism, but every other major world religion is about doing stuff that is going to please some deity. Only Christianity turns the popular view of religion as moral conformity on its head and offers a relationship with God that is not based on our moral performance.

3. Christianity paints a picture of the world that matches reality. Of course, this is a huge claim that cannot possibly be tested in all its applications. However, we can begin to test this thesis using one of the more popular arguments against the existence of God, the problem of evil. Specifically, one should look at the way that different worldviews handle the issues of evil, pain and suffering. Most eastern religions portray evil, pain and suffering as "illusion" that you need to overcome and transcend. Christianity takes evil, pain, and suffering seriously. Christianity says not only is evil, pain, and suffering real but God takes it so seriously that he gets down with the the sufferer in their pain to bear them up. Jesus, of course, is the ultimate picture of this.

4. Christianity allows you to live a holistic life. In Christianity, we get to use our minds in our worship, we get to think about God. We use our minds to worship God, we are to reason and it's supposed to make sense. You worship God with the same mind that you approach every other aspect of your life, you don't need to compartmentalize. In eastern traditions (those religions that most often make the claim of being holistic), your reason might actually be an impediment in your religious progress.

5. Christianity has Jesus at the center. Jesus is the universal religious figure that every major religion wants to co-opt. If you're a Buddhist, you might claim that Jesus is an incarnation of the Buddha or at least an enlightened teacher. If you're Hindu, you might believe that Jesus is an avatar of Vishnu. If you're in Islam, if you read the Koran, Jesus emerges as a figure greater than Mohammad himself. If you're on a religious quest, it makes sense to start with the religion that centers around the greatest universal religious figure in human history.

This was a presentation developed by Craig Hazen as presented on one of my favorite weekly podcasts, Stand To Reason, hosted by Greg Koukl. This was a cross-post from the Christians In Context blog originally published in Sept. 2010.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

3 Ways the Gospel Should Influence Leaving a Tip

I've worked in the service industry longer than I have in the church (at least as far as payroll is concerned). I am currently still bi-vocational and work part-time at my church and full-time as a shuttle driver for a hotel here in Omaha. I am paid below minimum wage, so tipping is an expected part of my income by my employers.

I've experienced good tippers and bad ones, but the most memorable ones were those whom I knew were Christians and yet tipped like they were Pharisees (All law, no grace. Bare minimum, no generosity). Particularly painful to me have been the large groups of Christians who occasionally take over the hotel for an event and the entire group tips poorly, because I know I'm not the only one who's tempted to form an opinion of these Christians by their tipping. I've even found myself apologizing to co-workers on behalf of other Christians and trying to use the opportunity as a springboard into presenting the gospel. Believe me, that's a tough sell (perhaps I'll write a post on that in the near future). But for now, I want share some guidelines I formed for myself after serving just such Christians.

1. Your tip should reflect Christian generosity. God's generosity towards us should affect the bank account, every Christian knows that. But there is perhaps no better test on how great a hold the idol of mammon still has on us than how we tip. Disagree? "What about giving to the church and charities?", you ask. But both of those we do with our "Christian hat" on, when we give to such things we are acting out of our Christian sensibilities. When you tip, however, I bet you're all business. Right down to the penny (or rounded to the dollar if your lazy or bad at math). My brothers, this should not be!

2. Your tip should demonstrate grace—not law. If there's a problem with my meal, the last thing I do is take it out of the tip. I want to give the server every chance to make up what could be honest mistakes or problems out of their control. To begin subtracting from the tip before giving the server an opportunity to make it right reflects the heart of a hard-nosed legalist, not a heart stricken by grace.

But—and this is a huge "but"—nothing models gospel grace like a generous tip even after a server has blown it, been made aware of it, and was unable or failed to "make it right". I know this is a hard pill to swallow for many of you (myself included), but why should the tip be the last thing to be impacted by the grace that has been poured out on us? I've talked to Christians who will simply gush about the grace of Christ towards us . . . and then not think twice about leaving a terrible tip for terrible service. Why reinforce the system of law by which the whole world runs when we have the resources of grace to draw from?

3. Your tip should embody the gospel. I know, I know. "Embody the gospel? In a tip?!" But if the gospel really is the all-encompassing reality that it is, then it should affect every area of our lives, and every area of our lives can reflect it. When Christians tip, we should not only give more than expected (point 1), and give more than deserved (point 2), your tip should be a tangible outgrowth of the grace and generosity you yourself have received as not just an undeserving but ill-deserving sinner. We have all performed below what was expected of us and even in direct rebellion against the one we were made to serve. And yet the gospel is that God gave out of his riches both generously beyond what we could have hoped for and graciously beyond what we ever could have earned. And if God has given out his endless and bottomless generosity on our behalf, we have that same treasury to draw from. The gospel allows us to release our vice-grip on earthly riches and instead use it as a tool for the gospel.

Bonus point: Don't leave a gospel tract unless you've done points 1-3. So maybe gospel tracts aren't your thing (they probably aren't unless your 40 or older). My church encourages members to take our pens with them and leave them around. I have business cards with all the church info on it. But if you have anything you like to leave in the name of evangelism, don't leave it unless you are tipping out of generosity, grace, and the gospel. To leave a gospel tract with an average or poor tip is unattractive at best. To leave a gospel tract instead of a tip is downright detrimental. That's like saying, "You need this and I know it. I need this and I don't know it." If your tip doesn't grow out of the gospel message of grace and generosity, then your tract probably won't communicate it.

Can't afford to tip this way? Then, as one in the service industry, I would suggest one of two things. Either eat at fast/casual restaurants where you place your order at a counter and no tip is expected, or dine out in such a way that no one knows your a Christian (i.e. no prayer, no "Jesus talk", no books at the table with crosses on the front). I think you know which option I would suggest.

Feedback: Have you ever worked in the service industry? What do you think is a good tip? Do you think a gospel tract left with the tip is ever effective? 

This is a cross-post from the Christians In Context blog.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Recommended reading for Christian men

Recently, someone from church asked me to recommend some books for Christian guys who want to grow as Christians, as leaders, and as men. The following brief list was my recommendation:

Date Your Wife - Justin Buzzard     I know, I know, you're not married yet. But this book spends more time talking about what it means to be a man, created in the image of God, and what it means to be a faithful image bearer than it does about being married.

Crazy Love - Francis Chan     Not just a book for men, but a book that uses simple speak to say some challenging things to the church. It will push you.

Don't Waste Your Life - John Piper 
    One of my favorite authors and preachers, this is a partially autobiographical book about how John came to realize the only thing worth pursuing in life.

Death By Love - Mark Driscoll     I don't think there's more of a man's man preacher/author than Mark Driscoll. While none of his books are specifically on manhood, this is probably his strongest and most forceful book to date.

The Masculine Mandate - Richard Phillips    I've just started reading this, so I can't give you a hearty endorsement yet, but what I've read is good and this is as close as my recommendations have come to a book on biblical manhood. 

Feedback: What would you add to this list? 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Will You Follow God?

"You're afraid? So what. Everybody's afraid. Fear is the common ground of humanity. The question you must wrestle to the ground is, 'Will I allow my fear to bind me to mediocrity?'" - Andy Stanley

Sunday, April 8, 2012

10 Results of the Resurrection from Desiring God

Get a free download of this new poster (PDF) from John Piper's article on ten results of the resurrection:
  1. A savior who can never die again. "For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again.Romans 6:9
  2. Repentance. "The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel." Acts 5:31
  3. New birth. "By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." 1 Peter 1:3
  4. Forgiveness of sin. "If Christ has not been raised, your hope is futile and you are still in your sins.1 Corinthians 15:17
  5. The Holy Spirit. "This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear." Acts 2:32–33
  6. No condemnation for the elect. "Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God." Romans 8:34
  7. The Lord's personal fellowship and protection. "Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." Matthew 28:20
  8. Proof of coming judgment. "God has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead.Acts 17:31
  9. Salvation from the future wrath of God. "We wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come." 1 Thessalonians 1:10Romans 5:10
  10. Our own resurrection from the dead. "We know that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence." 2 Corinthians 4:14; Romans 6:48:111 Corinthians 6:1415:20

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Remedy Resources

As I prepared the Remedy series, several books heavily influenced me. They are on sale for the Kindle, so I thought I'd make you aware of them. I would recommend them all.

Jesus + Nothing = Everything
is $4.99.

Redemption: Freed By Jesus From The Idols We Worship And The Wounds We Carry is $4.99.

Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault is free.

Death by Love is $9.59. It is not on sale, but formed the basis for the entire series.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The progression of heaven and hell

Alright, pop quiz: if you were to die tomorrow, where would you go? No, this isn't the beginning of an evangelistic spiel (though if you want to have that talk, I'm available). Well, if you've been influenced by popular Christian thought, your answer would probably be one of two options: heaven or hell.

However, I'm going to suggest something that might shock you: the popular conceptions that Christians hold of heaven and hell are not necessarily in operation right now. The common picture of both heaven and hell is actually a blending of a few different "stages" of the afterlife that we've just balled into two simple concepts (in fact, biblical writers sometimes do this as well, only adding to the confusion). However, a careful reading of the Bible reveals that the afterlife for both the righteous and unrighteous is in process. While this sounds complicated, the stages are simple and clear-cut: they advance with the greater revelation of Jesus Christ and the gospel.

Stage 1: B.C. (Before Christ)

In the Old Testament, Sheol (sometimes translated "the grave" or "hell" in our Bibles) represented the place where all the deceased go. It is used in reference to the destination of both the righteous (Gen. 37:35, Job 14:13) and the wicked (Prov. 9:18, Ps. 55:15, Is. 5:14). While the Old Testament doesn't develop the idea much, Jesus' parable of the rich man and Lazarus actually gives us a vivid illustration. Luke 16 tells us that Hades (the Greek version of Sheol) was split into two subdivisions, a place of comfort and a place of torment, with a chasm between.

Stage 2: A.D. (Anno Domini "In the Year of our Lord") 

At Jesus' crucifixion, he tells the repentant thief "Today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). Yet when the resurrected Jesus meets Mary outside his tomb, he says "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father" (Jn. 20:17). Where has he been for the last 48 hours if he hasn't been "up"?

However, after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it seems the dwelling place of the saints is moved above (2 Cor. 12:2,3)—at least inasmuch as you can give directions like up and down to the spiritual realms. Regardless of where the current "location" of Paradise is, we can be certain that it is in the presence of the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8) which is not a complicated thing for God no matter where Paradise is currently located.

Stage 3: The final revelation of Jesus Christ

Upon the return of Christ, we finally see the popular conceptions of heaven and hell finally implemented. The new Jerusalem, streets of gold, the river of life, the tree of life, the city of God all coming down from "a new heaven" (Rev. 21,22). This seems to fit perfectly Jesus' message to his disciples: "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also." (John 14:3) Notice the timing: when he comes again they will be taken to the place Jesus prepares. This makes logical sense when you consider that we don't get our resurrected bodies until the return of Christ, thus the current "heaven" only has to be compatible to souls/spirits while the new heaven and new Earth have to be compatible to remade bodies. And concerning "hell", the transition is even clearer: "Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire." (Rev. 20:14)

So what?

Before you panic, let me clarify. This is not limbo. This is not purgatory. Nobody's working off sin, waiting for merit, or getting extra chances to respond to the gospel. All three stages of heaven are a realm of blessing and comfort in the presence of the Lord. All three stages of hell are outer darkness with weeping and gnashing of teeth. Nobody's changing sides after death. What does change (as I mentioned before) is the level of revelation regarding Jesus Christ and the gospel.

This is actually (in my opinion) an elegant solution to some historically problematic verses that are highlighted by a phrase from the Apostle's Creed: "He descended into hell". These verses (Eph. 4:8, 9, 1 Pet. 3:18,19) say that he "descended into the lower regions", "he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison", and "when he ascended on high he led a host of captives".

I am proposing that at his death Jesus descended to Sheol and proclaimed the mystery of the gospel. Now this is not an evangelistic proclamation. Rather he is saying "All you rebels, this is what your self-righteousness was rejecting" and "All you saints, this is what your faith was looking forward to, built upon, hoping for, and trusting in". Then upon his victorious proclamation of the gospel, Jesus led a mass exodus of saints out of Abraham's bosom (part of Sheol) and Paradise was carried away from Hades and "up" to await the final revelation of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Wrath of Love by Tim Keller

If Lee's sermon left you with lots of questions and ideas to wrestle with (as it did me), then let me share some thoughts from Tim Keller that I've found helpful. This is from his book King's Cross and the chapter entitled "The Cup" (sound familiar?).
Here you may say, “I don’t like the idea of the wrath of God. I want a God of love.”

The problem is that if you want a loving God, you have to have an angry God. Please think about it. Loving people can get angry, not in spite of their love but because of it. In fact, the more closely and deeply you love people in your life, the angrier you can get. Have you noticed that? When you see people who are harmed or abused, you get mad. If you see people abusing themselves, you get mad at them, out of love. Your senses of love and justice are activated together, not in opposition to each other. If you see people destroying themselves or destroying other people and you don’t get mad, it’s because you don’t care. You’re too absorbed in yourself, too cynical, too hard. The more loving you are, the more ferociously angry you will be at whatever harms your beloved. And the greater the harm, the more resolute your opposition will be.

When we think of God’s wrath, we usually think of God’s justice, and that is right. Those who care about justice get angry when they see justice being trampled upon, and we should expect a perfectly just God to do the same. But we don’t ponder how much his anger is also a function of his love and goodness. The Bible tells us that God loves everything he has made. That’s one of the reasons he’s angry at what’s going on in his creation; he is angry at anything or anyone that is destroying the people and the world he loves. His capacity for love is so much greater than ours—and the cumulative extent of evil in the world is so vast—that the word wrath doesn’t really do justice to how God rightly feels when he looks at the world. So it makes no sense to say, “I don’t want a wrathful God, I want a loving God.” If God is loving and good, he must get angry at evil—angry enough to do something about it.

Consider this also: If you don’t believe in a God of wrath, you have no idea of your value. Here’s what I mean. A god without wrath has no need to go to the cross and suffer incredible agony and die in order to save you. Picture on the left a god who pays nothing in order to love you, and picture on the right the God of the Bible, who, because he’s angry at evil, must go to the cross, absorb the debt, pay the ransom, and suffer immense torment. How do you know how much the “free love” god loves you or how valuable are you to him? Well, his love is just a concept. You don’t know at all. This god pays no price in order to love you. How valuable are you to the God of the Bible? Valuable enough that he would go to these depths for you.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


We talked about confession - both to God and man - on Sunday. Here's a good resource to review:

Confession Is The New Innocence

Lenten Thought 2/28/12

"My Father is working until now, and I am working." John 5:17

Father, show us where you are at work so that we can join You.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Why Should I Participate In Lent?

Lent is a time of fasting for the 40 days (excluding Sundays) leading up to Easter. Recently, there have been a lot of articles against it. I think the reason is due to a misunderstanding about the purpose of Lent. Some people just reject Lent because "they're not Catholic". Others don't observe it because they miss the true purpose or react to people misusing (or abusing) it.

Why Does Redeemer Encouraging You To Participate In Lent?

You should fast, whether or not you participate in Lent. We don't encourage "Lent", as if there were something magical about it. What we encourage is fasting. Lent is simply time set aside to fast. You may choose to fast during Lent. You should fast at various times, whether it includes Lent or not.

What is fasting?

Fasting is voluntarily giving up some good thing, for a set period of time, in order to focus on God. It is voluntary - you don't have to do it. You give up a good thing (It does not mean stopping something sinful or harmful). It is for a set period of time (It could be one meal, one day, three days, whatever).

Fasting is a spiritual discipline that helps to train you in godliness and holiness. The purpose is to focus on God. Spiritual disciplines are like drills in athletics. They prepare you to perform at a higher level later. For example, you run wind sprints at football practice so that when the game comes you can play better. The referee doesn't meet both teams at midfield, add up the sprints they ran the previous week and award the game to the team that ran the most. They still have to play the game.

Fasting trains you in godliness by helping you to focus on God. You select a good thing, set it aside and focus on drawing near to God. For example, you may choose to fast from lunch. Instead of using your lunch hour to eat, you use that time to take a walk and pray.

Fasting is NOT:

  • Giving up something sinful or bad that you should quit anyway.
  • A means of earning "extra credit" with God.
  • Something you are forced to do.
  • A means of doing something beneficial for you but not focused on God (for example, losing weight).

Part of the backlash against Lent comes because people use it for one of these reasons. If you are using Lent or fasting for some reason other than drawing near to God, you shouldn't do it.

Why Should I Fast?

Here's one thing I have yet to see addressed by anyone criticizing Lent: Jesus expects you to fast, just like he expects you to pray and give. He practiced fasting himself (see Luke 4:2). In Matthew 6:16-18 he says "And when you fast . . . ", assuming that you will.

The point is that fasting is good and should be practiced. It is only bad if it is done for show, to earn credit with God, or for your own purposes.

What Does This Mean For Redeemer?

We participate in Lent because it is a good time to focus on God and prepare ourselves to celebrate Easter. We want you to participate by fasting from something that is good and enjoyable.

Here's why: when you "miss" that thing, it serves as a reminder to pray and seek God. In addition, it creates a valuable rhythm in your life. You give something up and focus on God during the week. You enjoy it and celebrate Him as the giver of all good things by enjoying it on Sunday. We need to practice celebrating too!

Here's an example of how it works: You don't eat sweets during the week and instead seek God when you crave them. On Sunday, you eat all the sweets you want and thank God for them every time (and you won't have to be reminded to be thankful!!!).

This just doesn't work if you're using it to kick a bad habit or give up something good. For example, a guy decides to stop cussing for Lent. He doesn't cuss during the week and maybe he does pray when he's frustrated or angry. On Sunday, he swears all day and thanks God for the gift. Ummmmmm. No.

If you have some specific questions, please post those and we'll try to answer them.

If you're interested, there's a sermon entitled: Fasting: Developing a Hunger for God on 1/16/2011 here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"Father, help me seek you first."

"Father, help me seek you first."

"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." - Matthew 6:33

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Do You Want To Go To The Next Level?

Do you want to break through to the next level spiritually? Do you want to help Redeemer break through to the next level?

One thing that has always helped me is fasting. There a lot of fear and freak out involved when you say the word “fasting” so let me try to explain it for you.

What is fasting?

It is voluntarily forsaking a good and important thing to focus on God and pray. Jesus said “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33) Fasting is one way to put aside another “thing” to seek God first.

With that in mind, think of something that is important to you. It might be food (coffee, sweets, meat, etc.) or it could be something else (TV, facebook, video games, etc.). The important thing is to select something that you will miss or crave.

Whenever you miss or crave that thing, use the impulse as an encouragement to pray.

What do I pray?

Tell God specifically what you are asking Him to do (see Luke 18:41).

I have found it helpful to have a sentence or thought that I pray whenever I’m reminded. It doesn’t have to be a long discussion or take a lot of time. Make it something that you can pray on the go throughout the day. For example:

“God, help me want you more than . . .”
“God, help me know you better.”
“God, give me the Holy Spirit.”
“God, help me stop . . .”
“God, save . . .”

In addition, we will share a thought each day on the blog, facebook page or twitter. Follow whichever format works best for you and pray together with us.

When do I fast?

Lent begins on Wednesday, February 22nd and ends on April 7th. It covers the 40 days before Easter (not counting Sundays).

We will fast together on Monday-Saturday. On Sunday, you have a “free day”. Enjoy the thing you have given up. Celebration is an often neglected aspect of the Christian life, so use Sunday to celebrate! Every Sunday is a reminder that Jesus lives and gives life.

How do I participate?

If you’re “in”, then take these steps:

Decide what you are going to fast from.
Decide what you are going to ask God to do.
Go to the appropriate forum for you: Blog, facebook or twitter and let us know by commenting on the post. Also, subscribe to the blog, like the page or follow us. We will post the daily prayer focus through all of these.

It’s going to be exciting to see how God responds as we join together to seek Him!

Preaching To Yourself

Sunday we discussed how Satan tells us lies and we need to believe the truth. Here's a link to a great blog on that idea.

Finish the Devil's Sermons

How have you answered Satan's lies with the truth this week?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Forgiveness is NOT

On Sunday, we touched on forgiveness. This is a difficult topic and I didn't have time to fully address it, so I thought this link might be helpful. In it, Pastor Mark Driscoll clarifies 9 Things Forgiveness is Not.

9 Things Forgiveness Is Not (link)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Community Group Questions 2/5/12

Since we didn't have church on Sunday, I'm posting the Community Group Questions here. You should also receive and email from your group leader with them attached.


Community Group Questions
Week of Feb. 5, 2012

1. How would you describe you and your siblings? (For example, who is the “obedient one”? Who is the “wild one”? or what label would you give them?)

2. Read Luke 15:11-32. What is one verse, thought, or question that stood out?

3. Who do you think was wrong in this story? Who do you think was right? Explain.

4. What was the younger son's attitude toward the father at the beginning of the story? And what do you think motivated his decision to distance himself from the father? What was the older son's attitude toward the father at the end of the story? And what do you think motivated his decision to distance himself from the father?

5. In what ways are the rebellion of the younger son and the older son different? In what ways are they similar?

6. Read 15:2. How does this parable address the Pharisees and their question? What point do you think Jesus was trying to make to them?

7. Why does Jesus leave the story open-ended as to how the elder brother responded to his father’s plea?

8. In what ways are you/have you been like the younger brother? The older brother?

9. What are you celebrating this week?

10. How can we pray for you?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Fear God?

The idea of fearing God is a common one in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. But it is almost completely foreign to the modern conception of God, one that often no deeper or well thought-out than the simple platitude of "God is love". For this reason, the idea is often a difficult hurdle for many reading the Old Testament the first time.

The first thing that must be made clear is that fearing God is not equal to being afraid of God. Certainly, being afraid may be part of one's proper response to God. Consider the prophet Isaiah's response (Is. 6) or the disciples' response at the realization of who Jesus really was after calming the storm (Mk. 4:35-41). This kind of fear is the natural response of the finite in the presence of the infinite, the response of the sinful in the presence of the holy. But being afraid is not the sum of fearing God. In fact, I would suggest that the greater part of the biblical concept of fearing the Lord has nothing to do with being afraid (this would explain why God and the angels so often had to begin their messages with the phrase "Fear not"). Thus when God calls us to fear him, he is calling us to much more than being scared and faint-hearted.

 In 2 Kings 17, God explains why he has sent the nation of Israel into exile. And it begins with this:
And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had practiced.
(2 Kings 17:7-8 ESV, emphasis added)
Are we to take this as meaning that the Israelites spent sleepless nights huddled in the corner with their swords for fear that the their little household idols might turn homicidal? Of course not. In fact, this passage makes little or no sense if we force our simplistic, modern meaning of "fear" on the text. But the author doesn't leave us guessing. The rest of 2 Kings 17 details the nature of their fear of other gods, and in doing so fleshes out the the biblical idea of fear.
  • Worship - "They built high places", "they set up for themselves pillars", "they used divination and omens". We only worship those things that we believe have power over us or power to benefit us, those things that are in some sense greater and "other" than us.
  • Sacrifice "There they made offerings", "they burned their sons and daughters as offerings". Every sacrifice is, by definition, something that costs us. Whether it be our time, money, family, or lives, when we make a sacrifice, we are deeming the recipient of our sacrifice as worthy of the cost we bear.
  • Obedience - "They served idols", "they sold themselves to do evil". Of course, obedience is the natural response to the things we worship. Everything that we worship makes some sort of demand on our lives, and the things that we obey reflect what we truly worship. 
So in summary, the biblical concept of fear (both the Israelites' misplaced fear of other gods, and our properly directed fear of God) speaks of that which we deem greater than us and worthy of worship, sacrifice, and obedience. Some Christians thinkers have summed all this up in one word: reverence. Yes, there is a place in this definition for the natural response of the finite in the presence of the infinite, the response of the sinful in the presence of the holy. But I submit to you that this is not the whole (or even the greater part) of godly fear. To fear God is to esteem him most worthy of our worship, sacrifice, and obedience.
“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?"
(Deuteronomy 10:12-13 ESV)

For further reflection: Acts 9:31, 1 John 4:18, Hebrews 12:28-29, Deuteronomy 6:1-2

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Services Cancelled Sunday February 5th

Redeemer will not meet this Sunday, February 5th. We will be back on February 12th!

Faced with the anticipated weather, Millard Public Schools decided to close their facilities for use over the weekend. This meant that we were unable to use Beadle for our services and have to cancel.

We will be back next Sunday February 12th answering the question "Why can't I break my bad habits?" The sermon scheduled for this Sunday will be moved to April 15th. Don't miss it, I think it is one of my favorites from the Remedy series.


Groups will meet as planned this week. Your group leader will email you the questions for the week.

Sorry for the inconvenience. Use the time off to enjoy some time with your family!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New songs!

Hey everyone,

We're really excited about our upcoming series, "Remedy" that will be looking at how Jesus' work on the cross is the solution to all of the biggest problems in our lives.

In anticipation for this series, I thought I'd give you a preview of a couple new songs we'll be playing for the series so that at least some of you are already familiar with the songs the first time we play them!

It Is Finished by Matt Papa

Forgiven Forever by Glenn Packiam
Free download from his blog!

Jesus Paid It All by Kristian Stanfill