“Love one another as I have loved you.” The kingdom of God is at hand.” “Bless those who persecute you.” "Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” These are just a few of the profound teachings of Jesus, but how do we determine which was most important? Many Christians have differences regarding priorities as we follow Christ. Can we say that loving each other takes priority over blessing those who persecute us? Can we say that self-denial takes precedence over recognizing the kingdom? How did Jesus see and apply all of these things? Did he focus on one thing more than others? If he did, which one? Should we do the same? We do believe Jesus had one top priority, and we also believe his most important thing is also our most important thing!
Life is overflowing with opportunities, and I'm not talking about the big things that change your world. I'm talking about the small and often-overlooked chances in your everyday to refocus on the good, or to simply be kind or to elevate a conversation rather than diminish it. The point here is that many of our life experiences are a result of small decisions that are actually a result of indecision. In the Old Testament, there lived a man named Lot whose life was an example of this. Lot had faith in God and God protected him. In spite of this, his life experiences produced much sadness, folly and cause for regret. How did he get to such an end? He hesitated. He hesitated when it came to godly choices and he constantly did “almost” enough when it came to godly actions!
Sometimes we are called by destiny. Queen Esther of the Old Testament showed us what can happen when circumstances open the door for uncharacteristic heroism. In Part 1, we told the story of how a Jewish teenage girl kept her calm and found a way to save her people at great personal risk. She worked within the constraints of her ancient society to rise to the highest level available, all while remaining focused and humble. Her story has inspired people for centuries and left scholars to dissect its literary construction and contemporary significance. As with much of the Bible, there are layers of lessons to explore, and Esther is no exception! Esther’s story can be seen to parallel the walk of a Christian in thought-provoking and unique ways. What do Esther’s experiences teach us about our faith and our choices?
Atheists will tell you there is no scientific proof of God nor can there be. They have a materialistic view of the universe that, by definition, excludes God. Though this philosophy is pervasive in the world today, there is much evidence that reveals a great deal of willing ignorance in that belief. Is science the only source of truth? Does science really validate godlessness or show intelligent design? On this podcast, we review a number of scientific ideas and questions that demonstrate the other side of the argument, namely, that a super-intelligent Creator is behind the existing of this universe and all life.
Baptism is an enormous part of Christianity. It is mentioned frequently and seriously throughout the New Testament. While most Christians agree on its importance, we vastly disagree on its meaning and place within our teachings. Is baptism a symbol of what has begun changing in you or does it actually change you? Is it a ritual of sprinkling or is it a complete immersion in water? Should babies, children and adults be baptized? What are we supposed to be baptized into? The Bible seemingly tells us two different things. Is it just into the name of Jesus or is it into “the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit”? With all of the questions surrounding baptism it is no wonder that there is so much confusion in finding clarity. The good news is that if we pay close attention to biblical history and context we can find answers that are sensible and scripturally sound!
‘Til death do us part!” It seems not all that long ago those words (which were in some way included in every marriage ceremony) really meant something. They symbolized the depth of a promise made between a man and a woman to stand beside one another through any and all circumstances. I really couldn’t tell you if some semblance of those words is still part of a typical marriage ceremony, but I can tell you that unfortunately more than half of all marriages fail. Why? What are the missing or overlooked or unknown ingredients that make a strong marriage? What should we be saying, doing or thinking to be continually building a relationship that can not only last but will grow in meaninful ways over a lifetime?
Christianity is confusing. There are so many brands to choose from and so many ways we are shown to express it. For some of us, Christianity is saving the world here and now. For others, it is being charitable and kind. Then there are those who say that following Jesus is for our own personal peace of heart and mind. Still others proclaim that being a Christian is all about being blessed "in basket and in store." The big question with all of these approaches is simple. Where does being “holy” fit in? Let’s take a step further back to basics – what does it even mean to be holy? Unfortunately, a strong biblically-ased answer to this question is sadly lacking in the lives of many who follow Christ. While grasping holiness is not an easy task, we fortunately have God’s own word to help us understand!
Without communication, human life would cease to exist. We need to express ourselves and absorb the expressions of others. People need to be heard. The need to share thoughts, feelings and lives with one each gave birth to the phenomena of Social Media. We need to pause and consider. Somewhere along the line, our ability to actually communicate has gone down a diminishing pathway. At the same time our desire to “be seen” and “weigh in” has blossomed. This trend affects all generations, but it seems to be especially powerful among those who have never known anything but the internet. In our desire to seek consensus and belonging, we seem to have forgotten our need to effectively communicate one-on-one. How do we stop the trend and rekindle the deep and life-sustaining value of sincere mutual understanding?
On March 20 this year, Jewish people will celebrate the annual festival of Purim. This festival commemorates the defeat of Haman's plot to massacre the Jews as recorded in the book of Esther. This book reads like a movie script - we have a beautiful, courageous heroine that was way outside of her comfort zone (Esther), a fearless hero (Mordecai), and of course, the dastardly villain (Haman). It’s a story of faith, bravery, suspense, betrayal and palace intrigue. We read about a forgotten good deed, a dazzling reward, perfect timing from God, and a just punishment for the evildoer, setting up a satisfying ending. For us today, the lessons of Esther should give us comfort that God is in control of history and what might seem unanswerable now will make sense in God’s timing and in God’s way.
Nobody likes a hypocrite. Nobody likes it when you proclaim yourself to be a certain way or stand up for specific principles or speak up in support of a clear ideology and then display yourself to be a walking contradiction. Nobody likes lip service or pretend support, especially when there are circumstances that require firm conviction. For followers of Christ, the mere thought of being seen as a hypocrite is at very least cringeworthy. Yet throughout history up to our present time, it is evident that Christian hypocrisy abounds. How does this happen? What provokes someone to be two-faced and therefore unreliable? More importantly, how can Christians avoid such a trap? If we have already fallen into the hypocrisy trap, what does it take to get up, get out and get going?