Saturday, March 18, 2023

Ordinary Moments

Have you ever felt like your life is slipping away?

I know that I have. Rather than accomplishing my dreams life seems to be swallowed up with the daily responsibilities that are required for pastoring and having a family. These are good things, but my dreams often need to be put on a back burner because of them.

In Seizing Your Divine Moment, Erwin McManus, a pastor and author, wrote, "This may sound too simple, but the abundant life that Jesus promises is ushered in through the choices we make in the ordinary moments of life."

This statement emphasizes the power of our choices and how they can shape our lives in profound ways.

When we think of "abundant life," we often envision a life filled with wealth, success, and happiness. However, the Bible offers a different perspective.

In John 10:10, Jesus says, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." This abundant life is not defined by material possessions or external circumstances, but by a deep and meaningful relationship with God. A relationship that is defined by trusting in and acting on God’s promises.

So, how do our choices influence this abundant life?

McManus suggests that it's the small, seemingly insignificant choices we make in the ordinary moments of life that ultimately shape our spiritual formation as we seek live as Jesus lived. These choices include how we respond to difficult situations, how we treat others, and how we prioritize our time and resources.

For example, if we consistently choose to respond with kindness and forgiveness instead of anger and bitterness, we cultivate a heart that reflects the character of God. If we prioritize our relationship with God through prayer and Bible study, we develop a deeper understanding of His love and purpose for our lives.

It's easy to overlook the impact of these everyday choices, but over time, they add up and shape the trajectory of our lives. As the saying goes, "little by little, a little becomes a lot."

Of course, making the right choices is not always easy. We are imperfect people who make mistakes and face different obstacles along the way. However, the good news is that we do not have to rely solely on our own strength and willpower. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and the Christian community we belong to, we have access to the wisdom, guidance, and strength we need to make choices that align with God's will.

The abundant life that Jesus promises is not something that is achieved through external circumstances or possessions. Rather, it's a life that is rooted in a deep and meaningful relationship with God, and it's ushered in through the choices we make in the ordinary moments of life. As we make choices that reflect God's character and prioritize our relationship with Him, we can experience the fullness of life that He has promised us.

Friday, March 17, 2023

Continue the Struggle

 It is no secret that life is hard. Even when we are following Jesus and doing God’s will, life doesn’t get any easier. We may sometimes expect things to be easier if we are doing what is right, even though this has never been promised. We want to be validated and reassured that we are doing the right thing.

It is logical to assume that if we are doing God’s will, then things would be difficult. 

Why should we assume that? 

Because the enemy is opposed to God. 

If we are making progress in overcoming sin in our lives, if we are in a relationship that God wants us to be a part of, if we are part of a ministry that is making a difference in the community, or if we are standing up for what is right, we shouldn't be surprised if things are difficult.

However, we can't solely evaluate things based on whether things are going well or not. 

Sometimes things will go well even though it is God’s will, and sometimes things will be a struggle even though it goes against God’s law.

All I want to do is to remind you that struggling isn’t a bad thing. When following God’s will becomes a struggle, it gives us an opportunity to grow and appreciate what God has in store for us on the other side of the struggle.

In the midst of our struggles, we need to remember what Jesus said to the church in Smyrna:

“Write to the angel of the church in Smyrna: Thus says the First and the Last, the one who was dead and came to life: I know your affliction and poverty, but you are rich. I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Look, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will experience affliction for ten days. Be faithful to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. 

“Let anyone who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will never be harmed by the second death. (Revelation 2:8-11; CSB)

Jesus told this group of His followers not to give up in the face of persecution. “Hang in there,” He says, “this won’t last forever.”

Our struggle may not be persecution. 

Our struggle, most likely, are circumstances haven't turned out the way we expected. That realization that our dreams haven’t gone according to our plans, which causes us to wonder if we are really in the right place. We ask ourselves, “Should I continue to live by faith, or should I just give up?”

I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules for such situations, but let me offer you a few thoughts.

First, is to ask yourself the question, “Is my struggle related to living righteously and faithfully?” If the answer is yes, then you are doing what God wants you to do. When your desire is to honor God, to encourage and love people, and to grow in your knowledge and faith, then there are many places you can go and things you can do and remain in God’s will. Living a life that honors God by following Jesus is a life that Satan opposes.

Second, consider letting go of your dreams. I think God allows people to go through struggle because their dreams need to be changed. We miss out on the life God wants us to live when we cling too tightly to the dreams we have for our lives. Remember, we may even have to lay down our best dreams for our lives in order to experience God’s best for us. Letting go of a dream is an act of faith because we have to trust that God’s will for our lives is greater than our dreams.

Third, get the opinions of different Christians. These could be people you have a close relationship with or not. The two criteria are that you respect their opinion and they faithfully follow Jesus. We still need to evaluate what they have to tell us, but they will help us see things from a different perspective. Too often, we are so closely involved in the situation that we fail to see all the different angles it has. The perspective of other Christians helps us see things more clearly.

Life is tough. Just because life is tough doesn’t mean that we are not doing God’s will. Often, the struggle is an indication that we are doing what God wants us to do, and the Enemy is opposing us. We need to stay faithful, and in the end, we will experience the life God created us to live.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Technology and the Christian

Technology is a part of our existence. 

It is to be expected that people, who are created in the image of God, will create things that improve our lives on planet Earth.

There is no doubt that we have benefited from all sorts of technologies that we don’t give a second thought to because they are normal part of our daily lives. 

Wheels, hammers, plows, indoor plumbing, printed books, and cars are all examples of technology that has influenced our lives to such a degree that we don’t even think about them. These technologies allow us to travel more quickly, feed more people, and inform  larger audiences than we could without them.

Most, if not all, technology has pros and cons. Cars have made travel easier and faster, but they also use up enormous amounts of resources and add pollution in the environment. A technology that sticks around usually has a net benefit, as people believe that its pros outweighs its cons.

We are moving into a new wave of technology. Technologies that are going to challenge our beliefs about what it means to be human and our purpose in this world. In many ways this is an extension of the wave of technology we have already adopted: personal computers, internet, search engines, smartphones, and social media. 

Since we didn’t do a good job of thinking through the impact of these new technologies, which have brought a net benefit to our culture, we are experience some profound negative consequences. Things like depression, loneliness, and despair are on the rise. Take for instance this article, A Week Off Social Media Boosts Mental Health, that shows a link between our social media usage and our mental well being.

The last few days I have been doing some thinking around the subjects of Artificial Intelligence and Trans-humanism (I have also thought about the use of psychedelics as a way to explore the spiritual side of life), because these are going to be a reality in our culture before we know it, and as people who follow Jesus we will need to know how to respond.

Artificial Intelligence focuses on the development of machines that give them the ability to make decisions, problem solve, learn, and create. AI will allow computers to create things faster than people can create and that will be indistinguishable from what people can create.

Transhumanism is a philosophy and movement that advocates for the use of advanced technologies to enhance human abilities, both physical and cognitive. The goal of transhumanism is to transcend the limitations of the human condition and create a post-human future in which people are healthier, stronger, more intelligent, and more resilient than ever before.

I am not qualified to talk about these things in depth. With that acknowledgment, I have thought about these issues and how to help followers of Jesus to think rightly about them. The following are 5 topics I think are important to address if Christians are going to intelligently engage in the conversation.

  1. What is means to be human. When God created human beings in His image what does that mean? Part of what it means is to accept that we have limitations, and that in those limitations we learn to trust in God’s provision and help. Humans are also tasked with being productive and not just consume.
  2. The difference between wisdom and knowledge. We have had the knowledge of the world at our fingertips for a few years now, but with AI we will be able to access it in such a way that it will make education as we know it obsolete. One of the Bible’s main themes is wisdom, and wisdom isn’t simply acquired through knowledge. Wisdom, which is the knowledge for living well in God’s world, comes from prayer, personal relationships, experience, and contemplation. Wisdom can’t be downloaded from a computer into our minds.
  3. The importance of the Body. This is the reason why I am so big on talking about Resurrection and New Creation. The Christian Hope is not our souls going to Heaven when we die,is but receiving new bodies to live in God’s renewed Creation. To be human is to have a body and we experience the world through our bodies. Our bodies matter and we should be good stewards of these bodies that God has given to us as we prepare for God’s New Creation.
  4. What is reality? Discerning what is real from what is fake and what is true from what is false is going to become more and more difficult. We won’t be able to tell if an image was taken with a camera or generated by a computer. Animated movies will be impossible to distinguish from live action movies. We might even begin to wonder if life is real or if we are just part of some big simulation. Getting away from devices, unplugging from the matrix, and enjoying real places and people will be essential.
  5. The importance of connectedness with people and the rest of creation. We are experiencing a growing numbness already with the world around us. Reading about tragedies and experiencing the lives of others through YouTube disconnects us from the realities of everyday life. The more we engage in our own personal interfaces with technology the more life becomes about us and our desires, and we loose the connection to the people around us.

This is a quick summary of the ponderings I have done the last few days. I am not posing as an expert on these issues. Rather, I am pointing out the areas I think are crucial for Christians to think through so we enter into the conversation thoughtfully and productively rather than reactively. It is crucial for Christians to be able to thoughtfully participate conversation and bring a unique God-centered perspective to these issues.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Asking for a Friend: If God is Good, Why does He Allow Evil to Exist?

Everyone has questions. Some questions we can find the answer with a quick search on Google. Other questions are more intimidating. Questions that surround our faith can be scary because we worry about what the answer might be and whether or not those answer will affect our faith. What ends up happening is that we ignore the question, but that question still lingers in the back of our mind.

In Asking for a Friend we want to look at a few of these questions and see if there is a way to provide an answer to them that will not only strengthen our faith, but also help us see the world through a more Christian perspective.

One of the fundamental beliefs in Christianity is that God is good. Most of the time, when we are experiencing the good things of life, this is easy to believe, but it becomes harder to accept when we consider the reality of evil. We imagine that if we were loving and good and all-powerful we wouldn’t let bad things happen. This leads us to the conclusion that God is not good, all-powerful, or even real. This question is a crucial one to answer.

Text: Job 38:1-7
Big Idea: God addresses the problem of evil through Jesus and His faithful people.
Challenge: Resist evil by doing good.

EDC Wednesday: What is Everyday Carry?

 I am a big proponent of Everyday Carry. All of us have an everyday carry, whether we realize it or not.

An Everyday Carry is the set of items you take with you every time you leave the house. Most of us make sure we have a wallet, keys, and our phones on us when we go to work or run few errands. It is worth asking, “Is there anything else that might be useful during the day?”

The concept behind Everyday Carry (EDC) is carrying items that prove useful to us as we go about our normal daily tasks. Things like our wallets, phones, and keys they are everyday carry items by default, because they are things we know we need everyday. Building out an actual EDC involves thinking through the items that could be carried with you everyday that would make your life easier.

The EDC world focuses on a few basic items when it comes to a daily carry: knife, multi-tool, flashlight, pen, watch, and handkerchief. This may be the type of gear that EDC people focus on, that does not mean that these are the items that will prove useful in your daily life. For instance I know of a few people who carry nail clippers, not only for clipping nails, but for other small cutting tasks.

This is what my current EDC looks like:

After several years of experimenting with different items, this what I have come to like the best. 

In the picture I have a Leatherman Skeletool, Civivi Baklash, Tom’s Fidgets Flippy Chain, Olight i3t flashlight, Zebra Telescopic Pen, Victorinox Tinker Swiss Army Knife, Dryki Microfiber Handkerchief, and Norwex Optic Scarf.

This set of gear is a good combination of what is practical for me and what I simply enjoy carrying. As a pastor I don’t have a need for a knife the size of the Baklash on a daily basis, but I like carrying it (the Baklash is my favorite knife), so I carry it. I carry it, not because it is practical, but because of enjoyment. The Skeletool, between the pliers and the screwdriver, is enough to do most small jobs the might pop up during the day. I carry it because it is practical and useful on a regular basis.

An EDC is the set of items that you carry that are useful to you on daily basis. They might have a practical function or they might simply bring you joy.

All of us are going to carry things in our pockets and bags as we go about our lives, so lets put some thought into what goes along with us everyday. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Hebrews: Greater than the Angels


Understanding the identity of Jesus is fundamental to being a Christian. Jesus is not just a good teacher, a prophet, a miracle worker, or an angel. Jesus is the unique Son of God who is responsible for creating and saving the world.

The author of Hebrews is making it clear that you can’t reduce Jesus to anything less than God and still be a Christian. 

Hebrews 1:5-14 (CSB)

For to which of the angels did he ever say,

You are my Son; today I have become your Father,

or again,

I will be his Father, and he will be my Son?

Again, when he brings his firstborn into the world, he says,

And let all God’s angels worship him.

And about the angels he says:

He makes his angels winds, and his servants a fiery flame,

but to the Son:

Your throne, God, is forever and ever, and the scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of justice.

You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; this is why God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of joy beyond your companions.


In the beginning, Lord, you established the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands;

they will perish, but you remain. 

They will all wear out like clothing; you will roll them up like a cloak,

and they will be changed like clothing.

But you are the same, and your years will never end.

Now to which of the angels has he ever said:

Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool?

Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve those who are going to inherit salvation?

For some Jews angels were highly regarded as messengers of God. Apparently some Christians were trying argue that Jesus was not God, but an angel who God appointed as His first born Son and Messiah. Hebrews 1:5-14 explains why Jesus is greater than the angels. The author of Hebrews provides several reasons why Jesus is greater than the angels in this passage:

  1. Jesus is the Son of God - The author of Hebrews begins by quoting Psalm 2:7, which says, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father." This highlights the fact that Jesus is not just an angel or a messenger of God, but he is the Son of God. He has a unique relationship with God the Father that is superior to that of any angel.
  2. Jesus is worshiped by the angels - The author of Hebrews also quotes Psalm 97:7, which says, "Let all God's angels worship him." This shows that even the angels are called to worship Jesus, which is a clear indication of his superiority over them.
  3. Jesus is the Creator of the universe - The author of Hebrews says that God created the universe through his Son, Jesus. This means that Jesus was involved in the act of creation, which is a remarkable feat that no angel could achieve.
  4. Jesus is eternal - The author of Hebrews says that God calls Jesus "Lord" and "God" and that he will remain forever. This shows that Jesus is not just a temporary figure, but he is eternal, which is another trait that sets him apart from the angels.
  5. Jesus is seated at the right hand of God - The author of Hebrews says that Jesus has been exalted to the highest place and is seated at the right hand of God. This is a position of honor and authority that no angel has ever held.

The superiority of Jesus to angels is demonstrated by seven Old Testament quotations that show that he is God’s Son, that he is worshiped by angels, that he is the creator of the universe, that he is eternal, and that he is at the right hand of God. This also teaches that Jesus, though he is God, is distinguished from the Father.

What we believe about Jesus matters. He is greater to all created beings, including the other spiritual beings such as the angels. This means He is worthy of our worship and faith.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Hebrews: Jesus is Superior to the Angels


STOP — Hebrews 1:5-14


The author of Hebrews provides a contrast between Jesus and the angels to demonstrate that Jesus is superior to the angels. God has declared that Jesus is His Son and to the angels God has commanded that the angels worship him. To Jesus God gave the Kingdom, but to the angels God made them servants.


Jesus is the King of the Kingdom and angels are his servants.


1. Jesus is greater than the angels because God has treated them differently. God declared that Jesus is the Son and that angels are to worship him.

2. God made the angels servants, but He made Jesus the King of the Kingdom.

3. Jesus was at the beginning and was responsible for creation. He is ruler over it.

4. Angels are servants of the Kingdom. They have the responsibility of serving God’s people in our task of working for the Kingdom.


Thank You for Jesus. He is the creator and savior of all things and I join the angels in worshipping Him.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Hebrews: Jesus is Supreme

 Who is Jesus?

The book of Hebrews answers this question. Apparently, in an attempt to make Christianity more appealing, people were downplaying the identity of Jesus. The author of this book/sermon wanted to correct people’s incorrect theology about Jesus.

This is why the Hebrews begins with an argument for the supremacy of Jesus Christ as the Son of God.

Hebrews 1:1-4 (CSB)

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son. God has appointed him heir of all things and made the universe through him. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. So he became superior to the angels, just as the name he inherited is more excellent than theirs.

The author of Hebrews started by stating that in the past, God spoke to his people through the prophets. But in these last days, he has spoken to us through his Son. This alone tells us that

Jesus is not just another prophet, but he is the Son of God, sent to us to reveal God's plan for creation.

The author then goes on to describe Jesus as "the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being." In other words, Jesus is the perfect image of God the Father. He is not just a messenger, but he is the embodiment of God's love and grace for us. Through Jesus, we can see the very nature of God, his character, and his will for us.

Furthermore, the author of Hebrews emphasizes that Jesus is the one who sustains all things by his powerful word. It is through Jesus that everything was created, and he holds everything together. This means that Jesus is not only the revelation of God, but he is also the one who upholds the universe and keeps everything in order.

Finally, the author tells us that Jesus has become superior to the angels, who were also messengers of God in the Old Testament. This is because Jesus is not just a messenger, but he is the Son of God, and he has been given a name that is above all names. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

So, what does this mean for us? It means that we have a Savior who is not only powerful but also personal. He is not only the Creator of the universe but also the Redeemer of our souls. Through him, we can experience the forgiveness of our sins, the healing of our brokenness, and the restoration of our relationship with God.

As we reflect on these words from Hebrews, let us be reminded of the greatness of our God and the depth of his love for us. Let us also be encouraged to put our faith in Jesus, who is the only way to the Father. May we surrender our lives to him, and may we live every day in the light of his grace and truth.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

The Chosen: Mocking God?


At Bethlehem we have been watching The Chosen on Wednesday evenings. Last night we finished season  3.

There is no doubt that the show is well done. It is able to grab and hold your attention, which is a must for any show or movie. The additional story lines they have added to it are compelling enough to keep, even us who are very familiar with the Gospels, engaged and wondering what will happen next.

I think the main benefit of The Chosen is that it helps people to engage their imaginations as they consider what it would have been like to have walked along side of Jesus. For instance, watching Jesus perform miracles has given me a greater sense of awe and wonder as I think about what those events would have been like then simply reading the text. In this way The Chosen enhances my reading of the Gospels.

On the flip side is the reality that the show is the interpretation and harmonization of the events recorded in the Gospels by  a small group of people, if not just one guy. There are certainly things about the show I would argue about. I think the sending out of the 12 on their mission work happened too early. I also think the disruption in the Decapolis is implausible, since it is in Gentile territory I am not sure the disciples would have gone there on their mission trip. Jesus’ return to Nazareth just seemed odd to me, like  having Lazarus grow up with Jesus (having Jesus declare that he is the Law of Moses was a good touch, even though that was one of the most controversial things heading into season 3).

To be honest, when it comes to The Chosen, I am rather indifferent about it. I have enjoyed watching it, but I don’t feel compelled to keep watching it either.

I know some people who are big fans of the show. Which I think is good because there needs to be support of well done media that is influenced by and supports Christian faith.

I also know that the show has its critics. For example this critique that I saw on Twitter.

What? The Chosen is mocking God?

The Chosen is a TV show, it is not a commentary on Scripture and it is not adding to Scripture. It is attempting to tell a story, helping people engage their imaginations (which is an under utilized tool in discipleship).  Hopefully, this will help them arrive at a greater appreciate of the text the next time they hear it or read it.

I am positive that if you asked Dallas Jenkins if he thought the Gospels were lacking or were in some way imperfect he would say no. He has a desire to tell the story of Jesus in a way that grabs people’s attention, and hopefully feel compelled to read the Bible to discover the whole story.

Here Mr. Jolly made assumptions about the thoughts and motivations behind the show. Rather than being charitable with his assessment, he assigned evil motivations to the people creating it. Because he has a high view of Scripture (notice he is holding a Bible in his profile picture), he felt the need to protect the integrity and sufficiency of the Bible.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love the Bible and that I totally believe that the Bible is the word of God that He wants His people to have. The Bible reveals God’s wisdom and will to us. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, it renews our minds and transforms our lives. 

This is what I believe, yet, every week as I prepare sermons and lessons I think about how to communicate this wonderful book to people in a way that captures their attention and helps them on their discipleship journey. This work requires using illustrations, metaphors, and analogies to help  make the text understandable and applicable to the lives of those listening.

When a preacher or teacher of the Bible uses an illustration, does that mean he or she is judging the Bible to be lacking or boring? 

Of course not! 

It does show that the preacher or teacher understands that the Bible was written for us but not to us. In other words, the Bible was written to people in a different time and in a different culture, and what would have been understandable to them is not necessarily understandable to us. Therefore we need to do the hard work to understand it and explain it. The work God has called a preacher or teacher to do is to explain His word to people in a way that is understandable to them.

I believe that is similar to what Dallas Jenkins is doing with The Chosen

Is he doing perfectly? 

No, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t helping people understand a little bit better what it might have been like to follow Jesus 2,000 years ago.

The Bible is a wonderful book and the story of Jesus is a beautiful story. 

These realities should motivate us to make it as understandable as we can, whether creating a show about the life of Jesus, teaching about the parables, or preaching about the resurrection. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Asking for a Friend: How Much Influence Should the Bible Have on Morality?

Everyone has questions. Some questions we can find the answer with a quick search on Google. Other questions are more intimidating. Questions that surround our faith can be scary because we worry about what the answer might be and whether or not those answer will affect our faith. What ends up happening is that we ignore the question, but that question still lingers in the back of our mind.

In Asking for a Friend we want to look at a few of these questions and see if there is a way to provide an answer to them that will not only strengthen our faith, but also help us see the world through a more Christian perspective.

We are created in the image of God. One of the implications of that reality is that our standard for right and wrong comes from God and His character. To find out about God’s character we need to turn to the Bible, which is God’s revelation to His people. The Bible is essential in forming our morality to help us become the people God created us to be.

Text: Romans 2:13-16

Big Idea: The Bible shapes the beliefs and behaviors of God’s people as we influence the world.

Challenge: Read Ephesians 5:1-21 and (1) Confess sin (2) Think of a way to show love. 

Hebrews: The Nature of the Son


STOP - Hebrews 1:1-4


God speaks to His people. In the past God spoke through prophets, but now He has spoken through His Son. The Son represents God perfectly and He sustains all things and made possible the purification for sin. In this He has proven to be greater than the angels.


Jesus is the perfect representation of God. To know Jesus is to know God.


1. God speaks to His people. He has communicated His word and will to them. In the past this mostly done through other people: Prophets.

2. At the right time, when there was a people who were familiar with God’s word, Jesus came as the perfect representation of God.

3. Jesus is the Creator and Heir of the universe. It belongs to Him.

4. Jesus continues to work at sustaining the universe and He made purification sin possible.

5. Jesus reigns with God in Heaven. 

6. All these things prove that Jesus is greater than the angels. He is not just another heavenly spiritual being.


Lord, thank You for Jesus. I may not understand everything about the incarnation, I do trust that Jesus is the Eternal Son who secured forgiveness of sins for your people.

The Spiritually Mature Life: Having the Fruit

On Sunday, April 7, 2024, I started a new sermon series at Bethlehem Church called A Spiritually Mature Life. This sermon series is focused ...