Our Purpose

Many people live life with no direction and a lack of meaning. Trying to find meaning and purpose has become very difficult, everything we think will fulfill us never does. Fame and fortune have been grasped for by many who, when they finally attain it, are left worse off than before. The words ring true that “There is nothing worse than to reach the top, only to find there is nothing there.”

This weekend we discussed this exact topic: “Where do we find meaning and purpose in life?” To answer this question we studied Matthew 22:34-40 where Jesus answers a very similar question, "What is the most important commandment?". I feel these questions are related because its almost like asking “What is the most important thing God has asked us to do in this life? Or what is the thing that OUR CREATOR would consider most crucial for us to do with the life he’s given us?” (Who would know the purpose of humanity better than the one who created them for a specific purpose.)

Jesus lays out for us the two most important things that God asks of every Human, To love Him with everything in you, and to love people. This is truly our mission here on earth, and only when we step into doing this do we find meaning and purpose. Jesus wants us to recognize that Loving God and Loving people are closely tied together. To love God is to love people and to love people is an actual physical way that we can show love to God. Physically showing love to God was always a difficult concept for me to understand because obviously he is invisible and untouchable. It was a game-changer for me to realize that through loving people, through real genuine actions and not only in words (1 John 3:16-18), I was also directly loving God.

Jesus makes this clear in Matthew 25:31-46. This passage is intense, but it illustrates this point beautifully. Jesus basically tells us that when we show love through our actions to those in need, it is the same as if we did those actions to Jesus himself. Jesus ties himself to people and he reveals to us just how deeply connected the two commandments of Loving God and Loving people are. It is impossible to claim a love for God if we hate, curse, and abuse our fellow human beings.

1 John 4:20-21 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Resolutions That Matter (John Rainey)

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If you really think about it, New Year’s resolutions are usually pretty selfish. How can I get into shape, save more money, learn a new hobby, explore more… I’m not saying these are bad things, I just think it’s interesting to note that resolutions tend to be on the me, myself, and I side of things. As Christians, however, what type of resolutions should we be making? What resolutions are truly significant and should be found on our resolution list?

Paul, in his letter to Colossians (3:1-4), says that if you are a Christian, then you should set your mind on things above. Don’t dwell on earthly things, but take your thoughts to heavenly places. I don’t know about you, but when I “set” my mind to something, that speaks to a serious dedication. If I am set on accomplishing a particular goal, many if not all areas of my life will change to reflect the effort it takes to accomplish this goal. Paul says make your minds set on Jesus, so we can expect that by doing so, it will change many aspects of our lives…

Reading Colossians 3:5-17 will show you what life looks like if you do, in fact, set your minds on Jesus. There’s a list of things that you refrain from doing - things like avoiding sexual immorality, impurities, evil desires, anger, slander, obscene talk. And there’s another list of things that you will actively pursue, things like: have compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, patience, forgiveness, peace, and love. And, side note, these “do’s and don’ts” of the Bible — these are not in there just to make you good, moral, holier-than-thou people  — they are not things that you begrudgingly have to do or can’t do just because God is a cosmic killjoy. NO! These are all things for YOUR good, for the good of this world and the people around you. A lot of people think religion produces people to be moral for morality’s sake, and that couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to Jesus… It just so happens that when you subscribe to Jesus and His teachings, and you whole-heartedly follow, your life happens to change in a way that is holy, righteous, and loving. (But I digress…)


Paul says that Christians should set our minds on Jesus, and if we do that, our lives will change in a way that makes heavenly impact on us and the people around us - and that is exactly what I think is worthy of our new year’s resolutions. Resolutions that matter make heavenly impact! My encouragement to you, for starters, is to read Colossians 3:1-17 and reflect on those list of what the Christian life looks like compared to what your life looks like (not that those lists in Colossians are the end all, be all’s to Christian living, but a good place to start). Are there things on those lists that stick out? Are there things that Christians should not do, that you currently struggle with? Make that your resolution! Are there things that Christians should be doing, that you don’t do. Make that your resolution! 

And try to be specific as possible with your resolution, so you can gauge progress. Let me give you an example… Christians should be compassionate towards others, that’s found on this list in Colossians 3:12. Well, if you are generally a selfish person that rarely thinks about the well-being of others (especially those who are in a rough place that could use a helpful hand), make a resolution to be more compassionate this year. That, however, is are hard thing to gauge… So, instead of saying, “this year I want to be more compassionate,” maybe you make a resolution that’s something like “I want to make an extra effort, at least once a week, to help someone in need.” 


And guess what, it’s not the change of calendar that will enable you to make transformations in your life — that’s a New Year’s delusion. You become more compassionate, kinder, humble, loving, and forgiving the more and more your minds are set on things above. You avoid immoralities, unrighteous anger, obscene talk the more your minds are fixed on Jesus. Verses 1-4, Paul’s words of setting your mind to Jesus, that’s your key to real New Year’s change. My encouragement is that your New Year’s change is something that makes heavenly impact on the world around you, not solely focused on me, myself, and I. 

Advent: Joy (John Rainey)

This week’s Advent theme is the promise of joy. If you really think about it, there truly is nothing in this world that can give you lasting joy. Things and money can bring temporary happiness, but it will surely fade. Even people, the ones you love most, will let you down and hurt you from time to time because they’re human and make mistakes. How can we look to Christmas for a lasting kind of joy, in a world where joy is so fleeting?

As a prophet, Isaiah communicated God’s messages to Israel. Some of these God-given messages were of impending judgement - Israel was becoming like the wicked nations around them, and if they didn’t turn from their unrighteous ways, the protection and provision God promised Israel would turn to punishment (which was a part of the Mosaic Covenantal agreement, Israel was to obey God’s commands to receive His blessing). But if this punishment happened (which it did, in their exile to Babylon), there were also messages of salvation. God would not let Israel stay in exile and promised to save them from their disastrous, scary situation as captive in enemy Babylon. One of these promises of salvation is found in Isaiah 35:1-7, and gives an absolutely beautiful picture of salvation:

     The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God. 

     Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow. 

The pictures of death, struggle, danger (desert, wildernerness) will transform to new life. Weakness and disability will turn to strength. Israel was told to not fear, because God has their back, He will come and He will save. And to read of the blind gaining sight, the deaf being to hear, the lame being able to walk — what type of emotions do you think those who are saved and healed may experience? Joy? Unbelievable joy? I think so… So what were they to expect? Was Israel to do something? What will this look like? Isaiah continues, 35:8-10:

     And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

There is a way, that only the righteous will walk — it is not for the unclean, wicked, or unrighteous. But those who are redeemed and follow this “Way of Holiness,” will receive “everlasting joy.” Lasting joy in a world where joy fades so quickly, that’s what we’re searching for, right? So what is this “Way” that Isaiah was referring to? One final verse to round it all all… John 14:1-6, starts with Jesus talking, and He says,

      “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

     Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

To follow the “Way” that Isaiah spoke of, is to follow Jesus! He IS the way to eternal, everlasting joy. Christmas is, of course, so much more than receiving temporary happiness from gifts under a tree — it’s God giving the greatest gift of all, which includes the only way we could ever find joy that will never fade. Even when things are hard in this life, we can still have joy in Jesus — knowing His perfect life, sacrificial death, and miraculous resurrection has saved our souls for all eternity - restoring relationship with our Maker, leading us to His Kingdom where there is no more struggle, pain, or tears. But this lasting joy is for those who follow the Way, for those who trust Jesus, for those who lay down their own lives to live for Him, to love Him and all others with all we have. Are you looking for lasting joy? Find it only in the first Christmas gift, Jesus.

Advent: Peace (John Rainey)

As we’re working through Advent, reflecting on what promises Israel had to look forward to, as well as what Christ followers have to anticipate - we come to week two, promises of peace. God made a covenant promise with His people after He freed them from slavery in Egypt, it’s called the Mosaic Covenant and is found in Exodus 19. Basically God promised that if His people would follow His good, righteous commands, the He would bless, provide, and protect them. If you’ve read through the Old Testament, you know Israel had their fair share of ups and downs, but it got to a point so low of them becoming like evil nations around them, that God’s patience was worn and His protection would be removed. They disobedience and disregard for God had led them to be exiles in the enemy country Babylon. God, however, did not leave them high and dry, He gave Isaiah a promise to give to His people… 

For to us a child is born,

    to us a son is given,

    and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace

    there will be no end.

He will reign on David’s throne

    and over his kingdom,

establishing and upholding it

    with justice and righteousness

    from that time on and forever.

The zeal of the Lord Almighty

    will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9:6-7

God promised that exile would not last, and that there would be a child born who would raise up and rule with true justice and righteousness, a promise people in exile would have longed for. And God was good on His word, but the revealed promise did not come how Israel had expected. Instead of freeing them from oppressive nations (like Babylon or later Rome), He offered to free them from something much more dangerous and oppressive: sin. In Christmas, God gave Israel and offered to all of us, the gift of spiritual peace. In our sin, we are spiritual exile and in spiritual bondage — our relationship with our Maker destroyed in our rebellion against Him and His good standard. 

Jesus, in HIs perfect life, sacrificial death, and miraculous resurrection, offers us the gift of spiritual peace. We can have a relationship with God, and experience this peace for all of eternity, if we accept His Son as our King. This is the greatest Christmas gift we could ever receive. Is this a gift you have opened? Do you have spiritual peace with your Maker? If not, trust in Jesus as the sufficient payment for you sin and His resurrection as the power to forgive and restore relationship to God — and receive spiritual peace forever. 

Advent: Hope (Marc Hughes)

The Christmas season is here once again. At this time every year the church as a whole has practiced a tradition called advent.

The word Advent means anticipation of Arrival, or the coming of something/ someone important. Advent starts four Sundays before Christmas and at this time we celebrate by thanking God for Christ's first coming and we set our sights on Him in preparation and anticipation of his final coming.

Advent is a time of reflecting on what God has done and looking forward to what He will do

Each of the four Sundays before Christmas has a specific theme to it that we focus on for that week. The first theme, the one we will be discussing today, is Hope.

When we reflect on Jesus’ first coming, we can remember the hope Jesus brought and what that meant for the world. Firstly Jesus’ birth was a major fulfillment of centuries of prophecy.

The people living before Jesus looked forward in hope to a coming messiah and Jesus’ birth signified the fulfilling of that promise. Here is one of many of such prophecies.

“The people walking in darkness

    have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of deep darkness

    a light has dawned. […]

For to us a child is born,

    to us a son is given,

    and the government will be on his shoulders.

And he will be called

    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace

    there will be no end.

(Isaiah 9:2 and 9:6, NIV)

The Jews waited for centuries with hope for the coming of the messiah and Jesus was the fulfillment of this ancient prophecy. Jesus first coming set restoration in motion, he came to put an end to the reign of sin and darkness and He did this by bringing the kingdom of God to earth.

We now look forward to the time when Jesus will finish what He started. I love the way Paul explains this : 

21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. (Romans 8:21-23, NLT)

We look forward to Jesus coming back and uniting us fully with God once and for all. 

Just as these people looked forward to Jesus’ first coming we now wait in eager expectation for his return. Jesus has promised that He’s coming back again, and when He does He will fully establish His kingdom here on earth and completely defeat sin and darkness once and for all. This is the day that we need to look forward to with eager expectation, the day when we are with Jesus face to face.

As we approach this Christmas, take this time to remember and give thanks for what Jesus has already done and look forward eagerly to what He will do. We know one day Jesus is coming back again and when He does there will be no more pain, no more sadness, no more fighting. Believing this gives you a hope that can get you through every high and low in life, this is a hope that can never be taken away and I pray that you can remember that when you need it most.

If you believe in Him you have this hope. 

Loving Jesus (Marc Hughes)

Christianity is not a religion, its a relationship. This relationship is founded on the belief that because God first loved us and gave His son for us, we have the ability to love Him back. As Christians we are called to live out this love for God on a daily basis. This presents a challenge however because its not always easy to understand how we are supposed to love God when we cant see Him or feel Him. This brings us to the question, “How do we show love to Jesus?”

To find the answer to this question we can look to a moment in time described in the book of John. John records a moment when Jesus is telling His disciples that He will soon be leaving them. Upon hearing this news the disciples are discouraged and wondering what they are to do. Jesus begins to comfort His disciples and in this time He tells them how to show their love for Him when He is no longer physically present. He says in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” And again in John 14:21, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me…”

This brings us to the conclusion: to show our love for Jesus, we must do what He asks.

Pretty simple right? Jesus is teaching us that we show that we love Him when we obey what He asks. When we obey what Jesus teaches us we show that we actually care about what He says and it shows we believe what He says to be true. 

Jesus is encouraging His disciples to not only be people who say they love Him but to be people who live it out. He wants our love to be shown in actions and not in words alone. We show our love for Him when we obey His commands. The natural question that should follow here Is what does Jesus ask of us? What is His commandment?”

In John 13:34-35 Jesus gives this answer: 

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

So what does He ask? Jesus asks us to love one another.

This brings us to an interesting thought then… If we love Jesus by obeying what He asks, and He asks that we love one another as He loved us, then We love Jesus by showing love to others.

Jesus illustrates this truth beautifully in the book of Matthew. Jesus paints us a really amazing picture of why loving one another is so important. At this moment in Matthew Jesus is telling about after He returns to the earth to establish His kingdom. Jesus tells that the righteous will be standing at His right and the unrighteous will be standing at His left. This is the scene Jesus sets, and He follows with this thought provoking speech:

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:34-40)

When we love others, we literally are showing love for Jesus. This heightens the importance of showing love to those around us. Christians are to be people defined by love and it is by our love that the world will know Jesus. Loving God is tied directly to loving others and it is for this reason that we need to live every day intentionally focusing on loving others.

Trusting Jesus (Marc Hughes)

Last week we started the series “Knowing Jesus” and we are looking at what it means to live in relationship with God. We say it all the time: “christianity is not a religion its a relationship”, but how exactly do we go about having a relationship with God?

Last week we discussed where our relationship starts. Relationship with God starts with believing in Jesus. It starts with acknowledging that because of Jesus’ sacrifice we have the ability to be in relationship with God again. 

When it comes to living out this relationship every day, one aspect of our relationship that we can focus on is trust.

Trust is a good measure of a relationship, just think of any friendship. The ability to trust someone is a good gage of how deep your relationship is. When it comes to relationship with God, one way we can know that we have deep relationship with Him is if we can trust Him completely.

If your asking the question of how to trust God more, a good place to start is by trusting in the things the Bible promises us about Him.

We are going to discuss 3 simple promises that the Bible teaches us about Jesus that we can trust in as we live our lives.

1# Trust in His Gospel Message: 

This is the place where relationship with God begins. We discussed the Gospel last week, but trusting in this truth is how our relationship with Jesus is initiated. We can trust fully in Jesus’ sacrifice and we can have certainty of our salvation because of His work. This promise is summarized perfectly by Paul:

 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)

As we trust fully in this promise we will be comforted by the good news that this gives us certainty of spending eternity with God.

2# Trust His way is best for you

Jesus not only gave us salvation by His sacrifice, but He also modeled what our new life in Him should look like. Jesus promises that If we live the way He asks, it will lead to life. When we choose to live in sin it will always end in destruction, but a life lived for Jesus will lead us deeper into relationship with Him. As Paul states: 

 Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:8-9)

We can trust that though life will have troubles, if we choose to live the way God asks it will always be better in the end than if we chose to live a life of sin.

Trust He is with you always

There is great comfort in knowing that Jesus loves you and is there for you at all times. If we can learn to trust this promise than we can have peace in any circumstance. Jesus’ departing words to His disciples capture this truth perfectly:

 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

So these are three ways we can step into trusting Jesus today. If you know that in one of these areas you are lacking, than thats really good to recognize. Focus on trusting Jesus in that area this week and pray that He would help you know Him more deeply every day.

Knowing Jesus (Marc Hughes)

One of my favorite TV shows growing up was the show “How It’s Made”. If you’ve never seen it, each episode shows you how various everyday objects are made (hence the name). Its fun to see the crazy machines that build the items we use every day and its mind-blowing to think about how everything you use was created in some way or another. 

While watching this show one day I had an interesting thought: everything that is created has a purpose in mind before it is made. Every created thing has a purpose, and the creator crafts what He is making according to that purpose. From the christian world view, this leaves us with an interesting question: If God is the creator and He created mankind, what is our purpose? What was the purpose for which we were created?

When we look at this question in light of the Bible we find that the answer, simply put, is that humans were created to have a relationship with their creator. We were made to live in a loving relationship with God and our purpose is to bring God glory through loving and serving Him. 

So if this is our purpose, its important to understand what it means to have a relationship with God. We are starting a series called "Knowing Jesus” and the goal of this series is to define what it means to have a relationship with Jesus and explore how we can live out this relationship every day.

Before we discuss how to have relationship with Jesus, I want to clarify right away why Jesus is necessary in order for us to have relationship with God.

When we were first created, we were created good. God created Humans, Adam and Eve, and they lived in perfect relationship with God as was their purpose. God provided Adam and Eve with everything they needed, but in order for their to be a real relationship, God also gave them an option to choose something other than Him. Adam and Eve could choose to trust God and love Him or they had the option to attempt to live their own way, to define Good and Evil for themselves and unfortunately Adam and Eve chose to disobey God. This decision broke the perfect relationship and allowed Sin to enter the world and death through sin: Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” 

God is good, perfect, and Holy and because Adam and Eve sinned they were no longer good and holy. The relationship that they were created for was broken, and sin separated man from God. No human was able to break the power of sin because every person who ever lived followed in the footsteps of Adam and Eve by choosing the way of sin instead of the way of their creator. We were doomed to live separated from God for eternity because of sin and death, but where humans were hopeless to save themselves God was planning redemption. 

God sent Jesus, His one and only son, in the form of Human flesh. Jesus, being fully God and somehow fully man, was able to live the perfect life that no human could ever live. Jesus then chose to give his life to pay for the sins of the world. As John 3:16-17states:  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” 

Jesus destroyed the barrier of sin that we had built. Jesus was sinless, yet he chose to pay the penalty that we owed so that we once again would be free to choose to be in relationship with God. This then is where we are left, Jesus offers us the chance to have relationship with God, but in order for this free gift to have effect, we must choose to enter into that relationship. 

Jesus is the only way we can enter relationship with God, it is through Him and Him alone that we can know God. If you want relationship with God, all you have to do is seek Jesus, accept His forgiveness, and then move forward and choose to live in relationship with Him.

Understanding this is the first step in having a relationship with God and through the rest of this series we will explore in more detail what it looks like to have relationship with God through Jesus. 

DFK: Believing the Resurrection IV

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Last week we looked at how the Disciples transformation points to the truth of the resurrection. These men who followed and fully believed in Jesus were scared and scattered after he was arrested and crucified. These same men however after seeing the risen Jesus were filled with confidence and the boldness to willingly go to their death for proclaiming the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. 

This is very convincing evidence, but some critics may argue that the resurrection story came about through people who believed in Jesus and who made the story up because they wanted to keep His message alive. This is a weak objection that can be disproved in many ways, but one of the most powerful ways to show why this can’t be the case is actually another piece of evidence that shows the truthfulness of the resurrection. This evidence is looking at the skeptics who were changed. 

After His resurrection, Jesus did not only appear to the people who believed in Him. Jesus appeared to many people who were complete skeptics that didn’t believe in His claim to be the messiah. Two really clear examples of skeptic conversions are James Jesus’ Brother and Saul of Tarsus.

James, Jesus own brother, did not believe in His claims during Jesus ministry. We are told in the Gospel of John that “even Jesus’ own brothers did not believe in Him”. This all changed however once Jesus appeared to James after the resurrection. When we read about James later in the new testament we are told that He became one of the leaders in the Jerusalem church and that He was eventually killed for believing in Jesus. This is solid proof to believe that the resurrection actually happened, how else would a non-believer in Jesus be transformed so majorly that he would be willing to die for believing in who Jesus claimed to be.

Our second skeptic has an even more radical transformation. Saul of Tarsus was a well known persecutor of the early church. Saul stood by and approved of the stoning of Steven, the very first christian martyr. Saul made it his mission to squelch the rise of christianity and he went from house to house putting christian men and women in prison for their faith. This all changed in an instant however when Saul met the risen Jesus. The story is told like this in Acts 9:1-5:

“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

From this moment on, Saul was a changed man. You probably know Saul of Tarsus by the name Paul (the apostle). Paul is responsible for writing a large portion of the new testament. He made many missionary journeys through the ancient roman empire and he planted and taught many churches throughout the region. He proclaimed the truth of Jesus and His resurrection everywhere he went and he was eventually killed for his faith.

Paul clearly believed he had met the risen Jesus and he believed it so strongly that he gave his life to spread the Gospel. Only seeing the risen Jesus would give someone the confidence to change from persecuting the church of Jesus to one day dying for the very faith he used to attack.

The change of these skeptics stands as one of the strongest pieces of evidence for the truth of the resurrection.

DFK: Believing the Resurrection III

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As we continue our Defend the Kingdom series on the resurrection, we have already discussed 4 evidences of why you can believe the Resurrection really happened. If you didn’t get a chance to see what we talked about the first two weeks, check out the previous blog posts to catch up. 

Fifth evidence of the truth of the resurrection: The Disciples transformation. Jesus’ followers experienced a radical transformation in the short span of time that followed Jesus’ death and resurrection. 

When Jesus was captured and crucified, his disciples were stricken with fear. After watching their beloved leader give himself over to his enemies, the disciples were fearful that they too may be in danger because they were his followers. In the moment of Jesus’ arrest, His closest friends ran in fear. They fled and left Him alone to be brought to the Sanhedrin for questioning. While Jesus was on trial, being falsely accused, Peter attempted to stand at a fire pit nearby. Three times Peter was accused of being a follower of Jesus and three times Peter claimed He never knew Him. After Jesus was crucified and buried His disciples locked themselves indoors because they were still afraid of the Jews who had killed Jesus. These men were terrified and they were afraid to even mention Jesus’ name for fear of what may happen. All of this however changed in a moment.

According to the scriptures, the risen Jesus appeared to these men. Jesus explained to them the deep truth of the Gospel and they understood why He needed to die. They saw Jesus’ power to defeat death and they along with many others witnessed the risen Christ. After meeting the risen Jesus, these fearful disciples were forever changed.

In the book of Acts you can read all about what the disciples did after their knowledge of the Resurrection. These men who once feared for their lives were more than willing to go to their death in order that the Gospel could be preached. These men were filled with courage and boldness and everywhere they went they were persecuted for preaching about the resurrection but they wouldn’t stop preaching. 

The question you have to ask yourself is what could have given these men the courage to do this? There is no explanation other than the fact that they must have seen the risen Jesus. While he was dead and buried, they feared for their lives. When He showed Himself to them alive and resurrected, they were willing to face anything for the sake of preaching the truth. 

DFK: Believing the Resurrection II

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PART TWO: BELIEVING THE RESURRECTION. For why it’s important to believe the resurrection of Jesus and first two evidences — check out the first blog HERE

Third evidence/logical reasoning to believe the resurrection: belief in the greatest miracle. What is the greatest miracle of history? The first verse in the Bible says it: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” This isn’t necessarily a resurrection evidence, but if you can believe that God created all things from nothing, certainly you can believe He can do all else (including, raise His Son from death to life). This is a great building block to trusting in the radical of miracle of someone going from death to life. The question from here becomes, can you believe in and prove God’s existence? YES! You can logically and reasonably believe that God created all things. This was actually the very first Defend the Kingdom we ever did, so I am going to link that blog HERE if you want to dive deep into proving God’s existence. 

Fourth evidence/logical reasoning to believe the resurrection: empty tomb explanations. After Jesus was confirmed dead, His body was buried in a tomb, and three days later that tomb was empty. Even skeptical scholars agree that Jesus’ tomb was empty. If it were not empty, Roman authorities and Jewish leaders (who wanted to get rid of Christianity), would’ve opened the tomb, brought out Jesus’ corpse, and instantly crush the new Jesus movement. It is widely accepted the tomb was empty, but people came up with theories to explain the empty tomb without the resurrection miracle. Below are the leading theories:

Jesus is a myth theory. No respected historian would suggest this theory because the evidence for Jesus’ existence is overwhelming. But for the people who do not take the evidence seriously and use this theory simply say that Jesus never existed. Aside from the 27 reliable New Testament documents that talk about Jesus, there are over 30 sources outside the Bible that refers to Jesus. From these sources, you find more than 100 facts on Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Sources include first century historians like Flavius Josephus, Cornelius Tacitus, Suetonius, as well as the Jewish Talmud (collection of Jewish writings). Talmud mentions that Jesus’ death occurred at the same time the New Testament says, which is interesting, because even the Jews who rejected Jesus as Messiah mentioned His existence. Bart Ehrman, author, scholar, and critic of the Bible said this in regards to evidence to Jesus existing:

“There is no scholar in any college, or university in the Western world who teaches classics, ancient history, New Testament, early Christianity, or any related field who doubts that Jesus existed...With respect to Jesus, we have numerous, independent accounts of his life...sources that originated in Jesus’ native tongue...and that can be dated to within just a year or two of his life...Historical sources like that are pretty astounding for an ancient figure of any kind...The claim that Jesus was simply made up falters on every ground.”

Stolen body theory. This suggests that the tomb was empty because Jesus’ disciples stole His body, but this raises some difficult questions. For one, how could the disciples have stolen the body? They would have had to sneak past highly trained killing machine Roman soldiers, break Roman seal that was put on the stone, and move two-ton stone away from tomb (without being detected). Also, if you recall from the Biblical narrative, after Jesus died, the disciples fled in fear thinking their association with Jesus could’ve brought harm to themselves — it’s hard to believe same disciples that fled in fear would risk their lies to steal a corpse from the same people who killed their leader! 

Another difficult question raised: why would the disciples steal the body? When they fled in fear, they had the understanding that with the death of their leader, the Jesus revolution was over. Done. Defeated. They went back to their homes, lives, and jobs. What would be the benefit of stealing His body? Is it reasonable to believe they stole the corpse, only to suffer incredibly, ultimately die brutal deaths, to preach a message they would know to be a lie?

Lost tomb theory. In 2007, Discovery Channel did a documentary called “Lose Tomb of Jesus,” claiming they found His tomb containing several of His bones (which would be a problem to the resurrection claim). They made this claim based on names found engraved in the tomb, names such as: Jesus, son of Joseph, Mary, Matthew, Joseph, Mary, Judah, son of Jesus. These all sound familiar, don’t they? Discovery claimed Jesus did not resurrect, that He married Mary Magdalene, and had a son named Judah. This documentary was then immediately blasted by Christian and non-Christian scholars, who provided numerous problems to the documentary.

First, these names were some of the most common name in first century Israel. Joseph was the second most popular male name, Jesus 4th, Matthew 6th, and Mary was far and away the most popular female name. Professor Amos Kloner, one of many scholars who disagreed with the documentary said there’s 900+ tombs like that one within 2 mile radius — 71 of those tombs have name “Jesus”  — 3 or 4 of those have “Jesus son of Joseph.” 

Also, if the disciples were “making up a religion” based off resurrection, certainly they would not bury his body in same city He was killed in, inscribe His name on tomb, and bury other members of His family in same grave… That would be foolish! If they were trying to prove resurrection, they would want to do everything to get rid of body, evidence of body to securely tell people “Our leader has risen!”

Hallucination theory. Theory that early Christians were hallucinating, and only thought they saw Jesus alive after death. This is not convincing theory for variety of reasons… First, hallucinations are rare and they differ depending on individual. Most hallucinations from drugs, and even if disciples were all on some crazy shrooms, group hallucinations don’t exist — they’re individual experiences. Also, hundreds of Jews in Israel claimed to see Jesus, touch His scars, hear Him teach, and ate with Him. Paul stated that “more than five hundred” people made these claims, and he said that most of 500 “still alive” (1 Cor. 15:6). He was basically saying, “If you don’t believe me… ask those 499 other people!”

Another reason hallucination theory is weak is because hallucinations are typically result from mental disorder or drug use, and the New Testament documents very sane, full of virtuous guidance, wisdom, historical event detail recorded with accuracy. It definitely reads like writings from people with sound minds. Lastly, and probably most importantly, if disciples were hallucinating, Jewish leaders could’ve brought out body. Remember, Jewish leaders and Roman authorities wanted to get rid of Christianity. If disciples were hallucinating, the body would still have been in tomb, and they could’ve rolled stone away and said, “SEE! There He is!”

Last theory to discuss for now: swoon theory.  This theory claims Jesus didn’t actually die, but fainted from exhaustion and blood loss. Everyone thought He was dead, but He later resuscitated and the disciples believed that to be resurrection. But according to eyewitnesses, Jesus was viciously beaten, stabbed, suffered internal damage, massive blood loss, asphyxiation, and a spear through His heart. Who could survive that, sit in tomb with no food, water, or medical attention — remove a giant stone door, get away undetected with guards present, and then convince hundreds of people He rose from death and was in good health?

If we can logically believe that God created all things, He is in control of all things, and could certainly raise His Son Jesus from the dead. None of the empty tomb theories make a strong case, but you decided for yourself what you can believe. If you are still skeptical, however, don’t make up your mind just yet, because we have more evidences coming! Stay tuned for more next week!

Defend the Kingdom: Believing the Resurrection

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We are embarking on another Defend the Kingdom apologetics series. This time we are covering the most central event that has happened that the Christian faith is centered on: the resurrection. Can we logically, reasonably believe that a man 2,000 years ago died and came back to life? Let’s dive in to this series, look at the evidence, and see for ourselves what we actually believe on this phenomenal event. 

Before the evidence, it would do some good to introduce why the resurrection is so important. There are four different accounts of the life of Jesus found in the Bible — documented by some of the people that followed Jesus closest (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). All four of these accounts of Jesus record that towards the end of His life, Jesus was arrested, put on trial, killed by crucifixion, buried in a tomb, and that a few days after, the tomb was emptied because Jesus had resurrected from the dead (Matt 26:36-28:10, Mark 14:32-16:11, Luke 22:39-24:2, John 18:1-20:10). 

This is an important event because of what is highlighted in John 3:16 — because God loves us so much, He sent His Son to be a sacrifice for us, so that if we trust in Him, we will not die but have eternal life. In our sin, we have separation from God, and in death we find eternal separation. Jesus is the solution to our sin problem, His death is payment for our sin, and His resurrection is the power we can trust in for forgiveness. Romans 10:9 says that if you say with your mouth that Jesus is the Lord of your life, and believe God raised Him from the dead, then you are saved. 

The resurrection is the difference between eternal life or eternal death, now can we believe it actually happened? Let’s start with some introductory evidences/thoughts, that will give us a good foundation to work off of in the coming weeks…

First: No resurrection means no Christianity. According to Paul, if Jesus did not rise from death, then Christian preaching would be worthless because Jesus was not who He said He was, all the apostles were liars testifying to a resurrection that didn’t happen, forgiveness would not be granted for anyone’s sins, and there is no hope for those who trust in Jesus. The resurrection is mentioned over 100 times in the New Testament and is central to the Christian faith. Christianity is a world view that has had millions and millions of believers from the first century to this day — and all would be for nothing if the resurrection had never happened. We will be elaborating on this point throughout the series, in different (more specific) evidences we uncover, for now, just a big blanket thought to get minds turning…

Second: Bible is trustworthy. This is also foundational for our belief in the resurrection, not that it speaks directly to the resurrection, but it’s in the Bible that we read all about Jesus rising to life, His post-resurrection appearances, experiences of the apostles, and rapid growth of the church. So, can we trust the very source of all this information? This was actually the previous Defend the Kingdom that we did, so I will post the link to those blogs HERE. But the evidence is completely overwhelming that this is a historically accurate, reliable, trustworthy document. From the many fulfilled prophecies, archeological evidences, stunning internal consistency and unity of a book that has over 40 different authors over the span of 1,500 years, evidences found outside the Bible that corroborate it’s events and people, etc.! The Bible is proven reliable and trustworthy, which gives confidence that we can trust in the stories found within — including the account of the resurrection. 

Church Words: Walk by the Spirit

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Last week we finished our “Church Words” series. This series was a really cool opportunity to look at some words that we as Christians often use but often don’t fully understand. During the series thus far we discussed: Sin, The Gospel, and Repentance. When we begin to understand these three words we get an explanation of what the Christian faith claims. We have all sinned and this is a problem because sin separates us from God and brings death. The Gospel however is very “good news” because it tells us that Jesus paid the death we owe and therefore we have the ability to be made right with God through believing in His promise and excepting His free gift of grace. Repentance then speaks of our response; we have been saved by grace through faith and if you believe that your life should be different. Repentance is turning from your own sinful ways and beginning to live the way God intends. This is where many people hit a problem. To turn from sin is clearly what we want to do when we become a Christian, but it is not always easy. Sin is fun, it is tempting, and it is what we are used to doing. If we rely on our own will to keep us from sinning, we may very well end up right back where we started. The question then is “How can we find the strength to resist falling back into our old ways?”

The apostle Paul answers our question very simply in the book of Galatians. Paul writes in Galatians 5:16: “Walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Paul says that the key to breaking from our sinful desires is to walk by the Spirit. Sounds simple enough, but what does this really mean and how do we do it? Thats exactly the question we aim to answer as we unpack this weeks church word (or phrase): “walk by the Spirit”.

The first thing we need to understand is who the Spirit is. The Spirit Paul refers to here is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God; He is a member of the trinity. The Spirit is seen in the life and ministry of Jesus at many points, and in a passage found in John 14:25-26 Jesus actually tells us that when He goes away to be with the Father, He will send to us the Holy Spirit to help us. He tells us that the Spirit will be with us and that He will soon be in us. Jesus states that the Spirit He sends will be a Helper who will teach us and help us remember all that Jesus has said. 

So this then is how the Spirit relates to us today, He was sent to us by the Father in the name of Jesus. The Spirit now lives in us and one of His main roles in our lives its to work in us to make us more like Jesus. When Paul tells us to walk by the Spirit he begins to give us this picture of letting the Holy Spirit be our guide.Paul tells us that we should allow the Spirit to lead us so that we can put the old ways to death. The question then is how do we actually let the Holy Spirit lead us, how do we let Him be our guide?

One of the key ways we can let the Spirit guide us is through the reading of scripture. Reading the Bible on your own can be confusing and very challenging. Luckily for the believer, the Holy Spirit has been given to us to help us understand the truths found in scripture. The problem is that many christians do not tap into this amazing resource that they’ve been given. The Spirit offers us this wisdom and guidance, but we have to ask Him to be our guide. Before diving into a time of reading, we aught to spend time sitting with God and asking Him to teach us as we read His word.

The Holy Spirit is the same Spirit who inspired the writers of the Bible. This means that there is no better teacher for us, the very Spirit that inspired the scriptures its the same Spirit that lives in us. We just have to ask for His help and he is ready to give it. 

This emphasizes the relationship nature that we need with the Spirit. When we walk with Him it will always be a mix of our effort and His power. We have to be willing to let Him lead and He has promised to be our Guide. If we ask, he will help teach us the truth in scripture but we then must put in the effort to read and try to understand. The Spirit walks with us so we must remember that we are not alone in our attempts to live out this faith but we must also be willing to walk in step with Him. He will be our power, but we must choose to follow.

We must learn to ask for the Spirit’s help and guidance in all areas of our life. The Spirit will show us where we need to be made more like Christ and we have to be willing to let Him lead us in that area of our life. If you live each day controlled and guided by the Holy Spirit than the words of christ will be in your mind, the love of Christ will be behind your actions, and the power of Christ will help you control your selfish desires

Church Words: Repentance

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Week three: Church Words! Discussing the church’s secret code language — words only used within church context, understanding what they mean and their importance. If you missed the first two weeks, we discussed “sin” and “Gospel” — check out the first two blogs if you didn’t see them yet! This week’s church word: “repentance.” You may hear it now and then out in the wild, but this it’s a pretty church-y word. What does it mean for someone to “repent” in a spiritual context?

Before we define it, let’s check out a great Biblical example of repentance. In Luke 19, we find a story about a wealthy tax-collector named Zacchaeus. Tax-collectors were definitely unpopular people in the ancient world, as they would typically over-collect taxes from the hard-working citizens (putting the extra moneys right into their own pockets). This unpopular, cheating tax collector of a man, we’re told from the story, was interested in seeing Jesus. As Jesus was approaching town, Zach climbed into a tree to see him (because he was short man), and Jesus, being the Son of God and knowing all things, called Zacchaeus out of the tree and instigates a hang-out between the two. Let’s see how Jesus impacted Zach’s life, in Luke 19:8-10:

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Zacchaeus was changed by Jesus, and we see in this story what repentance looks like. Zach recognized the way he was living was wrong, and that caused him to make a change that aligned with who Jesus is and what it means to follow Him. Here’s a simple, straightforward definition of repentance: “A change of mind leading to a change of action. It involves a sincere turning from sin to serve God and includes sorrow for, and confession of, sin and where possible restitution.” It’s really coming to grips with your sin, genuinely feeling bad about it, confessing to God that you’re in the wrong, and making a change to align with Jesus — who He is, what He teaches, and what His will is for our life. Have you recognized sin in your life, knowing it separates you from having an eternal relationship with God, and repented to make things right? If you confess with your mouth that “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from death, then you will be saved (so says Romans 10:9). God offers so much love to you, all you have to do is accept. Don’t wait, make that decision on who Jesus is in your life — confess your wrongs, accept His death/resurrection as forgiveness of your sins, and make that change to follow Him and His ways. 

Church Words: Gospel

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If you were asked:  “What do you want, the good news first or the bad news?”, which would you choose? 

I myself am a bad news first kind of person. I believe often times we have to understand the bad news in order for the good news to make sense. I believe the perfect example of this is seen in regards to the Gospel.

In week two of our series “Church Words” we chose to spend time defining the word Gospel. The point of this series is to identify and explain words that we frequently use in church circles, but that we often times don’t fully understand. The word Gospel is used a massive amount in the new testament and we even call the first four books of the new testament “the Gospels”. This being the case, it is very important that we understand what the word “Gospel” fully means. When we examine the word Gospel the simple definition is “Good News”. This opens up the obvious question, “What’s the good news?”

To answer this from scripture, one of the clearest explanations of the Gospel is found in the book of Romans. Bible scholars have grouped a collection of scriptures from Romans that they call the “Roman road”. The “Roman road” presents the Gospel in a clear and simple way. 

The road starts with the passage Romans 3:23: 

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” 

It is here that we find the bad news. We are all sinners. No one is good, we all fall short of what we were created to be. One sin is enough to disqualify you from perfection and so we are all together sinners deserving of the due penalty. What is the penalty for sin? Romans 6:23 answers this for us:

“The wages of sin is DEATH…”

As we discussed last week, Sin has caused a divide between man and God. Our sin caused a break in the relationship between us and God. Sin is a major problem because it causes death and eternal separation from God. 

The common question is, “if God loves us cant he just look past our sin?” Unfortunately for us God cannot simply overlook our sin. Our God is a loving God, but he is also Good and Just. The penalty for sin is death and if God simply overlooks our sin than justice is not being done.

Think of this in terms of a court case. The penalty for murder is life in prison. If a man who is convicted of murder is found to be guilty, the judge must give him the penalty due for his crime. A judge would not be considered good or just if they let the man go because he was a “nice guy” or because he liked him. Similarly, we are guilty of sin. We all have intentionally chosen at one time or another to disregard God and do our own thing and we are held accountable for those actions. God cannot simply overlook our crime, justice must be served. 

This is indeed very bad news, but the second portion of romans 6:23 is where our good news begins. Paul continues:

“The wages of sin is death… BUT the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord ”

Hold on a second, didn’t we just say God cant overlook our sin? Doesn’t it make Him unjust to gift us eternal life? Well lets take a look back to Romans 5:8 to answer this valid question.

“God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

We see here the magnificence of God’s plan. There is no greater example of God’s love and justice. In love Jesus came down to us and took on human flesh. Fully God and fully man, Jesus came and lived a perfect life. Because Jesus never sinned, he never had to die, but he chose to lay down His life to pay the debt that we owed. Jesus gave His life to pay the price for our sins, and because of His sacrifice we no longer have to be separated from God. This is the free gift that we are offered, but we are still responsible for receiving it. A gift that is given still must be received for it to make a difference. How then do we receive Jesus’ gift of forgiveness? Paul explains in romans 10:9

if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

We are saved by grace through faith. Jesus did all the work, we are called to believe He is who he claimed to be and that His death was sufficient to pay for our sin. This gift of salvation is offered to everyone and the first step to entering into eternity with God is simply admitting you are helpless to save yourself.  Without Jesus we are destined to spend eternity separated from God, but through believing in His death and resurrection we are given new life. 

Take the time today to consider whether or not you believe in Jesus and if you do, spend time in prayer admitting to God that you are guilty of sin, that you need Jesus to save you, and thank Him for the promise that if you admit your need for a savior He is faithful to save. 

Church Words: Sin

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Ever notice how Christians (and church in general) has a secret code? There is language used within the church context, that simply are not (at least not regularly) used outside of faith context. This series is aimed at understanding these words, not for knowledge sake, but so that we can deeply understand the implications behind the vocabulary we use.

For week one, we started with the word "sin." A monumentally common and powerful word throughout the entire Bible. It's a term that is often used within the church, but almost never used outside of a religious context. Let's aim to get a good definition of that word, starting with this definition:

“Actions by which humans rebel against God, miss His purpose for their life, and surrender to the power of evil rather than to God.”

According to this definition, it is a wrongful action against God that misses the original intended purpose for created life. If sin is missing the intended purpose for life, let's figure out what that original purpose was. What better place to find original meaning to life, than to look at when life began? Genesis 1:26-27 says,

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and our all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

We were (and are) made in God's image, and there's a lot of purpose to be found there. God has enterally been a God of community (notice "us" verbiage in Creation -- Father, Son, Holy Spirit community in Trinity), so we are made to be in community with Him. God is love, we are made to love Him and love others. God is good, we are made to reflect that goodness. When we deviate from these things, we are failing at our original purpose in life - and we see the first regrettable deviation from this purpose in Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God. 

Sin became a problem that separated God's creation from Himself; a problem that holds great consequence and that needed to be fixed. In Jesus, His great loving sacrifice, we find the solution to the sin problem (which we will go into greater detail in the coming weeks). 

Sin is not just a laborious list of do's and don'ts -- its failing to be the best you that you were created to be. It literally (in the original language) means to "miss the mark." Those do's and don'ts that you think of (i.e. Ten Commandments) is the standard that God has set of what is right and what is wrong - for our understanding of how to be right, and illuminating the fact we can never accomplish righteousness on our own (again, we NEED Jesus). 

Against the Flow (Pt. 3, Marc Hughes)

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It is our first week back to school for these middle school students and it is always fun to see who is excited to be back and who is dreading the school-year to come. This year is the first time in 2 years that I myself will be facing this same set of emotions (as I am starting my first semester at Talbot seminary). I reflect back to when I was a freshman in college, and I remember having a massive amount of nerves and anxiety before my first week of school. I was shy and I only knew one person as I entered into my first year of school at Concordia. To make things more difficult, I was one of three freshman who were joining the lacrosse team that year. These emotions were building and my nerves were growing by the day, but that all changed when I was introduced to a guy named Josh Fagan. 

Josh was the captain of the lacrosse team and he was the first person I met at Concordia. Josh gave me a warm welcome and proceeded to take me out to coffee the following week. Josh was one of the nicest guys I had ever met and he did his best to include everyone. On the field Josh was a leader and by far the hardest working individual on the team. He was the perfect example of what a captain should be and I looked up to him for that.

My senior year of college I was given the honor of being voted the new team captain by my fellow team-mates. As I went about leading the team, I constantly reflected back to Josh’s example and challenged myself to be the type of captain that he was for me. I was blessed to have a role model like him and because of his example was able to lead my team very effectively. 

As we finish up our series in the book of Daniel, I want us to view Daniel through this same lens of being a role model. Daniel is a perfect example for living as people of faith in a world that pressures us to lose that faith. As we read his story there are many things we can learn, but there are three things specifically that I want us to focus on and try to replicate. 

In Daniel chapter 6 we get to read the famous story of Daniel in the lions den. When we look at this chapter closely we begin to learn what the daily life of Daniel looked like and we can be greatly benefited if we aim to replicate his lifestyle. Early in the chapter we read that Daniel was loved by the King and he was soon to be promoted to the top spot in Babylon. This promotion angered other government officials and they set out to destroy Daniel and his reputation. These officials ran into a problem however, in their attempt to defame Daniel they stated “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.” (Dan 6:5).

We see clearly that the first lesson from Daniel’s life is that we should take the Word of God seriously. Daniel not only daily devoted himself to reading God’s word, but he made sure to live out the commands of God. We can often forget the importance of reading God’s word. In our day and age, reading your Bible can easily fall in line with a long list of other tasks that we must do to be “good christians”. This should not be the case. We need to constantly remind ourselves that this book is the Word of the Living God and that it is essential to our daily walk with Him. Let us never forget that reading the Bible is an unbelievable gift that fuels our relationship with God and never see it as a burden that we check off our list of to-do’s.

The second thing we can learn from Daniel is the importance of prayer. The jealous government officials devise a plan to trap Daniel by tricking the king into creating a law that stated no one in Bablyon could pray to any god, other than the king, for 30 days. If you disobey this new law, the punishment was being thrown into the den of lions. 

Upon hearing this new decree, Daniels immediate response was retreating to his home, opening the window, and praying to God just as he had done every day. We see that Daniel valued prayer so highly that he devoted three separate times every day to come home and get on his knees before God. Daniel viewed prayer as an essential part to his life and the thought of going even one day without prayer wasn’t an option. We can learn a lot from this example and I feel it is wise for each of us to reflect on how we view prayer to God on a daily basis.

The final lesson from Daniel that I would like to focus on is the idea that Daniel never made any attempt to hide his faith. From the beginning of the book to the end, we read of Daniel standing up for his faith when many would rather shy away. There were moments where Daniel could have stayed quite and practiced his faith in secrecy or in his own space, but Daniel had the resolve to decide that he would never let the fear of man or the fear of an uncomfortable situation stop him from following God. Daniel may have been attacked for his faith, he may have been seen by some as foolish, but many people who witnessed Daniel live out his faith were forever changed by it.

When we stand strong in our faith, we have the opportunity to witness to the world about the amazing power found in Our God alone. When we fight to go against the flow of culture, people will notice the difference in us. Some may see us as fools, some may mock our faith, but some people may see for the very first time the love and power of Our God. For this reason, we must strive to live out the example of Daniel in our daily lives, for when we live against the flow we have the opportunity to leave an impact that lasts an eternity.

Against the Flow (Pt. 2, Marc Hughes)

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As another school year quickly approaches, its awesome to reflect on all the good things God has done this summer. We got to see some amazing growth take place this year as many  students took a step forward in their relationship with God. There were multiple first time commitments to follow Jesus mixed with many students who took their relationships with God to a deeper level. This growth was amazing to experience, but now as students re-enter the world of public school, these relationships with God will face a new set of challenges. 

This week we continued our study in the book of Daniel in an attempt to answer the over-arching question “How can we live as Christians in a non-christian world?” Last week we discussed how we can relate to Daniel on a spiritual level; He was a man of faith living in a culture that daily pressured Him to give up what He believed in. Through studying his dedication to God, we can learn a lot about what it takes to thrive in a world that opposes your faith. 

This week we took our study a level deeper as we asked the question “How do we respond when following Jesus Gets hard?” When the path of sin is more enticing than the path of obedience, when the world attacks us and makes fun of us because of our faith, when the pain and struggle of life seems to much to bear, when these things weigh on us… what do we do?

To answer this extremely important question, we turned to the popular story found in Daniel 3. In this chapter Daniel shares with us the miraculous story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and their refusal to give in to the demands of a tyrant king. This story is an unbelievable example of faith in the face of persecution. By studying the actions and words of these three friends we get a perfect guide for how to respond when following Jesus gets hard. 

As we read their story, the first thing that is inspiring to see is their their unwavering obedience to do what God has asked. They knew that to obey God means certain death, but they put obedience to God as their first priority. In the midst of extreme pressure to give up their faith, they recognized that the one thing they had control over was their own actions; they couldn’t control what the king would do, they couldn’t guarantee that God would save them if they obeyed, they couldn’t control anything except if they would obey and trust God. So for us today we need to recognize that same truth. 

When we face difficult situations that challenge us to choose the world or choose our faith, We need to control our own behavior, and trust God to handle the rest. We need to walk in obedience, and trust that God will handle the rest.

It is clear that these men trusted the God and knew that whatever happened to them was under God’s control. When we find ourselves in similar situations it would benefit us greatly if we could practice this same type of trust. We must remind ourselves to Trust God: Trust that He is good. Trust that He sees your situation and He cares about you. Trust that he can and will work everything out to the good of those who love Him.

As we continue to read their story, the second truth that we can learn and hold on to is the fact that in the midst of their hardest struggle, when they are condemned to death and thrown into the furnace, God shows Himself to be with them all along. Not only do the flames of the fire not harm them, but we are told that God is literally standing among them. From this awesome image we can see the comforting truth that God may allow us to walk through Hard times, but he will never leave our side.

If we can trust this truth then it will give us the comfort and hope we need to persevere through the difficulties this life brings our way. This story gives us some amazing insight and beautifully illustrates how we can continue to live for Jesus even when the path gets hard.

Against the Flow (Series by: Marc Hughes)

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For those of us who were lucky enough to attend Hume Lake, this month got off to an amazing start. There is nothing better than getting away from the busyness of life for a week and dedicating your time to growing closer with God. While Hume lake is awesome, there is always a challenging time when we have to leave the mountaintop experience and come back home. 

The reason this transition is difficult is because at Hume lake we are surrounded by like-minded people who daily push and encourage us to follow Jesus and pursue deeper relationship with God, but when we come back home we re-enter a world that pulls us in the opposite direction. As Christians the question that we all face is How do we live as Christians in a Non-christian world? How do we persist in following God when the world around us tempts us to live for ourselves?

To answer this very important question we turn our attention to the story of Daniel. Daniel’s story is closely related to ours, as a captive living in a foreign land Daniel was daily faced with the pressure to forsake his God and follow the way of the world around him. When we look at our own situation, we can directly relate to this cultural pressure that tempts us to leave the God we know and love. Recognizing the difficulty of our situation, the question remains: “How do we resist the pressures of this world?”

An important thing to always remember is that God gives us the strength we we need to resist the temptations and pressures of this world. In Ephesians 2:1-5, Paul describes to us how we at one time were hopeless to resist the world. We at one time were slaves to sin, destined to walk in the ways of darkness because thats all we knew, but while we were still dead in our sin Jesus gave us life. Through his death Jesus conquered sins power, he broke the chains that bound us to death and through his resurrection showed us the path to life. This is a powerful truth that we must grasp and hold onto as we face the daily struggles of this life.

To illustrate this amazing truth, we can picture this world as a river. At one time we were powerless to fight the current and temptations that pulled us down. We were dead in our sin and as the saying goes “dead fish flow downstream”. Because of his great love for us, Jesus made us alive, Jesus gave us the power to resist the current. This is incredible, we were made alive, but we must recognize that we are still in the river. We are not immune to the worlds temptations and pressures. We have been given the ability to resist but we must choose to do so. If we do not focus on intentionally pursuing Jesus, we will find ourself drifting with the current. 

Recognizing that we must begin to intentionally choose the right path is good, but there is one other question: “In the decisions and choices we daily make, how do we know which path is right and which path is wrong?” Whenever we have a question or concern about the direction we are heading in this life there should be one place we always turn to, Gods Word. 

Matt Chandler described this truth beautifully, he states ““The word of God is essential to the daily, ongoing life of a believer. If God’s message is not deep inside you, where you can meditate on it, return to it, and frequently call it back to mind, you wont be able to discern whats the true and right path from what may be an intriguing detour into this world thats no longer your home.” 

It is essential that we learn and meditate on these truths if we want to live a life that goes against the flow of this world,. We will constantly need to remind ourselves of the power Jesus gives us over sin and the necessity of relying on His Word to guide us through our everyday lives. 

Hume Lake 2018 Recap

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Hume Lake 2018: what a week! With some students that have been before, and many others that joined us for the first time, the week did not disappoint. There were many experiences full of fun, with recreation games, blog, rope swing, paintball, high ropes, milkshakes and more! But also, and more importantly, God worked in mighty ways. We worshipped, dove into God's Word, and His Spirit truly softened hearts and transformed lives. As we discussed the narrative of God's Word last week, we reflected a lot on how we were created to be in a loving relationship with God, but how sin destroys that relationship. We talked about how we are all sinners, the consequence of that reality, and the fact that there's nothing we can do about that. But God's love for us runs deeper than the power of sin, and He provided us the perfect sacrifice that we needed to take care of our sins: JESUS! The Good News of Jesus is the reconciling power to save us, and is a message that was clearly heard, understood, and accepted last week. Praise God for the transformation that took place in the hearts of our students. Now that we are back, it's time to live out our faith, and continue letting God and His Word shape every aspect of our lives. 

To see all of our photos, click HERE!