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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

"Need to Know" in the Journal of Biblical Counseling

The newest issue of CCEF's Journal of Biblical Counseling (Vol. 28, No. 1, Spring 2014) is now available online.

As usual, it looks to be a treasure trove, and I can't wait to dive in.

I have an article this issue entitled, "Need to Know" about my own information addiction [preview].

David Powlison introduces it in his editorial:
Given the information age in which we live, I suspect that many of you will be able to relate to our first Lives in Process article “Need to Know.” With candor and wit, Matt Mitchell invites us into the dynamics of his information addiction. His story just may help you understand some of the dynamics at play in your own life—and in the lives of others to whom you minister.
Read the whole thing (subscription required--please support the JBC!).

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Three Good Mini-Books on Homosexuality

Harvest USA has partnered with New Growth Press to produce several short, helpful booklets to answer questions and provide biblical answers to crucial questions about sexuality.


As I've been researching homosexuality for my upcoming talk to teens the EFCA Challenge Conference this Summer (pray for me!), I was especially interested and helped by these three:

1. Can You Change If You're Gay? by David White

White (author of Sexual Sanity for Men) surveys conflicting and unhelpful views of change and then points towards a better and more biblical understanding. He reminds us, "All of humanity needs a changed sexuality!" (pg. 7) and "The opposite of homosexuality isn't heterosexuality--it is holiness" (pg. 9). "Is this easy? No. Is it possible? Yes. By his grace that transforms every hear that comes to him ... SSA Christians can change to faithfully follow Christ" (pg. 13).

2. Your Child Says, "I'm Gay" by Tim Geiger

Geiger provides the first things to think and to do when your child "comes out" to you. Every page is full of good counsel (I'd like to quote the whole thing.) such as:

- Acknowledge the courage it took to tell you.
- Affirm your love for your child.
- Begin the dialogue (with lots of suggestions for getting that started).


3. The Gay Dilemma and Your Church by John Freeman

Freeman, the president of Harvest USA), asks whether our churches are part of the problem or the solution for the current cultural crisis over homosexuality and presents an intentional, engaging, and loving way forward. "The church must be seen as a helpful and safe place for [people] to disclose these struggles" (pg. 9).

I really appreciated how Freeman encourages us to seeing people as people and not as issues.

The church needs resources like these, and I'm glad that people like Harvest are producing them.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "I Will Build a House for You"

“I Will Build a House for You”
The LORD Is My Rock: The Message of 2 Samuel
April 27, 2014 :: 2 Samuel 7:1-29

It’s been about a month since we were in 2 Samuel together. Our series is called “The LORD is My Rock,” which is what King David says about his life at the end of this book. The LORD has shown Himself to be a “rock” in David’s life.

It’s been about a month since we were in 2 Samuel together. Spencer preached on Mark the first Sunday of April. Then on Palm Sunday we studied 1 Peter 2:24, our hide the word verse for the last two months. And then last Sunday we were in Luke 24 together to see that the risen Jesus is not a hoax, not a ghost, and not a zombie. He’s resurrected and alive!

Christ Is Risen!
He is Risen Indeed.

And today, we turn in back in our Bibles about a thousand years before Christ was resurrected to consider His great-great-great-great grandfather and this thing about a house.

Today’s title is, “I Will Build a House for You.”

And you might be surprised to find out who is offering to build a house for whom.

Where are we at in the story?

It’s been a month, so you might not remember that David finally became King.  First just in Judea but then over all Israel.

And we had a whole sermon on the establishment of David’s Kingdom. It was Promised, Powerful, and Prosperous.

David took over Jerusalem, and made it his capital.

He had a palace built for him.

He began to marry and build a big family.

He began to subdue his enemies.

He was consistently victorious and able to conquer territory that had not been successfully conquered even under Joshua.

His kingdom grew and grew, and he was even able to bring the ark of the covenant up from its temporary resting places to the City of David. It took two tries, but David was finally and joyfully successful at uniting the kingdom, building his capital, and even uniting the worship in the capital.

That’s where we’re at in the story.

King David is established.

We’ve reached what feels like a high point in the story.

Finally!

King David is established.

V.1

“After the king was settled in his palace and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, he said to Nathan the prophet, ‘Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.’ Nathan replied to the king, ‘Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the LORD is with you.’” Let’s stop there.

Nathan the prophet is a new character. This is the first time that he is mentioned in Scripture. He kind of takes Samuel’s place in David’s life. He is to David was Samuel was to Saul.

But thankfully, David responds differently to Nathan than Saul did to Samuel!

And on this day, David has a good impulse. A good and probably humble thought.

He thinks to himself and says to his prophet friend. “I’m living in a palace and the ark of God (God’s earthly throne, so to speak) remains in a tent.

That’s not right!

I should build a house for God.

I think that I should build a house for God. What do you think, Nathan?”

And Nathan thinks, “Yeah. Good idea. God has been just blessing everything you’ve done, you should do this for Him. Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it.”

However. God has different ideas.

God visits Nathan that very evening and gives Nathan an unexpected message to deliver to David which v.17 tells us that he delivered faithfully.  V.4 tells us what He said.  V.4

“That night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, saying: ‘Go and tell my servant David, 'This is what the LORD says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’'”

Stop there for just a second.

The answer to David’s offer of building a house is apparently, “Thanks but no thanks.”

Even more: “Do I look like I need a house?”

“Have I ever asked for a house?”

“Have I ever said, ‘Why haven’t you built me a house?’”

This sounds like a rebuke, and perhaps it is. It’s not that God doesn’t appreciate David’s generosity and initiative, but He is reminding David which one of them is the high king.

And He is reminding David that the LORD has been a God on the move. He’s been free and ranging and roaming with His people.  He has not been locked in to a location.

He is not God in a box which needs to be housed in a box.

In fact, He is not a God with needs.

It would be well for us to get that into our heads.

Our God is not a God with needs.

And that’s really good news for us.  It’s true that we can’t control Him because we don’t have anything that He needs.  But we don’t need a controlled God, we need a gracious one.

I’ve got three main points this morning about what God we find in 2 Samuel 7, and this is the first one:

#1. GOD IS THE GREAT GIVER.

Wait till you hear this.

Verses 5-7 are little bit of a rebuke. “I haven’t asked for nor do I need you to build me a house.”

What do you think God will follow that response with?

The LORD has a counter offer. A alternative proposal. V.8

“‘Now then, tell my servant David, 'This is what the LORD Almighty says: I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. [I’ve been doing that. That comes from me.] Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies. ‘'The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you:”

Whoa!

Didn’t see that coming.

God says, “Thanks for the offer to build me a house.

But I declare to you: that I will build a house for you.

I’m the great giver.”

Pastor John Piper likes to say, “The giver gets the glory.”

The one doing the giving gets the great glory.

And God loves His glory. He is committed to His glory. So, He’s going to be the greatest giver there ever was.

“I will build a house for you.”

“I’ve been giving to you all along.” “I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you.”

“Those are my gifts to you.

And now, I’m really, really going to be gracious with you!”

God is the greatest giver there ever was.

You can’t out give God.

God won’t allow us to be His patrons.

He is our patron.

We do not sponsor God.

He is our sponsor.

We do not give to God anything that He has not given to us.

He is the great giver.

And here’s what He gives to David in 2 Samuel 7 – promises.

#2. GOD IS THE GREAT PROMISE-MAKER.

You need to know that this is one of the most important chapters in all of the Bible.

This ranks up there with the biggies.

Remember what we called the Abrahamic Covenant back in Genesis and saw how God made some big promises to Abraham that are being worked out over the course of the Bible and are still being worked out today?

This is just about that big. It builds on that.

Remember the covenant God made with Israel at Mount Sinai? The mountain on fire?

The 10 commandments, all that?

This is just about that big in the storyline of the Bible.  It might be a bit bigger than that!

The Mosaic covenant was temporary and filled with a number of conditions.

In this passage God makes some pretty big promises to David and His people and says that they are forever.  Listen to all of the all of the “I wills” in verses 9-17.

God lays out some BIG promises.

“Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth. And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies. ‘'The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: “When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.'’ Nathan reported to David all the words of this entire revelation.”

God is the great promise-maker.

And those are some breath-taking promises.

Isn’t that amazing?  David probably thought that it couldn’t get better than it was.

He had been victorious and was settling down, and he had the impulse to build a house for God.

But God said, “I will build a house for you.”

Now, that “house” in verse 11 is a play on words. We use the English word “house” in both ways, as well.

Not just a building that you live in but a dynasty of heirs.

God is promising David that his heirs will rule Israel.

He will have a dynasty that endures.

“The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you.”

That’s a big promise. Especially because He promises (v.16) this house and this kingdom will endure forever before Him. “Your throne will be established forever.”

And that’s a long time.

Nobody makes promises like God does!

He makes gigantic promises that are almost too good to be true.

Can you think of some other ones?

If you know your Bible, I’ll be you do.

Read Isaiah 35. Read Romans 8. Read Revelation 21-22.

God is the great promise-maker. He’s the greatest promise-maker ever!

He promises “to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine!” (Eph 3:20).

Of course, that just begs for the question, “Does He keep His promises?”

Because there are people who make big promises but don’t deliver.

What do you think?

#3. GOD IS THE GREAT PROMISE-KEEPER.

We’ve seen this again and again as we’ve tracked through our Old Testament together: God always keeps His promises.

Not always like we would expect! Not always when we would expect!

But always.

Let’s think about these promises together and their fulfillment. V.9

“Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth.”

Has God kept that promise?

Everybody hear know the name King David?

He just lived a few decades. He could be a little obscure nobody that time forgot.

But we all know King David. His name is great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth. V.10

“And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.”

How about that one?

Yes and no.  I think that this did happen under David. Unlike the time of the Judges that God is talking about here, David’s Israel experienced much peace.  They did have a place of their own and they weren’t significantly disturbed.

But it didn’t stay that way for long.  And it’s not that way now. So there may be a future fulfillment of this promise.

Notice here that all of these promises made to David aren’t just for David. They’re for Israel, aren’t they?  They are for the good of God’s people.  V.11

 ‘'The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: [a dynasty.] “When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom.”

Did this happen? What was his name? Solomon. V.13

“He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”

So, there will be a literal house built. A temple. God will ask for one when He thinks it best. And Solomon will build it. We’ll get there eventually.1 Kings 5,6, 7, and 8.

God will have a special relationship with David’s son. V.14

“I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men.”

Read 1 Kings 11 to see how this promise was kept in Solomon’s life. When he strayed, God brought discipline upon him.

But God won’t let even Solomon’s sin stand in the way of the LORD’s keeping His promises to David. V.15

But my love [my hesed, my covenant love, my loyal love, my committment to him] will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.'’

V.13, “I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”

Those are BIG promises.

Has God kept them, too?

And if so, how?

They are bigger promises than could be kept with little old Solomon, as wise and great as he became.

It’s going to take another king that comes from David’s body.

In fact, after Solomon, it begins to look like this promise will not be kept. The kingdom starts to fall apart after Solomon. Split north and south. And while the southern kingdom holds on for a few hundred years (a long time as dynasties go), it falls apart, too. It doesn’t look like “forever.”

But our God is the great promise keeper.

And He does it, through...whom?

Great David’s greatest son, King Jesus.

Who comes from the line of David.

And who because of His resurrection and His now indestructible body, can (v.16) endure forever before the LORD. His throne be established forever.

God is the Greatest Promise-Keeper even if He has to resurrect somebody from the grave to keep His promises!

So much more could be said. The whole rest of the Old Testament builds on this chapter and so much of the New Testament flows out of these great promises made to David.

But let’s close by reading how David responded and drawing two applications for our lives today.

#1. MARVEL AT HIS GRACE AND GLORY.

I’ve hope we’ve been doing that already this morning.  But look at how David does it. V.18

“Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said: ‘Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? [I’m blown away.] And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign LORD, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign LORD? [Wow!]

‘What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Sovereign LORD.  For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant.

‘How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.”

David just marvels.

He is at a loss for words.

He’s astonished at the generosity of God.

“How Great is Our God!”

“How Great Thou Art!”

‘How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.”

Let’s make that our Hide the Word for May and June.

‘How great you are, O Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.”

V.23

“And who is like your people Israel–the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, O LORD, have become their God.”
Notice that the giver gets the glory.

God has set His love on a people to redeem them for Himself and to make a name for Himself.

And God makes a relationship with them and should get the glory for it.

Marvel at His Grace and Glory.

Worship!
Be astonished!
Be humbled.
Be overwhelmed with how gracious God has been to you.

If you have a relationship with God, your life should be marked by astonishment that God has been so good to you.

Every day this should be the theme of your life.

How did this happen to me?

Why have you been so gracious to me?

Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign Lord.

Thank you!

David gets it. He knows how big these promises are and he’s blown away by it.

Do you know how big the promises made to you are and what it took to fulfill them?

We should be blown away by it, every single day.

And number two and last.

#2. BELIEVE AND PLEAD THE PROMISES. v.25

"‘And now, LORD God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised, so that your name will be great forever. Then men will say, 'The LORD Almighty is God over Israel!' And the house of your servant David will be established before you.

‘O LORD Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, 'I will build a house for you.' So your servant has found courage to offer you this prayer.

O Sovereign LORD, you are God! Your words are trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, O Sovereign LORD, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.’”

Do you see how David believes the promises?

He’s heard them. He is now trusting in them.

Those promises are real to him.

So real that he prays them back to God. He pleads the promises.

He’s saying, “Go ahead, Lord. Do it!”

“Amen. So be it. I have found the courage to offer you this prayer.”

“Be pleased to bless the house of your servant...I know that it will.”

Do you see how he prays the promises?

We tend to think that if God has promised it, then we don’t have to mention it to Him.

But that’s not how the biblical authors thought at all. They thought if God promised it, then He would love to hear us pray those promises back to Him.

So what has God promised you?

And are you trusting in those promises?

And are you talking to God about those promises?

Believe and plead the promises back to God.

Because He’s the great promise maker and the great promise keeper.

He wants us to build our lives on them.

And He wants us to build our prayers on them.

This is David at his best.  He proves that he is a man after God’s own heart.

You might think that he’d be a man after God’s own heart if he build God a house.

If you do something great for God.

But God says that you’ll be a man or woman after His heart if you trust that God wants to do something great for you.

If you believe His amazing promises and build your life and your prayers upon them.

Saul never did.

But David did.

David said, “Ok. Do it, Lord!

“Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, O Sovereign LORD, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.’”

***

Messages in This Series

00. "How the Mighty Have Fallen!"
01. King David
02. David's Kingdom
03. The Right Way to Worship

The Gray Havens - Tonight at Lanse Free Church



Can't hardly wait.

7pm and free.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Friday, April 25, 2014

"Is God Anti-Gay?" by Sam Allberry

"Is God Anti-Gay?" is my new go-to book on the hot topic of homosexuality as a succinct introduction and guide. It's winsomely written while being biblically firm and written by someone who experiences same-sex attraction himself. There are a lot of books out there on this issue right now that explore the topic from many other important angles, but Sam Allberry's book is concise, clear, and helpful. I will be recommending it to many.

In preparing to speak to teens this Summer at the EFCA Challenge Conference on the topic, "Help! How do I think about homosexuality?" I've been reading everything I can find that it's good on this issue. Pray for me!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

2014 EFCA Theology Conference

I'm slow, but I get there.

It's been almost 3 months since the EFCA held our 2014 Theology Conference on "Christian Faithfulness in a Changing Culture," but I just finished listening to all of the talks today.

I know that I can be prone to exaggeration, but I don't think it's hyperbole to say that this conference was simply excellent. From the pre-conference exploration of the Trinity (which I reported on earlier) to the lectures by various thought-leaders and also the panels where they interacted, I found myself encouraged, sharpened, and goaded on into better thinking and engagement.

All of the talks are available for download (and FREE, it's our middle name). I'd especially recommend the thoughts about race by Vincent Bacote, the church history informed talk by Jeffrey Bingham, and the incredibly positive and counter-intuitive perspective of Leith Anderson.

Thanks to Greg Strand and the rest of the leaders at the EFCA National office for creating this event--it's a labor of love.

I'm going to make an effort to go to next year's conference on the doctrine of the scriptures.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"Gossip Is a Spiritual Issue" by Callie Glorioso-Mays

Relevant Magazine has published an insightful article on gossip by a writer named Callie Glorioso-Mays.

The author opens by confessing her own propensity to gossip and laments that gossip is seen as acceptable and perhaps unconquerable.

She uses evocative word pictures:

Each time we gossip and brush it off as a minor, respectable sin, are we simply strengthening our immunity to the Holy Spirit’s conviction?
Like a house that looks fine except a slightly creaky floor or leaky roof, we want to believe that gossip is a superficial and trivial issue in our lives.
But gossip is more like a house filled with termites, feasting away at the frame of that house and inflicting severe damages. The result is that the façade still stands, but gossip has wormed its way into our core, leaving us a hollowed-out shell.
Glorioso-Mays then goes for the heart of gossip--pride and idolatry. She identifies four different idols that lead to gossip: superiority, retribution, acceptance, and control. Readers of Resisting Gossip will recognize how these would map onto the gallery of gossips of chapter three and could hopefully extrapolate more possible idols that would also lead to gossip as well as gospel solutions to each one.

She ends with a promise of increasing spiritual health if we can cut out our soul-hurting diet of gossip.

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "Jesus Is Not a Zombie"

 “Jesus Is Not a Zombie”
Resurrection Sunday
Luke 24:1-53 :: April 20, 2014

Well, we all know that on a Sunday when we have baptisms, that I’m just the opening act for the main event.  Amen?

In just a few minutes, we’re going to hear from five young men who are going to tell us their stories of faith in Jesus Christ, and then we’re all going to have the privilege of witnessing their baptisms together.

And it’s very exciting for me because I’m not just the pastor of these 5 guys, but I’m also the Dad of 3 of them. My three sons.

But before we do all that, we need to hear a word from God’s Word.

And that word will come from the Gospel of Luke chapter 24.

For the last 6 weeks, I’ve been reading to you from the Gospel of Luke about what we call “Passion Week.”  Starting with Palm Sunday and the Triumphal Entry and then progressing each week a little further until last week when we read about the crucifixion, death, and burial of our Lord Jesus.

Today, we’ll finish that story.

And let me tell you what we’re going to read.

We’re going to read about Jesus coming back from the dead.

We’ve already said it and sung about it today and had it sung to us. But Jesus didn’t stay dead. He came back to life.

Christ Is Risen.
He Is Risen Indeed.

But what does that mean?  What does that look like?

And what does it mean for us today?

Let me reveal to you the title of today’s message. I told Marilynn that it was a secret and that she wasn’t allowed to put it on the back of the bulletin.

Here it is: “Jesus Is Not A Zombie.”

How’s that for a shocker of a headline?

And 99% of us here say, “Well, yeah. Of course He’s not. I didn’t need to go to church to learn that one!”

“Jesus Is Not a Zombie.”

But I think it needs said today. I’ve had this title rolling around in my mind for the last month as Resurrection Sunday has approached.

Have you noticed our culture’s growing fascination with zombies?

Zombies are everywhere.

It’s mainly a joke, “Are you ready to survive the ‘Zombie Apocalypse?’”

Zombie’s are funny, apparently. I’m not exactly sure why, but people find them so.

But they’re also good for a scare. People love the horror and being shocked.

Zombies are very popular right now.  There are actually books that take Jane Austen (you know, Pride and Prejudice) and add zombies to the story. Who would buy that? But they do.

The most watched basic cable television drama show in history is called “The Walking Dead” which is basically about zombies and people being attacked by zombies. The premiere episode for The Walking Dead’s fourth season (which is now rated TV-MA by the way, worse than TV-14 (I can’t imagine that anyone ought to watch this show), the premiere episode of this show) had 16.1 million viewers. That’s 5 million more than Duck Dynasty.

Our culture is fascinated with zombies.  The undead. The walkers. Those who have died, but are still somehow reanimated, still walking. Still functioning but are no longer really human.

“And what would happen if....?”

Why is our culture so fascinated with zombies?

I don’t know.
Perhaps we want to be shocked so that we feel something.
Perhaps we want some kind of sense of the supernatural, that there is power out there.

Superheroes are even more popular now than zombies, right?  We could talk about that sometime, too.

But why zombies, other than our fascination with darkness, horror, chaos, and evil?

I think it has to do with death and life.

What is death and what is life?  What happens after death?

Could there be life after death, and what would it be like?

Would be it be simple reanimation? Dead body parts come back to a semblance of life?

Or...dare we hope for more?  For true resurrection.

The risen Jesus is not a zombie.

Let’s let Luke tell us what He is really like.

By the way, this picture is actually a picture of a sunset in Oaxaca Mexico, but when I saw it, it made me think of a sunrise in Israel.

That Sunday morning when Jesus was no longer in his tomb.

The women came with the spices. They didn’t know how they were going to get in to Jesus’s body because of that big rock.

But the rock was rolled away, and Jesus wasn’t there.

Two angels were and they said, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!”

The women told the men the story but they weren’t believed. Perhaps because they were women but also because their story was so fantastic.

What do you mean he wasn’t there?
What do you mean “angels?”
What do you mean “risen?”

But these two disciples, one of them Cleopas, maybe the other Mrs. Cleopas, encounter Jesus Himself on the road to Emmaus. They were kept from recognizing Him at first, but it was Him!

And after He explained the whole Bible and the whole story, and they broke bread together, they could see that it was Him.

And they ran back to town and met the Eleven and the rest (v.34) and they said “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” And the two said, “Us, too!”

Here’s point #1 of 3 this morning.

#1. THE RISEN JESUS IS NOT A HOAX.

Here is the testimony of these eyewitnesses, (v.34), “It is true!”

This is not just a story that someone cooked up.

It’s not a bedtime story or a fairy tale.
It’s not a myth. It’s not a metaphor.
It’s not just something nice we tell the kids.
It’s not just a story we cooked up to make us feel better.

“It is true!”

This is not a conspiracy to hide the body of Jesus to make people think that we have something good going on in Christianity.

The risen Jesus is not a hoax.

The gospel of Matthew tells us that the chief priests met with the guards who were supposed to have been watching the tomb, and paid them to say, “His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep” (Mt. 28:11-15).

So there is a hoax about the resurrection, but the hoax is that it didn’t happen.

The truth is that it did.

All of Christianity hangs on that historical claim.

If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then we are wasting our time here this morning.

And these 5 young guys are wasting their time getting baptized.

Because it’s all based upon the fact that the tomb was empty and Jesus had risen as He said.

The Risen Jesus Is Not a Hoax.

Application? Investigate the evidence for yourself.

These were not the only eyewitnesses. The Bible says that there were more than 500 people who saw Jesus alive after His crucifixion.

You might be a skeptic. You might be need to weigh the evidence for yourself.

I know that I have needed that.

And when my faith gets shaken, I come back to the evidence for the resurrection, and I build my faith again on that foundation.

That’s why we’re giving away this book – The Case for Christ. We bought a case of them.  “A journalist’s personal investigation of the evidence for Jesus.”

Chapter 12, “The evidence of the missing body.”

Check it out for yourself. It will change your life.

The Risen Jesus is not a Hoax.

#2. THE RISEN JESUS IS NOT A GHOST.

Did you notice that in verse 37?

The disciples were afraid that Jesus was a ghost.

A disembodied spirit. Perhaps like Samuel a few weeks ago.

“They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.”

He wasn’t a ghost.

He had flesh and bones.

He could be touched.

Yes, He came and went dramatically. Even appearing within locked doors.

So maybe His new body had new properties that were supernatural. But it was definitely Him.

“Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see.”

The risen Jesus is not a ghost.

Application?  Stop doubting and believe.

That’s what Jesus said to Thomas. “Stop doubting and believe.”

Put your doubts away that this is all a game or a ghost story, and believe.

That’s what these 5 young guys are doing by getting baptized today. They are saying that they choose away from doubt and into faith.

They believe.

After you’ve done your investigation, then put your faith in the truth. Don’t waver, don’t wander. Don’t hedge your bets.

Put all of your weight down on Jesus.

Trust Him. Believe.

Because the Risen Jesus is Not a Hoax, and He’s not a Ghost.

And #3. THE RISEN JESUS IS NOT A ZOMBIE.

Is pretty obvious, isn’t it, from reading the story.

He’s not a mummy coming all wrapped up out of the tomb like something from an Egyptian B-Movie. The strips of linen are lying by themselves (24:12).

He’s not a reanimated walking corpse that is somehow dead and also somehow kind of alive.

He IS alive! V.40

“When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.”

Ghosts don’t eat those things. Zombies don’t either.

There is no such thing as zombies.

He is showing them that it is Him, alive, and full alive.

Zombies don’t have a great Bible study conversations like verse 27. “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he expained to them what was said in all of the Scriptures concerning Himself.”

Or verse 44, “‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day...”

That’s what’s happened.

Jesus has risen from the dead.

He’s not a zombie.

The truth is better than any horror story ever imagined.

Jesus is not the walking dead.

He was dead, but He is now alive!

And He’s alive now forever.

That’s what He says in Revelation chapter 1.

The Risen Jesus says to John, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!” (Rev 1:18a).

The book of Hebrews says that his life is now “indestructible” (Heb 7:16).

He’s not a zombie.  Zombies can be defeated and laid to waste. Depending on who’s telling the story, there are lots of ways of stopping a zombie.

But the Risen Jesus is not a zombie.

He is not just reanimated.

He is resurrected!

The perishable has been clothed with the imperishable.
And the mortale has been clothed with immortality.

And death has been defeated.

Application?

Rejoice and Bear Witness.

Rejoice because it means your salvation if you believe.
Rejoice because it means your own resurrection someday.

The Bible says that we will have resurrection bodies like Jesus’ body.

We will not be zombies, either!

Philippians 3, “Our citizenship is heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (Phil 3:20-21)!

Rejoice! We have so much more to look forward to if we belong to Jesus!

Rejoice!

And bear witness. Tell the world that Jesus is risen.

That’s what Jesus told these disciples that day. V.47

“....repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

Bear witness.

Tell other people about Jesus.

That’s what these 5 young guys are doing today, as well.

They are telling the nations that Jesus is alive and they belong to Him.

They are being buried with Him in baptism. Down in to the waters symbolizing His death.

And then up out of the water to symbolize His resurrection and anticipate theirs.

Jesus is not a hoax. Investigate the evidence for yourself.
Jesus is not a ghost. Stop doubting and believe.
Jesus is not a zombie. He is resurrected and fully alive forever and ever.

Rejoice and Give Witness to Him.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Anti-Social Media: Whisper, Secret, and Yik Yak

Readers of this blog can probably guess what I think of the new apps for anonymous sharing of secrets.

Very. Bad. Idea.

"A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret." - Proverbs 11:13

"A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends." - Proverbs 16:28

"The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man's inmost parts." - Proverbs 18:8, 26:22

***

"Anti-Social Media" is a new feature/label here on Hot Orthodoxy where we report on and interact with new and disturbing trends in social media that correlate to the problem of gossip.


[RGB Stock Photo by Eric Cortner]

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Reading "Risen" Again this Resurrection Season

This coming Sunday is Resurrection Sunday.

Starting Monday, I'm planning to re-read Risen: 50 Reasons Why the Resurrection Changes Everything. (Only $2.99 on Kindle today!)

I read it for the first time last year, and it was one of the 5 best books I read in 2013.

What are your plans to bask in the Risen Son?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Filled Tomb

The Biblical Counseling Coalition has just published a short meditation I wrote on "Reflections on the Burial of Jesus of Jesus for Biblical Counseling."
During this season, we Christians love to talk about “The Empty Tomb” because our Lord is risen. But before He could rise, He had to be buried. Before there was an empty tomb, there had to be a filled tomb.
I very briefly tease out 3 implications: salvation, sadness, and hope.

Read the whole thing.

Monday, April 14, 2014

2 Sermons on Resisting Gossip by Jim Larson

Pastor Jim Larson of Camarillo Evangelical Free Church has recently preached two key messages on the problem of gossip building upon Resisting Gossip.

#1. Recognizing Runaway Conversations (click on 03/23/14). (HANDOUT NOTES)

#2. Resisting Runaway Conversations (click on 03/30/14). (HANDOUT NOTES)

Jim wrote me an encouraging note last week saying that these messages have "made a deep impact on many in the congregation," and that he was recommending that church folks read through Resisting Gossip once a year. It is so humbling and heartening to hear how Resisting Gossip is helping people to change the way they talk to and about others!

If you listen to the messages, you'll hear that Jim himself is a wordsmith:

-  About James 3, he says, "I can't get a charcoal barbeque going with with gasoline and hand-grenades and yet the tongue seems to be that little organ that sets everything ablaze."

-  He describes the talking side of gossip as "active gossip" and the listening side as "passive gossip." (I wish I'd thought of that!)

- He points out that Absalom was the consummate backstabber.

- He says that some people are "absent-mindedly malicious" and that others are "Drive-by listeners" who are gawking at the lives of others.  (I'll be using that one, Jim!)

Jim ends his series saying, "We can do better. We don't have to be enslaved by speaking ill of people, by rejoicing in their weaknesses, by glorying in their dark side. We don't have to be that way. We can be people who rejoice in goodness and righteousness. Who look to build people up, not tear people down."

Amen!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

[Matt's Messages] "He Himself"

“He Himself”
April 13, 2013 :: 1 Peter 2:24

It’s become a kind of tradition for me to preach on Palm Sunday a Good Friday message.

That is to say that on the Sunday before Resurrection Sunday, I like to focus our attention on the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. What I just read to you from Luke’s gospel.

Next week, we’ll think about the Empty Tomb. We’ll celebrate the empty tomb with loud singing and a joyful sermon and water baptisms.

But today, we concentrate on the Cross of Christ.

And I want to do that by focusing our attention together on just that one verse at the end of 1 Peter chapter 2. Our Hide the Word verse.

Say it with me.

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”

This is what it’s all about.

“He Himself”

In 1 Peter 2, the Apostle Peter is explaining to the Christians spread throughout Asia Minor that they will probably have to undergo suffering and persecution.

They shouldn’t be surprised if they have to undergo suffering even for doing what is right.

These Christians should submit to the authorities over them and be ready to suffer unjustly because Jesus did.

1 Peter 2 is that famous passage from which we get the initials WWJD. “What Would Jesus Do?”  And when I preached on this chapter years ago, I titled the message, “What Would Jesus Do With a Raw Deal?”

Because we will get raw deals in this life. Our world is broken and there will be injustice until Christ comes back.

So, we look to Jesus as our example. V.21, “To this [suffeirng] you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”

This is not a popular doctrine. Nobody likes suffering. Nobody likes injustice. Nobody likes a raw deal. But Jesus showed us the way. V.22

“‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ [That’s Isaiah 53!] When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”

We just read that in Luke 23.

And then Peter says our verse.

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”

Let’s meditate on that for a little bit.

“He himself.”

That’s important.

Jesus didn’t delegate this responsibility.
Jesus didn’t send Moses or Aaron or David or Isaiah or John the Baptist.
Jesus didn’t send an angel to take our place on the Cross.

Jesus did it Himself.

“He himself.”

This task was too much to assign to another person.

No other person, no other entity could do what Jesus did.

He had to do it himself.

He had to be that example.

He had to bear those sins.

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree...”

I hope that we never get tired of this part of the story.

I know that we say it all the time and familiarity can breed contempt if we let it.

But let’s not let it.

Jesus Himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.

He carried our sins. I think of all of our sins as a great big burden laid upon His back.

And imagine Him walking up a mountain, carrying our sins. My sins.

The times when I have chosen against Him. Either to do what He said not to or to not do what He said to do!

All of my sin and your sins on His shoulders.

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree...”

Meaning in His death on the Cross.

He was taking OUR sins upon Himself and paying for them.
Taking our place.
Substituting Himself for us.

Our sins, His body.

Those pronouns are really important.

Our sins, His body.

That’s what was going on when Jesus was crucified.

I read an article recently say that we should preach the cross, not just the crucifixion.

Not just that Jesus died a horrible death. That’s true.

But that He died doing something. There was purpose to that death.

Our sins, His body.

“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree.”

Don’t let that get old.

Jesus did that for you!

Point of application?

#1. RECEIVE.

You can tell from the pronouns that this is a gift.

He did this for you, for me.

And gifts are to be received.  They are accepted. They are not earned.

Jesus didn’t die on the Cross because we had been such good little boys and girls.

He bore our sins.

That’s language drawn from Isaiah 53, as well, isn’t it?  Peter loves Isaiah 53.  He can see clearly how Jesus fulfilled that ancient prophecy, made 800 years before Jesus was born!

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all....For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:6 and 12).

He bore our sins.

If you have never yet received that gift, I invite you to do so today.

Christianity offers salvation for free. It’s a gift earned by the death of Jesus on the Cross.

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”

Receive that gift.

Don’t try to pay for your own sins. You won’t be able to do it.

Even if you could pay for one sin or two, the debt that you have racked up is too great.

The debt you will rack up is too great.

You couldn’t do it.

It could not say, “Matt Mitchell Himself bore his sins” so that they were paid for.

It would take an eternity in Hell to do that.

But that’s not what it says. It says, “He [Christ] Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree.”

Receive.

You’ll never regret it. Right, Church?

Everyone here who has received is so thankful to have received this grace.

That’s one of the big reasons why gather every week and talk about the Cross–because we are so thankful. Eternally grateful.

Because “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.”

But that’s not all it says, is it?

Peter goes further into what the Cross means, what it was for.

He says more.

More than just that our sins were born, carried, paid for.

What does he say?

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness...”

Jesus Himself did this for us for a purpose, “so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness...”
Application?

#2. REPENT.

Sometimes we miss this part of the message.

We’re so thankful for our sins being born away we can miss this fundamental reason why they were born away so that we could die to sins and live for righteousness.

So we could stop sinning!
So we could stop doing the things that offend God.

And more than that.

So we could start loving.
So we could start living for righteousness.
So we could start doing the things that please God.

Jesus’ death wasn’t just so that we could be forgiven.

It was also so we could be empowered to repent.

Die and live.
Die sin and live for righteousness.

Those are powerful words.

That’s what baptism is a picture of.

Next week, when these boys go down into the water, there is a picture of death, of burial.

Dying to sins.

Jesus’ death means the death of our sins.

And when they come up out of the water, it’s a picture of new life, of resurrection.

Living now for righteousness.

Wow! May we never lose sight of that.

What sins in your life need to die?

What do you need to repent of?

The death of Jesus means that we need to consider ourselves dead to sin. No longer enslaved. No longer do we have to live in sin.

We can say no.

We can resist gossip.
We can resist pornography.
We can resist hating our enemies.
We can die to sexual immorality, sex outside of the covenant of marriage.
We can die to gluttony.
We can die to greed.
We can die to being anxious about the future.
We can die to cussing and lying and boasting.
We can die to getting drunk or stoned.
We can die to taking the Lord’s name in vain.
We can die to envying what someone else has.

And not only CAN we die to sins, but Jesus CALL US to die to those sins.

He died for them, so we can die to them.

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree so that we might die to sins...”

When we continue in unrepentant sin, we dishonor the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf.

When we go on sinning without ever turning from it, when we follow our evil desires and the lead of the world, we are saying to Jesus, “Thanks for the blood. It will come in handy for what I’m planning to do.”

God forbid. May it never be.

Repent.

Repenting is not something we do at the beginning of the Christian life and then it’s over.

We repent when we receive Christ, yes, but as Martin Luther said, “The Christian life is a race of repentance.”

We are called again and again and again to die to sin.

What sin do you need to repent of right now?

What sins are you holding onto?

What sins are you hiding from others?

Jesus is calling you to die to them.

And more than that!

He’s calling you and me to LIVE for righteousness.

Repentance is turning away from sin and turning to Christ and living His way.

It’s put off and put on.

Jesus Himself bore our sins so that we could live for righteousness.

So it’s not enough to resist gossip, we’ve got build others up with our words.

It’s not enough to not sleep around or sleep with your boyfriend or your girlfriend. It’s outside of mariage to “treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”

And, within the covenant of marriage, it’s to bless your spouse with the gift of your body.

It’s not enough to not steal. We’ve got to work to earn to care for our families and to GIVE to others.

“Die to sins and live for righteousness.”

Are you living for righteousness?

That’s what the Cross was all about.

If you think of the Cross as just a get-out-of-jail-free card, you are missing so much.

The Cross frees us to live a new way.

To live lives of love.

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”

You are no longer sin-sick.
You are no longer diseased by sin.
You are no longer under the curse.

You are healed.

His wounds have done it.

His stripes. His bruises. His lashings. His beatings.

His wounds have healed your sin.

Peter is again quoting Isaiah 53:

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (vv.4-5).

Application?

#3. REJOICE!

By his wounds we are healed.

That’s the strangest kind of doctor, isn’t it?

He just took our sin-sickness on Himself.

The doctor died, and the patients live!

Rejoice! You are healed.

You are healed.

You don’t have sin any longer.

You can live for righteousness.

You can do the right thing.

You are healed.

Rejoice!

You were enslaved to sin, now you are free to live a righteous life.
You were sick with sin, now you are healed.
You were a lost sheep, but now you have a Shepherd that watches safely over you.

That’s where he goes in the next verse. V.25

“For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

“by his wounds you have been healed.”

Rejoice!
Rejoice!
Rejoice!

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”

Go and live in health, and life, and righteousness!

Because that’s why Jesus died.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Hiss in the Middle

Today I had the privilege of speaking to a group of church leaders at the Warren County Hospital about Resisting Gossip. They were a sharp bunch of interactive listeners, and I thoroughly enjoyed talking with them about this sticky subject.

One of them approached me afterwards and told me that growing up his mom had warned him and his siblings against gossip this way:

"Mother always said that gossip was like snake. It even has a hiss in the middle."

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

On Location - Resisting Gossip

Last week's filming of the Resisting Gossip Video series went really well. We had lots of fun, and I hope captured the essence of each lesson. I can't hardly wait to have a finished product to share with you.

Of course, we will have to wait. Spencer has hours and hours of footage to edit in the cutting room before we have something worth showing.

So in the meantime, here are a few pictures from Spencer's Instagram of some of the 10 locations we used around the community.

We returned to the Crumrine farmhouse (that was featured in the trailer) again for Lesson #2.
Love that beard of Spencer's!

The West Branch Dairy Diner (aka the Pumpkin House) for Lesson #3.

My office for Lesson #1. (Shot out of sequence.)
I think I look worried.

The locker room of the Clearfield Alliance Christian School for lesson #5.
Watch for footage of an old bald guy shooting baskets, too.

Oak Hill Church outside of Karthaus for Lesson #10.
Last location, most technical difficulties. But really iconic.

It will be fun for those of us who are local to see our community in the videos when they come out.

Anybody want to guess where the other 5 locations were?

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

"The Stone" by The Gray Havens

Our favorite band has done it again.  The Gray Havens have rolled out "The Stone," a single from their upcoming album Fire and Stone (of which I've gotten an advanced copy, and it's excellent!).

You can listen to "The Stone" and watch the lyric video below (hint: it's connected to the resurrection) and buy a high quality recording at Bandcamp or iTunes for only $1.00.

We're looking forward to having the Radfords play and sing for us at Lanse Free Church on April 27th.

Monday, April 07, 2014

"Whisperings" at EFCA Now

The EFCA has a brand new group blog called "EFCA Now," (connected to EFCA Today, get it?), and they've just posted a new article I've written -- "Whisperings."

"Whisperings" flows out of the teaching in Resisting Gossip but is particularly focused on counsel for pastors and other church leaders who have found themselves in the crosshairs of hurtful gossip.

It starts like this: "Pastor Owen was in trouble, but he didn’t know it yet."


© Copyright 2014 Evangelical Free Church of America

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Grace for the Broken Conference

I thoroughly enjoyed getting to speak about Resisting Gossip at the Grace for the Broken Conference last Saturday.

It was fun to get to take my wifey with me--5 uninterrupted hours together in the car! She and I really loved getting to hear Ed Welch speak again and have a little time to catch up with him.

The highlight for me was ministering to 2 different people who had recently lost their jobs due to be attacked by gossip. It was a privilege to listen to their painful stories and to share a few nuggets of biblical counsel. It came home to me again that gossip can be a raging fire (James 3:6).

It is an honor to have learned enough about this problem and its gospel solution to be able to helpful to others.