When Jesus Doesn’t Meet My Expectations

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Not What She Was Expecting

My wife and I were engaged a little over five years ago. Leading up to our engagement she had all the evidence necessary to know that I intended to propose to her: we had gone ring shopping together and actually purchased the ring, we had talked about our love for one another, and we had made plans for our future together. Even though she had all this evidence, when the time came that I actually proposed she was at first confused when I asked her to marry me. Continue reading

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Why is the Birth of Jesus Good News?

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“And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”    (Luke 2:8-11)

There’s a lot of good news at Christmas time. For children, there are shouts of joy for presents under the tree on Christmas morning or weather reports of giant snowstorms on the way and days off of school. For adults, announcements of Christmas parties, bonuses, time off, paid vacation!

But why is the birth of Jesus good news? Why do we, two thousand years later, celebrate the birth of a Jewish boy from a home of unimportant nobodies in an unimportant Podunk city in the ancient Middle Eastern nowhere? How does this event that took place so long ago have any bearing on our lives today? The angel’s words to the shepherds in Luke 2:10-11 help us understand. Continue reading

The Elephant, the Donkey, and the Bride

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Imagine a bride whose wedding has almost arrived preparing herself for the ceremony and her long-awaited marriage to her beloved groom. She has adorned herself with the purest white dress to accentuate her beauty and highlight her chastity. Her hair is done up, her make up just right. She has anticipated this day for what seems like thousands of years. Continue reading

An Aerial View of Ephesians

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A few months ago I wrote a post called “Christ, the Cosmos, and the Church,” surveying some lessons I had been learning in the letter to the Ephesians. The past three Sundays I’ve had the opportunity to preach through the letter. I decided to do an aerial view of the letter. I wanted to look at Ephesians as a whole and see how Paul incorporates themes and elements throughout the entirety of the letter, rather than breaking it up into smaller, isolated portions and examining them alone. The following are several themes that came to the foreground in preparing the messages. Continue reading

Put Away the Charts!

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In September of 1622 the Nuestra Senora de Atocha, a newly constructed Spanish sailing vessel, was caught in a hurricane near the present day Florida Keys. The ship was part of a large convey that was carrying loads of treasure back to Spain. Five of the ships were lost, the Atocha sinking in just 55 feet of water with the top of the mast still visible above the water after the seas had calmed. Salvage attempts began right away, but the divers’ attempts were restricted by how long they could hold their breath. The treasure was just outside their reach and would remain that way for the next three and a half centuries.

In the 1940’s technology leaped when Jacques Cousteau developed the self-contained underwater breathing apparatus, or SCUBA gear, which led to the subsequent discovery of several sunken ships. Soon after, Mel Fisher, a veteran of World War 2 and a diver himself, started a salvage company intent on finding the wreckage of the Atocha. After years of searching and salvaging, in 1980 he found remains from one of the sister ships, the Margarita. Believing himself to be close, Fisher worked harder than ever to locate the prize ship of the Spanish fleet. Continue reading

An Apologetic for Children’s Ministry

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Tonight marks the beginning of my tenth summer of children’s ministry in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ at Christian camps and church Vacation Bible Schools across the country. Teaching, encouraging, and challenging children has been one of the greatest privileges that God has allowed me to participate in throughout my lifetime. While many pay lip service to the importance of children’s ministry, it is commonly viewed as the bottom rung on the ladder of church involvement and participation. I remember a camp director telling me some years ago that he had no problem finding speakers for junior high or high school camps, but found it extremely difficult to find speakers for elementary age camps. While there are many reasons for this, the difficulty of working with children coupled with (in many cases) low immediate reward contribute to the general unpopularity of the ministry.

Despite the challenges that children’s ministry presents (and there are many), I believe that this is a vital calling which more young Christian men and women should seriously consider if we want to see the church of Jesus Christ stand her ground in our contemporary society. Continue reading

Has Society Gone Bananas?

This past Saturday at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden a four year old boy scrambled past a protective barrier and fell about fifteen feet into the “Gorilla World” exhibit. A male gorilla named Harambe subsequently began dragging and injuring the boy. Zookeepers then responded to the scene where the gorilla was shot and killed. The animal belonged to an endangered species of gorilla. The boy was transported to a children’s hospital in Cincinnati for treatment.

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The killing of the gorilla has brought widespread criticism in the days that have passed since. Many have challenged the zoo’s rapid response to the situation and called into question whether or not the animal’s execution was justified. All kinds of responses have circulated the web, from chastising the boy’s mother for negligence to protesting that, if needed, the boy should have died rather than the gorilla because human beings are not an endangered species. Some are even petitioning that charges be brought against the parents of the boy.

The Cincinnati Zoo is standing by its decision to take the life of the animal in order to save the boy. Tranquilizers, they explain, could have made the situation much worse by agitating the animal further. With a situation going from bad to worse, the zoo made the decision to end the animal’s life rather than risk the boy’s safety any further.

While it is not surprising that there are animal rights activists infuriated by this event, what is surprising is what appears to be the widespread sentiment for the executed gorilla and the scorn and disdain directed at the boy and his mother. And what is most shocking is the assertion being made by many that this boy’s life was not as valuable as that of the endangered primate. With all the publicity this story is getting, we see evidence of the societal devaluing of human life on display. It’s important that Christians remind themselves of a few key biblical truths at this point. Continue reading