Theology

Family is a Reflection of God’s Goodness

unnamedYet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1 Corinthians 8:6). 

I am blessed to have a beautiful wife and two healthy children. They are more than I deserve. What a treasure it is to have a family who looks up to you and prays for you on a daily basis. It’s a privilege to be called their Dad.

A couple of weeks ago, I had an interview for a job at the hospital. Right before the interview I felt nervous. Then I got a text message from my wife, saying: “We are praying for you.” After that message, I felt calm and confident. What a blessing it is to know you have a family at home rooting for you to succeed!

My family is a reflection of God’s goodness. He is our heavenly Father. He is our comforter, redeemer, healer, advocate, Savior, fill in the blank (Ps. 18:1-2,Jn. 3:16, 14:26; 1 Tim. 1:15).

God loves us more than we can comprehend. He wants to have a relationship with you. Have you ever thought about trusting Him to be your Lord and Savior? Do you doubt God’s goodness?

If so, here are some verses to remind you of His great love. 

Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Ephesians 2:4-5 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—

1 John 4:9-11 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, there are many people in this world who grew up in a broken home. They don’t know what it’s like to be cared for. I pray that they would come to know you, their Heavenly Father, as a God of peace and grace. A Father who loves unconditionally. A Father who is compassionate and patient with his children because thats who you are. Open their eyes to this truth. I pray all this in Jesus name. Amen.

Misfits are fit for the Kingdom of God

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The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the term misfit as “a person who is different from other people and who does not seem to belong in a particular group or situation.” Does this describe you? If so, you are not alone.

Growing up, I tried to fit in many tribes. In middle school, I hung out with the jocks. Somehow playing sports automatically signed me up to be part of this crew. However, I quickly realized their interests, personality, and behavior were in complete contrast to my inner being.

When I entered college, I joined a fraternity. Yes, it’s true–we had secret handshakes that gave access to special rooms and ceremonies involving candles/black hoodies. Moreover, the upperclassmen enjoyed waking us up in the middle of the night, lining us against the cafeteria wall, and yelling for hours because we didn’t memorize in alphabetical order the first, middle, and last name of all 30 students in our group. I definitely felt like a misfit my Freshmen year of college.

Before my 21st birthday, I lived my life yearning to belong. My identity inside never matched the people I hung around. I kept asking myself: “Who am I?” “What do I want to be?” “What are my ambitions, goals, desires?” “What is the purpose for existence?”

Then I met Jesus. I didn’t run to him; He ran to me. A misfit, a drunk, and a mouth like a sailor. Jesus wanted to hang out with me? I was unclean. Unfit for a relationship with the sovereign King of the universe.

But then I realized Jesus was known for hanging out with misfits. So much so that he was labeled a “drunkard and glutton” (Matt. 11:19) by the religious establishment. However, Jesus never comforted me in my sin. He made it very clear, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.”

When I gave my life to the Lord, I no longer had a fractured identity. Instead of finding my self-worth in school, relationships, or a career, I found it in a person. A person who loved me so much that he died on the cross for my sins (Jn. 3:16).

My wife and I just joined Refuge Church, a wonderful community of believers in Fort Myers, Florida. Our Pastor Brian Culbertson likes to use the term “misfit.” In fact, he was the one that gave me the inspiration to write this article.

Just this week, Pastor Brian called us to become “partners in the gospel” (Phil. 1:5) by committing to Refuge Church. After the service, we had cupcakes that read Welcome Home Misfits (Ps. 34:8). 

Don’t you know that misfits are fit for the kingdom of God? We are called strangers in a foreign land (Ex. 22:21), a peculiar people (1 Pet. 2:9), called to be set apart (Heb. 10:10), no longer conforming to this world, but to Christ, the king of glory. If you feel like one who struggles belonging to a particular people, there is always room at the Christian table. So pull up a seat, sit down, and join in the conversation because you are no longer a misfit, but a child of God.

What is the Difference Between General and Special Revelation?

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The Psalmist proclaims: “Heaven is declaring God’s glory; the sky is proclaiming his handiwork (Ps. 19:1).” Next, David states in verse 7, “The Lord’s instruction is perfect, reviving one’s very being.” These two statements have often been associated with general and special revelation because they both unveil the character of God. In this paper, I will define both of these terms and describe the nature of their authority as well as their relationship to one another.

What do stars, birds, earthquakes, waterfalls, and trees all have in common? They express the general revelation of God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature (Rom. 1:20). This knowledge is self-evident to every human being, regardless of their religious orientation. Therefore, because creation and intelligent design implies a Creator, who has revealed His attributes, all people are without excuse when they deny God’s existence.

Furthermore, the apostle Paul stated even unbelievers, who have no written record of God’s law, still know intuitively moral rightness and wrongness due to their conscience. The Bible states: “When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts (Rom. 2:14-15).” Consequently, when people disobey their consciences, they are sinning against God and will be rightfully judged for their wrongdoing, even apart from the law.[1]

When one discusses special revelation, they are referring to God manifesting Himself fully to “particular persons at definite times and places, enabling those persons to enter into a redemptive relationship with God.”[2] Before humanity fell into sin, they had a proper relationship with God. However, after the fall, their understanding of spiritual matters became fractured. The pieces needed to be put back together through re-entering a covenantal relationship with God. This communication started with the patriarchs, then through the prophets, and culminated in the person of Jesus Christ (Heb. 1).

For instance, most Americans know about the President of the United States. They see him on Television, read about him in the newspaper, and know he lives at the White House in Washington D.C. All of us have this general revelation. Conversely, when an individual meets the President and communes with him, they have a personal connection. They might speak directly to him, laugh at his jokes, or enjoy spending time together. The same is true with God and believers. They have a special revelation about God because they have entered into a personal relationship with Him. God has given all people the opportunity to meet Him (Matt. 7:7), but he will never force it. Free will makes the final decision, and sadly, most people end up rejecting God and replace Him with false gods—self, creation, money, job status, education, family, etc.

In conclusion, the Scripture makes it clear that all people have a general understanding of who God is. He has revealed himself through creation and our conscience. More importantly, God desires people to read the Bible in order to gain a salvific understanding. For he has said: “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4).” That’s why it’s vital for believers to share their faith with those who never heard the good news concerning salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:15). Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, so every people group can have a special revelation of who God is in Christ.

[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 122

[2] Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, p.201

How was Jesus both Fully God and Fully Man?

Photo Credit: WikiArt

Photo Credit: WikiArt

Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man, and yet is one person. In this essay, I will defend the dual nature of Christ’s humanity and deity. Then, I will explain why this reality is crucial for the salvation of the world.

The duality of Christ begins in Mary’s womb. The Bible states: “that which is conceived in Mary is of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:20). This demonstrates that God actually took on human flesh by being born into the world, but he was free from sin since he had no father. He was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, which prevented him from original sin. For the Scripture states: “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Gal. 4:4-5).”

There are several scripture references that indicate Jesus was fully human. Let’s look at a few of these. Luke 2:40-52 says that Jesus grew up and increased in wisdom. He was tired on his journey to Samaria (Jn. 4:6), he became thirsty (Jn. 19:28), hungry (Matt. 4:2) experienced emotions (Matt. 26:38), and was perceived by others as a physical being like them during his three year ministry. These limitations reveal that Jesus had a real physical body and mind similar to that of other humans.[1]

It’s also clear from the Bible that Jesus was fully God. Paul wrote in Colossians 2:9 that the fullness of deity dwells in Christ. When Jesus stilled the storm, it showed his power over nature (Matt. 8:26-27). He also did many miracles like multiplying the loaves and fish, changing water into wine, and rising from the dead. When Jesus saw Nathaniel under the fig tree, he knew his thoughts (Mk. 2:8) and the disciples even said to him, “you know all things (Jn. 16:30).” These attributes can only be explained if Jesus was in fact all-knowing and all-powerful like God.

Why is it important that Jesus was both fully God and fully man? Let’s first answer the importance of his humanity. Christ is our representative. He is the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45) whose righteousness leads to our justification and reconciliation (Rom. 5:18-19). Jesus is our substitute. If he didn’t take on human flesh, he couldn’t have died in our place and taken the penalty for our sins. Hebrews 2:16 clarifies this notion: “Therefore he had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people.” Finally, Jesus teaches us how to live. We are to walk in the same way as he walked (1 Jn. 2:6). When we are born again and receive the spirit of God, we receive the mind of Christ and are called to follow him.

Why would Christ have to be God? Only an infinite being is capable of taking the full weight of sin for every human being. Two, God chooses the best plan for salvation, and that is for him to be the hero of the story. He gets to be the Savior, the main actor, the reason why we get to enter heaven. It’s all about the glory of God. I believe that the Christian worldview gives the most glory to God because it’s He who saves, not ourselves.

[1] Grudem, Systematic Theology, p.532-33.

The 4 Major Themes of the Bible: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration

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There are 4 main themes that interconnect the history of the Judeo-Christian worldview. The first is creation. In the beginning, God created time and the universe by His power, turning nothing into something (ex-nihilo). He created the stars, galaxies, fish, cucumbers, trees, giraffes, and his greatest work of all, humankind. God placed the man Adam and his wife Eve in the Garden of Eden, a perfect environment, and gave them the responsibility to tend the garden and take care of the animals.

Meanwhile, a mighty angel named Lucifer, who was once created perfect, rebelled against God because of pride and envy. He was cast out of heaven and took the form of a serpent. He tempted Eve to disobey God by eating something God told her not to do, for her protection, and when this happened, both the man and the woman felt shame and their relationship became fractured from God. This is often referred to as the second major theme of the Bible. The fall of Man, or as Christian scholars would say, original sin. This means that human beings are no longer born morally good, but are born with an evil inclination to disobey authority.

The struggle between good and evil continued in the first couple’s family. One of their sons, Cain, murdered his brother. Several generations later, the world was filled with such violence and defiance towards God, that the only man alive at the time, Noah, was extended grace. God revealed to Noah that He would send a great flood to bring judgment on the people, and so he told Noah to build an ark. After the flood, Noah and his family began to repopulate the earth.

Noah’s descendents birthed the start of Judaism by the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in 1900 BC. God promised to bless Abraham’s offspring and, through that seed, to bless all the nations of the Earth.  Jacob, the youngest of the patriarchal Fathers, had twelve children, and the eleventh child, Joseph, ended up becoming a powerful force in Egypt for 400 years until the Pharaoh of Egypt, Ramses II, enslaved them. To rescue the Israelites, God raised up a prophet named Moses, from the tribe of Levi, to bring the people out of Israel out of Egypt and back to the land which had been promised to Abraham.

Once safely out of Egypt, the children of Israel camped at Mount Sinai, where God gave Moses the 10 commandments, which was the basis of their covenant. In addition to the moral code (Do not murder, steal) the law defined the role of the priest and offering of sacrifices to atone for sin. Atonement could only be made by the shedding of the blood of a spotless sacrifice. The law also detailed how to build the holy tabernacle, in which God’s presence would dwell and where He would meet with His people.

Over the next several years, Joshua led the people of God through various battles and they began to conquer many nations. However, they started to worship the gods around them and lost their identity. As a result, they no longer wanted God to be their king, but asked for a human king because they wanted to be like other nations. God granted their request, and Samuel anointed Saul as Israel’s first king. Saul was a disappointment, disobeyed God and was removed from power. God then chose David, of the tribe of Judah, to succeed Saul as King. God promised David that he would have a descendant who would reign on throne forever (the promised Messiah being Jesus Christ, God in the flesh).

David’s son Solomon reigned in Jerusalem around 950 BC, but civil war broke out, and the kingdom was divided. The northern kingdom was Israel and the southern Kingdom Judah. Israel continued to have wicked kings, and God brought the Assyrian nation upon Israel in judgment. After the northern kingdom was destroyed, the nation of Judah was overtaken by the Babylonian empire around 574 BC. This is during the time when the prophet Isaiah predicted a Suffering Servant who would suffer for the sins of His people and be glorified and sit on David’s throne. The prophet Micah predicted that this promised one would be born in Bethlehem.

The Jewish people were deported into Babylon for over 70 years, and after they fell to the Persian Empire, the Jews were released to return to Judah. The Jews returned home to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. Malachi wrote the last book of Jewish history and prophesies that the Lord would come to His temple and that a future king would come into Jerusalem riding on a donkey.

This brings us to the 3rd theme of the Bible: redemption. The Old Testament is the story of God’s plan to bring redemption of man. The sacrificial system, the spotless lamb, the savior of the world, the one who would die for his own people, was about to arrive on the scene. The suffering servant of Isaiah, the Son of David, the Messiah of Daniel, and the humble king of Zechariah, all to be found in one person, Jesus Christ.

Jesus grew up as an observant Jew. He began his public ministry at the age of 30. John the Baptist had been preaching of the coming Messianic kingdom and baptizing those who believed his message and turned from their sins. People were following Jesus and calling him the Son of God, which was considered blasphemous because Jesus was equating himself as equal with God.

In his final trip to Jerusalem, Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples. That night, during a time of prayer, Judas betrayed him and Jesus was arrested and dragged through a series of mock trials. He was condemned to death by crucifixion by the Roman governor. At the moment of His death, there was a great earthquake. Jesus’ body was taken from the cross, laid in a nearby tomb, and on the third day, Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty.

The Jewish people realized that the sacrificial systems, the tabernacle, the priesthood, the atonement, the suffering servant, all of these prophecies were fulfilled in the God-Man, Jesus Christ: He is the ultimate lamb of God, He is the High Priest, He is the King of all, and He is the Savior of the World.

The final theme is restoration. It is when Christ will return and make all things right. We are living in the already-not yet eschatology. This means that Christianity is spreading, and the kingdom of God is growing, but the millennium, the thousand year reign of Christ, hasn’t yet occurred. We are waiting for the day when the Messiah will bring peace to the Earth and establish a new heaven and a new earth. Read this verse and meditate on this future day. We have this hope in Christ. God bless and share this good news with others!

Revelation 21:1-8 says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “Look! God’s dwelling is here with humankind. He will dwell with them, and they will be his peoples. God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look! I’m making all things new.” He also said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “All is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will freely give water from the life-giving spring. Those who emerge victorious will inherit these things. I will be their God, and they will be my sons and daughters.

What is a Worldview and Why is it Important?

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A worldview is defined as, “a particular philosophy of life or conception of the world. It’s the way one perceives the reality they live in.” A worldview gives an individual a perspective of their reality, which leads to developing values, priorities, decisions, and how one applies it into their lives.

Here are some questions a worldview might try to answer: What is reality? What is the nature of existence? What is a human? What happens at death? What is right and wrong? What is the purpose of life? Feel free to download this powerpoint presentation concerning What is a Worldview.

The Free Will Defense to Explain the Problem of Evil

templeton-free-will-essayAlvin Plantinga, an American analytic philosopher and professor at the University of Notre Dame, argues that it’s logically possible for God to be all-powerful and all-loving and still allow moral evil in the world. His main contention is called “The Free Will Defense.” Here is his argument. “A world containing creatures who are significantly free (and freely perform more good than evil actions) is more valuable, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all. Now God can create free creatures, but He can’t cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, then they aren’t significantly free after all; they do not do what is right freely. To create creatures capable of moral good, therefore, He must create creatures capable of moral evil; and He can’t give these creatures the freedom to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so. As it turned out, sadly enough, some of the free creatures God created went wrong in the exercise of their freedom; this is the source of moral evil. The fact that free creatures sometimes go wrong, however, counts neither against God’s omnipotence nor against His goodness; for He could have forestalled the occurrence of moral evil only by removing the possibility of moral good.”

First, let’s define free will as best we can. Free will is the ability of rational moral agents to make “independent” choices in the real world without being “entirely” affected by outside factors beyond their control (hard determinism). This would include the physical laws of the universe, physical or psychological coercion, social constraints, metaphysical realities (if you posit the existence of a God) neurological disorders, and/or a genetic predispositions to a certain illness.

The question then becomes: As moral agents, do we have some control over our actions, and if so, what sort of control and to what extent? I believe this is where I would slightly disagree with Alvin Plantinga. He believes in libertarian free will (incompatiblism), which would argue that humans are absolutely free to make their own choices, even from the metaphysical agent God. However, if this is true, then God would be incapable of determining the future. God would only have foreknowledge of the “hypothetical possibilities” of our human choices since He can’t determine them. This would contradict his nature of being all-knowing (past, present, and future). I would argue that we make real choices, but they are predetermined by our social environment, genetics, and by the all-powerful and all-knowing God (soft determinism).

In the New Testament, Acts 4:27-28, the actions of Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel had been determined and decreed by God Himself to occur as they planned against Jesus and did what their will decided beforehand. Although God had determined that Christ should die, those responsible for His death were still held responsible for their actions. Christ was put to death by wicked men, “yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer” (Isaiah 53:10). Once again, the answer to the question “who put Jesus to death?” is both God and the wicked people. There were two purposes being carried out within a single action.

In my opinion, I believe that God has two types of will: His permissive will is one that he does not decree to occur, such as allowing sin, evil, and suffering in the world. However, because of the allowance of man’s independent wills, all of us experience it, and even God himself does. Christianity is the only worldview that says God became truly man as Jesus and suffered for the sins of the world. Not even God himself evades suffering. The second will is perceptive and is what God desires for all people. For example, God wills that man does not sin, that we do not lie, steal, or murder one another. I believe these two wills are cohesive and do explain the act of moral agents committing evil against one another. In conclusion, I believe God is both completely sovereign and man is completely responsible for their actions. What are your thoughts on this subject?