A Message to the Church: You are Free to Love

It’s no secret the church, specifically the broader evangelical church, is in a state of crisis. Attendance and engagement is down, stories of financial, physical, and spiritual abuses are mounting, and any meaningful conversation regarding theology, philosophy, and morality in the cultural mainstream has become nearly impossible. Even the faithful in the evangelical church are becoming disheartened, weary, and have stories of frustration, disenfranchisement and hurt. This growing crisis should cause us to take an honest look inwards through the lens of Scripture, in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, and with a heart of great humility before the Lord.

Continue reading “A Message to the Church: You are Free to Love”

To The Ends of the Earth

Blog post 9-18-18

Jesus radically turned the world upside down. His life, death and resurrection sparked a worldwide movement of these new believers that no longer answered to the kings or religious rulers of the world, but to a ruling Messiah, a heavenly King, a redeeming Priest, a loving God. The message was simple, yet profoundly strange and nearly incomprehensible, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). It was through this very message that the sick were healed, the sinner was restored, relationships mended, the poor and widows provided for, the walls of diversity broken down, and the assurance of an eternal salvation was given to the world. This message was not only a message of hope and faith, but one of radical transformation.

Today, our world is starving and striving for answers to the biggest issues of our day, and its the Church (not the institution, but the people) that has been given the mission to extend God’s plan of redemption from generation to generation. Our Kingdom mandate is to share Jesus with the world. God is already at work — we simply need to join Him in it.

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Matt teaching at Village Church of Barrington, Barrington, IL, on February 18, 2018.

Watch this sermon at, https://vimeo.com/256307434.

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

I’m guilty. Guilty of constantly changing the narrative of the story to put myself in the best light and come out looking better than I actually am. I introduce slight variations and constantly tweak the story. I consciously avoid specifics or other elements of the story that make me look bad or cast a negative light. Or, I simply justify my attitude and behavior based on what I want to hear or believe about myself.

If you were to ask me anything about my life and rate it on a scale of 1-10, even in my best attempt to be honest and vulnerable, it’s highly likely my number would be no less than one number above what it truly is. “How is your personal joy today?” I give it a nine (it’s really a seven). “How is your daily prayer life?” A seven (more like six). “How about your feelings of bitterness and frustration?” Yikes, getting real now … a six, I need some work here (try four — maybe three — this week). I’m a mess.

Adam and Eve had the same problem (recall Genesis 3).

God, “Who told you to eat from the tree?”
Adam, “The woman did!”
Eve, “The talking serpent made me to do it!”

Now I know where I get it from, it’s in my genes.

The natural operations of our heart is to blame-shift, self-protect, avoid, self-justify and falsify authenticity. Even in our best and most honest efforts, we maintain a corrupted, distorted, and prideful sense of self. After all, we’re creatures under the fall and distant from glory. So often, this also is our approach to reading Scripture. We fail to see the real message, identify the real need, and rightly apply the gracious and wonderful hope to which it speaks into our lives today.

So what do we learn from the story of Jesus who heals the paralytic that was lowered through the roof of a first-century Galilean home, and the call of Levi the tax collector? How do these stories from Mark 2:1-17 apply to our discussion here? A simple, profound, and healing message: Jesus restores sinners.

O come Immanuel (God with us)

As Christmas day approaches, I’m both burdened and hopeful. How about you?

I’m burdened by the pain, suffering, brokenness, violence, war, and division in the world. Burdened by the deterioration of life and a creation that was meant for good and glory. And yet I’m hopeful for a bright future. Hopeful for unlimited peace and joy. Hopeful for eternal reconciliation. Hopeful for a perfectly restored creation.

The source of my burden is the fallen creation and humanity’s inherited rejection of God and his Kingdom. We don’t have to look further than Genesis 3 to understand the universal cause of our pain and suffering.

Yet the source of my hope is in the grace and love of a God who initiated a cosmic reconciliation through the living presence of himself in Jesus Christ. Christmas is the single historical event that changed everything. Christmas is the day we remember that God fulfilled his promise that he would be with us – his creation, his people, his children, his loved ones. Christmas is the day that marks the beginning of the end that will bring about a perfect new beginning. Christmas is the reminder that Jesus is with us now and forever.

 

The Matchless Christ

All too often I find Christians believing in and selling a weak and shallow gospel. It goes something like this: “follow Jesus and get the life you always wanted.” There are all sorts of variations to this, but in the end, these superficial gospel messages are rooted in a superficial theology of the person and work of Jesus Christ. A shallow gospel becomes nothing more than fire insurance for the afterlife or pithy inspirational messages that boost one’s emotional morale for the day.

In contrast, a deep theology of Christ is the unshakable foundation to something more than fire insurance or daily inspiration. Intimately knowing the person and work of Christ, His unrivaled supremacy over all creation, and His defeat over sin and death is what brings about total transformation – a fully restored life and world.

Times of Conflict

Conflict is an unfortunate reality of life. We experience conflicts in three primary areas – between others, self and creation. There is no shortage of examples of conflict in the news lately: Hurricane Harvey, Charlottesville, North Korea, violence in Chicago, and the list goes on. This doesn’t even include the personal conflicts that we encounter on an everyday basis with our spouse or significant other, children, our coworkers, or the car that cut you off in traffic yesterday.

Conflicts have this way of  bringing out a whole range of emotions and responses in us. Did you know that our response to conflicts expose the quality of our relationship with God? A right relationship with God, therefore, actually renews our approach to conflict in every sphere of life. Below is a sermon I preached this summer on this very topic from 1 Samuel 24.

Where is God in my Suffering?

God Isn’t Fixing This. This was the front page headline of the New York Daily News from December 3, 2015 in the wake of the San Bernardino, CA shooting that left 14 people dead. It’s only natural that we begin to question God’s ability and sovereign power in the midst of such evil, often leading us to ask the question, “Where is God in my suffering?”

Scripture reveals reality: suffering is part of the human experience. We will all suffer because of original sin. It has corrupted all of creation, tarnishing God’s perfect work by introducing evil, wrongdoing, physical decay, and even death. These things did not exist prior the fall of man (see Genesis 3). Thankfully, God’s promise to deliver a son of man to crush the head of the serpent and sin forever (Genesis 3:15) has been fulfilled.

When we suffer, it’s in our nature to cry out. We need a Redeemer. We need a Savior. We need One who can rescue us from the plight and curse of original sin. One who can restore all of creation to its intended, perfected, and glorious state. Jesus Christ shares in our suffering so that we may live.