Category Archives: Theology

Christian Hope: Does It Differ from Optimism?

He then told me something – and it was hard for him to talk, so I had to listen closely – that I have never forgotten. He told me that the last two months – since he had come over to Jesus’s side – had been the two best months of his life. I looked at him in wonder. Here was a man from whom everything had been taken. His former life was gone. His world was a bed. His body was a prison. And the last two months had been the best time of his life.

How was that possible? What had happened? Continue reading

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8 Things Hope Does for the Believer (part 2)

My son Kevin and I were once fishing in Quebec from a boat that was anchored about 100 yards above a small waterfall. (I say small, but it probably dropped 30 feet over a course of a couple of hundred yards.) Without that anchor, the current would have carried us into pain and loss. And without hope, the strong currents of this age will carry you and your family where you do not want to go. Continue reading

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8 Things Hope Does for Us (According to Scripture)

Hopelessness makes work seem pointless, but hope has the opposite effect. It is no wonder that the New Testament’s most hopeful chapter closes with these words: “Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58). You know that when you have hope. Continue reading

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The Sorrows of the Past Will Hurt Us No More

In this 28-minute narrative sermon, we learn that Jesus’s people get confused, sad, broken, and hurt. In this world we have trouble – just as Jesus promised. But Christ enters our trouble and meets us there – and that changes … Continue reading

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Easter: So Much Bigger Than You Think

At Easter, Christians commemorate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and celebrate what his rising means for people and for the world. Too often, though, this vast hope has been so closely cropped that the only thing left is an expectation of a soulish celestial existence following death.

This is far too narrow a view, which is theologically unsupported and biblically unsound. Resurrection is not just about getting into heaven. It is the pivotal event in God’s plan to save creation. It is not simply a way for humans to live again after they die, but to live for the first time as God intended: joyously, vigorously, lovingly, justly, unendingly.

In the Bible, resurrection is viewed as the doorway into the age to come. Most people in first century Israel assumed this to be true. What surprised them was the Christian claim that the resurrection had already begun in Jesus. Their astonishing news was not just that people go on living after they die – most everyone in the first century already believed that – but that the new age had arrived when Jesus rose from the dead. Continue reading

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Getting Saved: An Old-fashioned Idea?

Isn’t that old fashioned? Nowadays, when someone starts talking about being saved, people cringe. Maybe it’s not racist or sexist but it sounds religionist—and that’s just as bad. Who are you to tell me I need to be saved? For that matter, who are you to tell me I’m not already saved? You are being discriminatory and narrow-minded.

Some people are offended by the idea – not to mention the assertion – that they need to be saved. And they’re offended even though they don’t know what it means to be “saved,” aren’t sure they want to be saved, and have no intention of finding out. They do have a vague idea that being saved is about getting into heaven and they have heard that not everyone is going to get in – and that offends them too. It is a cosmic violation of the Fair Housing Act!
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What Is God Up To?

Romans 8:28 is one of the Bible best-loved verses. “All things work together for good to those who love God…” And yet things frequently don’t seem to work together for good. For example, let’s say you have been saving up for a better car for the last 18 months. The one you have now is unreliable and you finally have enough money to replace it. But before you do, you incur unexpected bills that wipe out all the money you’ve saved and then some. How does that work for good?

And that is nothing compared to what some people experience. How does a cancer diagnosis work for good? A tragic accident? How about a tsunami? The death of a child? The deaths of tens of thousands of children in war and famine? In what sense are any of these things good?

The answer is, they are not and the Bible never says they are. In fact, it says quite the opposite. These things are not good but God is. He is so wise, so capable, and powerful that he can make even bad things like these serve his people’s good. Continue reading

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Is God an Angry Person?

Is God an angry person? Someone might object that even to ask the question is to denigrate the God whom the Bible declares “is love.” Further, is it not misleading to speak of God as a person? The Bible plainly states that “God is not human.” To refer to the Deity as a “person,” someone might argue, is to use overly human terms.

This second objection needs to be answered before the first can be addressed. Christian theology, unlike pantheism, understands God to be a person; in fact, to be “the” person. Humans, unlike some other created beings, are persons precisely because they were made “in the image of God” with the intention that they should in some sense become like God.

If God is then a person – albeit more than a person – one might further ask if he is an angry person. Indeed, this is precisely what many of the new atheists have asserted about the Christian God. Richard Dawkins, for example, described God as “the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser…” He goes on like this with ten more contemptuously descriptive terms.

Before such a verbal onslaught, many of us cry, “Foul.” Dawkins descriptions ignore most of the biblical revelation and misrepresent what is left.
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“Woke” Culture and a Righteousness of Our Own

In our day as in Paul’s, people try to establish a righteousness of their own. In fact, we live in what might be the most self-righteous moment in western history. So much of the impetus behind the “woke” movement is … Continue reading

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A Vision for the Church

More than 20 years ago, a group of Lockwood leaders attended a conference together in the Chicago area. One of the keynote speakers urged church leaders to write a vision statement – what their church will look like as it conforms to God’s will for them. We came home and set about working on a vision statement.

Vision statements were all the rage back then. I know a pastor who undertook the same exercise and, when he was done, had a vision of a new church building, with a beautiful fountain adorning the grounds.

We had no vision of what the church building or grounds would look like. We had no vision of staff positions or programming. I’m not saying that God doesn’t give such visions; to some congregations he might but he did not give them to us. Continue reading

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