Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Gospel


     I have long thought about writing a blog entry that presents the Christian gospel.  After writing my post on the prosperity gospel I realized that maybe there are people out there who don't really know what the true Christian gospel is.  In this day and age, so much information about Christianity, Jesus, God, religion, and the like is readily available through the click of a mouse or the flip of a TV remote, that it's hard to discern what's true and what's not sometimes.  This is one of several reasons why I think it's important to establish the true gospel amidst a sea of false gospels.

     So, what is the true gospel?  Well, the answer to this question is both simple and complex.

To start, the gospel is centered around the person of Jesus Christ.  In fact, Paul the apostle defines the gospel in this way:

"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures," - I Corinthians 15:3-4 (ESV)

Paul defines the gospel as Christ's death, burial, and resurrection.  Still, it doesn't answer the question of why He had to die or why he had to rise again. 

In simple terms, Christ had to die to pay the debt that we owed God for breaking His law by sinning.   Sin is any act in violation of God's law.  God's law is an extension of God's character, and since God is infinite and holy, any act that is contrary to His nature has an eternal consequence.  Thus, as Paul says in Romans 3:23, "the wages of sin is death"; not just death here, but death eternally in hell.  So how is God's wrath against us satisfied?  Answer:  Blood.  One of many overarching themes in the Bible is the notion of blood as a sacrifice.  In the Old Testament, animals were sacrificed to pay for the sins of the Hebrew nation.  Often, it was a spotless lamb without blemish, foreshadowing the coming of the sinless Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is both man and God.  The theological term for this is the hypostatic union: the union of 2 natures, the divine and human, in the single person of Christ.  Jesus needed to be both man and God because only a man could successfully fulfill the Law and only God could pay a sacrifice worthy enough to pay for our debt of sin.  Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life and therefore, fulfilled the Law.  He also died in our place, and paid our debt on the cross. (Colossians 2:14).   All those who believe on Him are free from sin and the shame and guilt that go along with it.  Hallelujah!

How does one receive Jesus?  Repent of your sin and accept the free gift of grace through faith in Jesus.  "If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."  Romans 10:9-10.  When you believe on the true Jesus and in the true gospel, a transformation takes place.  Jesus calls it being "born again" (John 3).  In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul talks about it this way:  "Therefore, if any one is in Christ, He is a new creation.  The old has gone, the new has come."  (2 Corinthians 5:17)  Being a Christian isn't just having knowledge that Christ died on the cross.  Even the demons believe that.  It's putting your full trust and hope in Him and calling him, "Lord", surrendering your will to His.   Being a Christian is not a life where everything is hunky dory and goes just the way you would imagine.  Jesus changes your desires to conform with His to start a brand new life walking with Him.  Christianity is a life led and guided by God Himself, submitting to the Father's will through the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  God doesn't offer the things of the world.  Instead he offers something much greater:  a relationship with Him.  Will you put your trust in Him today?  Repent of your sin, accept His free gift of salvation, make Jesus your Lord and Savior.  He's waiting with open arms.  You don't have to do anything to earn it, in fact, you can't.  It's offered freely, that's why it's a gift.  Will you accept His gift today?

Saturday, March 02, 2013

WEC Harlem Shake

A couple weeks ago, my student group made this Harlem Shake video.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Thoughts on Cloud Atlas

This past Saturday I had the opportunity to see the new film by the Wachowski Brothers a.k.a. Wachowski Starship, Cloud Atlas.  While I don't want to hash out fully here why I enjoyed the film, I do want to give some of my thoughts.  So here's what I liked, loved, and also what I didn't enjoy and didn't love about the film. 

Artistically, the film is a great film.  Beginning and end shots are linked together very well, filled in the middle by 6 intertwining storylines.  Here's a list of the periods of time:

1.  Mid 19th century - a man aboard a ship in the Pacific Islands, harboring a stowaway
2.  1936 - a homosexual composer trying to write a masterpiece with the help of a composer who hasn't written a good work in years.
3. 1970s - an audacious reporter gets the story of her career fall into her lap that could topple an oil industry.
4.  2012 - a publicist, his rise to prominence, his fall, and his plot to escape an assisted living facility
5.  2312, or somewhere around there - a genetically engineered waitress escapes her confined life and discovers the truth behind her world.
6.  106, "After the Fall", actually some years after 2312, a tribal group hosts a stranger trying to discover truth buried in the past that will benefit mankind.  Meanwhile, the main character of this time period is literally haunted by an "evil conscious".

It should be mentioned at this point that there is a very small core cast playing several different parts, in all 6 timelines.  The makeup work and the incredible acting ability are both on full display in this film.  This adds to the beauty and intricacy of this film.

The storylines are all very different in plot, but in theme, they are all similar.  On the surface, you can definitely see the links between each storyline, but dig deeper and there is a whole network teeming with details to analyze.  To me, a movie that can spark discussion is a movie worth seeing and Cloud Atlas  is no exception.  Themes of freedom, good and evil, love, loss, defying the established order, and relationships are some of the few elements that this film explores.

So in terms of structure, acting, plot, and art, this film earns high marks in my book. 

But here's my problem:

It can clearly be seen by anyone who knows anything about eastern religion, that this movie illustrates re-incarnation.  There are conversations about past lives and how "everything is connnected".

Furthermore, the film has a flippant view of sexuality, especially in the 1930s segment.  Its message:  have sex with whoever you want.  It doesn't matter if you're married or not.  It doesn't matter if you're committing adultery.  It doesn't matter if you're having sex with someone of the same gender.

There was also language and violence in the film, but those were of less significance to me then the issues previously mentioned.

While I did enjoy the film overall, I can't ignore it's problems, and it's problems are enough for me to steer certain Christians away from it.  I believe it's benefits outweigh it's problems, but there are some who this film could affect in a negatively spiritual way.

I haven't come down on a final rating of this film, it has it's good and it's bad.  On one hand, I see it as a great film artistically, but morally and spiritually, it gets an F.  I don't expect every film to adhere to my worldview, but I also don't want anyone buying into reincarnation, past lives, and sexual immorality as acceptable because of a film.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The prosperity gospel... and why it's wrong

I have long wanted to post something about this. Not because I feel the need to criticize or that I want to condemn people, but that I think that truth must be told and false teachings should be exposed. Also, I believe that since I love the Church as a whole, that I should speak the truth in that love. It's one thing to make a mistake here and there from the pulpit, it's quite another to base your entire ministry on a lie. Here's some common teachings I've noticed from various prosperity teachers. Some may preach only some of these principles, but all of them are wrong.

1. Since we are children of God, we deserve and should expect health and wealth.
2. Poverty and sickness for the believer died with Jesus on the cross of Calvary
3. When we give, we should expect something in return.
4. When we pray, we activate the power of God.
5. Freedom includes freedom from poverty.
6. If you're going through sickness, you're out of the will of God.

So, looking at this list, there's an obvious theme running through these verses and that's that God serves us. It's a selfish gospel, one that says that if you're not successful, you're not "good" enough. A gospel that says that God's will is for you to be wealthy. It's a gospel that elevates the position of the believer and lowers the position of the Father.

Let's get one thing straight, God submits to NO ONE. God is sovereign, and ruler of all things. If he chooses to bless us, monetarily or otherwise, it's not because we deserve it. The bible says that "none are righteous", that "all have sinned and fallen short". But let's look at the heresy of the statements above.

Expecting wealth goes against what Jesus said in Matthew "Lay not for yourselves, treasures on earth, where moth and dust corrupt, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven ... for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Clearly, Jesus understood how close money is tied to the condition of the heart. When believers are told that they aren't wealthy, it's because they're mindset is wrong, that they aren't being "freedom minded", or some such nonsense, it enforces the belief that money is a sign of following God, that money is a sign of spiritual success. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The power of God can NOT be activated by the likes of little peons like us. The power of God is awesome, and something that can't be turned on by us through prayer. However, in the economy of God, when we pray, God listens. Sometimes he says "Yes", sometimes he says "No", and sometimes our requests don't meet with his timing. To say that we can activate the power of God shows a total lack of understanding of how biblical prayer works. Prayer is more than requesting God for things. It's a way to show honor, to give praise, to communicate with God, and above all, a way to strengthen our relationship with God.

Paul in I Timothy Chapter 6, clearly addresses those false teachers who would claim that gain equates godliness. Let's take a look:

"If anyone (E)teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with (F)the sound[b] words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching (G)that accords with godliness, 4 (H)he is puffed up with conceit and (I)understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for (J)controversy and for (K)quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people (L)who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, (M)imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 6 But (N)godliness (O)with contentment is great gain, 7 for (P)we brought nothing into the world, and[c] we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But (Q)if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But (R)those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, (S)into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that (T)plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of (U)all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs."

I Timothy 6:3-10

Logically, from this context, anyone who teaches that "godliness is a means of gain" is "puffed up with conceit and understands nothing." I'm saying this to expose the heresy and falsehood of the prosperity gospel and their teachers. If you're tracking with me, you can probably already identify a couple. I say these things because I am fed up with people justifying what they believe by saying things such as "they preach Jesus!" Wake up and smell the coffee, people! That's not the Jesus I serve! The Jesus I serve was born into a manger, not a mansion. He wore sandals and ragged robes, not Armani suits. The freedom that he gives is not freedom from poverty and lack, but freedom from sin and freedom from the guilt, depression, and shame that goes along with it.

I say these things in love because I truly believe that God can change anyone's heart and that it wouldn't be right as a brother in Christ to sit idly by while the Church is being swayed to believe an out and out lie. I want this "prosperity gospel" movement to die. This "Jesus" is a cheap substitute for the Son of God whom I love.

Lord, I pray that eyes would open, that your truth would penetrate hearts and that you would give those caught in the trap of the prosperity gospel ears to hear and eyes to see the truth of your Word. Amen.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Rachel's first Switchfoot Concert.

On Saturday, I went to see my favorite active band, Switchfoot, in concert. I was excited for this concert for the following reasons:

1. This was the first show I would be going to after the release of their new album, Vice Verses, which I believe to be their best one yet.
2. This was my first sold out Switchfoot concert.
3. This was the first time my fiancee, Rachel, experienced the awesomeness that is Switchfoot.

The concert was in Charlottesville at the Jefferson Theater. This is definitely worth mentioning as is not only Charlottesville a beautiful town, but the theater was beautiful as well. It had a large area for people to stand and rock out on the bottom level and 2 levels of balconies. It looked like an old movie theater that ripped out the theater seats.

Opening things up was Honor by August. Usually I'm not really impressed by the opening act, but Honor by August, while not being phenomenal, was very good for an opening band. I got to talk with some of the members after the show and they were very down to earth.

Now, on to the main act. Switchfoot put on an amazing show. They opened things up with "The Original", a very fun and upbeat song from the new album that definitely set the right tone for what was coming. Here's the full setlist, that included 9 songs from the new album

The Original
The War Inside
We Are One Tonight
This is Your Life
Been Caught(cover song)
Mess of Me
Dare You to Move
Vice Verses (first time live in the States)
Dark Horses
Meant to Live

After that, the crowd roared and asked for one more song. They gave us not 1, not 2, but 3.

They played Hello Hurricane, and then the perfect encore song, "Where I Belong", followed by "The Sound."

But the crowd hadn't had enough and Switchfoot came out for a second encore, performing "Needle and Haystack Life."

It was an amazing experience, not one I will soon forget.

Friday, October 07, 2011

The Best (and worst) day at the movies ... and some other stuff

Well, it's been 2 months since I wrote on the blog. A lot has happened between August 5th and now. Summer ended, fall began. Football season returned with the Redskins at 3-1. It's been quite a month musically. 4, count them, 4, of my favorite bands released new albums

NeedtoBreathe - The Reckoning, a very good album, but not quite as good as their previous work

Gungor - Ghosts upon the Earth

Mute Math - Odd Soul

and finally, Switchfoot, in their best ever album, Vice Verses. Yes, I think it's better than The Beautiful Letdown and Hello Hurricane. Easily, easily has the best album ending song that they've ever made.

Anyway, moving on to why I'm really here. A very interesting thing happened this past summer when I went to go see a movie. Not just any movie, but my pick for the best movie of the year so far, "The Tree of Life". I had been waiting and waiting for this movie to come out for some time due to the buzz that the movie was getting ever since it won the Palme D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. It finally arrived at the Naro this past summer and I decided to go see it with a good friend of mine.

We went in and the theater was not jam packed, but it had a considerable number of people. My friend and I sat down and after the first few minutes we both knew this wasn't going to be just any movie. It was going to be a very memorable movie The Tree of Life beautifully illustrates how life seldom gives us straight answers and when we look up at the sky and ask God why, He rarely gives answers us directly. In the case of the film, God and the director, Terrence Malick, answers in the most appropriate way, by showing us. There is very little dialogue at the beginning and end of the film, but in the middle is where we get to see the main character fleshed out and his ongoing struggle with nature vs. grace, most embodied with the struggle of the death of his brother, which we are made aware of at the beginning of the film. How the story plays out, I am not here to say, but it is one of beauty, grace, elegance, and meditation. Malick doesn't use a conventional narrative and it works. Instead, the audience is left to ponder the far reaches of what is possible and glimpse at the beauty of what lies beyond.

The Tree of Life sparked a discussion between me and my friend. One that only a great movie does. Once we were back at his apartment, I came to find out that some friends of his were watching "Battle: Los Angeles" upstairs. So I settled in and watched a little bit because several of the poeple watching the movie were also my friends. Now, I already knew the reputation of this film and so I wasn't expecting much. What ended up happening though, is I had the singular worst experience watching a movie this entire year and I only watched about 45 minutes of the movie. The following are some quotes that my friend and I have since said about the film.

"I never thought 45 minutes could feel like an eternity."
"You start cheering for the aliens just so the movie will end."
"A mind numbing, cliche-ridden experience."

The dialogue in the film was horrible. When they weren't screaming commands at each other, most of the conversations were just filler between the predictable, messy action sequences. I don't mind action movies or alien invasion movies. I do mind when they're bad.

This experience of seeing the best and worst films of the year in the same day I won't soon forget. The friend I went with summed it up best when he said, "You know a film is great when even after seeing a film as bad as Battle: Los Angeles, you still remember the greater film."

Friday, August 05, 2011

Switchfoot - Vice Verses Listening Session (Mobile Version)

Switchfoot Listening Session

I'm Engaged!

For those of you haven't heard, I am engaged. I proposed on the evening of July 24th to my now fiancee, Rachel, at the Lions' Bridge. I've been dating Rachel since last August and I had no doubt in my mind she was the one I wanted to marry. For those of you who have been praying for me and also those who have left e-mails, facebook messages, phone calls, etc, you have my sincere thanks. I'm looking forward to what the future has in store for the 2 of us.