The simple message of the Bible, our lives and the world to come is that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead. This is the foundation of the Gospel and our faith according to I Corinthians 15. Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!!! As Easter/First Fruits arrive this Sunday, I want to share a few thoughts about the Resurrection that I hope will stir our hearts toward seeing the greatness and majesty of our Lord in the Empty Tomb and our modern lives today.
When the disciples looked into the Lord's Empty Tomb, they just saw the grave clothes that our Lord had left behind. What really happened in there? The answer, of course, is that our Lord's body passed right through His burial garments and left them behind. Nothing like that had ever happened in the history of the world! Our Lord's body also passed through the solid rock wall of the tomb as well. How is this possible? How is it possible for matter to vanish and pass through other matter? These are some of the questions of Resurrection morning and today. All these hard questions are relevant and important because what happened to our Lord's body is exactly what will happen to our bodies one day soon when our Resurrection Day arrives.
As Good Friday approaches next week, it is worth the time to stop for a moment and reflect on the Cross. Good Friday is a day of celebration that reminds us that the Lord Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world, and more personally for our sins if we are Christians. And while some churches have Good Friday Services, much of Christendom will skip them and just go to Easter Sunday. Sometimes this skipping of the Cross has increasingly turned into a problem for the Faith because without the Cross there is no real Church, no redemption and surely no Empty Tomb. The centrality of the Cross totally changed the Apostle Paul and led him to say in I Corinthians 2:2,
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
The Apostle Paul realized that everything in life was and is somehow tied to the Cross. He made it his life's mission to know and proclaim Christ crucified and how that old, rugged Cross revealed the heart of the Lord to our world. As Good Friday draws near, let's take a fresh look at the Cross and how the Lord has placed it at the center of everything in our lives today, whether we understand it or not.
The private funeral for evangelist Billy Graham was held yesterday at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC before 2400 guests. Millions of others, from all over the world, watched the service online or on television. Billy Graham was 99 years old and will be buried next to his wife Ruth at the same library dedicated to his life and ministry. Billy Graham truly lived an extraordinary life. As a result, he was honored at his death by being only the fourth private citizen in United States history to lie in state at the United States Capitol rotunda in Washington, D.C on February 28-March 1. Graham is the first religious leader to be honored. At the ceremony, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan called Graham "America's pastor." President Donald Trump said Graham was "an ambassador for Christ." Many other tributes and accolades came in from all over the world to honor Graham and his ministry.
If you didn't know anything about Billy Graham, you would have to acknowledge that Billy's life had some sort of deeper meaning from Heaven's perspective. After all, Billy Graham spoke to over 200 million people in person during his ministry, the most of any person in human history about any subject. That number is only a fraction of those who heard him by radio or television over the years. Clearly, the fact that Billy Graham had such influence in the world for the Gospel and with Presidents and world leaders shows him to have had an extraordinary calling from the Lord. Billy's calling was most likely not even fully understood by himself.
We live in fascinating times. Do you agree? One of the great pictures of that fact is the recent emergence of the term "Deep State" into our culture. Have you heard about it? That term, which is now being used frequently, has just come into our vernacular during the last Presidential election cycle. The term has been used to describe officials in the government that are working behind the scenes to sabotage and subvert the constitutionally elected leadership of the Nation. In other words, the "Deep State" refers to people that are breaking the laws they are put in charge of upholding. This lawless behavior may include revealing classified materials, violating the Constitution, manipulating and destroying people's lives without due process and even attempting to remove the President from office through a legally manipulated impeachment. There is no question that our Nation has moved into a very scary time when the rule of law is not being upheld by those appointed to do so. So, when the police become the criminals you have reached a turning point in any society.
As Christians and students of the Bible, the lawless patterns underway in the "Deep State" are not new. The story of the Bible is about another "Deep State" going on against the Kingdom of God from the beginning. The Bible's view of the world is that a group of individuals under the influence of demonic power are working against the Lord and His legal and righteous authority and purposes in the world. The entire course of human history can be explained using this storyline...including the current drama in Washington. This lawless spirit, that refuses to submit to the Lord's authority, is embodied in the spirit of the antichrist, a spirit that is the enemy and counterfeit of the Lord Jesus Christ and His rightful authority over our world. The Bible tells us in I John 4:1-3 that this spirit is at work right now.
Few issues have so polarized America recently as the idea of building a border wall to keep illegal immigrants from entering our Nation. All you have to do today is just raise the issue of illegal immigration and building a border wall and you have created a firestorm. We saw that drama come to a head this past Tuesday as President Trump gave his "State of the Union" speech, outlining his plan to build a wall to help stop illegal immigration. And while a strong majority supported the plan, others have resorted to soaring rhetoric that condemns all such walls as a reflection of white privilege, racism and mean-spirited politics that are not reflective of America's greatness for all people. For some, the building of such a wall is something that even God Almighty would not do, so how could we think of it? After all, many people strongly believe that God would only unite people and never divide them with walls or unfair laws.
At the heart of this great battle and debate is the idea that our common humanity with others overrules any immigration laws. As a result, increasing numbers of people are beginning to call for "open borders" where people are seen as citizens of the world, not any particular nation. This growing belief has even led to the formation and growth of what are called "Sanctuary Cities" that see themselves being raised up to protect vulnerable immigrants from laws and regulations that are unfair and ignore the needs of our fellow human beings. This sanctuary movement has recently grown to the place where the State of California has now become a "sanctuary state," the first in America's history. Right now, this showdown between our laws and the politics over immigration policy is perhaps one of the greatest dangers to our Nation as a whole, since its outcome will dramatically shape America one way or another for the future.
Happy New Year! For many people the New Year is just another day. For some it is a holiday, a time to party with friends or a chance to watch a football game or parade. Now that the New Year is over...so what? Does it really matter that it is 2018, or any New Year for that matter? After all, new years have been coming and going from the beginning of time. Did you ever stop and think that something as simple as the New Year is really the key to understanding the meaning and purpose of our lives?
Few people ever stop to think that a New Year marks the beginning of something new, namely a new cycle of the Earth around of the Sun. Right now the Earth is turning at 1000 miles/hour on its axis every 24 hours. In addition to that rapid turning, the Earth is moving at 67,000 miles/hour around the Sun. And if those numbers don't surprise you, stop and reflect on the fact that our Solar System is orbiting around the center of the Milky Way Galaxy at 490,000 miles/hour. And while we may sometimes think that not much is happening around us, we are in a drama that cannot be fathomed by the greatest scientist.
In what must be the #1 Biblical story of 2017, we see the astonishing announcement that the Israeli government is seriously considering naming a future new train station near Jerusalem's Old City after President Donald Trump. As you may recall, President Trump just acknowledged Jerusalem as Israel's capital on December 6, and vowed to move the United States embassy there from Tel Aviv in the near future.
As we shared in a previous edition of the Carlson Report on December 7, Jerusalem has always been the center of the Lord's purposes for us through our creation and redemption and so Jerusalem is not only the eternal capital of Israel, but of the world. Because the prophetic things under way are so spectacular, we need to catch our breath and take a moment to reflect on exactly what is going on because the events are momentous for the entire world.
As Christmas and New Year's comes around every year, most of us have the sense that time is passing, and we are watching it happen. But few know where it is going or what it is about. The most important thing for us to know regarding the passing of time is that all of it is about two key events in history and life, namely, the first and second Coming (or Advent) of the Lord Jesus Christ. As a result, no matter when a person has lived throughout history, they either have been or are waiting for one of the Lord's comings. Once we begin to understand that fact, the passing of time and life itself will begin to make sense. Joyfully, there is a plan in place that we can understand. Without such a plan and purpose for time, life can end up just becoming a series of meaningless events that come and go. Sadly, that is the way most people see life and even the holidays.
When life doesn't make much sense, and the passing of time becomes weary and dreary, people get depressed and despondent. This Christmas, many are being gripped with a crisis of meaning and purpose that are reflected in some shocking statistics. As an example, a current Wall Street Journal article reports, "Drug and Alcohol Deaths at U.S. Workplaces Soar", was written that reflects our society's growing pain. The article goes on to state that drug and alcohol deaths in the U.S. have jumped more than 30% in 2016 alone as the struggle with a deadly opioid epidemic migrates to the workplace. Without a meaning and purpose to life and the passing of time, people don't know where to turn. This, of course, is not a new problem in America. It is part of the human condition and our broken lives. In the Bible, King Solomon spoke about this emptiness of life in Ecclesiastes 1:2-4 without God's purposes when he wrote,
During each Christmas season the Christmas story comes down to each of us answering the question that our Lord Jesus asked the disciples in Matthew 16:15, "Who do you say I am?" You see our faith and future all come down to how we answer that central question. Now if you remember the Apostle Peter's answer in the next verse he said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." Peter told our Lord and the world that Jesus was the Christ (Man) and the Son of God (God). The mystery of God becoming Man is the heart of the Christmas Story that the Bible teaches, and is the meaning of life. Unfortunately, most of the world evidently doesn't believe that right now. Vast numbers of people have a variety of ideas about who Jesus is. Seemingly fewer and fewer believe He is God in the flesh. And those numbers will continue to decrease as our Lord's Second Advent draws near. The purpose of this edition of the Carlson Report is to share why I believe that God became Man. My hope is to communicate a common-sense apologetic for Christmas and the Christian Faith in an increasingly confused world.
The central reason I believe God became a Man is that without that fact there is no ultimate and meaningful relationship to God! Without that personal connection to God we are only left with a few pleasures and joys in our relationships with humanity. And yet, the greatest pleasure of life is to enjoy and personally know God. That is the supreme delight of our humanity, namely to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. If God is not human, the personal joys of life and our relationships with others can never find home with God Himself. This fact would keep us relationally separated from our Creator, which is the definition of sin itself.
In an amazing move of boldness and courage, President Trump declared today that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and vowed to move the American embassy there from Tel Aviv in the near future. Prior to today's announcement, Jerusalem had been the only national capital city of any sovereign state where the United States had not placed their embassy due to political tensions. In a desire to support Israel's right to exist and name its own capital, President Trump said,
That is why, consistent with the Jerusalem embassy act, I am also directing the State Department to begin preparation to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This will immediately begin the process of hiring architects, engineers and planners so that a new embassy, when completed, will be a magnificent tribute to peace.
And while this move, a Trump campaign promise, was hailed by many as wonderful and long overdue, it has been challenged and cursed by many others as an unnecessary provocation and a possible prelude to war with the Islamic world and beyond. The rhetoric on both sides is very heated right now and that surely will not change. However, even though this issue is "up in the air" for the foreseeable future, it is an issue at the heart of the Lord's eternal purposes for all of us. It is an issue that every person on Earth should be prayerfully considering tonight and thinking about for their future.
One of the saddest, but most insightful events going on today is the explosion of sexually exploitive behavior against women. Lately, it seems there is not a day that goes by without some new national figure being caught for sexually inappropriate behavior. The most recent case of NBC anchor and icon Matt Lauer being fired for such behavior is part of a shocking tsunami of sexual abuse that has been going on for years. Sadly, what we are hearing about is probably just the "tip of the iceberg" and we can be sure that in the days ahead other women will be coming forward to challenge those in power and the public eye with new allegations of sexual wrongdoing.
Did you ever stop and ask, "How did we get here as a nation?" How did America end up spending much of its news and media time covering the sexual excesses and abuses of its leaders? Surely the issues underway now have been building for over a generation. And while all of this tells us a lot about our society and politics, it ultimately tells us much more about human nature and what the Lord is trying to say to us.
One of the most important issues of life is finding a place we call "home." As the old saying goes, "Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home." Whether we realize it or not, we are all hardwired to long for a place we call "home." The confusing part of that issue is the fact that where we live may not ever feel like home. Sometimes we live in places that just end up being a place where we sleep at night. Home is far more than a bed to sleep in at night. Home is a feeling, a state of mind, a place that means something to us on a personal and/or spiritual level that cannot be put into words. And because the average American moves about 11 times in their life, the idea of finding a real home can feel almost impossible for some.
One of the great stories about the search for home is told in the 1939 classic movie "The Wizard of Oz" starring Judy Garland. In the movie, Judy portrays a little girl named Dorothy that runs away from home and can't seem to ever get back there. The entire movie follows Dorothy's travels in her search to go back to her home in Kansas. Throughout Dorothy's journey she runs into a wicked witch that seems to make the return trip seemingly impossible. The culmination of the movie is when Dorothy finally clicks her ruby slippers together and says over and over, "There's no place like home. There's no place like home." The movie ends with Dorothy back in her Kansas home where she lives "happily ever after" with her family. The power of that timeless movie endures until today because we all want to go home.
If you want to really grow in your faith ask yourself this question, "Can the Church Make God Relevant?" The answer to this question will make you think and lead you to understand the Lord in new ways. Our hope on the Carlson Report is to bring thoughtful articles to the Christian world that make people do a little critical thinking. We are immersed in a "touchy, feely" world of cultural images, technology and sound bites that does just the opposite. Getting people to stop and really think is not easy, but our goal here is not success but faithfulness to the Lord.
If there was ever an area that has captivated the Church world today it is the issue of "relevance." You hear that word used frequently these days. You hear it at conferences for Church leaders and in just about any place where ministry is going on today. Of course, the main reason people are talking about "relevance" is because people are worried that God and/or the Church is becoming "irrelevant." People seem to be deeply concerned that we are losing our young people and that the Christian Faith is just hanging on in a seductive and antagonistic world. People are feeling increasing desperate on how to reach people with the Gospel and make the Lord, the Church and the Faith relevant for the next generation.
If there was one principle that is at the heart of showing us the depth of the spiritual battle we are in today, it would be the attempt by certain groups and individuals to "divide and conquer" our nation. So, whenever you see a spirit that moves people away from truth and turns them against one another, you can be sure you are dealing with a spirit that is opposed to the Lord and His purposes. That is true because the Lord Himself is a unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our Lord's own nature and work in redemption is designed to bring people together by uniting people in the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the way, the truth and the life.
For the last 50 years or so we have seen a spirit of division attacking America and our institutions at every level. That divisive spirit has attacked the family, marriage, the Ten Commandments, the Church, the Constitution, our legal system and the nation itself. The way it works is simple. Find a "supposed injustice" or "victim," protest it loudly with the media, take it to court and turn people against each other. This pattern of finding new "victims of injustice" has polarized the entire nation and it is getting worse every week. In just a few short years our country has been turned against itself and our future as one nation under God is surely in doubt. Only the Lord knows how long this pattern can and will continue.
As many of you may know, the USA experienced a total eclipse of the sun on August 21. It was a BIG event. Hundreds of thousands of people drove to places like Carbondale, Illinois to view the eclipse in what is referred to as "totality." Totality is a place where the sun is fully covered by the moon because the alignment of the bodies is perfect. When "totality" happens, seeing the eclipse is an awesome sight to behold that goes far beyond a picture in a book or on this website. For some it is a deep and meaningful spiritual experience that changes people's lives. Observers realize there is something literally "out of this world" going on in the heavens....and they are right. Some people travel around the world to view these total eclipses and a few even get married during them. Total eclipses are a miracle of the Lord. They shouldn't happen, but they do. But the most amazing part of any total eclipse is the fact that it is a picture of the Lord's love for this world.
Now what is absolutely incredible with this last total eclipse in the USA is the fact that it ONLY happened in the USA. No other location on earth saw it in totality. According to Parade Magazine this rare eclipse in America was something that will never be seen again until January 25, 2316. Regarding the uniqueness of the eclipse the magazine wrote,
To find a total solar eclipse that compares with our Great American Eclipse, you have to go all the way back to July 29, 436—1,581 years ago—when the Moon's shadow swept across what would eventually become the U.S. mainland.
How could I ever forget the day when someone called me on the phone the morning of September 11, 2001 and told me to turn on the TV right away? Something incredible was unfolding in New York that would forever change our view of the world......maybe. Most of us remember watching the horrors of the 9-11 plots to bring down this Nation and possibly trigger a world war. We watched in unbelief and horror as the World Trade Center fell into a pile of ash, dust and debris in a matter of seconds, as though a nuclear bomb had fallen on it. We saw numerous people jumping to their deaths to escape the inferno of the flames. We grieved as we began to hear the endless, tragic stories of almost 3000 people that had been murdered in cold blood in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on that Day. We also began to learn over the next few days about how the 19 hijackers, from a radical Islamic group inspired by Osama Bin Ladin, had carefully planned this diabolical plot of evil for years. It was as if Hell showed up and let the world see its ugly face, if but for a few hours.
In the wake of that tragedy, the Nation came together for a season. People bought and displayed American flags by the millions, held prayer meetings and memorial services. Our Nation and its leadership began to ask hard questions about the nature of Islam, good, evil, right, wrong and how all of this could happen. The Nation began a soul searching on many levels of how to respond. People wanted to know how we could all work together so something like this would never happen again. All of this eventually led to a war in Afghanistan and Iraq, new surveillance measures by our government over our lives and deeper questions about our national security. Without a doubt, 9-11 forever changed America and the world....maybe.
If you want to be a part of the "cutting edge" of the Bible prophecy, just go out and see the new movie "Wonder Woman." The movie is fun to watch and you will be glad you went. It is a typical superhero movie featuring a Wonder Woman, a female version of Superman, who is out to destroy evil and save the world. What is interesting about this summer blockbuster is some of the controversy it has generated around the world. You see, "Wonder Woman" features an Israeli actress, Gal Gadot in the lead role. That fact has led to the movie being boycotted in several Islamic nations such as Tunisia, Jordan and Lebanon. It seems the hatred of Israel knows no limits and has even extended now to an entertaining movie actress. The boycott of "Wonder Woman," for having an Israeli in the cast, is part of a larger narrative related to the "BDS Movement" that is designed to boycott, divest and sanction anything Israeli. Sadly, this movement has even found fertile ground in the USA, liberal "churches" and on the campuses of several colleges and universities.
What few have seemed to notice is that an Israeli in the lead role of a superhero is not a new theme. And while most may miss the irony of this recent movie, the Lord Jesus Christ is also an Israeli and the ONLY Superhero that ever existed. All superheroes are just "Jesus Hero Wannabees" because there isn't a hero anywhere that has done anything for anyone that is not a reflection of our Lord and His great love for this world.
One of the greatest war movies ever made was "Saving Private Ryan." It starred Tom Hanks as Captain John Miller, who played the leader of a platoon of men sent on a heroic journey to find and save Private James Ryan, played by Matt Damon. Private Ryan had already lost 3 of his brothers in combat, so the Army decided that he had to be saved, brought back and restored to his family. The movie follows their mission to find and save Private Ryan. Sadly, as the movie unfolds and comes to a climax, most of the men sent on this mission are killed in combat trying to save Private Ryan. In a tremendous and moving scene, near the end of the movie, Captain Miller is mortally wounded and spends his final moments with Private Ryan at his side. As he sits dying, Captain Miller looks at Private Ryan and gives him his last words—"Earn it." In his final breath, Captain Miller challenged Private Ryan to live a life worthy of the sacrifice that was made for him.
The final scene of this great movie is set in an American military cemetery in Europe where Captain Miller is buried, surrounded by thousands of other men who died in the war. Private Ryan was an old man now, near the end of his life. He had brought his family with him to Captain Miller's graveside. He remembered what Captain Miller and all the men had done for him in saving his life by giving their own. It was fresh in his mind as though it had just happened. He asked his wife if he had lived a good life. His wife did not understand what really had happened during the war. She never heard about Captain Miller's last word to her husband, "Earn it." She didn't understand the burden her husband had lived with all his life to live a life worthy of such a sacrifice.....to earn it. Such a scene is one of the greatest scenes ever filmed in movie history because of its meaning to all of us on this Memorial Day weekend.
All of life is about giving on one level or another. We spend our lives giving to people each day. We give to people at home, work or school. And yet, while many may not realize it, all of this giving to others is just a dress rehearsal and practice for giving ourselves to the Lord. The best place to see that going on is in the story of marriage between a man and woman. This past weekend, my beloved daughter got married. I had the privilege of giving her away to her new husband. Both of them had the joy of giving themselves away to one another. The story of giving our lives to another, as seen in marriage, is the narrative of how the Lord gave Himself away for His Bride on the Cross.
Now if you look at our society today, it seems increasingly harder for people to give themselves away to anyone or anything. Ours is a society that fears commitment and sacrifice. Ours is a culture that is dominated by the self. So, the idea of completely giving oneself away to another out of love and altruism seems hard to find. That problem extends far beyond marriage to every relationship. Instead it seems that many people are more conditioned to seeing how much they can get from others. Sacrifice and giving of one's life to and for another is foreign.
Over the past couple of years, The Carlson Report has Biblically explored some of the great issues and questions of the day. However, the most basic issue in life is not about politics, prophecy, morality, new technology or something else in the news. The most basic issue of life is, "Why Are We Here?" All the rest of the issues and questions in our lives don't mean much if we can't answer that one. It seems we often end up with TMI (Too Much Information), but too little meaning and purpose about our lives. People will try to solve and deal with every issue they face each day, but their ultimate purpose for even being here on planet earth is left unsolved. If you stop and think about it, this is THE great problem of the human condition and life itself....we don't know why we are here.
Now this most basic of questions is looked at by the world's religions and philosophers all the time. And yet, most people come to accept they aren't going to find the answer, or at least one that makes sense right now. As a matter of fact, most people believe that the answers about our purpose and reason for being alive must wait for some sort of afterlife before things start to finally make sense. So, for many, about all we can do is try to live a "good life" (whatever that means) and hope for the best in some future world. But if we're honest, how satisfying can that approach really be? Does it make much sense to wander around doing a bunch of stuff every day, but in the end, have no idea why we are here in the first place?
On this Resurrection weekend, we pause and reflect on the greatest event in human history, the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Christian Faith has always rested on the simple truth of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Simply put, without an empty tomb we have an empty faith. Without an empty tomb the Christian Faith collapses and is a fraud. The Bible is very clear on this subject according to I Corinthians 15:12-26. Christianity is the ONLY faith that builds everything on a single event... the Empty Tomb. Other faiths and religious systems have complex systems of belief and doctrine that are hard to understand, even for their own followers. On the other hand, the Lord has made the Christian Faith so simple that even a young child can understand it. Christ is raised from the dead!
For many people today, the Resurrection of our Lord is something they believe on some level, but it doesn't seem to go much deeper. It becomes an "article of faith" and not personal experience. Many people will attend Easter services, wear a new hat, have a special dinner with family, but seemingly vanish the rest of the year. Our Nation is filled with a majority of people who profess they are Christians and yet we are in the midst of being called "post Christian." How does something like that happen and what does that say about how people really see the Lord and/or the Faith? Can someone really believe in the Empty Tomb and not have that event transform their lives?
As Palm Sunday approaches this weekend, millions of Christians will be celebrating our Lord's ride into Jerusalem as the Savior of the world. This event marks the beginning of what is known of as "Holy Week," culminating with Easter Sunday or First Fruits the following Sunday. And while millions of people will be gathering for celebrations around the world, few may see the deeper meaning of Palm Sunday and our Lord's ride on the donkey as it relates to our lives in Christ.
When the Lord Jesus got on that donkey, His primary purpose was to fulfill a passage from Zechariah 9:9 that was written over 400 years earlier that said,
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
If you want to understand how to make sense of the current culture wars and the spiritual meaning behind them, you need look no further than the current nomination battle over Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. In what may turn out to be the most contested fight to seat a Supreme Court Judge in America history, the Lord is giving us a glimpse into the greater spiritual conflict between Heaven and Hell that is going on all around us. You see the candidacy of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court is a lightning rod that defines how people see not only politics and the Constitution, but ultimately the Lord Himself.
The vote to seat Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is expected sometime in April. However, the process to get there promises to be truly "ugly." Both sides in this conflict realize that the rule of law in this country hangs in the balance for the next 20 years or so. Thus, no amount of rhetoric or money can be withheld by either side to either confirm Judge Gorsuch or defeat him. As you watch this battle unfold, it will be amazing to see how it ultimately reveals the hearts of people on both sides.