In a very special edition of the Carlson Report for Holy Week, we are going to look at how the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is gloriously tied to our own resurrection. These amazing connections have been hidden for much of history but are now being revealed to His people as our Resurrection Day draws near.
The "Third Day" is an important biblical expression for us to study because it is the day that our Lord Jesus Christ rose again from the dead. In virtually every case where our Lord referred to His resurrection, He told the Disciples it would be on the "Third Day" (see passages such as Matthew 16:21, Luke 9:22). This continual reference to the "Third Day", as Resurrection day, was picked up by the early Church and used by the Apostles, as Paul does in I Corinthians 15:4. The early Church's focus on the "Third Day" as part of the Gospel message eventually found a permanent place in important Confessions of the Christian Faith such as the Apostle's and Nicene Creeds, which are universally accepted by orthodox Christianity today. The importance of the "Third Day" cannot be overemphasized, however, because it involves much more than a passing reference to our Lord's resurrection. The "Third Day" becomes "The Day" associated with resurrection in Scripture and, if properly understood, is the key insight needed to unlocking the entire History of Redemption, including our Lord's return. Therefore, because so much of our understanding concerning our faith is tied to this Biblical idiom, we should be willing to take the time to study this subject in depth.
Most people assume they understand something about the meaning of Christmas...even people from other religious traditions and beliefs. Most Christians believe they know the meaning of Christmas. Most pastors believe they know the meaning of Christmas. But is that true? Most people can tell you Christmas is about the birth of Christ. Some can even tell you God sent His Son as a gift to save us from our sins at that time. But it turns out that people's views of Christmas are all over the place. There are literally hundreds of ideas about Christmas out there. Some of them may have elements of truth to them, but a lot of the beliefs, even in the Church, can be very sketchy, lack clarity, are often culturally conditioned and some are even heretical. This leads to an interesting question: what does it mean to say "Merry Christmas"?
Recent national polls of evangelical churches have revealed some shocking things that expose the deeper issues behind the problems connected to understanding the real meaning of Christmas. These polls have discovered that about 78% of the evangelical church world believes Jesus is the greatest being created by God. In other words, Jesus is not God in human flesh or Emmanuel (God with us) according to Matthew 1:23, but only the greatest of God's creations. That belief, by the way, is the great heresy of Arianism from the 4th century that has come back as the modern cult of Jehovah's Witnesses. Arianism or modern Jehovah's Witnesses rejects the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity, which teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ is God the Son in human flesh. The Nicene Creed was written to stop this heresy from destroying the Church at the time....and even now. This fact leads to the truth that if our views about Jesus are wrong we can't understand or experience the real meaning of Christmas. That means that the vast majority of people sitting in our churches today do not hold to a Christian confession of faith. Those unbiblical beliefs reject the Christmas story entirely and make it into something else. So a truly Biblical faith about Jesus and the real purpose of Christmas is everything. And yet you rarely hear that today in a Church world that seems to pay little attention to Christian doctrine. People seem more interested in "reaching people" for the Lord, but we must ask with what message about the Lord.
If you have paid any attention to our recent Presidential election held on November 3, it is increasingly clear that America is at a defining moment in our history. And what will be a defining moment in American history will also be a defining moment in world history. Everybody knows it, whatever our political views. In case you missed it right now, politicians and the media from around the world have already "crowned" their new leader, even though none of the contested states have settled or certified their votes in an official way. The world is being told we need to "move on" and embrace a "new agenda" for the future of the world. However, this global, media agenda to move America on is spiritual in nature not political. That is true because politics are always but a cover or pretext for a spiritual agenda in the Bible that is not new but was here long ago.
Psalm 2 was written about 3000 years ago in Israel. It outlines a prophetic attitude of the nations of the world against God and His King, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Psalm tells us that in the future, nations will actually plot and conspire against God's rule over the world. Here the nations are furious that God would try to stop anything they want to do as we hear in verses 1-6,
Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain?The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band togetheragainst the Lord and against his anointed, saying,"Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles."The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,"I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain."
Whatever is currently unfolding in America, politically and/or spiritually, it has something to do with sin. And yet, it seems that the awareness of that word has vanished from the Nation...even in the Church world. Even though our Nation stands at some sort of crossroads for the future with this Presidential election, few seem to connect where we are to sin or any specific behaviors that need to change. Somehow everybody is doing "OK" and if there is something wrong, it is being done by someone else. Everyone else is to blame...We are doing fine. That is the thinking of many.
Now the entire Bible is set up around two basic, foundational principles that have vanished from our public life. Those principles are repentance and redemption. People need to realize they have done something wrong, have sinned or broken the Lord's laws and need to turn back or repent to the Lord for His redeeming love and forgiveness. It sounds fairly simple, but it is not. The reason that acknowledging our sin is seemingly impossible for many is because when we do it brings us to an awareness we are under the Lord's judgment for our behavior and in need of grace. As a result, most people ignore sin and hope it goes away.....But it never does.
This past Monday was Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement is outlined in Leviticus 16 and has always been considered to be the most holy day for Jews during the year. It was the Day when the High Priest made a sacrifice or atonement for the people before God to symbolically have their sins forgiven. Part of that special ceremony involved the High Priest selecting a scapegoat and placing ALL the sins of the people on it and sending it out into the wilderness to take those sins away from the nation.
Wonderfully, the Lord Jesus Christ fulfills all of these sacrificial issues from the Old Testament. Our Lord is our High Priest AND our Scapegoat...all in one amazing Lord. Our Lord presented Himself to God as our sacrifice and atonement so that we could be forgiven and have our sins removed from our lives. In Hebrews 9:11-12, the Bible explains our Lord's work for us as the final sacrifice on Yom Kippur,
But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.
America is a very troubled nation tonight. Do you feel it? Do you see it? A recent poll stated that Americans are more unhappy now than at any time in the last 50 years. But that fact shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Our wonderful nation is adrift in a sea of relativism, lawlessness, deception and chaos. Most of our leaders seem to be clueless on what to do and the few that try to stand up for anything are torn apart by the culture and our media. We are being led away from the Lord, our Constitutional moorings and being pushed toward culturally driven paganism that is growing by the day. Not exactly a formula to inspire hope and happiness in anyone. But perhaps the greatest problem that is most troubling to Americans is that they don't see this future path getting better...only worse. How about you?
A lot of time could be spent in this article on all the issues that have brought us here, but that would take a long time and it is complex. However, you might say it all comes down to the simple and powerful fact that America has corporately chosen to leave the Lord out of our national life. As a result, how could the results we are facing be surprising to anyone, especially Christians? It seems that America has been planting a lot of bad seeds of unbelief and rebellion over the last 50 years or so and they have finally sprouted and have grown into a jungle. Our nation is reaping what it has sowed because God is not mocked by our behavior as Paul reminds us in Galatians 6:6-8,
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
This past week and weekend may be remembered as a turning point in US and world history. That is not an overstatement. We have just witnessed major leaders in the free world bowing down before groups in the name of racial justice out of fear and political correctness. All over the world we are witnessing pictures of top officials and even heads of nations, such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, bowing down to support the idea that everyone is a racist and that they must submit to someone's idea of how to define and respond to racism, irrespective of any truth, reality or clear facts. For some this appears to be the emerging "new normal" as Western Civilization seems to be crumbling before our very eyes. The last historical parallel to these events took place during the days of the invasion of Rome by the Visigoths led by King Alaric on August 24, 410. At that time, the once mighty Roman Empire was sacked by a group of barbarians that took over Rome and began to destroy the fading empire. Rome was never the same!
What started out as some local and national protests in response to the police abuse and killing of George Floyd, an African American man from Minneapolis, has turned into an overturning of the rule of law and Constitution with an agenda that virtually no one fully understands right now....by design. After all, if people really knew the agenda that is underway now these groups would lose their power and control over a clueless public. All that is known for sure, as of today, is that America and her leaders must bow down to this agenda, or there will be "hell" to pay. This cultural blackmail has led people to believe that they must bow down, or their homes, businesses, churches and lives will be destroyed...one way or another. And it is that "one way or another" threat that has gripped people with a collective fear like never seen before in American history. People are afraid that if they say "no" to anything, these forces will label them "racists" and use the full force of the media and these groups to attack them.
If someone was to ask you what you thought was the greatest experience in life, what would you say? There might be 100 possible answers to that question. But if we really stop and think about it, there can only really be one right answer for the Christian. That answer would be to meet the Lord Jesus Christ in person, face-to-face, and see His loving face looking at ours. The idea that that is going to happen is simply amazing and beyond words. To have the Lord and God of this world looking at us with His own face, as expressed through the Lord Jesus, is just a wonderful thought that cannot be surpassed by anything else we might imagine or dream about in life.
What is remarkable about this thought is that our whole life has been a rehearsal for that exact event from the day we were born. You see, the first loving face we ever saw was that of our mother. Mom had just gone through an agonizing labor and delivery for us so that we could enter the world. When we first saw our mothers, it was probably a little fuzzy exactly who we were looking at. That discovery and growing relationship would take some time...perhaps years until we bought her flowers and told her we loved her.
What a wonderful thing to take a break from the chaos and focus on the global pandemic to look at a much better storyline, the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and His future for us. While much of our world will be looking at how many have died from the coronavirus this weekend, the Lord's people will be singularly focused on the One that rose from the dead and lives forevermore. Sadly, the only reason the coronavirus has panicked the world is because people don't have an antidote to death. That antidote is not found in a new vaccine or anything else but faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus on the cross for them. People today are deathly afraid of being infected with this unknown virus, but the reality is that sin is a much worse infection. Right now, the death rate for all of us with or without the virus is a 100%. Just today, for example, about 150,000 people will die from just living in this world, no matter how healthy they might be. If only the world could begin to look for an everlasting cure to death itself we would be in a very different place tonight. It is hard to imagine a world like that since we are so conditioned to death being "normal" instead of an enemy of God. Once the death cure is found in the simple Gospel message, fear is gone, and faith begins to fill our lives forever.
If there is one thing we should all be thinking about on this resurrection weekend, it is not only the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead, but that the entire world is not only going to be resurrected, but completely and entirely restored. That thought is so amazing that it seems like "science fiction" to most. Instead of this coming resurrection and glorious restoration of the world, most people believe we are just left to global warming, deadly pandemics, earthquakes, hurricanes and a host of other disasters waiting to happen. And if such things are the best the world has to offer us, no wonder people are panicking. I would panic too! How about you? Just imagine yourself with nothing to hope for except a world underwater or burning up from global climate change with millions dead from uncontrolled pandemics and starvation. Not a very happy place to live. Sadly, that is where many people are today, and the media does nothing to change that focus or future, rather they make it worse with their 24/7 cycle of gloom and doom.
This will be the first Easter/Firstfruits season in world history where most Christians are not going to be in church for services due to the global pandemic. Wow, what a thought! Perhaps that thought gives perspective as to what is underway in our world today. We are living in dramatic times like no other...but we all know that.
Right now, many of us are staying home and trying to comply with our government's restrictions wherever we live. If you're like me, you have probably listened to a lot of media...maybe too much! It is very hard to know what is really happening out there based on a variety of media reports. I think the greatest area of fear and confusion comes from the wide range of possible statistics as to what is going to happen being given out by a variety of people who claim to be "experts". One of the statistics that has made me think twice is the idea that this pandemic might kill over 2,200,000 Americans. However, at the same time, people sharing that grim statistic say it may also be less than 100,000. What a difference! How do we know what to believe? What is true? On the one hand, we might not be able to handle the body count and on the other hand the numbers would be a little more than a bad flu season. It might shock people to realize there were 646,000 deaths from the flu in the world last year and nothing was said. As of today, there are only 42,261 deaths from the coronavirus around the world, with 3,900 deaths here in America. But again, whatever the numbers, what do such statistics really tell us about what is really going on or the future of this pandemic?
Lately it has been a little tough to enjoy the simple pleasures of life when some people are telling us the world is about to end. Have you noticed? Surely the kind of panic and fear that has seized our nation with the coronavirus pandemic can be overwhelming to the average person. Instead of enjoying the Lord, our families and the blessings of each day it seems many of us are starting to tune into the world's network of panic, fear and chaos that is shouting 24/7. When we follow that network we are told about every hour how many people have died of the virus and how our family might be next. Here in Michigan tonight we are being ordered by our governor to stay at home with few exceptions. That means about the only time people are getting out is to go to the grocery store where we can't miss all the empty toilet paper aisles among a few others. So even grocery shopping can produce panic in us if we are not careful.
So, to change the pace of things my wife and I like to go on long walks and try to see what the Lord has for us. Sometimes such walks can be very redemptive because the Lord always has a sermon for us if we are watching and listening. Today was such a day. Thankfully, the signs of spring are all over our neighborhood. One of my favorite sites was the large number of robins we saw getting ready to start their spring nesting season. Robins are like a springtime clock here in Michigan. When you see robins, you know spring has arrived. The one thing I noticed about the robins we saw is that none of them looked anxious. Not one single robin knew about the coronavirus. They didn't care. They didn't know the stock market has fallen or that the nation is greatly divided politically and spiritually. No, as a matter of fact, the robins all looked like themselves. They were just robins.
After pastoring for over 35 years, I have come to the realization that few people really understand the heart of God toward this world and its people. That even includes many in the Christian church. So many people think God is mad at them or getting ready to judge them. So many people are waiting for something bad to happen to them. So many people wonder if this thing called "life" is going to end well. So many people think God wants something from them they are never sure they can give. So many people have no assurance they will ever be in heaven. The list is very long. I have seen all these attitudes, feelings and questions among hundreds of people throughout my pastoral calling. People just lack assurance and confidence on the basic issues of knowing and understanding the heart of the Lord toward them. All these issues and concerns could be answered if people really had a deeper understanding of the Christmas message. That is my hope with this edition of the Carlson Report for you, your family and friends. Share this truth with someone you love this Christmas. That would be the best Christmas gift you could give, long after that new outfit or special gift wears out.
If you want to know something about God Almighty, a good place to start is to ask what God was doing before Genesis 1 and the creation story. In other words what was God doing before we got into the storyline? Was God bored before we arrived? Did God need something to do to be "happy?" No, in eternity past, God was just being God and that was enough. Nothing more was needed. God didn't need anything other than Himself to be content and have a great life. Back then God was love. God was peace. God was joy. Nothing has ever changed. God was having a glorious time being God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Blessed Trinity was an everlasting Family of glory that lived life to the full in a way that is beyond what any of us could imagine.
Happy Resurrection!!! May this be your BEST Easter/First Fruits ever. It is a glorious thing to know that life is eternal, and that death is forever gone for the redeemed. We never need to fear or worry as we drive by that neighborhood cemetery that our lives will end there. We don't have to be troubled when we see a loved one or friend lying in a casket at a funeral. No, the Lord has a plan and future for His people that are beyond words. Our lives never really begin or have any meaning until we start to understand that glorious truth and hope for our lives.
But the central story of our Lord's resurrection is often totally missed by people. You see the story of resurrection is not just about having our physical bodies resurrected on some future day. The story of Easter/First Fruits is also about a spiritual birth and resurrection that takes place right now in our lives. In other words, we as Christians spiritually resurrect now as we begin to wake up to the Lord being alive in our lives each day. Jesus is alive now, not just on a special holiday the Church celebrates! The Christian faith is not about attending Easter services once a year. Sadly, every year there are multitudes of people that attend Easter services, but the rest of year they seem to vanish or "die" again. The message of Easter is that our Lord's physical resurrection gives birth to our spiritual resurrection for today. The Lord rose from the dead to wake us up and resurrect us from the spiritual death of life without God. The Christian life is about being more alive than we have ever been. It is about seeing Jesus in every detail and moment of life 24/7 and being totally transformed right now.
Happy Palm Sunday to everyone! Palm Sunday has traditionally marked the beginning of what is referred to as "Holy Week," a week that starts on Palm Sunday and culminates on Easter/First Fruits Sunday. This single week is an amazing replay of the creation story in Genesis 1. Our Lord started from a place of rest, before He created the world, and ended up resting after the incredible work of creation was completed. In a similar way, our Lord entered Jerusalem resting on a donkey, a sign that He came to bring peace and rest to our lives and ended by finishing His work on the cross and rising again to confirm these truths. It is just an amazing story of how wonderfully the Lord connects creation and redemption together into one seamless and beautiful narrative of His love.
But the hidden storyline of Palm Sunday is the fact that Jesus carefully waited exactly 3½ years until He was willing to receive the tremendous public praise of being their king from the huge crowds. Until that time, our Lord never wanted to have any notoriety from the people. As a matter of fact, our Lord told people many times during His ministry not to bring any attention to Him. We see this pattern often happening after some of His greatest miracles such as the resurrection of Jairus's daughter in Mark 5:41-43. The text tells us,
He (Jesus) took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha koum!" (which means "Little girl, I say to you, get up!"). Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
No religious event in Western civilization has so affected the world as Christmas. This Christian tradition has been celebrated for about the last 1700 years or so in the Church and around the world. And while the birth of our Lord didn't start out as the tradition we call "Christmas," it did evolve over the centuries into the holiday we know on December 25. There is virtually nowhere on earth today that Christmas is not celebrated in some form or at least acknowledged as Jesus' birth. People may even be atheists, but they celebrate Christmas as a holiday to have a party, drink with friends or take a day off from work or school. So even though Christmas is a religious holiday that celebrates the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is still enjoyed by people all around the world, whatever their beliefs, as a time of winter festivity, peace on earth and good will toward all.
Did you ever wonder how Christmas became so influential, especially in the West? The answer of course is that all of this is connected to the Lord's plans for world evangelism and fulfilling the Great Commission from Matthew 28:18-20. As a result, the public celebration of our Lord's birth is connected to areas that have been evangelized with the Christian Gospel. Those areas included Europe and Russia, along with the western hemisphere of North and South America. Christmas is now growing in other areas like China and Asia, along with Africa and the rest of the world. So, the spread of Christmas has directly following the Lord's plan of world evangelism.
Do you ever find yourself thinking about Heaven? That theme must surely come to mind every time we attend a funeral or drive by a cemetery. However, for many of us the thought of Heaven may seem very far away today with the busyness of life and not even real at times. And yet, if we believe in the Lord and His Word, Heaven has to be a regular part of our thinking. The wonderful thought of going to be with the Lord and enjoying the wonders of Heaven is at the heart of everything the Christian Faith teaches. That thought was central to our Lord Jesus as He prepared to go to the Cross and shared these comforting words with his disciples in John 14:1-3,
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
However, as wonderful as Heaven will be one day with our Lord, exactly how to get there is a topic on which few seem to agree, even in the Church. And while most people in the world today have some belief in an afterlife, there is little consensus on how to get there. You see we are now living in a global world, filled with multiculturalism. This great diversity of religious options and thoughts about God and a future Heaven have created a tremendous challenge to the Christian Faith and every true believer.
On this Memorial Day Weekend, we take a moment to stop and reflect on the immense sacrifices that have been made by countless men and women for our Nation and its freedoms. One of the phrases you will sometimes hear is that, "Freedom isn't free!" People realize that freedom is a very precious and fragile thing and that without constant vigilance and people willing to sacrifice for it, real freedom will be lost. The reason that is true is because we live in a fallen world in which there is a continual and constant attempt to subvert the Lord and the rule of law. As a result, there isn't a week that goes by when we don't hear about someone trying to overturn the rule of law, freedom and liberty and replace it with their control and manipulation. All you have to do is look at places today like Iran, North Korea, and Syria, Russia and Turkey where real freedom has been lost. This powerful truth was understood by the Founding Fathers of this Nation and by anyone who understands history and the power of sin to enslave people. Without the shedding of blood, none of us would be able to even read an article like this without the possible fear of jail and even death.
At the heart of Memorial Day is a surprising and shocking fact that almost none of us have ever met or known someone who died for our freedoms. I have never personally met a soldier who later died in combat. Most us never got to know the soldiers who died on the beaches of Normandy or in Battle of the Bulge, or at the Tet Offensive or during Operation Desert Storm. Hundreds of thousands of people ended their young lives in the mud, in a ditch or laying on a hill far away in places virtually no one has ever visited or could even find on a map. For many of us those battles and places are totally unknown, much less the soldiers who died there and never came home. All one needs to do is take a tour of the American Military Cemeteries in Europe and around the world to realize that there were tens of thousands solders who paid the ultimate price that we knew nothing about. Perhaps that is the reason why it is easy to take Memorial Day for granted. For some it just doesn't seem personal or real. As a result, such incredible sacrifice is virtually unknown to most of the Nation this weekend.
As Mother's Day approaches this Sunday, it is a wonderful thing to have a day of the year set aside to honor all our mothers. In a way, every day is Mother's Day because without our moms we wouldn't be here. It never hurts to have a nice reminder about the important people in our lives so we don't take them for granted. And while the meaning of many of our holidays has changed over the years, Mother's Day still brings a warm spot for most of us. The one hope of this article is to not only honor and remember our moms, but perhaps have a deeper understanding of how the Lord has used them to teach us about Himself. After all, Mother's Day is not really just a holiday to buy some flowers, cards or have a nice dinner. Mother's Day started in Heaven before the world was created. All the love, warmth and good things we associate with the best of motherhood are really about the Lord and should point us to Him.
Whatever a person's beliefs or station in life, one thing we know for sure is that everyone has a mom. There is no such thing as a person who doesn't "believe in motherhood," or that moms "may or may not even exist." And yet, millions of people classify themselves as atheists and agnostics and have no real belief or certainty about the existence of the Lord. Few seem to see that you can't reject God and believe in motherhood because it really is the same story, right? Both moms and the Lord tell a story about our origins and where we came from in the beginning. So, you can't really just decide to accept mom and reject God. Sure, people do it all the time, but if you look at this issue a little closer it becomes very clear that God created moms to teach people about Himself. The Lord and motherhood tell the SAME story. Now what is so spectacular about this issue is that the evidence and witness that comes to us from our mothers is an overwhelming and unmistakable witness to the Lord Jesus Christ.
One of the greatest things we can do right now is to STOP, take a deep breath and look at the Lord Jesus Christ in a fresh way. He is everything that really matters today and forever. There is nothing else that is even a close second. As our world is seemingly spinning out of control, one must wonder how much of the Lord anyone is seeing. So often our Lord just seems to get lost amidst our busyness and religious lives. Now is an excellent time to draw near to our Lord's life and His purpose for our lives. The Lord wants us to enjoy Him and His gift of life by understanding and knowing Him on a deeper level. As we will see, every breath we take is a gift to praise, honor and worship our Lord. When the Lord gets our attention to that amazing truth we are changed forever. May that happen to each of us today.
If there is anything that defines our physical lives it is the fact that our heart is beating right now to bring breathe to our body. Without our heart beating and lungs breathing we would die in moments. Every day that simple process is repeated with our heart beating on about 115,200 beats, during which time we take in about 17,000-30,000 breathes. This miraculous process of life is taken for granted by most of us. And yet, this most basic process of life, that guides and sustains our physical lives, is the central witness to our spiritual purpose with the Lord. Let's examine that truth for a moment.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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- The Mystery, Majesty and Magnitude of the Manger
- Lighting Up the World with Jesus
- Experiencing the Power of the Resurrection
- What is Truth? The Resurrection of Pontius Pilate
- The Only New Thing in Human History
- My Best Friend Went to Hell
- Returning to Chaos
- Savoring the Savior
- Jesus and Einstein