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Redeemer Church

Redeemer Church
Looking for a church in the Omaha area? Come check out ours on Sunday mornings at 11!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

God Exists. What Next?

OK, so you believe in God or some sort of higher power, what next? There are lots of different options and opinions out there, lots of different views about God. Where should you start?

 In this video, we offer 6 reasons why a spiritual seeker, someone who's open to the existence of God but still checking out the different religions, should start their spiritual quest with Christianity.

This material is loosely based on the intellectual and apologetic work of Craig Hazen in his book, Five Sacred Crossings: A Novel. These videos are a ministry of Redeemer Church in Omaha, NE. If you're ready to check out Christianity, why not join us this Sunday morning! 

6 Reasons a Spiritual Seeker Should Start With Christianity

For further reading:
Five Reasons Why A Thoughtful Person Would Start Their Religious Quest With Christianity
This is based on the same material, but aren't you glad we shortened the title?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Show of hands: Who bows to peer pressure?

I was standing there alone in the middle of the room, and everyone was waiting for me to decide.

Although it happened more than two decades ago and a full two thirds of my life has since passed, I still remember the incident vividly. I was in second grade and the teacher had written a brain teaser up on the chalk board along with two different answers. One answer was on the right side of the board, the other on the left. One answer was right, the other wrong. Then she had everyone stand up and gave one simple instruction.

"Walk to the side of the board that you think has the correct answer."

One by one my classmates made their decision. And one by one, they all walked to the same side of the board. But I stood at my desk frozen. Frozen because no one stood by the answer that I was knew was the right answer. I was certain I was right, which meant I was certain all of my classmates were wrong.

And my second grade brain exploded. Not only with the logic problem on the board, but also the sociological problem forming before me. I was weighing risks and rewards. Being right all by myself would be awesome, but being wrong all by myself would be humiliating. Siding with the rest of my classmates would be safe, whether they were right or not.

In the end, I sided with the crowd.

I played it safe. And I hated myself for it. Sure enough, the entire classroom (myself included) had walked to the wrong side of the board. The bag of candy that would have gone to the students with the right answer instead went back into the teacher's desk. But the agony of missing out on some free candy was dwarfed by the angst I felt at the realization that I'd made my decision based not on what I thought was the right answer, but rather based on what I thought was the socially safe answer.

My heart idol is human approval.

My pastor just preached on idolatry this week, and I realized that I've still got the same idol that I had all the way back in second grade. When you're a kid, they call it peer pressure. When you're grown, they call it being a people-pleaser. But now I see it for what it really is. For me, it's an idol. It's my functional savior that I run to to find my self-worth, my validation, my meaning.

When I worship at this false god, I want the approval of my peers more than I want what I know is right. Nowadays it's not so much that I'm choosing to be wrong with the crowd rather than be right alone. Instead, I make the decisions that are socially safe, rather than the decisions that I know are best. Deep down, when I worship at the idol of human approval, my first question is not "What will God think of this decision?" but rather "What will others think of this decision?"

All of us have our own idols.

Most of them aren't bad things. A job. Your spouse. Your kids. Even "sex, power, and money" aren't bad in themselves, despite what you may have heard. But as Mark Driscoll has memorably said, "When a good thing becomes a god thing, that's a bad thing." When we look to a created thing to provide for us what only the Creator can provide (meaning, significance, acceptance, approval, ultimate joy, comfort, security), not only do we set ourselves up for disappointment, but we commit idolatry in the process.

Do you know what your idols are? Do you know how to go about finding them? In closing, I'll share a clip from my pastor's sermon on how to find your idols.

As you discover your idols, however, don't despair. There is an answer and it's the one Pastor Lee closes the video with. We worship our way into idolatry, we must worship our way out. But more on that in the next post.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Free ebook alert!

Just in time for Easter! Amazon is offering Cold-Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace (Kindle edition) for free for a limited time. I'm actually reading this book right now (in print, as you might have guessed if you follow this blog), and really enjoying the fresh approach to Christian apologetics.

The similarities between J. Warner Wallace and Lee Strobel are strong (former atheists using their professional expertise to examine the claims of Christianity) but I dare to say I enjoy Wallace's writing and approach even better than Strobel's. There just seems to be less of an agenda behind the writing of a cold-case homicide detective than that of an investigative reporter (at some point, Strobel's feigned skepticism just started to feel too forced).

Get Cold-Case Christianity for free on Amazon!
"Christianity could be defined as a “cold case”: it makes a claim about an event from the distant past for which there is little forensic evidence. In Cold-Case Christianity, J. Warner Wallace uses his nationally recognized skills as a homicide detective to look at the evidence and eyewitnesses behind Christian beliefs. Including gripping stories from his career and the visual techniques he developed in the courtroom, Wallace uses illustration to examine the powerful evidence that validates the claims of Christianity."

Related Posts:
For more free reading, go get Raised? Doubting the Resurrection by Dodson & Watson

Monday, March 25, 2013

It's good news!

Imagine with me, if you will, that you're a rookie news reporter and tonight is your first (and probably only) shot at anchoring the evening news. Normally you'd be thrilled at the opportunity but there's just one problem: all the news is bad.

I mean, really bad.

War looms on multiple fronts as both your neighboring countries aim all their military firepower at your tiny nation. Many (including some of your own family) sit behind enemy lines as prisoners of war. The lives that aren't risked in battle are equally in jeopardy as a mysterious virus sweeps the country taking more lives every day. National debt is soaring along with the personal debt of everyone you know (yourself included). Loans are defaulting and banks are now resorting to old-school tactics and sending thugs to "collect". And the only hope—the one man looked to by the nation to lead them out of this crisis—has suddenly and unexpectedly died. 

As you make a last minute review of your notes, however, the studio doors burst open.

"It's over!" the intruder shouts. "The war is over!" He excitedly explains how one of your neighboring countries called for peace, then turned their guns on your nation's other adversary, sending them into a full retreat and freeing the POWs in the process. But before he could even finish, the door flies wide again.

"They found a cure! A cure to that epidemic that's been killing everybody!"

"And ALL the debts are getting paid off!" shouted two more people in close succession. "The national debt has been paid and in response the banks are making a one-time pardon on all credit card debt!"

Once more the studio doors slam against the wall as they're thrown open.

"You'll never believe this, but he's alive!" the last intruder shouts. "The details are fuzzy, but..."

"We go live in TEN SECONDS, everyone!" your producer shouts.

As you clear your throat and prepare for the signal of the camera man—barely keeping a ridiculous grin from spreading across your face—your co-host leans over and whispers:

"Share the good news. Use words if necessary."

Ridiculous, right? Peace with one enemy. Victory over the other. Prisoners set free. The sick are healed. Debts are paid. Your savior is alive. And you're asked to restrain your tongue? Nobody would say something like that.

And yet...

We hear it all the time. "Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary." I suppose I understand the sentiment behind it. The news should be so transforming, so life-changing, that our very lives and conduct reflect the effects of the good news without a word being spoken. But the thing that is transforming and life-changing is the good news, not our good lives. Good news must be shared, proclaimed.

As Paul said in Romans:
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? (10:14)
 With Easter less than a week away, who are you sharing the good news with?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Did Jesus really rise from the dead? (Bonus: Free eBook!)Did Jesus really rise from the dead? (Bonus: Free eBook!)

There are many challenges that get leveled at Christianity, but none of them hits at the heart of the faith like this one: "Did Jesus really rise from the dead?". Even Paul admitted as much in 1 Corinthians 15 saying, "if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain".

So if you or someone you know is wrestling with this very question, let me point you to a couple things that came across my Google Reader this week (I know, it's going away, I'm sad too):

Aaron Armstrong addresses three of the most popular challenges in blog form:
Some things are harder to believe than others. Believing that Jesus was a bona fide historical figure… few, if any, seriously doubt there really was a Jesus of Nazareth who preached a message of repentance and reconciliation with God and was later crucified (even if many attempt to redefine the purpose of these events).

Then, there’s the resurrection…

For a lot of people, this is far more difficult an idea to swallow, particularly those of us who were raised on a steady diet of empirical naturalism.
The idea that Jesus was crucified—we can accept that. But that He rose again? That’s a bit much, isn’t it? Surely it had to have been made up.

Three alternatives to the resurrection

Because we don’t have a category for the supernatural, we look for alternative explanations—and there are a LOT of alternatives floating around regarding the resurrection of Jesus. Yet, there’s a lot of consistency between them, with the majority being variations on one of three options:

Jonathan K. Dodson and Brad Watson address the larger question in book form:
If you doubt the resurrection, I’m glad. Anything worth believing has to be worth questioning, but don’t let your questions slip away unanswered. Don’t reduce your doubts to a state of unsettled cynicism. Wrestle with your doubts. Find answers.
If you call yourself a believer and a skeptic, don’t settle for pat proofs, emotional experiences, or duty-driven religion. Keep asking questions. Those who haven’t questioned their faith can easily become doctrinaire, even detached from the everyday struggle of faith. Whether you are a skeptic, believer, or somewhere in between, press into your faith or push into your doubt. Question your faith and question your doubts. Determine good reasons for believing or not believing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If he really did defeat death, it changes everything. Doubt well and you can walk away from skepticism, cynicism, or blind faith into perceptive belief, intellectual security, and deeper commitment. You can know that you have honestly questioned the resurrection.
Download Raised? Doubting the Resurrection by Jonathan K. Dodson & Brad Watson for free!
Kindle (.mobi)  |  iBooks (.epub)   |   PDF

Monday, February 18, 2013

Book Review: Brothers, We Are Not Professionals by John Piper

Just at the beginning of the month, I came on staff at my church full time. And let me tell you, the pressure in a mere two weeks (largely that I have placed on myself) to step up my game has surprised me. The drive to be professional, polished, prepared, proficient—the performance trap had swallowed me whole. So the arrival of John Piper's revised edition of Brothers, We Are Not Professionals could not have come at a better time. These were challenges and questions that I needed to consider as I evaluated the tendencies of my own heart. As Piper asks in his new preface:
  • Is there professional praying? 
  • Is there professional trusting in God's promises? 
  • Is there professional weeping over souls? 
  • Is there professional musing on the depths of revelation? 
  • Is there professional rejoicing over truth? 
  • Is there professional treasuring the riches of Christ? 
  • Is there professional walking by the Spirit? 
  • Is there professional exercise of spiritual gifts? 
  • Is there professional courage in the face of persecution? 
The beauty in Piper's plea is that it relieves us of the burden of oppressive professionalism—and calls us to humble, Spirit-empowered ministry in one sweeping movement.

 But this book isn't just a caution against the slick and skillful specialist/pastor ideal. Within this book lies the heartbeat of Piper's ministry and writing in seed-form. The themes and passions of John Piper's pastoral life are here as well. With chapter titles like "God Loves His Glory", "Live and Preach Justification by Faith", "Consider Christian Hedonism", "Give Them Passion for Missions", and "Sever the Root of Racism", I cannot help but think of books like Desiring God, Finally Alive, and Bloodlines. In deed, this book is as much as anything else a survey of Piper's teaching and writing over the years, and that is by no means a criticism.

But speaking of criticisms, if I have one of the book it is that Piper has given himself a fine line to try to walk between what he is calling us away from and what he is calling us to. While the high bar of professionalism in the ministry has it's pitfalls, it is not the only high bar that pastors may set for themselves. In back to back chapters he challenges us to become students of the original Hebrew and Greek texts and of Christian biographies. This is not to say that I don't think either of these things are greatly beneficial! But if our aim is to deconstruct the professionalist tendencies of the pastorate, we must be careful not to merely trade one elite class of preacher for another.

While Brothers, We Are Not Professionals may not be Piper's most seminal work, it is quite possibly his most comprehensive. Thus I would say this book is not only a must read for pastors, but it is a great place to start for anyone who would like an overview of mosof Piper's other writings. The chapters are rarely longer than six or seven pages; short enough read and meditate on (or cram in between meetings). But the weight and gravity of the challenges here will take a lifetime apply. And lest your own bent towards performance is already despairing at that thought, let Piper's prayer correct:
"Banish professionalism from our midst, Oh God, and in its place put passionate prayer, poverty of spirit, hunger for God, rigorous study of holy things, white-hot devotion to Jesus Christ, utter indifference to all material gain, and unremitting labor to rescue the perishing, perfect the saints, and glorify our sovereign Lord. In Jesus' great and powerful name. Amen."
Rating: 4 of 5 stars 

Recommended for: Pastors and those looking for a survey of Piper's works

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Huge Bestseller Book Sale at WTSBooks

For just a week (until 1/15) WTSBooks is offering all of their 2012 bestsellers at 50% off retail. While I'm certain that every title it excellent, the following would certainly be my highlights of the list:
 Here's the complete list: