4 Reminders About Persecution

Tom-Randall-photo-Free-Tom-Randall-FB-page.pngIt has been a crazy past two weeks for our church family here at Christ Community Chapel. One of our very own pastors, Tom Randall, is currently in jail in the Philippines under false accusations. You can click here to watch an update that our lead pastor gave a little over a week ago on this situation. He explains the situation more in depth and shares some text messages he has exchanged with Tom. You can also click here to read a blog post from our lead pastor on this situation.

As our church is walking through this and I am spending much time in prayer for Tom and the whole situation, the Lord has been reminding me a lot about what His Word says about persecution. I’ve always been aware and concerned for Christians who are being persecuted all over the world, but when it hits this close to home it’s different. As look over God’s Word here are some simple, yet powerful reminders about Christians and persecution.

1. Jesus tells us we WILL face persecution (John 15-18-20). Persecution should not come as a surprise to a Christians. In this passage, and a few others in the Gospels, Jesus clearly informs His disciples that just as He has faced persecution, they will as well. he says, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecute me, they will also persecute you.” You may not be locked up in a jail in a foreign country, but some time or another you will be persecuted for your faith.

2. When we face persecution, God will help and protect us (Psalm 27). So Christians will face persecution some time or another, but when they do they can find help and protection in their God. We don’t serve a God who allows persecution in our lives and then steps away for us to survive on our own. He loves and cares for us deeply and will be our help and protection during persecution. Read Psalm 27, written by a David when he was running for his life, and see how he calls on his God for help and protection. We can do that too when we are faced with persecution.

3. Persecution is a blessing (Matthew 5:11-12). Jesus said some pretty crazy stuff when He was doing ministry here on the earth. One of those things is that when we are persecuted for our faith, we should “rejoice and be glad.” Really? Persecution for the Christians gives us an opportunity to suffer for our Savior who suffered for us and brings us closer to Him. You will never meet a geniune Christian who has faced persecution and came out on the other side further from God then they were before the persecution. God grows our faith and love for Him when we walk through the valley.

4. We must remember our brothers and sisters in Christ who are being persecuted (Hebrews 13:3). You may not be facing persecution right now, but Christians are always being persecuted somewhere around the world at all times. Our responsibility is to remember them as the writer of Hebrews tells us to. “Remember” in this passage does not just mean “call to mind.” It means to “actively remember; to remember and act.” One of the ways we can do that is to be in prayer for other Christians who are being persecuted.

I’ve never prayed for a persecuted Christian like I have for Tom. This situation has reminded me of the reality of persecution and power of God to work even in the darkest situations. Would you join our church in prayer for our brother Tom?

Is Jesus Really the Only Way?

Recently, we just finished up a series called Get Real in our middle school ministry. During the series we addressed major questions many people, including Christians, ask about Christianity. For example, “How do we know God is real?” or “If God is so loving than why is there so much suffering in the world?” The question I tackled a few weeks ago was “Is Jesus really the only way to God?” I want to share the main ideas from that talk in this post and hope to share why we can believe that Jesus really is the only way to God.

A popular belief in our culture is that all religions are equal. Not only are they equal, but they all lead to the same place. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what religion, or path, you take, we will all end up in the same place. Some people may choose Christianity and if that’s works for them then it’s all good. Or some people may choose Islam, or some other religion, and if that’s best for them then it’s all good. We call this belief “religious pluralism.” You see this kind of thing pop up in things like the coexists bumper stickers. You know, those stickers that spell “coexists” with the symbols of different religions. As good as all this sounds, it couldn’t be any further from the truth. In John 14:6, Jesus makes a claim that goes against any claim that all religions are the same or that all paths lead to God. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus claims that there is only one way to God and that’s through Him. How do we know that’s true? Let me share with you three other things that support Jesus claim that He is the only way.

1. Jesus is the only way God provided. In Matthew 26:36-44 we read about Jesus going to a garden to pray before He would be betrayed and arrested. Jesus knew what was coming. He knew He was about to be beaten, spit upon, and murdered on a cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. In complete agony He prays to the Father and asks Him if there is another way to do this. He asks God that if it would be His will, could He get out of doing this. But we see Jesus complete surrender and determination to follow God’s will. Jesus goes to God three times and basically asks Him if there is another way. And three times God doesn’t repond. There is no other way. The death of Jesus as a sacrifice for sin was the only way. God’s silence screams this truth from the pages of Scripture! Think about it, if God had another way would He really send His only Son to be nailed to His death on a cross? This sacrifice only makes sense if what we believe is true-Jesus is the only way!

2. Jesus is the only way that fixes our problem. Everyone enters this world with a common problem called sin. All religions recognize this is some way. They may not call it sin, but they realize this world is broken and things are screwed up. So all religions, or paths to God, try and fix this problem. Some try and say that all we need to do is be better, try harder, and hope our good outweighs our bad. Sadly, all religions, except Christianity, just puts a band-aid on our problem. Only Jesus actually fixes the problem. How does He do that? He becomes a curse for us and take our sin upon Himself. In exchange we get His righteousness which means we continue as if we have never sinned. We are justified and stand before God perfect because of Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5:21 explains this great exchange to us.

3. Jesus is the only way transforms our life. No one actually experiences life change outside of Christianity. All other religions don’t change a person. In actuality all they do is become an “add on” to someones life. But Jesus comes and gives us a new start. The Bible calls this being “born again” or the “new birth.” We literally go from death unto life and experience a whole new life. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” No other religions can make that statement. In their book Red Like Blood, Joe Coffey and Bob Bevington tell a story about a situation the famous evangelists Dr. Ironsides found himself in. At a Salvation Army event, Dr. Ironsides was called to the platform to share a few words. On his way up, a outspoken atheists started making remarks and yelling at him. The atheist called Ironsides out for a debate between Christianity, which he claimed was false, and atheism. Ironsides looked at the man and said this: “Yes, I will debate you this Saturday morning. But there is one condition. You bring one person whose life has been transformed by the power of becoming an atheist and I will bring fifty ex-alcoholics and fifty ex-prostitutes whose lives have been transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. And then we will debate.” Christianity is the only religion that has to power to change a life.

All religions, or paths, to God are not the same. There is only one way and that is through Jesus Christ. That is the only way God provided, fixes our sin problem, and brings transformation. No other ways to God claim those three things.

Click here to view my speaking page where you can hear the audio of this sermon as well as other sermons I have preached in the past.

What Students Are Looking for In Sex and Relationships

Made To CraveA few weeks ago we finished a series in our middle school ministry called “Made to Crave.” The whole idea of the series was to explain to students that we all have a desire for intimacy and we try and fulfill that craving through sex and relationships. What we find is those things still leave us feeling empty. The reason we are left feeling empty is because that craving can only be fulfilled by a intimate relationship with Jesus. God created us to crave Him and only He can truly fulfill us. I finished off the series by talking about three things students look for in sex and relationships that can only truly be found in Jesus. I want to share those three things and a few thoughts I shared with our students. So here are three things students crave that can only be found in Jesus.

1. Love. The most obvious thing students are looking for in sex and relationships is love. They want to find someone that will love them unconditionally. They crave that type of love. Unfortunately, the unconditional love they are craving cannot be found within human relationships. Sure, two humans can love each other, but it is still stained by sin. The unconditional love students crave is love that can only be found in Jesus. The Bible uses the Greek word agape, which is unconditional love that can only come from God. It’s a love that’s deeper and more real than any love two humans could ever have between for each other. Paul shares about this incredible love in Romans 8:38-39“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

2. Acceptance. Not only are students looking for love, but they are also looking for acceptance. So they run to sex or a relationship because they want to feel accpeted. They want someone to love them and accept them for who they are. But because they fear someone will not like them for who they are, they change. They change their looks, what they wear, how they talk, who they hang around, and sometimes abandon their Christian faith, all for the sake of being accepted by someone of the opposite sex. They also will go to extreme lengths to cover their flaws and mistakes. Deep down they just want to find acceptance. This acceptance they are looking for can only be found in Jesus. Sadly, even when people get married acceptance is still at stake. That’s why some many couples get divorced, even Christian couples! One of them does something wrong or starts to act differently and the other person no longer accepts them.

In John 8 we read about a woman who was in adultery that Jesus accepted. The Pharisees brought her to Jesus and pointed out her sin. But what did Jesus do? He accepted her, the flaws and all. He didn’t condemn her, but accepted her and told her to go and sin no more. He didn’t make her change who she was or clean up her act before He accepted her. Students crave this kind of radical, real acceptance and it can only be found in Jesus.

3. Security. This is a big one. Students crave security and they try to find it in sex or a relationship. But what they find out is that even in those things there isn’t real security. If anything, their is a false security. Again, divorce is proof that security cannot even be found in most marriages. Students want to feel safe and secure so they give their bodies to someone else thinking that will make them feel safe. As if that person will love them and nothing can change that. Or they enter a relationship and find their security in that, but that all changes when the other person decides to end the relationship. Jesus offers total security within a relationship with Him. Jesus said in John 10:28-29, ““I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” 

Students are craving love, acceptance, and security. The bad news is they are running to sex and relationships to try and find these three things, but at the end of the day they are left empty and still searching. Jesus offers students love, acceptance, and security in a personal relationship with Him. The Gospel reminds us that we sinners and entered this world separated from God. But God sacrificed His own Son so our sins can be forgiven and the wrath of God absorbed. Christ took our sin and gave us His righteousness so we can be loved, accepted, and secure in a relationship with the One who created us. Point students towards Jesus!

Click here to listen to the audio of this entire message.

Common Questions from Teens About Homosexuality (Part 2)

imagesHomosexuality is an issue our teenagers are facing more and more as time goes on. Our culture says it’s ok, but as Christians, who believe God’s Word, we believe it is sin and not part of God’s design. Our teenagers are hearing both sides of the argument and many of them have questions. In the first post of this series, I answered two common questions teens ask about homosexuality. In this second post I want to answer two more common questions I have heard teens ask about homosexuality.

Is homosexuality worse than other sins? I believe many teens ask this question because they see Christians respond more severely to homosexuality than other sins. We need to be careful our teens don’t see us “categorizing” sin as if some sins are worse than others. An important principle to teach teens is that all sin is equal, but earthly consequences are different. No matter how “big” or “small,” sin is always sin and it will send you to hell unless you repent and believe in Christ. However, the earthly consequences of sin may differ (note I said earthly because the consequences are the same after death-hell). For an example, someone may get angry and become bitter towards another person. That is still sin, but they may not face any horrendous earthly consequences. But someone could go out and murder someone and face major earthly consequences. Both are sin, but the earthly consequences are different. Don’t let teens believe homosexuality is different than other sins. It’s still a sin Christ died for and can forgive. Homosexuals are no worse than other sinners. The ground is level at the foot of the cross and the Gospel covers all sins.

Why do some Christians hate homosexuals? One of my biggest pet peeves is Christians who show no love for people in sin or who oppose their Christian faith. The best example of this, and why many teens will ask this question, is Westboro Baptist. Westboro Baptist is this “church” that has built it’s ministry on expressing what they believe is God’s hate for homosexuals. They picket funerals and waste their time holding up signs that say “God hates fags.” They are not Christian at all and I do not believe they have ever experienced real Christianity or accepted the Biblical Gospel. Many teens see this and get turned off to Christianity because they believe it is what Christianity looks like. Let’s do our best to show teens that true Christianity is loving the sinner and doing whatever we can to share with them the life changing truth of the Gospel! Those “Christians” who hate homosexuals do nothing but make Christians look less like Christ. Please hear me, I’m not supporting homosexuality and saying it’s ok (it’s not!), but I do not believe Christians should hate or treat homosexuals differently. They are real people, like you and me, who have a fallen sin nature and need a relationship with Jesus. Show them Jesus, not hate.

I hope these posts have been helpful to you as you talk to teens about the issue of homosexuality. It’s a growing issue in our culture and we must equip our teens to view and approach it in a way that’s God honoring and faithful to His Word. I hope these two posts on answering teens questions about homosexuality have been helpful. I encourage you to spend time in God’s Word, build your convictions on this issue from that, and in love communicate to your teens about why homosexuality is wrong.

Freebie: Communion Sermon for Students

communionLast week we finished up a series in our high school ministry called Tangled: The Body of Christ-A Beautiful Mess. In this series we talked about what it means to be a community of believers. That we all have different gifts and abilities, but we make up one body. We also talked about how we become part of this community and that is through faith in Christ alone. To end of series last week we talked about communion. Not only that, but we actually took communion as a body of believers together after the message. I want to share the sermon with you as a freebie. I hope you can use it as a resource the next time you teach your students about communion.

Communion is something we do as believers to remember what Christ did for us on the cross. In this sermon, I answered three questions: what is communion?, why do we do communion?, and how do we take communion?

Below you will find a link to download this sermon for free. It’s in manuscript form and feel free to tweak it to make it more of your own. I have provided it as a Word document so you can edit it and use it how you wish. If you do use it, let me know how it goes!

Click here to download the communion sermon for free!