We are excited to host this conference at our church this year on May 21-22. This is a conference which has been going on for years in Cheyenne, WY – but this year the organizers had the idea to invite men from other churches in the region.
Speakers include Shaun Sells (Calvary Chapel Cheyenne), Michael Payne (White Fields Community Church), and Jeff Figgs (Calvary Chapel Greeley).
The theme and messages come from Revelation 2-3 and the letters to the 7 churches.
This will be a great time of fellowship, prayer, and study, culminating with a steak lunch on Saturday, May 22.
Is religion opposed to relationship with Jesus? What is “religion” anyway – and is Christianity a religion or not?
In this episode we look at uses of the word “religion” in the Bible (there are 5 of them!), as well as passages like Isaiah 1 and Amos 5 where God talks about despising the religious practices of Israel; the very practices which He himself commanded them to do earlier in the Bible…
We also examine Jefferson Bethke’s spoken word YouTube video: “Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus,” as well as a New York Times article about popular views on religion and biblical examples from Jesus, the apostles, and the New Testament church.
In this episode Nick and Mike discuss what the Bible has to say about religion and how God feels about it. Is religion opposed to relationship with Jesus? What is "religion" anyway – and is Christianity a religion or not?
We look at uses of the word "religion" in the Bible, as well as passages like Isaiah 1 and Amos 5. We also examine Jefferson Bethke's spoken word YouTube video: "Why I hate religion but love Jesus," as well as a New York Times article about popular views on religion – along with biblical examples from Jesus, the apostles, and the New Testament church.
This episode is sponsored by
· Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app
Recently a reader of this site reached out asking for my thoughts about this question:
If Jesus came to save sinners, then why didn’t he come before the flood in the time of Noah?
It’s an interesting question. If God so loved the world that he sent Jesus to save sinners, then why did he wait so long? Could more people have been saved if God had sent Jesus sooner – and if so, then why did He wait as along as He did to send Jesus?
The Nature of Justice and Mercy
First of all, it is important to remember the nature of justice and mercy. Justice means giving someone exactly what they deserve: no more, no less. Mercy, on the other hand, means not giving someone the judgment they deserve for the wrong things they’ve done.
In his book, The Cross of Christ, John Stott explains that God not only must do justice because He is God and is obligated to do justice, but that God desires to do justice because it brings Him satisfaction to act justly, and that acting justly is part of His glory, goodness, and righteousness.
However, God also desires to show mercy. The difference between justice and mercy, however, is that mercy is not owed to anyone.
Showing mercy to those to whom He chooses to show mercy is God’s prerogative (Romans 9:15, Exodus 33:19). He is not obligated to give it to anyone. If God were to give us what we deserve, the result would be judgment.
God Did Not Leave Himself Without Witness
In the time of Noah, though many people perished in the flood, it is important to remember that those people had a chance to repent and be saved from the flood.
2 Peter 2:5 tells us that Noah was a preacher of righteousness, and 1 Peter 3 tells us that Jesus preached through Noah to those who were disobedient in his time. As Noah built the ark, which took a very long time, he was apparently preaching a message of righteousness and repentance. However, it would seem that no one heeded his warning.
In other words, the people who died in the time of Noah did not perish for lack of opportunity to be saved from the flood, but because they were in knowing rebellion against God, and they refused to accept the offer of salvation which was extended to them via repentance and heeding the warnings of Noah.
It is helpful to be reminded of a biblical view of anthropology here: contrary to the modern assumption that people began as animists (worshipers of nature), who over time then began worshiping a pantheon of abstract deities, and eventually “evolved” into monotheism – the biblical view of anthropology is different. According to the Bible, people didn’t discover God, rather: from the beginning people knew God and walked with God, until they knowingly turned away from God.
The Bible begins with a description of the first humans as monotheists, who knew God. Polytheism and animism then came about as a result of the devolution of sin. As Paul explains in his letter to the Romans:
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Here’s what’s really interesting: Genesis 5 tells us that there were people alive at the time of Noah who had lived at the same time as Adam! Namely: Jared and Methuselah, if you run the numbers, were alive when Adam was still alive. Because of the length of the lives of early people, the people at the time of Noah’s flood were either contemporaries of Adam, or were only removed from him by one or two generations. This means that they could have heard first-hand accounts from him.
Could People Go to Heaven Prior to Jesus’ Death and Resurrection?
Simply put, prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection, those who died in faith went to a place called Abraham’s bosom: a place of comfort for those who died in faith while they awaited the fulfillment of their redemption by the Messiah. The way to receive this salvation and redemption was to humble oneself before God, cast yourself on His mercy, and put your faith in His promise to bring salvation through the promised Savior (as opposed to saving yourself by your good works).
Paul tells us in Galatians 4:4 that “in the fullness of time, God sent His Son.” That phrase “in the fullness of time” implies that it happened “at just the right time.”
Those who lived in the time of Noah did not perish for lack of information, nor for lack of opportunity, but because they “suppressed the truth in unrighteousness,” “loved darkness more than light,” and rejected God’s calls to them (through Noah) to repent and be saved. Perhaps it is for this very reason that the people in the time of Noah are mentioned several times in the New Testament, so that modern people would be warned not to follow in their footsteps.
What is the benefit of attending church? A person is demanded to surrender personal faith in Jesus and personal relationship with Jesus Christ to become a Borg in a socialist swamp. It’s great for becoming robotized, lobotomized, Romanized, and institutionalized.
But its pointless for knowing Jesus Christ personally.
Don’t go. Jesus isn’t welcome there. Conformity is King. Not Jesus.
I was tempted to ignore the comment, but I think this view of church is actually pretty widespread, even amongst professing Christians, that it warranted a response. And since I’ve recently started the Theology for the People Podcast, I figured this would be a good topic to discuss in more detail there.
In this episode Nick and Mike discuss a comment that came in to the Theology for the People blog claiming that church is only good for "becoming robotized, lobotomized, Romanized, and institutionalized," and is "pointless for knowing Jesus Christ personally." This comment represents a not-uncommon attitude to "organized religion" in general and church in particular.
This episode includes discussions about the Bible, Jesus, American history, and Henry David Thoreau.
The book recommended in this episode is The Bible in America: Essays in Cultural History
This episode is sponsored by
· Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app
Our radio ministry has been expanding and we felt this was a good time for some rebranding. As of April 1, 2021, “Life in the Field” has become “Be Set Free”
Our program airs Monday-Friday at 9:30 AM and 2:30 PM, and Sundays at 1:00 PM on GraceFM: 89.7 FM along the Northern Front Range (Cheyenne, WY – Castle Rock, CO) and 101.7 in Colorado Springs, CO. We can also be heard online at gracefm.com and on the GraceFM app.
Along with this rebranding, we have started a dedicated webpage for Be Set Free, where you can find each day’s message from the radio: besetfreeradio.com. You can even sign up on the site to have those messages delivered directly to your inbox.
You can also subscribe to the Be Set Free Podcast, and every day you will get that day’s episode delivered directly to your podcast app. Go to: Be Set Free Podcast
Be Set Free is a listener-supported ministry, and if you would like to contribute to helping to spread the gospel over the airwaves through clear, relevant expository Bible teaching, you can donate here.
Airing Date: May 14
1 Kings 1-2 At the end of David's life, Adonijah tries to steal the throne, mercy is offered, but the parameters are ignored and judgment comes.
From our series: 1 & 2 Kings: Desiring the Kingdom
I was reading in John, and during Jesus’s discussion with Nicodemus, Jesus makes a statement that gave me pause, “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man” (John 3:13)
Immediately I thought, “Wait, what about Elijah, or potentially Enoch?” They may not have descended in the same way as Jesus, or had a special nature as he did, but they ascended physically and yet seem to be ignored in this exclusive statement.
Great observation! Here are some important things to consider, which can bring clarity to this statement from Jesus:
Which Heaven is Jesus Referring To?
In ancient thinking, the word “heaven” was used in three ways (and it often used in these same three ways in our modern vernacular as well).
The “first” heaven = the sky, or the atmosphere, i.e. the place where birds and planes fly.
The “second” heaven = outer space, or the stratosphere: the place beyond Earth’s atmosphere, where stars and other planets are located.
The “third” heaven = the abstract use of the word, which designates not a geographical location, but the spiritual plane in which God and other invisible spirits dwell.
Paul the Apostle speaks of being caught up to the third heaven, in what was either a vision or perhaps even a near-death experience, in 2 Corinthians 12:2. Paul also speaks of the “heavenly places” in Ephesians as the place where Jesus is seated with the Father.
And yet, we know can surmise from different passages in the Bible, such as Luke 16 and others, that those who died in faith prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus did not go to “heaven” in the sense of the immediate presence of God, rather they went to Sheol, the dwelling place of the dead, where they awaited either the completion of their redemption or the final judgment of God.
In this case, it would seem that when 2 Kings 2:11 says “And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven,” it means that his body was caught up into the sky, not that his soul was taken to the immediate presence of God.
This would make sense in light of the rest of the text in 2 Kings, in which the “sons of the prophets” who witnessed this take place insist that they go and recover the body of Elijah that was picked up in this whirlwind. With Elijah and Enoch, though their souls were taken from this Earth, they would have gone to “Abraham’s bosom” (the part of Sheol reserved for those who died in faith – see article linked above).
Jesus’ point in John 3:13 is that Nicodemus should listen to what he has to say about Heaven since no human person has ever gone to heaven, yet he (Jesus) is the only person who has come from Heaven to Earth, and is therefore uniquely qualified to give accurate insight and explanation into Heavenly realities.
“Ascended” versus “Taken Up”
Another possible explanation is that when Jesus says that he is the first who will “ascend” into Heaven, he is correct in the sense that he will ascend by his own power and volition, whereas Enoch and Elijah were “taken up” by God, not by their own power or will.
Hopefully these explanations helped. If you see anything I missed, please leave a comment – and keep on studying God’s Word and asking questions as you go!
Recently I was talking to my friend Aaron Salvato who heads up the GoodLion Podcast Network. I reached out to him regarding the idea of possibly creating a podcast with audio versions of some of my articles from this blog. Aaron’s advice was that I consider rebranding the blog since “Longmont Pastor” might tell people who I am, but it doesn’t help them know what this site (and potential podcast) is about.
So, in light of Aaron’s advice, the “Longmont Pastor” blog has been rebranded as “Theology for the People” – which better reflects my goal with this site: to bring understanding of God’s Word and application for the questions that people are asking today.
I have also started a Podcast, and I would love it if you would subscribe and share it with others. You can find it on all major podcast platforms, but you can click here to find it on the podcast platform of your choice: Theology for the People Podcast
On the blog you will now see this icon above some posts:
If you click that icon, it will take you to the podcast episode in which you can listen to an audio version of that post.
I plan to create podcast-specific content as well, so make sure to subscribe!
In Matthew 27:52-53 it says that when Jesus died, "The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many."
Why did this happen? And what happened to these "walking dead": did they ascend into Heaven with Jesus, or did they die again at a later date? What was the meaning and significance of this?
You can find more articles and content, as well as a place to submit questions or suggest topics at the Theology for the People blog site.
This episode is sponsored by
· Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app
Sometimes you spend hours preparing for Sunday’s sermon, but the one thing you say that gets remembered most was something you said off the cuff, that wasn’t in the notes. That happened to me this past Sunday.
I was teaching a message called “Thriving in Exile” in which I was looking at Daniel and Jeremiah and what it took for the people of God to live faithfully in the Babylonian exile, especially since the Apostle Peter states that the Israelites in exile in Babylon is a perfect picture of what it means for us to be Christians in the world today.
During a section in which I was pointing out that the exiles needed to have convictionin order to live faithfully in exile, I pointed out that Daniel and the others with him were also very courteous towards those in Babylon who didn’t believe what they believed, which is notable since it seems that some people think that to be a person of conviction means to be a “Jerk for Jesus.”
In contrast to that, the example we have throughout the Scriptures and from Jesus, Paul, and Peter specifically is that rather than an adversarial approach, we are to take a missionary approach to those who believe and think differently than we do, so that we might be used by God to help bring his light, love, and truth into their lives.
The fact is, it’s pretty hard, if not impossible, to influence people who can tell that you despise them. Those bombastic people who think they are dropping “truth bombs” tend to only embolden those who already agree with them and further alienate those who don’t – rather than wooing them to consider the beauty of the gospel.
Below you can listen to the podcast of this discussion and/or watch the video of it.
Here is a link to the book Mike and I discussed, in which I heard the phrase “Jerks for Jesus:” Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith by Larry Osborne. I recommend this book. In it, Larry Osborne points out how the pharisees never set out to become “pharisees” – they started out as people who cared about truth and following God whole-heartedly, but this devolved into pride, exclusivity, and creating rules which God never ordained, as well as fences which God never put in place. For those of us who truly care about truth and walking with God, this should be a warning to us lest we accidentally become pharisees ourselves. The book of course goes into much more detail and explanation. I especially appreciated what he had to say about Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, and the “secret disciples” mentioned in the gospels. It’s definitely worth a read.
Also embedded below is the video I mention about Ray Comfort, the Kiwi evangelist. I watched this film with my kids, and it was so inspiring. He speaks with so much compassion and empathy, and is a good example of how to not water down the truth, but still be courteous – and how many doors that opens for effective gospel ministry. The movie is called The Fool
Tom Stipe was my pastor and mentor. He was the pastor of Crossroads Church of Denver, and in 1999, at 16 years old, I walked through the doors of that church for the first time on a Wednesday night. Little did I know that would be one of the best decisions I ever made, and it would shape the course of my life.
I went to Crossroads at the recommendation of my friends from school – friends who were not Christians! This is a testimony to the fact that Tom and Crossroads had an incredible reputation in the community. He was well-known and respected, even by people who didn’t follow Jesus or go to church. My friends told me that Crossroads had good music and they just teach the Bible.
I started going to Crossroads whenever the doors were open and I grew under Tom’s Bible teaching. I made other friends there and mentors with whom I have had lifelong friendships.
In January 2002, Tom sent me out as a missionary to Hungary. He ordained me, and for years he supported, encouraged and visited me and my wife while I was there. He really liked my wife Rosemary, probably even a little more than he liked me 😄.
Upon returning to Colorado, Tom was a source of encouragement. I will miss hearing his stories of all the great things God did through the Jesus Movement and over the years through Crossroads, but with the hope of the resurrection, I look forward to seeing him again.
A celebration of life was held for Pastor Tom at Harvest Church in Irvine, California, and was led by Greg Laurie, a friend of Tom’s. Harvest did a great job creating a video of the event for those who couldn’t join in person. That video is embedded below, or can be found here.
I was honored to get to say a few words at the memorial as well: my eulogy starts at 51:54.
Tom will be sorely missed. The God of Tom Stipe and the Spirit which he trusted in and relied on is here with us still, to do great things in the next generation.