The Astonishing Cross

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

CrossAs Good Friday approaches next week, it is worth the time to stop for a moment and reflect on the Cross. Good Friday is a day of celebration that reminds us that the Lord Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world, and more personally for our sins if we are Christians. And while some churches have Good Friday Services, much of Christendom will skip them and just go to Easter Sunday. Sometimes this skipping of the Cross has increasingly turned into a problem for the Faith because without the Cross there is no real Church, no redemption and surely no Empty Tomb. The centrality of the Cross totally changed the Apostle Paul and led him to say in I Corinthians 2:2,
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
The Apostle Paul realized that everything in life was and is somehow tied to the Cross. He made it his life's mission to know and proclaim Christ crucified and how that old, rugged Cross revealed the heart of the Lord to our world. As Good Friday draws near, let's take a fresh look at the Cross and how the Lord has placed it at the center of everything in our lives today, whether we understand it or not.

The Incredible Miracle of a New Year

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Four SeasonsHappy New Year! For many people the New Year is just another day. For some it is a holiday, a time to party with friends or a chance to watch a football game or parade. Now that the New Year is over...so what? Does it really matter that it is 2018, or any New Year for that matter? After all, new years have been coming and going from the beginning of time. Did you ever stop and think that something as simple as the New Year is really the key to understanding the meaning and purpose of our lives?

Few people ever stop to think that a New Year marks the beginning of something new, namely a new cycle of the Earth around of the Sun. Right now the Earth is turning at 1000 miles/hour on its axis every 24 hours. In addition to that rapid turning, the Earth is moving at 67,000 miles/hour around the Sun. And if those numbers don't surprise you, stop and reflect on the fact that our Solar System is orbiting around the center of the Milky Way Galaxy at 490,000 miles/hour. And while we may sometimes think that not much is happening around us, we are in a drama that cannot be fathomed by the greatest scientist.

Why Every Jackass Needs a Savior

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DonkeysAs Palm Sunday approaches this weekend, millions of Christians will be celebrating our Lord's ride into Jerusalem as the Savior of the world. This event marks the beginning of what is known of as "Holy Week," culminating with Easter Sunday or First Fruits the following Sunday. And while millions of people will be gathering for celebrations around the world, few may see the deeper meaning of Palm Sunday and our Lord's ride on the donkey as it relates to our lives in Christ.

When the Lord Jesus got on that donkey, His primary purpose was to fulfill a passage from Zechariah 9:9 that was written over 400 years earlier that said,
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

What Happens When Love Becomes God?

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Happy Valentines DayHappy Valentine's Day! If you go to a store today you will see a frenzy of people buying cards, flowers and candy for the people in their lives. Valentine's Day is the third biggest day in the floral industry, following Christmas and Mother's Day. Valentine's Day is the second largest greeting card holiday after Christmas. Valentine's Day is the fourth largest candy day following Halloween, Easter and Christmas. So, Valentine's Day and the love connected to it is BIG business. The holiday has its roots in the early history of the Church. According to Wikipedia,
Valentine's Day, also called Saint Valentine's Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, is an annual holiday celebrated on February 14. It originated as a Western Christian liturgical feast day honoring one or more early saints named Valentinus, and is recognized as a significant cultural and commercial celebration in many regions around the world, although it is not a public holiday in any country.
Most of the stories and possible myths surrounding this holiday connect it to the martyrdom of Christians serving others. So, the idea of Christian love and sacrifice seems to be at the heart of the holiday's origins long before people were sending flowers, candy and cards.

The Lord's New Year's Party that Everyone Missed

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Happy New YearOne of the great mysteries of life is time. Nobody really knows much about it, other than it passes by and people get older and die. But outside of the obvious, the real meaning of time is hidden from us right now. One day there won't be any more time because we will be living in the eternal now forever. You see the Lord doesn't wear a wrist watch and there aren't any wall clocks in Heaven. The Lord operates outside of time as we know it, and as His people that will be our experience of time one day as well.

For many people today, the idea of time is connected to the New Year's Eve party the world held a few days ago, some fireworks and perhaps watching a ball drop from a tower in Time Square in New York City on December 31 at midnight. New Year's Eve can be a time to celebrate new beginnings, but honestly most people have no idea of why the year is new or if anything new will happen to them or the world that they haven't seen before. That is true because without the Lord nothing is ever really new....no it was here long ago as the Bible tells us (Ecclesiastes 1:10.)

The Fading Glory of the World's Greatest Achievements

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Superbowl Russell Wilson with Lombardi Trophy-2Many of us will be watching the Super Bowl this weekend. Some people even attend "Super Bowl Parties" with family and friends that were planned for weeks or months. It is estimated that about 190 million people will be watching the game. Even the commercials are "super," costing about $5,000,000 for a 30 second spot. The Super Bowl has grown over the years to not only be one of the most watched events in history, but it has made legends and superstars out of some of the players. For some people, winning the Super Bowl is the stuff of dreams and reflects the ultimate glory of this life with regards to achievement and status.

One of the greatest Super Bowl stars ever to play the game was San Francisco 49er quarterback Joe Montana. Joe led his team to 4 Super Bowl wins and was the MVP (Most Valuable Player) in three of them. Joe retired from football in 1995, but he still appears at many celebrity and charity events around the world as one of the greatest sports personalities of all time. Joe's skills were legendary in the football world, eventually earning him a place in the Football Hall of Fame in 2000.

The Lord's Greatest Commitment to Us

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Word Became FleshIn his book "Miracles," Christian author C.S. Lewis called the idea of God becoming Man the "Grand Miracle" of life. He went on say that, "If the event happened, it was the central event in the history of the Earth-the very thing the whole story has been about." Lewis leaves no doubt that the story of the Incarnation, or God becoming Man, is the real story behind every life that has ever been lived. Nothing else in life has any meaning or really matters IF it is not tied to this event. Lewis is absolutely right. That is why Christmas, the Virgin Birth and the Incarnation are worthy of our attention on a much deeper level that it often receives in our lives and in the Church's ministry.

This idea of God becoming Man is an amazing concept. It raises the deepest questions about what God did before He created mankind and eventually became one of us. In other words, what was God up to before we were here? Since the Lord is eternal and has always existed, our existence is something that must occupy a slice of time that is as nothing compared to eternity itself. How does one compare the infinite with the finite?

May the Force Be with You? Christmas Meets Star Wars

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Star Wars LogoIt's hard to think that some event might upstage Christmas this year, but it appears to have happened for some. There seems to be an amazing amount of "hype" out there today about the opening of the latest "Star Wars" movie, a week before Christmas. Hollywood has long used the Christmas season as a great time to get an audience out to the theatres. This year seems to be no exception.

The hype of this movie borders on hysteria for a few. Theatres are sold out all over the world and the money this movie is going to make is anticipated to be well over one billion dollars. Not only is the worldwide audience of this movie expected to set all-time records, but even some churches are trying to tap into the craze. One large and growing church in Morristown, New Jersey is planning a live Nativity scene featuring Star Wars characters in the Manger to draw a crowd.

Did Mary Need to Be a Virgin?

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Madonna-ChildIf there is one area of our lives under attack today it is our sexuality. Our politically correct culture, media, government and progressive "churches" are working hard to destroy any concept of "male" and "female" and any attempt to define sexuality and marriage. If any pastor, parishioner, pundit, or member of the general public raises any clear Biblical standards about these issues you end up with a large target on your back. Of course at a deeper level, we see this battle as a continued war against the Lord and His Image in the world, as seen through "male" and "female" from Genesis 1:26-27.

Enter the Christmas Story. Whatever anybody knows about Christmas, most may have heard that Mary was a virgin. People may not like it, believe it, understand it, try to revise it or ignore it.......but the Virgin Birth is front and center in the Bible in passages like Matthew 1:20 and Luke 1:34-35. The Virgin Birth of Christ is the clear teaching of the Bible. It has been held by the Church for over 2000 years as accepted orthodox doctrine in the Nicene and Apostle Creeds. Believe it or not, the Virgin Birth is even believed and held by Islam in the Koran of all places.....go figure.

The Christmas Clock: When Time Stopped and Eternity Began

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Big Ben2I was out driving the other day and saw an interesting billboard on the highway that said, "Keep Christ in Christmas." As Christmas draws near this year, there are groups of Christians that are deeply concerned with the increased secularization going on in America that has removed the Lord Jesus Christ from Christmas and turned it into some sort of winter holiday about who knows what. All of this is because there seems to be a quiet and maybe not so quiet war going on today against our Lord and His Church. These days it is getting harder for some to even say "Merry Christmas," let alone, "Jesus is the Savior of the World."

As America wrestles with political correctness at Christmas, the magnitude of the Lord Jesus Christ is being lost in this silly cultural battle not to offend anyone. Sadly, what people fail to remember is that every moment of time from now and on into eternity has its' origin starting at Christmas. You see Christmas is the event in history that connected time and eternity into one seamless story of God's plan to love the world. Most people would be surprised to know that all of time is marked from the day Christ was born. We live in the 2015th year since Christ was born. Sometimes you will see the designation 2015 A.D. referring to our current year. Those two capital letters following the year, "A.D." is a Latin abbreviation that stands for Anno Domini, which simply means "in the year of our Lord."

Thanking God for the Real God

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

LincolnThe Carlson Report sends our love and prayers to each of you on this Thanksgiving weekend. May it be your best ever. How thankful to know the Lord of the Bible and live in a wonderful Nation like America that has a rich, Christian heritage of godly people. It was President Abraham Lincoln that made Thanksgiving a National Holiday on October 3, 1863, at the height of the Civil War. Lincoln knew that whatever our trials, it was right and good to stop as individuals and a Nation to seek and thank the Lord.  Lincoln wrote:

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

Are You Excited about the Mystery?

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BeholdHave you ever been bored going to church? I hate to admit it, but even pastors get bored at church on occasion. What bores me the most is when things seem too routine, too mechanical, too ordinary…..just going through the motions. When the Church gets taken over with programs and potlucks, there is a tendency for us to miss the excitement the Lord built into the Christian life. It can also become weary and even boring to hear yet another sermon on “How to Love Your Neighbor More.” Sure, we can all learn to love our neighbors more. What else is new? Is that it? My former preaching professor in seminary told our class that it is a terrible thing to bore people with the Gospel. He was right.

You see the ONE thing that is often missing from the modern Church world is a sense of excitement and wonder about our future with the Lord Jesus Christ. Thinking about that kind of thing thrills me. How about you? The Church was designed by the Lord to bring something fresh and alive to everyday life about the world to come. The Church was not meant to get stuck in just “doing better,” “ethics for daily living” or “how to be a better parent.” While those sermons and themes have a place, we all need a gust of wind to hit us in the face about the Lord’s BIG plans for us and our future. If the Church becomes too earthly minded it truly won’t be any heavenly good….and it will be boring.

You Shall Love Your Smart Phone with All Your Heart, Soul and Mind

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girl on phone smallIf a person never opened a Bible, heard a sermon or read anything about Jesus they might guess that technology was an important issue to consider when talking about spiritual things. They would be right in ways they never dreamed. The amazing thing about the technology bubble we are living in today is so few can see what the Lord is trying to say to us through it all. If people could only understand the connection between our smart phones and the Lord Jesus Christ, we would be in the midst of a revival. Let the revival begin today with us.

It is no small observation to say that the smart phone has revolutionized life as we know it on planet Earth. The smart phone has combined the power of a desk top computer with a phone in ways no one ever thought possible. These phones are so much of people’s lives now that some people become anxious if they can’t find their phone….they panic. It is not just a phone anymore, a communication tool; for many it’s become their daily focus, if not an identity for a few. It now seems hard to imagine living without them.

Are We Living in Virtual Reality?

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

GamerJust the other day, Mark Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Facebook, was pictured wearing a virtual reality headset. Facebook is investing billions of dollars to explore taking their social networking to another level, by incorporating it with virtual reality. Many people may not be aware of “virtual reality,” but it is an attempt to create reality for people using technology. People are fitted with headsets and other controls to allow them to experience life in another dimension. According to Wikipedia:

“Virtual Reality (VR), which can be referred to as immersive multimedia or computer-simulated life, replicates an environment that simulates physical presence in places in the real world or imagined worlds and lets the user interact in that world. Virtual reality artificially creates sensory experiences, which can include sight, hearing, touch, smell, taste, and more.”

Have You Heard of the Days of Awe?

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Separated until the veil-3If there is one area where Christians and Jews miss each other today it is the fact that we have a different understanding of our holidays. As an example, Christians have Good Friday, while Jews have Passover. However separate their meaning is to each faith, these two holidays are very closely related. The Jews celebrate the Passover deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Christians celebrate the deliverance from sin through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. What each group commemorates actually happened on the same Hebrew calendar date. In reality they actually are the same event, as they have the same meaning….deliverance from bondage. That said, most Christians and Jews still live in totally different worlds. Christians joyously affirm that our Lord Jesus Christ is Israel’s Messiah and deliverer, while most Jews today are still waiting for the coming of the Messiah.

If you look at your calendar this month, you will find that September 23 is another Jewish holiday that most Christians have missed. It is the holiday of Yom Kippur, set on the Hebrew calendar day of Tishri 10. Yom Kippur is seen by the Jewish people as the most holy day of their year. All over the world they celebrate this holiday outlined in Leviticus 16 that gave their Nation a wonderful way to find grace and favor with the Lord. On Yom Kippur, the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies and made an offering of atonement for sins of the Nation to maintain God’s covenant with them.

The Apple Bytes Back

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

apple 2Can you imagine taking away a person’s cell phone these days without them having an anxiety attack? Many of our young people seem to have fallen under the spell of their phones and treat it like a best friend. The power of this technology is so profound that we scarcely have any idea what it is doing to our lives and our world today.I wish every person in the world could read this article. My reason for saying that is because it would be wonderful for people to have some idea about the real, spiritual meaning of this technology in our lives.  Sadly, it appears that few have any idea about the Biblical and prophetic role of technology and where all of this is going.

When the founders of Apple Computer, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, had a vision of a personal computer on everyone’s desk back in 1976, people probably thought they were a little crazy. Certainly no one ever dreamed that less than 40 years later there would be an Apple in everyone’s hand. The brand name “Apple” has probably become the most recognized symbol of technology in the world today making the founders and shareholders of Apple Computer incredibly wealthy.

The Foundation of the Gospel and our Faith

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E=mc²

Heart-Monitor-With-Cross"Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened."
Luke 24:12

The Bible is very clear that 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!!! I wanted to take the time to discuss a few thoughts about the Resurrection that may stir your heart toward seeing the greatness of our Lord in this central event of our faith. I hope this brief discussion is a blessing to you and that it will stretch your mind a bit about the greatness of our Lord.

Only One Gospel

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

Bible study sessionWe live in a time of tremendous political, economic, and cultural change all around us. Everywhere we turn, the foundations of our lives and society are being challenged like never before. This is especially true in the Church today, with a hundred new varieties of the Christian Faith popping up every week. While fresh expressions of the Faith can be good, it is also possible for some groups to so fundamentally change the Faith that it is no longer The Faith. Hence, the danger that faces the modern Church is the real possibility of creating a church that is fresh and relevant to people in changing times, but not relevant to God.