Why I Believe God Became Man

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

Virgin birth-2During 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.

Earn It!

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Saving Private RyanOne 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.

Why Are We Here?

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Questioning peopleOver 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?

Have You Ever Gone into the Empty Tomb?

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Garden Tomb-2On this Resurrection weekend, we pause and reflect on the greatest event in human history, the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Christian Faith has always rested on the simple truth of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Simply put, without an empty tomb we have an empty faith. Without an empty tomb the Christian Faith collapses and is a fraud. The Bible is very clear on this subject according to I Corinthians 15:12-26. Christianity is the ONLY faith that builds everything on a single event... the Empty Tomb. Other faiths and religious systems have complex systems of belief and doctrine that are hard to understand, even for their own followers. On the other hand, the Lord has made the Christian Faith so simple that even a young child can understand it. Christ is raised from the dead!

For many people today, the Resurrection of our Lord is something they believe on some level, but it doesn't seem to go much deeper. It becomes an "article of faith" and not personal experience. Many people will attend Easter services, wear a new hat, have a special dinner with family, but seemingly vanish the rest of the year. Our Nation is filled with a majority of people who profess they are Christians and yet we are in the midst of being called "post Christian." How does something like that happen and what does that say about how people really see the Lord and/or the Faith? Can someone really believe in the Empty Tomb and not have that event transform their lives?

The Greatest Comeback Ever

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Tom Brady Super BowlThere is no question that this past Sunday's Super Bowl game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons was one of the greatest football games ever played, some are saying THE greatest. But the reason the game was so amazing and memorable was because of what the superstar of the game, Patriot quarterback Tom Brady, did in rallying his team back to a comeback victory from a 25 point deficit in the 3rd quarter to win in overtime. Nothing like it had ever happened in Super Bowl history. People will be talking about this game for a long time. It was the kind of game that no one could forget. Some sports writers are calling it a, "Game for the ages."  It was a game that seemed for a moment to move from a sporting event to mythology and legend.

Whenever you see something amazing out there, you can always be sure there is something in it about the Lord. We are hardwired to react to certain things in certain ways because they reflect important things about the Lord. Whether we understand it or not, we are hardwired to rejoice when we see our heroes make comebacks. For many people, Tom Brady is some sort of sports hero. Before Sunday's game, many football fans and players said he was the greatest quarterback in NFL history. After what happened in the game, few have any doubts left. Tom Brady's legacy and place in history has been established as part of his sports legend. For the rest of his life, Tom Brady will walk around and people will say, "There goes Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback that ever lived."

Jesus and the Trump Revolution

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Donald Trump swearing in ceremonyEver since Donald Trump was sworn into the office of President of the United States on Friday, January 20, 2017, the world has somehow changed. Do you feel it? Never in our lifetime has a President been more controversial, colorful or courageous. Things are happening so fast in just his first week in office that the press and world at large is dumbfounded. Whatever is under way now with President Trump, it will surely have a major role in shaping prophetic events and our Lord's return. Hang on everybody; this is NOT going to be boring.

As all of these events are rapidly evolving day by day, very few are able to fully understand how Trump has been able to take the Nation and world by storm. What happened??? Trump has started some sort of political revolution. Most of our political pundits and commentators are largely clueless as to what is unfolding and what it means. However, what Donald Trump has tapped into and doing is very simple to understand because it has its basis in the Bible and what the Bible says about leadership and power.

The Mystery, Majesty and Magnitude of the Manger

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Nativity Scene 2As Christmas approaches this year, one must wonder what most people are really thinking about this holiday based on what we see going on in our society and even the Church. For many, Christmas does commemorate Christ's birth, but beyond that one is not really sure who they think is in that Manger. For some, it is a dusty throwback to a time gone by when people used to believe in traditional "religious stuff." All of that seems to be increasingly less important today in an age of tolerance and multiculturalism. For others, about all the holiday symbolizes is shopping, busyness and a season of parties and families getting together.

Somewhere in this mixture of beliefs people have lost the immensity of what Christmas is really about....even in the Church. You see, the Babe in the Manger is Lord of all. As a result, everything that exists is about that Child, created by Him and for Him as the Bible tells us in Colossians 1:16. That Child created the Heavens and Earth and designed His own body and birth as a way to enter the world and save it from sin. Christ's birth demonstrated His own majesty and glory as our Creator and Redeemer at the same time. Let's spend a little time exploring the mystery, majesty and magnitude of the Manger this Christmas and let the Lord amaze us.

Lighting Up the World with Jesus

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Jesus Luke Banks 2Imagine for a moment, that you are in a boat in the middle of the ocean with one other person and that person says, "I can't see any water." You might think they were a little crazy, but that is exactly what is happening today regarding the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us John 1:10 that, "He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him." The world is surrounded by the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus, like the water of a vast ocean, and yet people can't see him anywhere. His name is rarely referenced today in very many places. Even the church world is strangely quiet about Him.Where did our Lord go?

Jesus told us that if He was lifted up the world would be drawn to Him (John 12:32). Of course that verse and prophecy was fulfilled when the Cross was lifted up. However, our Lord wasn't just talking about the physical lifting up of the Cross alone, but rather the lifting up of His Person and Life for the world to know experience and celebrate. Sadly, in today's world our Lord is a stranger to our society in everything from the family to political discourse. Many Christians rarely even talk about our Lord Jesus regularly apart from church related functions.

Experiencing the Power of the Resurrection

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

resurrection-of-jesusDo you remember where you were when you heard something about the Resurrection for the first time? The Resurrection is such an amazing event that it should be like a spiritual 9-11 that is unforgettable. How could we not be shaken by it? Surely that had to be the case for the Lord's disciples when they knew Jesus was alive. How do you forget something like that? It is the kind of thing that once heard it redefines your life and reality forever. Nothing else matters as much after hearing about it. Of course, that was the Lord's intent from the beginning.

And yet, even though the story and truth of the Resurrection is what life is all about, it remains so quiet and hidden at times. You can literally live for years and not hear much about it. You can go to work and hear nothing about it. You can regularly peruse the media and hear little about it. Surprisingly, you can even go to church for years and not hear too much about it outside of a worship service. It rarely seems to be a topic of conversation during the Coffee Hour.

What is Truth? The Resurrection of Pontius Pilate

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Ecce homo by Antonio CiseriThe central problem facing all of us today is how you establish truth. If truth ultimately depends on the individual and our "feelings" or personal experiences of "faith," you can see we have a problem. That, of course, is what is going on today. Our society has made the self a "god," with each person deciding what is right or wrong in their own eyes like the days of Judges 21:25. Perhaps that is why many Christians are unwilling to engage the world with the fact that Jesus is the truth and Lord of all. The Church knows our message is not well received and people fear rejection. Now when the Church loses its' confidence in sharing the truth, Christianity just becomes another special interest group like playing football or quilting. It is almost as if Pontius Pilate had been resurrected and is putting every Christian on trial again with his infamous question to our Lord in John 18:38, "What is truth?"

The only way Christians will ever share truth with others is when they are overwhelmed with the truth themselves and can't help sharing it. That happened to the Apostle Peter on Pentecost in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit overwhelmed him with the truth that Jesus was truth itself and Lord of all. Peter couldn't help but share that message with his audience and 3000 people came to faith that day, as they too were overwhelmed with the truth about our Lord.

The Only New Thing in Human History

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Whats NewAs another New Year dawns, the Bible would say there isn't really anything new about it. Sure, some different things will happen, but they are not really "new" things. No, if you stop and think about it, everything that will happen in 2016 has already happened before. All of our politics, all of our news items and top stories, already happened at some other time in history. The problem for many people today is that few seem to realize that life has been going on exactly the same way it has been from the beginning, long before we arrived on the scene. This replay of the past, under the label of "new," inspired King Solomon to write in Ecclesiastes 1:10, "Is there anything of which one can say, 'Look! This is something new'? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time."

Perhaps it is this failure to learn from the past that has led people to make the same mistakes over and over and over again. As a matter of fact, every news item today has already had many books written about it long ago that few people see as relevant for today. The automotive legend Henry Ford was quoted as saying, "History is more or less bunk." Ford was not alone in his rejection of the past lessons of history. He is joined by many of our modern leaders that convince an unsuspecting public that their ideas or plans are "new" and worthy of support, when in fact they are old, worn out ideas that have failed the test of time.

My Best Friend Went to Hell

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My Best Friend-2Over the years I have come to realize that finding a real friend is not easy. Surely a real friend is more than just being on someone’s Facebook page at the click of a mouse. A friend is a lot more than a casual acquaintance you see at school or work. It is much more than being around someone you work with or walk past at school in the hallways between classes. It is much more than living in the same neighborhood. Finding real friends can be challenging at times.

When I was a kid, my friends were people I spent time with over many years. I knew all of them personally. We grew up in the same neighborhood, spent time together on camping trips, Cub Scout events, played on the same sports teams at school and did our homework at each other’s house once in a while. My friends were people I knew I could count on. If I had a problem or they needed me, we would be there for each other one way or another.

Returning to Chaos

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

Chaos
If there is one word I would use to describe the world’s conditions today it would be chaos. None of us can even begin to stay up with the moral and spiritual chaos and confusion unfolding around us. Many of us are numb to the news, the constant battles, political fighting, terrorism, violence and lack of meaning out there. And worst of all is the fact few have any answers on what to do about it.  We hear 100 opinions every day from politicians, the media, scientists, professors, and other supposed experts, but almost no one can ever agree on anything. All of this leads to some important questions: Is life supposed to be this way? Are there any answers out there? Is there any hope for our children? What are we supposed to do? Is life just a bunch of chaos ... and then we die?

Now the interesting thing about today’s world is that it is a replay of conditions before the world was even here. If you go back to Genesis 1:1-3, the world started out in chaos and darkness. Sound familiar? Everything was chaotic and nothing made much sense. Suddenly, the Spirit of God began to move and God spoke for the first time in history and said, “Let there be light.”  That one phrase changed everything. Not only did life begin, but God said it all was very good.  God was so happy with the order, beauty, and glory of the world that He rested because there was nothing more to do.

Savoring the Savior

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hallelujah
I have never been attrascted to people who are always negative. I think that is true of most of us. As a pastor, I have been called to preach the Gospel. Now as part of that calling, there is always the danger of being seen as too negative. After all, we have to mention sin because without sin there is no reason for a Savior. Jesus is not a divine success coach, or someone to help us feel better, or just a role model for a good life. The Lord Jesus is our Savior, who satisfies the wrath of God against sin through the Cross and gives us life eternal and victory over sin, death, and Hell.

Jesus and Einstein

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

einstienOn this Resurrection Weekend, Christians all over the world will be celebrating the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the grave. The Christian Faith rises and falls on an Empty Tomb as the Apostle Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 15:14. However, the Resurrection of Christ is much more than just an article of faith, it is good science.

For many people the Resurrection rests on nothing more than the Gospel narratives that the Tomb was empty and the faith of the apostles. This seeming lack of objective, empirical evidence has led to a huge amount of doubt, skepticism and outright unbelief. For many people the Resurrection doesn’t make sense and violates the laws of nature and science itself. I have read numerous articles, books and heard from many people who simply didn’t really believe in the Resurrection for a variety of logical reasons born from our modern, scientific age.