June 2, 2017
In his classic book, the Costs of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer sums up the teaching of Jesus in this one phrase: "When Christ calls a man, he calls him to come and die." That's die to self. Die to our dreams. Die to our reputation. Die to our wants and rights. Die to our families, friends, and future. And die to our very lives.
We see Jesus continually calling men "to forsake all and follow Him" (Luke 5:11) Consider the following.
Matthew 16:24-26 - Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him (1) deny himself, and (2) take up his cross, and (3) follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"
Note the order. First, there is the desire to "come after" Jesus. This is followed by the list of conditions to "deny" yourself and then visibly and publicly show others your self denial by taking up your cross. And finally, after the conditions are met, the desire is fulfilled. Only then does Jesus say, "follow Me."
Which raises a few questions. Do you follow Jesus? Have you died to yourself? If so, in what way? Can others tell? Are there areas in your life you have refused to die to? And if so, what are you prepared to do about it?
Do you want to know more about what it means to follow Jesus? Good. Then keep listening.
The following is a study on John 21:19-25.
May 28, 2017
When it comes to worship, some of the most profound words are those of Jesus to the Samarian woman He met at Jacob's well in the city of Sychar (John 4:5). It was here that Jesus gave us clear instructions on the type of worship the Father seeks.
John 4:23-24 - “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true (one who cannot lie, real, genuine, sincere) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit (human) and truth (reality, the essence of a matter); for the Father is seeking (to look for, search, strive to find) such to worship (to kiss, adore, fall or prostrate before, pay reverence) Him. God is Spirit (Holy Spirit), and those who worship Him must (what must be done from duty) worship in spirit (human) and truth.”
Which, as usual, raises a few questions.
What is worship?
What’s the difference between worship and true worship?
What is true worship like internally?
What is true worship like externally? And what does true worship look like today?
One last thought, in the Westminster Shorter Catechism, the first question goes like this:
Question: What is the chief end of man?
Answer: The chief end of man is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.
Did you catch that? We glorify by enjoying Him forever. So, do you enjoy God? Do you love your time with Him? Is that time the highlight of your day? Do you know how to worship Him in spirit and truth? If not, then keep listening.
The following is a study on John 4:23-34.
May 27, 2017
God never wastes an experience in our life, good or bad. When we sin, for example, God uses our failure as a ministry to help others struggling with the same sin. He allows us to share the times we fell flat on our face to encourage others who are doing the same. It seems that's what Jesus was teaching Peter.
In the upper room, during the last supper, Jesus told Peter He was praying for him. But His prayer was not to remove the temptation and inevitable fall from Peter. No, His prayer was that when Peter fell and suffered the consequences of that fall, that once he repented and returned to Jesus, he was to strengthen his brothers by that experience. Consider the following:
Luke 22:31-32 - And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren."
Jesus didn't tell Peter he would deliver him from the temptation, the sifting. He promised Peter that after he fell and recovered and returned to his faith, Jesus would use that experience to encourage and strengthen others who were struggling in the same way. That's why, in John 21, we see Jesus restoring Peter by saying, "Feed My lambs" (John 21:15). Even after Peter's epic denial of Jesus, his ministry was not finished. In fact, it was just beginning. And so it is with us.
Does this thought encourage you? It does me. If you want to learn more about your usefulness after your failure, then keep listening.
The following is a study on John 21:15-23.
May 19, 2017
In John 21, we have the account of Jesus revealing Himself to a few of His disciples while they were fishing. As soon as it was revealed to John that it was Jesus on the shore, he said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" (John 17:7). And in perfect Peter style, he overreacted and jumped into the water to swim to Jesus.
But by the time he swam the 100 yards to where Jesus was, something happened. You can see it in Peter's demeanor. You can almost feel his reluctance to approach Jesus. Why? Maybe Peter was afraid Jesus was angry with him for his denial in the courtyard. Or maybe Peter was ashamed he had drawn the others away and gone fishing, back to their old life, like nothing important had happened these last three and a half years.
Or maybe Peter hadn't forgiven himself for his denial of Jesus. Maybe he was ashamed. Who knows?
But something changed. Not just with Peter, but with all the disciples. They had excitement and passion that can only come from belief while on the boat. But once ashore, it seems more like calm reservation. In fact, John goes out of his way to tell us what the disciples weren't thinking. It was his way of trying to explain the strange way they approached Jesus.
John 21:12 - Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord.
There are life lessons to be learned in these fourteen verses. Profound lessons. Are you interested? Then keep listening.
The following is a study on John 21:1-14.
April 30, 2017
If you'll take the time, you'll find the core message of Jesus was about the kingdom of God. Over and over again we find summary verses like this one:
Matthew 4:23 - And Jesus went about all Galilee, (1) teaching in their synagogues, (2) preaching the gospel of (what) the kingdom, and (3) healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.
In fact, Jesus said the object of the gospel He preached, and commanded us to preach, is the kingdom of God. Consider what Jesus said in His olivet discourse:
Matthew 24:14 - "And this gospel of (what) the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come."
There are also certain kingdom characteristics in the lives of believers that the Scriptures point out to us as signs of His kingdom. In essence, when believers manifest certain characteristics of the kingdom in their lives, we can know the kingdom of God is present. And, conversely, when a believer doesn't manifest these kingdom characteristics, we can also safely assume the kingdom of God is far from them.
This is a sobering thought. Character, holiness, and sanctification matter. Do you want to discover more about the signs of life in the kingdom? Then keep listening.
The following is a study of Acts 4:32-5:16.
April 13, 2017
In John 20 we find some events that took place on that momentous Sunday, the first day of the week, when Jesus was raised from the dead. Some of those events took place early that Sunday morning and other events happened later that day, at evening. It was at this time, in the evening of the same day, that Jesus appeared to His disciples and others who were hiding for fear of the Jews (John 20:19). And then, to this frightened and confused group of friends and disciples, Jesus spoke these words:
John 20:21 - "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you."
His words to them were comforting and also challenging. Just like they are to us today. And then Jesus uttered some of the most misunderstood words in all of the gospel accounts. He said:
John 20:23 - "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
Do you see how a lazy interpretation of this verse could lead you to believe that God has granted fallen, mortal men the ability to forgive sins? And those sins are forgiven, not because they are confessed by the one who has sinned, but by the forgiveness of an uninterested third party. How can that be? Want to know more? Then keep listening.
The following is a study on John 20:19-23.
April 5, 2017
The best way for the early church to disciple the 3,000 who came to faith after the preaching of Peter's sermon would be to let them learn to live like the disciples had lived for the last three years. Think about it. How did the disciples of Jesus, who had left everything to follow Him, support themselves during the time they went from city to city with Jesus? Did they take out a home equity loan on their house? Did they max out their credit cards to fund their extended mission trip? Did they cash in their 401k, take the tax hit, and continue on with their vision quest with Jesus? What did they do?
They lived by faith. Just like the early church did. Consider the following:
Acts 2:44-45 - Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
Acts 4:32-35 - Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.
Did you ever wonder how that is even possible? How can we trust each other that much, like they did? Seems impossible, doesn't it? Want to learn more about living by faith? Then keep listening.
The following is a study on Acts 2:42-47.
April 1, 2017
When Peter stands up in the midst of the 120 and declares that Judas must be replaced, he was speaking the truth (Acts 1:20). It is true from Scripture that God intended to someday replace Judas. But that doesn't mean it was the right time to decide who the Lord had chosen to become part of the Twelve. What happened then, and what often happens with each of us, is that we decide a course of action, present God with two options we have chosen, and then ask Him to choose which of our choices is His will. And this assumes it was His will for us to do what we've determined to do in the first place.
The lesson from Acts 1:15-26 is that doing the right thing, at the wrong time, is the wrong thing. Everytime. No matter how much it feels like the right thing and the right time.
And it often takes years to undo the mistakes we make for the right reason, or so we think. Remember, spiritual maturity is asking God what His will is, and not trying to force Him to choose the lesser of two evils that we have chosen. Do you want to know more about this classic error of presumption? Then keep listening.
The following is a study on Acts 1:15-26.
March 13, 2017
As we begin to look at how the Holy Spirit moved in the lives of ordinary men in the book of Acts, we are confronted with a few questions. These questions have to do with the character of the men Jesus chose to fulfill the mandate He gave to His church. And what was that mandate?
Acts 1:8 – “But you shall receive power (dúnamis) when (what) the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Then, the first set of questions:
Has this mandate changed for the church?
Does it still apply today?
If so, how are we doing?
Have you received the power Jesus promised?
And how is that power being manifested in your life?
Do you see that kind of power in the church today?
If not, do you ever wonder why?
How would you answer these questions about the church? How would you answer the ones that are more personal in nature? The ones about you and the power, or lack of power, in your life? Do you see a disconnect between the account of the church in Acts and the place you worshipped last Sunday? Me too. But what are we going to do about it?
The following is a study on Acts 1:1-14.
November 15, 2016
This truth is never more apparent than at the crucifixion of Jesus. There, at the foot of His cross, standing faithful with their Lord, we find several women and only one disciple, the one characterized as the disciple "whom Jesus loved" (John 13:23). We see Mary the mother of Jesus, and her sister, Salome, the mother of James and John and the wife of Zebedee. We see Mary the wife of Clopas who, along with Mary Magdalene, kept vigil at the tomb (Matt. 27:61) and was one of the women who tried to persuade the disciples that Jesus was alive (Luke 24:10). We also see a larger group of women, possibly as many as a dozen, standing together "at a distance" from the cross (Luke 23:49).
But what we don't see are the bold, self-confident men who pledged their very lives to Christ just a few hours earlier. Nowhere is Peter, the "even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!" (Matt. 26:35) disciple. Andrew, James, Matthew and the others disciples are conspicuously absent. AWOL. Scattered like dry leaves in an October wind.
The men are gone. These bastions of courage and determination fled like frightened children while the women stood faithful with their Lord to the end. Why was that? What was it about the quality of love and devotion found in these women that propelled them to such courage when the men, who should lead in that area, drifted off into the landscape? What does this show us about true faith and devotion? What does this show us about the love of women and the apparent apathy of men? And how can that change our lives today?
If you would like to explore this further, then keep listening.