January 22, 2019
One of the major failures of the church today is to downplay the place of Christ when we come together to worship. Yes, you heard right. We, hopefully unknowingly, often relegate Christ to the back pew or the second chair. And who do we elevate in His place? Usually the pastor or, often, the worship leader.
And when we come together as a church we have a tendency to preach on the "what's" and "why's" of the Scripture and seldom the "how's". Think about it. We know we are commanded to "present our bodies as a living sacrifice" (Rom. 12:1-2), but are never told exactly how to do that. Did you ever wonder why?
We are commanded to "walk according to the Spirit" (Gal. 5:16), yet are never instructed on how to do that. We know what it means and why it's important. But for some reason, our pastors fail to take our hands and show us exactly how to accomplish this command. Why?
Is it because practical Christianity is not in vogue today? Or could it be we have become a church made up of those who can tell us what to do but have never experienced it themselves? Are we more like cowboys driving cattle from the rear than a shepherd leading from the front?
What are we to do?
Seven Things the Church Failed to Teach Me
Recently I was reading a blog that shared these seven things the author said the church never taught him. And I couldn't agree more. Consider the following:
- How to practically live by the Christ who dwells inside me.
- How to practically learn how to hear the Lord’s voice beyond “pray and read your Bible.”
- That church-as-we-know-it is drastically different from church-as-God-would-have-it.
- What the gospel of the kingdom is and how radically it can alter a human life.
- How deep the tentacles of the world system go and how to break free from them.
- That God’s presence is extremely subtle most of the time.
- How to find Christ in the Scriptures, including the entire Old Testament.
So in 2019, I have committed to teach the church I pastor the "how's" of the Christian faith and to answer these, and other, practical questions about living for Him. Will you join with me as we explore the breathtaking view of our Lord together?
The following is a study on the Breathtaking View of Christ found in Colossians 1:15-19 and 2 Colossians 2:9-10.
September 17, 2017
You want some great advice? Good. Then "do the next right thing."
When we're faced with depression, chilling disappointment, or numbing loss, what are we to do? What happens when all our dreams come crashing down around us like Jenga pieces scattered on our dining room floor? What happens when the intimacy we once felt with our Lord evaporates right before our eyes— and we don't know why? What do we to do when the only voice we hear is our own doubt and paralyzing fear? What happens when our pain compels us to sleep 18 hours a day, and we forget who we are and Who we serve? What are we do to then?
"Do the next right thing?" Simply stumble forward.
Do you realize that if your goal was to run 5 miles and all you could do was stand and then fall flat on your face, eventually you'd get there. One body length at a time. That's exactly what our Bible heroes of old did. They stood on their feet and did the next right thing. They chose to not doubt in the dark what they believed in the light. After all, truth doesn't change. But our circumstances do.
What did Moses do when decades passed and it looked like God had forgotten and forsaken Him? He did the next right thing. And remember Elijah, who was struggling with self-doubt and depression to the point he wanted to die. What did God say to him as they met at the mouth of the cave? Essentially this, "Do the next right thing." How about David when he learned his son was dead due to his own sin with Bathsheba? What did David do? The next right thing.
The Scriptures are full of those, just like you and me, who stumble forward in the dark faithfully doing the next right thing, even when they didn't know why or how. They just did what was right. And they made sure it was the next thing they did. Do you want to know more about putting one step in front of another and doing the next right thing? Then keep listening.
The following is a study on being faithful and doing the next right thing, no matter what.
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.
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 10, 2017
Trying to live the Christian life in the flesh is exhausting and, quite honestly, impossible. But that's how many believers live today. They start out well, full of hope and empowered by the Spirit, and then digress into a life of flesh, pride, and reliance on human wisdom rather than the wisdom of God. But the early church shows us the "abundant life" Jesus promised those who follow Him fleshed out in real time (John 10:10).
And it's all based on faith.
Look at the faith involved in the healing of the lame man at the Gate Beautiful. Question: Whose faith is the agent God uses to perform this sign and wonder?
Acts 3:6-7 - Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.
Note what happened here. Peter had something that he was able to give to the lame beggar. What was that? And how did Peter know he possessed whatever he possessed? And the healing took place, not when Peter spoke the affirmation, but when he "took him by the right hand and lifted him up" (Acts 3:7). That's faith. But whose? The beggar's? Not really. It was the faith of Peter.
What does this mean? And what can we learn about exercising our Spiritual gifts in the world today? Want to know more? Then keep listening.
The following is a study on Acts 3:1-10.
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.
January 22, 2017
When we look at the gifts given us by the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12, we are drawn to the fact that some of these gifts are verbal (word of wisdom and knowledge, prophecy, discerning of spirits, different kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues) and some are non-verbal (faith, gifts of healings, working of miracles). And within the verbal gifts, we find certain pair that are closely associated with each other. For example, we have the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge. Then those who possess the gift of tongues and those who are gifted to interpret tongues. And the gift of prophecy and those who are able to discern the spirit behind the prophecy. It seems one gift is closely related to another.
But a more careful study will show that two of these gifts are directly related to one another, they're literally different sides of the same coin. "What two gifts?" you ask. Prophecy and tongues. "How can that be?" Keep listening to find out more.
The following is a study on 1 Corinthians 12:10.