Tuesday, December 3, 2019

How to Read the Bible: Literary Styles

The Bible is the foundation for our spiritual formation.

Yet, for many of us who follow Jesus, reading the Bible is difficult. We have good intentions for reading the Bible, but we often fail in those intentions.

One of the keys to understanding the Bible is to remember that it is written in different literary styles. What are those styles?

As we come to read the Bible it is crucial that we don't just come to gain new information. Rather, we want to approach the Bible asking the simple question, "How does this apply to me?"

There are certain literary types which make this easier to do than others.

Personally, this is why I prefer the New Testament over the Old. It is easy to skim through the laws found in Leviticus or the genealogies found in Genesis, or even the writings of the Prophetic books. The literary styles that make up the New Testament, especially the discourse nature of the Apostles' letters, make it easy for me to answer the question, "How does this apply to me?"

One of the best things we can do, as a general practice, is to see the Bible, not as a book to be conquered, but as writings to understand. To do this we need to approach the Bible prayerfully and humbly, asking God to speak to us from its pages.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Rend Collective - Rescuer (Good News) [Official Music Video]

It is Thanksgiving here in the United States.

On this day that we remember the many blessings God has given to us, may we not forget the greatest blessing of all.

Thank you God for Jesus!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Thankful for God's Love

We make the decision to love. While emotion might make the choice to love easier, we still decide whether or not we will love our pets, our neighbors, our friends, and our family.

The reason we have the capacity to love is because God first loved us. The reality is that our lives are products of God’s love.

If God did not love us, we would not exist. It is God’s love that is behind every gift and blessing that we enjoy.

Even before we became Christians, God’s love was freely given to us. The Bible teaches us that while we were God’s enemies He showed love to us through Jesus.

It is the gift of Jesus that made reconciliation with God possible.

God's amazing love is cause for thanksgiving!

Erwin McManus wrote
“It is gratitude that nurtures wholeness and expresses itself as generosity in the end. Gratitude is the pathway of love. It unleashes the healing power of love. It increases our capacity to experience love and give it.” (Uprising; p. 114)
Gratitude is an essential part of learning to be people of love. 

The thankfulness we experience because of God's love compels us to love those around us. While we know we should be grateful for God's love, the reality is that we don't always feel grateful.

The problem is that we haven't connected the blessings in our lives to God. We have grown so use to good health, a roof over our heads, and food in the refrigerator that we forget God's hand in this blessings.

Not only that, as time goes on, the feeling of gratitude that we had when we first became Christians begins to fade. The great gift of salvation looses its shine in our eyes.

Instead of thanking God for Jesus, we begin to act like it was no big deal. How do we show our gratitude for the love God has given us?

 I believe the first step in being grateful is to be humble. 

How do we become humble?

We take time to evaluate our lives.

The apostle Paul wrote,"As God’s messenger, I give each of you this warning: Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you"(Romans 12:3; NLT).

This step reminds us of who we are the struggles we have without Jesus. It leads us to the place of humility. Without humility we believe that we deserve the gifts given to us. Only the humble see the blessings of God as the gifts they are and therefore respond in gratitude.

I believe the next step in showing gratitude is to be a steward. 

When we use the gifts, talents, and resources God has given to us, our eyes are opened to the work He is doing in and through us.

In 1 Peter we read, "God has given gifts to each of you from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God’s generosity can flow through you"(1 Peter 4:10; NLT).

By using our blessings we show our appreciation for what we have, and we allow ourselves to be a blessing to someone else.

 The third step in having a grateful life is to be a lover.

 Remember love is a choice. God's love for us opens up the possibility for us to be people of love. This is where our knowledge comes in above our feelings.

We may not always feel grateful, but because we know God has blessed us, we choose to love: to love Him and to love others.

Paul wrote:
"Follow God’s example in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love for others, following the example of Christ, who loved you and gave himself as a sacrifice to take away your sins. And God was pleased, because that sacrifice was like a sweet perfume to him" (Ephesians 5:1-2; NLT). 

A life of love is a life lived in obedience to God’s will. A grateful persons seeks to please the One who has blessed him.

 God has given us the gift of love.

 Too often we treat that love as if it is something that we deserve, rather than an undeserved blessing given by a good God. In order to be grateful we need to be humble, we need to be stewards, and we need to be lovers.

This is how we express our thanksgiving to God for His gift of love.

Monday, November 18, 2019

How to Read the Bible: Biblical Story

The Bible is an important book.

 For Christians, we understand that the Bible provides us with the information that we need to guide our lives and move us along on the path of spiritual formation.

 Yet, the Bible is an ancient book, and it is not always easy to understand.

 While the Bible isn't easy to understand it does tell one unified story.

When we read the Bible, whether we are reading in the Old Testament or the New Testament, we need to pay attention to the choice that is being offered. Over and over again in Scripture we read about people who are offered a choice to either follow God's way or to do what they feel is right.

What the Bible teaches us is that when people choose to do what they think is right, the result is hurt, pain, distrust, division, and death. This is the explanation for why the world is in the shape that it is in.

The Bible does point to a person of hope. That person is Jesus. He is the one who always choose the way of God, and thus was able to bring restoration and renewal to the world. We are able to join with God in this renewal project as we follow Jesus.

Seeing this thread that runs through Scripture helps to know what we are to pay attention to as we read the Bible: How can we make the choice to follow God's will?

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Live What You Believe

The direction of our lives reveal the condition of our hearts.

Our character is determined by the things that we do rather than the things that we say.

This is why I like what Henry and Richard Blackaby wrote in Hearing God's Voice:
“Whenever God speaks, what we do next exposes the condition of our hearts.”
Jesus taught about this very thing in the Sermon on the Mount:
“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.  You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?  A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit.  A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.  So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire.  Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” (Matthew 7:15-20; NLT)
Here Jesus provided a test that helps us identify false teachers. The test is to observe their behavior. Do they practice what they preach?

False teachers may teach truth, but they do not live by the truth.

Truth is truth no matter what the source is. A person who does not live a life of faith still has the ability to speak truth. The problem is that the way they live often invalidates what they teach. Their lives will reveal whether or not they truly believe what they teach.

On the flip side, this teaching of Jesus should get us to examine our lives. We should ask ourselves the question: "Does my live align with what I believe?"

Our obedience to God's word reveals the love and trust we have in Him. It also shows those around us what it looks like to follow Jesus.

The more we love God and love our neighbor, the more we become the "light of the world."

This raises the question: "How can I consistently live what I believe?"

The problem many of us face isn't that we are unaware of the importance of  living authentic lives, it is that we find it difficult to do.

If we are going to live authentic lives we need to:
  1. Follow the guidance of the Spirit. In Galatians 5:22-23 the apostle Paul wrote, "But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!" (NLT) Following the Holy Spirit will produce in our lives the type of fruit that is consistent with the life of Jesus.
  2. Be in community with other people. The author of Hebrews wrote, "Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near." (Hebrews 10:24-25; NLT). A Christian community offers the encouragement and opportunities we need to love others and live in obedience to God's will. We are stronger when we are in a community.
  3. Focus on doing good. The apostle Paul offered this encouragement; "So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith." (Galatians 6:9-10; NLT). We can be discouraged when doing good because it appears that it is making little difference. The reality is that we can't see all the things God is doing behind the scenes. It is an act of faith and hope to continue to seize the opportunities to do good, trusting that God will honor our efforts and bring transformation.
To live lives that honor Jesus and align with his teaching requires intentional action. It doesn't happen by accident.

It is crucial that we read and study the Bible. We need to know truth.

Knowing truth is not enough. We need to live the truth. When we live the truth we demonstrate that not only can we recite the truth, but we also believe the truth.

Know the Bible. Live the Bible.

Monday, November 11, 2019

How to Read the Bible: What is the Bible?

For us who follow Jesus the Bible is a very important book.

It provides the fundamental truth for us to believe. It forms our faith. It teaches us how to follow Jesus.

Since the Bible is such an important book for our spiritual formation, we should know what it is.


The Bible is a collection of books written over a 1,000 years and tell the story of God and how He relates to humanity. The prophets of the Old Testament and the Apostles of the New Testament both believed that these writings contain the truth that God wants His people to know and understand.

Since God's voice can be heard through Scripture we need to prepare ourselves to hear it as we come to the Bible to read. Before we open the cover of our Bible (or open the Bible app on our phones), we should spend a few moments in prayer and ask God to give us ears to hear the truth He wants us to know. It is important for us to invite God to speak to us through these words that were written thousands of years ago.

Friday, November 8, 2019

The Law is Incapable

"Law is always external. It is always imposed from outside. It can never make man good. It can only make him wish he had been good." ~ W. Carl Ketcherside; The Death of the Custodian

Law is incapable of changing people.

It would be great if it did. That would mean all we needed to do to rid the world of evil is to make new laws.

The reality that the law is incapable of changing us doesn't mean that law is useless. It does mean that we need to understand the limitations of law, so we don't put unrealistic expectation on it.

The law does have the ability to stop some people from doing certain behaviors. It  is capable of doing this because they are afraid of the punishment. In the back of their minds is that voice that is whispering, "What if I get caught?"

The restraint these people experience is not from the desire to do good, but the desire to avoid getting into trouble.  They wouldn't hesitant to do evil deeds if they could be assured there would be no consequences for their actions.

Their outward appearance appears to be good, but their hearts remain dark.

Consider these snippets from the Sermon on the Mount:

"You have heard that the law of Moses says, "'Do not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.' But I say, if you are angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the high council. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell" (Matthew 5:21-22; NLT). 
"You have heard that the law of Moses says, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:27-28; NLT). 
"You have heard that the law of Moses says, 'Love your neighbor and hate you enemy.' But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!" (Matthew 5:43-44; NLT).

Jesus taught that what mattered more than our obedience to the law is the condition of our heart.

The law cannot fix a heart twisted by sin!

Our only hope for a true change of heart is Jesus. Our faith allows Jesus to heal our hearts and empower us to overcome the sin in our lives.

Obedience to the law is powerless to take away the consequences of sin in our lives. Law can inform us what is right and wrong, but once it has been broken, it remains broken.

What does that mean?

One thing it means is that law can't change us. The law can point us in the right direction, but it can't make us obedient. If we are interested in the transformation of lives, then we have to look at things outside of law. We need to use things like love, truth, faith, and sacrifice.

A second thing it means is that everyone is in the same boat. We have all disobeyed God and broken the law. We are powerless to make amends on our own. We need God's help to change.

Yes, the law is important, but it is incapable of making us good. Only God can do that.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Be a Praying Boyfriend

In our culture the way we find a marriage partner is through dating. This whole ritual of boyfriends
and girlfriends is littered with potential pitfalls, which means that very few people escape the process unscathed. Many of us carry the scars and broken hearts of dating relationships gone bad. Some of those wounds we received while dating will be with us the rest of our lives.

Because dating is so dangerous it is essential for Christian guys to approach dating with wisdom, guidance, and love. Guys, please remember that you are not out on a great hunt trying to find meat for supper, but you are in pursuit of a life partner who you can love, cherish, and lead. Dating, as exciting as it is, is also a huge responsibility.

As you date you need to keep in mind that the girlfriends that you have are, first and foremost, daughters of God. If you are a Christian, this means you have the responsibility to help her mature in faith, to encourage her to use her talents in ministry, and not to become an obstacle as she follows Jesus.

In other words you need to hold her life as a sacred trust for as long as she is a part of your life. Her life is not yours to use however you want or to destroy. You are responsible for protecting her as long as she is in your care.

As a Christian, your dating experiences cannot be all about fun, but they also need to be about mutual encouragement as both of you grow in faith. I believe that it is the man who is to lead the relationship in this aspect. If you are not leading your girlfriend spiritually it is your responsibility to stop dating until you are spiritually mature enough to lead.

How do you go about leading your girlfriend spiritually? You begin to lead your girlfriend though prayer. I don’t mean some wimpy little prayer that many people like to pray: “God, I would just like to ask that You will just be with my girlfriend and just grow her spiritually…”

I am afraid that such a prayer isn’t going to do too much. You see prayer doesn’t start with the words you say during prayer, but it starts with your motivation for praying. For your prayers to be effective you have to believe that God hears your prayers, and that He has your best interests at heart. Prayer also has to become important enough to you that you set aside time to pray each and every day. If you are just praying to mark “prayer” off our religious to do list, well then your prayers aren’t going to accomplish much.

When it comes to praying for your girlfriends you have to answer the question: “Do I want my girlfriend to grow in her relationship with God?”

Don’t be so quick to answer that question. The quick Sunday School answer is, “Yes, I do!”

I think you need to stop and consider some of the potential consequences of your girlfriend maturing in her faith.
  • What if God shows her that the next step in her journey of faith is to break up with you? Would you be okay with that?
  • What if God uses her to bring up issues in your life that you would rather remain hidden? Would you be okay with that?
Your prayers will be more effective when you can honestly say, “God whatever Your will is I surrender my life to it.” Remember your will is not always the same as God’s will, that is why one of the purposes of prayer is to help people align their wills with God’s will.

When it comes to praying for your girlfriend, I think it is important to remember that you need to pray for them with them. You need to pray for her during your quiet time of prayer, but you also need to hold her hand and ask God to bless and guide her. She needs to hear this because she needs to know that you want God’s will for her no matter what happens in your relationship. Make sure you set aside time on your dates to pray with her and for her.

I want to offer a word of caution. Do not do this in the early stages of your relationship. It could freak her out because she might think you rushing things. It could also create a false sense of intimacy that your relationship has not yet reached. Wait for the right time to start praying together, just as you would with holding hands and kissing.

With that being said I want to give you a few practical prayers that you need to pray for your girlfriend if you are going to help her grow spiritually.
  1. Pray that God will keep both of you on the same page. This has proved essential to me in the last three relationships that I had before getting married. In the two cases where the relationship ended, God revealed that truth to both of us. While there was sadness that accompanied the end of the relationship, we both knew that God wanted us to go our separate ways, and we were able to part on good terms. There is no way to avoid the pain of a break up, but with God’s wisdom and guidance we can make it sting a little less.
  2. Pray for the knowledge of God’s will. The apostle Paul at the beginning of his letter to the Colossians reveals his prayer for them; And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:9-10; ESV). Ask God to fill your girlfriend with a knowledge of His will that comes through spiritual wisdom and understanding. Remember the important thing in her life isn’t that she will become your wife, but that she will live a life that is worthy of Christ Jesus. This is such an important prayer for you to pray, not only for your girlfriend, but for everyone you pray for, because everyone is in need of God’s wisdom.
  3. Ask for her to be clothed in the Armor of God. The Armor of God is found in Ephesians 6:13-17. The apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6 that we are in a battle, a spiritual battle, and that means your girlfriend is out in the middle of battle field. Daily you need to ask God to put His armor on her. To do this you need to take time to walk through this passage and mention each specific piece of armor. The reason you need to pray this prayer is to help her to have the ability to stand firm in the face of the enemy’s attacks. This is also a prayer that I use for myself each day, I need to be clothed in God armor otherwise I will fall.
  4. Ask for God’s Kingdom to come into her life. This comes from the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:10). The way I use this prayer is to focus on God’s Kingdom and ask that she will be a part of it, and for His will to be done for her as it is in heaven. The best life that you can live is lived in accordance to God’s will, and so you want your girlfriend to know God’s will, and receive the strength and courage she needs in living out His will for her life.
  5. Thank God for the opportunity. Each relationship is a gift from God. This is especially true with romantic relationships. Thank God for bringing such a beautiful woman into your life. Because you are thankful, ask God to give you the wisdom and guidance you need to be an encouragement to her. A relationship with a beautiful Christian woman is a great blessing, so you need to thank God for that wonderful blessing. Like all blessings there is also responsibility, and that responsibility is to lead and encourage her in her walk with Jesus. In order to do that effectively you need God’s wisdom, and as James wrote (James 1:5) if you lack wisdom you need to ask God for the wisdom you need to spiritually lead the woman you call your girlfriend.
Dating is dangerous and it leads to a lot of wounds. That is why the wise Christian man will take the time to pray and invite God into the dating relationship that he is in. As single Christian man, you want to make the dating relationship a positive and encouraging experience that will help both of you to grow in your relationships with God. So if you are really serious about being a Christian boyfriend, you will be a boyfriend who prays.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Living as an Alien

Have you ever felt like you are "out of place"?

To be a disciple of Jesus means to be out of place in the world. We are like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. Our edges keeping us from fitting in.

 I wonder if we, as the Church, have missed this reality.

Our sermons, lessons, and books deal with how we can have our best life now and how to live a life of purpose, but we are seldom taught how to live as foreigners in a foreign land.

 Perhaps we are a little too comfortable with the world around us.

 An alien in a foreign country stands out because he is different.

 He speaks a different language (or at least with an accent).

 He dresses differently. He celebrates different holidays.

 He has different values.

 Christians are to live like foreigners in a strange land.

Our goal isn't to learn the language and the customs of the world, but to create a little out post of the Kingdom of God.

We are to live by the customs and values of Heaven.

The apostle Peter wrote:
Dear friends, I warn you as "temporary residents and foreigners" to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. (1 Peter 2:11-12; NLT)
How does the apostle Peter want us to live?

As "temporary residents" and "foreigners"!

We are displaced!

We are not at home!

I want you to catch this: Being a part of God's kingdom compels us to live differently from the world. 

God isn’t interested in people who will merely confess their belief in Him.

The Bible tells us that at Jesus' return everyone will bow a knee and confess Jesus as Lord.

God wants people who, by faith, voluntary kneel before Him. Christians are God's people who live by faith.

As His people we are motivated by a different set of desires. As His people we live by a different standard. As His people we love the unlovely and help the helpless.

God expects His people not to abandon the customs of their home country, but to teach the customs of Heaven to others.  We do this by living differently than the world around us.

In his book The Barbarian Way, Erwin McManus wrote:
From the moment we become citizens of the kingdom of God, we become aliens and strangers in a world that chooses to live absent of God.  From the first step taken to follow Jesus, we are out of step with the rest of the world.  Once your life is in sync with the story of God, you become out of sync with any story that attempts to ignore or eliminate God.  You are a stranger to them, an alien among them, a nomadic wanderer who, while refusing to be rooted in this life, seems to somehow enjoy this life most. (p. 93)

Are you walking out of step with the world?

My great concern for the Church in the United States is that we are not really the Church. We are a caricature of what the Church is called to be.

It is true that many of us live by a different moral standard from the world, yet our hopes and dreams are wrapped up in the very same ambitions and desires of the world. Our dreams and desires center around success, money, happiness, and relationships.  The list could go on, but the point is that while we are morally different from the world we are not spiritually different from them.

 That my friends was one of the problems Jesus had with the Pharisees.  They looked good on the outside, but on the inside they were filled with dead men’s bones.

White washed tombs.

We need to quite fooling ourselves that to be different from the world is just about having the right moral standard.

Being different from the world primarily has to do with our desires, dreams, attitudes, and thoughts. This requires a different hope.

The hope for Christians is not that we get to live in Heaven with God for eternity. Rather, our hope is that through Jesus' death, resurrection, and return, everything will be made right. It is the belief that the Kingdom of God will one day reclaim all its lost territory.

A temporary resident doesn’t put down roots in the land he is living.  Instead he hopes and dreams for his home and thinks of the day when he will finally go home again.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Kingdom Stories: Parable of Counting the Cost

I have been doing a sermon series this summer on the parables of Jesus. This is the video summary of the sermon I preached on August 18, 2019.


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Parable of the Honored Painter

What does it mean to glorify God?

It can be explained like this:

There was a man who desired to be a painter. He spent many years painting magnificent pictures that beautifully captured sunrises and sunsets, rainbows and storm clouds, mountain peaks and oceans waves.

Finally came the day when his paintings were displayed in an art gallery. Person after person were struck by the beauty displayed in each painting. They stood in awe before the paintings, totally immersed in the painted scenes.

Then came the big moment when the painter was introduced to the crowd. People praised him for his skill and his eye for beauty.

The artist was honored with good reviews from art critics and money from those who wanted to place his paintings in their homes.

While people were taken in by the beauty of the paintings, they did not stand there and sing the praises of the pictures. They honored and praised the one who had painted them.

When we live according to God's will, truly bearing His image, we bring glory to God in two ways:

  1. We glorify God by living the way He created us to live. Our faith displays the reality of our honor and trust of Him. 
  2. Our good behavior causes other people to glorify God. The way we live provides evidence for God and His love for us, and thus give our neighbors to reason to praise Him.

People may appreciate our good behavior, but when the Creator is introduced, they will worship Him.

"Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world." 

1 Peter 2:12; NLT

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Lead Like Jesus

“For the follower of Jesus, servant leadership isn’t just an option, it’s a mandate.” ~ Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges, The Servant Leader, p. 12

I know many of us don’t feel like leaders.

Even though I have been involved in paid ministry the majority of my adult life, I have had difficulty embracing the idea that I am a leader.

I could always embrace being a preaching and a teacher, but not being a leader. There was something leadership that I wanted to avoid.

Yet, I can't truly be a pastor without being a leader.

In order to talk about leadership it is best to begin by defining what leadership is. It seems everyone has their own take on the definition of leadership.

The way I understand leadership is that leadership is influence. We are leaders when we, in one way or another, influence the choices or beliefs of another person.

When looked at it this way we see that parents, teachers, authors, and even friends are powerful leaders in our lives. They provide leadership in our lives more often than people who wear the actual title of leader. I know that my parents have influenced me more than anyone else.

If leadership is best defined as influence then I would image that each of us is able to lead in several different ways, even though we don’t consider ourselves to be a leader.

Once we recognize that we have several opportunities to lead those around us, then it becomes crucial for us to consider the best way for us to lead.

As followers of Jesus we need to look to him to be our example of what leadership actually looks like.

Since that is the case, as Blanchard and Hodges point out in the above quote, we realize that we are called to be servant leaders, because that is how Jesus led.

One of my favorite passages is Philippians 2:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
(Philippians 2:3-8; NLT)

Paul urged his readers to be humble and to look after the needs of others. In other words, to be a servant.

The example, according to Paul, that we are to follow is Jesus.

Jesus gave up heaven in obedience to his Father's will and out of love for us. He looked after our interest rather than his own. Paul wrote, "he took on the humble position of a slave..."

The way of Jesus was not one of power, even though he had that at his disposal, but of humility and service. This is the way God chose to influence the world.

If we are going to influence the world, the men and women we live around, we need to be humble and we need to serve. That is how we will have influence with them, because they will know that we have their best interest at heart.

 People will listen when they know the leader cares about them.

Lead like Jesus and serve those around you.

Friday, April 19, 2019


The starting point for Good Friday is the betrayal that happened on Thursday. It was the choice of
Judas to betray Jesus that sent in motion the final hours of Jesus' life.

Why did Judas make this choice?

We cannot know for certain the thoughts Judas had in the days leading up to Passover. I still think it is safe to speculate that, like humankind's first betrayal of God, Satan twisted Judas' thoughts and desire to the point that the betrayal of Jesus seemed to be the logical thing to do. 

My guess is that he thought he was setting in motion the means for Jesus to declare himself as King and for Israel to rebel against Roman rule.

Things didn't turn out as planned.

I think it is important to remember that Judas wasn't the only one to betray Jesus that night. 

When push came to shove, when Jesus clearly revealed that there would be no fight to prevent his capture, the disciples scattered.  Two disciples follow from a distance, but one of those disciples, Peter, denied knowing Jesus three times.

Before we judge these first disciples too harshly let us remember we too have betrayed Jesus. Like Peter, we too have denied Jesus.  We are not that much different.

How have we betrayed Jesus?

We can focus on our sin, but there are also more subtle ways we betray and deny Jesus. 

We, like the disciples, often look to politics to usher God's Kingdom into the world. We adopt ways of living that is conformed to the ways of the world rather than following Jesus. We pursue a life that is filled with busy-ness and eats up our resources so which prevent us from being generous with the gifts God has given to us. 

Romans 5:8 says: But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. (NLT) 

To be sinners means, not only have we  broken of God's law, but we are also God's enemies, traitors of His Kingdom.

With this background of betrayal and treachery, how did Jesus respond to his disciples?

Matthew 26:26-29 reads:

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom. (NLT)
In the face of betrayal and treachery of his creation, his disciples, and his closest friends, Jesus paused and declared that he was making a new covenant.  He announced that was not abandoning them to Satan, sin, and death.  Jesus made a promise, sealed with his  blood and death, that no matter who we are or what we have done, we can be numbered among God's people and be counted as loyal citizens of His Kingdom.

This is why I believe communion is an important of our reflection on the darkness, the sin, the treachery, the agony, and the death associated with Good Friday. 

Not only does communion remind us of Jesus' commitment, but it also provides us with an opportunity to declare our loyalty to him.

My prayer is that today you will consider the ways you have betrayed Jesus. But don't stay there. Ask Jesus for forgiveness, declare your commitment to him, and seal your promise to him through taking the Lord's Supper.

Communion is the reminder that God's faithfulness is greater than our betrayal.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Living With Real Faith

{Matthew 7:21-23; NLT}

21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ 

Church families are always interested in increasing their attendance.  This is a good concern to have.

The book of Acts several times records the number of people being saved.  Numbers show us that people are responding to the Gospel.

While numbers are important, they are not what is of ultimate importance. Remember, church attendance and a confession of faith doesn’t make a person a disciple of Jesus.

What is the most important thing for churches?

Jesus gave his followers the task of making disciples. Disciple making is the primary purpose for the Church.

Disciple making is hard work.

Some people understand the truth of the Gospel, it makes sense to them, but somewhere along the line a disconnect happens. The truth which makes sense in their heads never makes it to their hearts. While they agree with what Jesus taught, they don't live the truth.

To be a disciple of Jesus requires more than verbal acknowledgement of the truth. Disciples are to become like their Teacher. Jesus was faithful to his Father’s will. 

Faithfulness is a key part to being a disciple.

I find it interesting that the false disciples Jesus mentioned in the passage above were able to do extraordinary stuff. They proclaimed a word from God (prophesying), cast out demons, and performed miracles of healing.

It would be very hard to call a person who could do such things a false disciple.

In my mind these would be signs that they had a close relationship with God—that they were the genuine article.

I think the truth Jesus wanted his followers to understand with this teaching is that these things are not the evidence of a true disciple.

I don’t know how it is possible to fake those great accomplishments without having a relationship with God, but I do know that it is easy to fake the public side of ministry. It is easy for me to wow people with a great sermon, to write words that reflect Biblical teachings, and to have a “correct” theology to make the people at church believe that I know my Bible.

It is possible to go through ministry without real faith in God.

Real faith makes us step out of our comfort zone to do the things that need to be done. 

Real faith surrenders our lives to God and allow the Holy Spirit to guide our lives. 

Real faith is intentional about making changes to our life styles.  

Real faith is seen in our behavior. 

What makes a person a Christian is not a flourishing public ministry or correct theology, but a Christ-like life of faith. This faith is often expressed through our love for other people.

How does this truth apply to you and me?

We need to approach this passage as a warning for us.

Ask your self questions like:
  • Am I too wrapped up with what other people think about me? 
  • Do I put on a spiritual or religious mask in front of certain people so they will think I am a good Christian person? 
  • Is part of my identity derived from being the spiritual person everyone talks about?

Being a follower of Jesus isn’t about doing “religious” activities and making other people believe that we are “spiritual” people.

Being a follower of Jesus is about aligning our lives with God’s will, being guided by the Spirit, and living a life of faith and love.

This is how we get to know Jesus, and it is how Jesus gets to know us.

The Spiritually Mature Life: Having the Fruit

On Sunday, April 7, 2024, I started a new sermon series at Bethlehem Church called A Spiritually Mature Life. This sermon series is focused ...