“A Gospel for All People”

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region.

Acts 13:48-49 (ESV)

People are hungry for the gospel.

Paul and his companions show up teaching the Word of God as it points to Jesus. Eager to magnify the Name above all names, God honors the faithful preaching of the gospel and almost the whole city turns out to hear the message as it pertains to Christ.

We cannot escape the reality that there is a God-shaped hole, an eternal void, in the soul of every human being and only Christ can fill us. For this reason, the gospel resonates in our hearts when we hear it. Even the stories we write reflect the eternal echoes of the story God is telling.

And for those asking deep questions, only the Bible can answer the deep questions that we struggle with: where did everything come from? what is wrong with our world? why evil? who determines right & wrong? what hope do we have for the future? what happens next? what happens when we die?

Only the Word of God begins to give substantive answers to these questions and others.

Yet, in spite of (and even in jealous reaction to) all this hunger and wonder, many people are and will remain opposed to the gospel. Jesus came to His own people and they did not receive Him. Paul tells us that god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, supressing the truth in unrighteousness, humanity prefers to create evil than embrace what is good.

As a result, God’s people will always face opposition to their faith. Old friends will accuse them of being “too good for them.” Family members will doubt their sincerity or reject them altogether. Our world, even in our communities, will seek to press them with ungodly ideals and molds of conformity. Old religions, beliefs, and prejudices will threaten to undo all the gospel seeks to build.

Be encouraged! While opposition is real and can be daunting, God is still and will always be in the business of saving people.

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. (v.48)

The focus of this passage is verse 48. The gospel goes to the Gentiles; Paul’s mission is launched, his focus is validated… and the Gentiles rejoice!

Our God is a saving God! The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth so that He might strongly support those whose hearts are completely His. (1 Chronicles 16:9) Take courage! He is the initiator. He sent the message of the gospel. He sent the Savior. And now, He is sending us!!

Not only is He sctively seeking and saving sinners, He intends to use you and me in the process!!! No more barriers. No more “go only to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matt 10:6) Now, we are commanded to go freely to all people.

The gospel is for all people. …that they might hear the gospel, receive life in Christ, and rejoice! So let’s take the gospel to all people…

  • …so that those struggling with identity can rejoice at the voice of the One who made them offers them rest.
  • …so that those who are isolated and alone can rejoice to find a forever home among the people of God.
  • …so that those who are wounded and hurting can rejoice to know the healing and hope that the life-giving gospel offers.
  • …so that families locked in conflict can rejoice to discover the reconciliation and peace that God brings when He takes up residence in the hearts of family members.

For every sin, Christ provides forgiveness, and from every sin He offers freedom.

The gospel is the light of the glory of Christ.

The world is locked in darkness
and in need of light.

While many will reject the light and prefer darkness,
still others will recognize the light, and grab hold of it, and be saved.

…and we get to participate in shining this light and watching people come to life!

God’s Mission Is His Invitation

Which do you value most: your heart, your lungs, or your brain?

Silly question, right? Every organ in our body serves a purpose and although each one is important, these three are paramount, bearing ultimate importance. Removing any one of these three and life would be unsustainable.

I’ve offered the argument that a believer in Jesus must possess three overriding loves if he or she is going to experience the fullness of life and faith. Without a love for God’s Word, a love for God’s people, and a love for God’s mission, the Christian drifts aimlessly, loses purpose, and eventually, faith proves unsustainable.

Having explored the loves of God’s Word and His people, what does it mean to have a love for God’s mission. Or (even more pressing)… What is “God’s mission?”

For starters, if we look at God’s initial work of creation, what was He doing? In the first chapter of Genesis God makes man and woman in His image and says to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28, ESV)

For the sake of time and ink, fast forward to the prophet Habakkuk. When speaking of God’s intent to restore the earth to His desired condition, God declares, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14). Throughout Scripture we see an anticipated day with God’s glory fills the entire earth. Combine this with God’s purpose for His people (Old and New Testament) to cause the nations to know the one true God.

Putting these pieces together, we see that God’s purpose from creation was to share Himself with a people who would display His glory throughout all the earth. God intends to be known so that He might invite all people to enjoy Him forever. Ultimately, this is what we see in Revelations as an innumerable multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and tongue gather around His throne. (Revelation 7:9)

Not only does God initial command take on a new meaning, we see a parallel between His first command to His creation and His last command to His Church. “Fill the earth and subdue it,” is not primarily about perpetuating mankind but it is to be about propagating the glory of God and multiplying His image. And now “Go into all the earth making disciples,” is not about promoting a faith system, but it is about promoting that same glory, restoring His image in fallen humanity.

This is our mission. To glorify God by enjoying Him forever, and to enjoy Him so much that we invite others to find joy in Him as well. We are called to be so amazed by the wisdom, majesty, goodness, mercy, and plans of our God that we desire everyone into our amazement. We should be so horrified by the reality of our sin and elated by the offer of restoration, that we beg people to experience that same transformation. We should be so humbled that we can know a holy and righteous God, that we want to introduce Him to all our friends.

I could go on, but I trust you get the idea. I hope what has been said will spur you along to a greater understanding of God, His gospel, the life He offers, and the mission He invites us to participate in. If there is anything else I do to help you along this journey, please reach out… leave a comment, question, prayer requests, or send an email.

“Gospel Message”

“Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation.”

Acts 13:26

Paul arrives as Pisidian Antioch and is invited to speak. The Pharisee become missionary, proceeds to establish common ground with his audience, “Men of Israel and those who fear God.” (13:16)

When you want to preach Jesus and see people come to salvation in Christ, “common ground” must be a launching pad not a final destination. Having laid the foundation of a common belief in Yahweh and a shared hope in Messiah, Paul then moves to declare that Jesus – the resurrected Christ – is the One they are waiting for and hoping in. More than declare Jesus as the Christ, he deomnstrates from the Scriptures that Jesus is the only way to the Father.

As Paul unpacks the reality and wonder of the gospel, we must understand at least three things about this gospel message:

(1) The Message of Salvation has been sent to us.

God has SENT us this message… we did not create this gospel nor could we have ever have guessed our way to salvation. This message has been “once for all delievered to the saints.” (Jude 3) Christianity is not a manmade religion. It is not the fruit of human philosophy or creative storytelling.

No. The Christian faith comes from Divine revelation. God Himself has revealed Himself to His people. Apart from this sovereign initiative, we cannot know God.

More than sending a message to us, God has sent His Son. Christ came to communicate, embody, and establish the gospel. He shared the mind of God as He taught on Galilean hills and in the Judean countryside. He modeled the will of God as He ministered to people, showed compassion, and healed diseases. And He purchased our salvation through His death, burial, and resurrection.

Therefore, it is no mystery that…

(2) This Message of Salvation centers on Christ.

Two key elements of Christ’s life and ministry help us understand the gospel.

First, Christ was rejected by us. Paul says of the Jews that did not recognize Jesus nor did they understand the Scrpitures so they fulfilled those same Scriptures by having Christ killed. (13:27-29)

We have each rejected God and Jesus whom He has sent. None of us are BORN Christians; everyone of us are born into sin with rebellious hearts, strong wills, and stubborn spirits.

Until we acknowledge, grieve over, and turn away from our sin, we cannot know God.

Next, we see that Christ has been vindicated by God. Although we rejected God and had Jesus executed, although we persist in pride and suppress the truth, although we continue in sin and prefer darkness to light, even then God sent Christ and demonstrated His approval of Jesus by raising Him from the dead.

The resurrection is a vital part of our faith — the real, actual, physical, literal raising of Jesus from the dead! The tomb is empty and our salvation is secure because Christ defeated death and blazed a trail into heaven for all who will trust Him through repantant faith.

Because Jesus has been raised from the dead… His claims are validated, His sacrifice is received, and His teaching is verified. Also, the promise we have of a future resurrection, beating death, and living eternally with Him – all these promises are confirmed.

Finally, as Paul concludes His gospel message, we recognize…

(3) This Message of Salvation demands a response.

This message is either believed for salvation & reconciliation or it is rejected unto destruction & alienation.

This gospel rings true. It’s truth is clear and compelling; it’s hope is real and authentic. It’s ancient echoes ring true and find substance in Christ. This is not a made-up religion. It is the promise of God as He was revealed Himself to us throughout history. And only those who suppress the truth and insist on self-rule can convince us otherwise. Jealousy and self-importance will keep us from embracing Christ as our Savior.

The appropriate response to this message, and the only saving response, is to thank the Lord for sending Jesus, to acknowledge our sinfulness before Him and ask for forgiveness, and surrender your life to His grace and authority.

…and if you need help knowing how to do that, wondering what it looks like, or are unsure if you need to, please message me or leave a comment. I would enjoy having that conversation with you.

“Gospel Roots”

“Men of Israel and you who fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. …

Acts 13:16–18

Paul and his companions move from Crete to the mainland to continue their mission. When they come to Pisidian Antioch (they were sent out from a different Antioch, in Syria), they enter into the synagogue and are invited to share a word with the people.

We will get into Paul’s gospel next week, but for now, let’s look at Paul’s introduction as he steps out onto common ground with his audience. The goal is to draw some encouragement as believers from some core truths (often overlooked) surrounding our faith.

1. Our faith is rooted in History. (*His Story*)

Paul begins with the call of Abraham. He could have begun with Genesis. When Luke begins his genealogy of the Christ in his gospel he begins with Adam (and therefore with creation).

It is significant to remember that our faith is rooted in history, that is to say, history is HIS story.

Some seek to diminish these historical roots, or they reason that the historical element is irrelevant but we cannot dismiss the historical element of our faith as merely the wrapping or context for a religious tale. Our faith is true because the history surrounding is true.

Some – even some who would claim the name of Christ – dismiss pieces of our faith history as irrelevant. They dismiss the virgin birth, they spiritualize the resurrection, and they seek to rationalize the miracles.

These are not small errors.

It is significant that Jesus was born of a virgin, that He fulfilled prophesies, performed miracles, and that He literally preached the gospel on the actual hills of Galilee and Judea. 

It matters that He was betrayed and violently executed… and then literally raised from the dead.

More than that: David, Solomon, Hezekiah were real kings; Lachish, Bethlehem, Jericho were real places. The walls of Jericho really fell, The Red Sea really split, and the first Passover happened just as Exodus tells us.

Moses was REAL. Abraham was REAL. Noah and his ark were REAL. And, while we’re at it, Adam stands as the REAL original man, the first of the human race, created by the hand of God and animated by His Spirit.

Our faith is grounded in hisdotry and that also means that history is in the hands of our Lord and He is guiding it according to His will and aiming it into eternity.  

Because God has been over the unfolding of history, we also know Him to be overseeing the present day unveiling of history. Therefore, we can live in confidence and hope.

2. Our faith is founded on His promises.

Because God is sovereignly sitting over history, we can trust His ability to fulfill every one of His promises. His Word CANNOT FAIL. His plans are never in question, His purposes are never in doubt, and His promises are never uncertain. We can TRUST Him.

Even when the process takes longer than we desire, (I mean, 450 years for the conquest), and even when the path is darker than we would choose, He never leaves us or forsakes us.

His ways are right, good, true, and loving. He gives strength to the weary and hope to the hopeless. He draws near to the orphan and widow. He hears the cries of His people & His presence comes close.

And we never need to fear that God’s faithfulness will fail on our account either, for…

3. Our faith is secured by His faithfulness

David faithfully became king and his offspring, the Messiah, faithfully arrived. David, by God’s own testimony, is remembered as a Man after God’s own heart who did all that God purposed for him to do.

The fulfillment of HIS promises are secured by HIS unfailing faithfulness and not ours. They are brought to fruition by HIS strength and not our own ability.

In the same way, God’s purposes in your life will be fulfilled because of God’s faithfulness and not your resources.

Sure, our role is important. It is an evidence of God’s working and is, in part, a means by which He works. Yet, our effort and giftedness is not where our confidence lies, and, consequently, our lack of giftedness or inferior ability cannot be the reason we fail.

Labor, work, and strive… but do so with His strength and with a confidence in His faithfulness. This is Paul’s example and our command.

For the entire message, “Gospel Roots” click here to watch Sunday’s wintery livestream.

“Gospel Battle”

[This Jewish false prophet] was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.

Acts 13:7-8

As Paul and his companions launch out on mission to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, their first experience serves to remind us all about what Christian mission – and Christian living – involves.

1.  The Christian Life is one of hopeful mission.

Living with Christ, for Christ, on mission is FULL OF HOPE!

Barnabus, Saul, and their company have every reason to begin this mission with all hope and expectation. They are about to launch out on a mission clearly prompted by the Holy Spirit and led by godly men.

The personnel is qualified, the mission is anointed, and the strategy seems sound. Not only that, the destination is amazing. Cyprus is like Hawaii or the Bahamas of the Mediterranean, who wouldn’t want to be called to this rich land and luxurious island?

But there’s more. While the is legitimate hope and right expectation… this life is also hard.

2.  The Christian Life is a life of hard opposition.

We don’t know how successful their 90-mile trip across the island was, but we do know things got hard in the capital. As they enjoy an invitation from the proconsul to share the gospel of Christ, the proconcul’s oracle, a Jewish magician (a walking oxymoron) seeks to frustrate their message and sabotage their mission.

Spiritual warfare is not a figurative term, and it is not the make-believe fictional writers. Spiritual warfare is very real and we must not allow sensationalized imaginations rob us it’s seriousness and reality.

Spiritual warfare, at its core is any OPPOSITION to the gospel. And, make no mistake, the world is at was over the gospel. The gospel faces perpetual opposition because people resist giving up power and influence and privilege. To labor for the gospel is to enter into spiritual battle.

The challenge, therefore, it to hold onto hope and promise, while avoiding disillusionment.
(John Mark – v.13)

Finally, we recognize that hope and promise must be maintained and the battle is worth it because…

3.  The Christian Life of joy & fruitfulness.

Paul’s life & ministry give evidence of the the joy and fruitfulness available to Christ’s Gospel-people. Foloow Paul in Acts and read the letters he writes and you will witness the relationships he makes, the lives that are changed, and the joy that he experiences even in hardship.

We have been sent out at His people, to bear His image and if we take our task seriously, we will encounter opposition. At the same time, when we choose to embrace His calling, step out in faith, and pursue mission… we will experience amazing wonder and joy.

We could avoid suffering… just live on the fringe, accept mediocrity, react reasonably and rationally. We could avoid the challenge of holiness, remain content with a little knowledge of God, and not commit fully to a life on mission. But then we also sacrifice joy, adventure, fulfillment, wonder, and a deeper knowledge of our Savior.

Dwight L. Moody is quoted saying, “Do not fear failure; fear succeeding at things that don’t matter.”

Failure does not need to keep us from engaging in our gospel calling — living our faith boldly and sharing the gospel intentionally. We have everything we need to be faithful and fruitful. The proconsul believed did not believe because a super-believer performed some supr-act. He beleived because “he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord.” (v.12)

Paul and his team overcome opposition by the Spirit and the Word. We have these same resources at our disposal. So let’s trust God’s Word to shape our lives and guide our ministry and reveal our calling.

“Gospel Soil”

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

Acts 13:1-3

How does the GOSPEL grow??

The first twelve chapters of Acts has focused on Jerusalem, Peter, and establishing the gospel in the land of Palestine. Chapter 13 marks a transition form Peter to Paul, from Jerusalem to Rome, and from establishing the gospel to spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth.

If our church is going to be used of God to continue His mission into our part of the world, we can learn from Paul and his ministry, beginning with the church that first sent him out. The church at Antioch is the first church to intentionally seek to take the gospel to other peoples. It is the first time in Scripture that anyone is deliberately sent out so that others can hear the gospel and be reconciled to God.

Just a couple notes on the soil from which this gospel mission breaks forth.

(1) Just a brief note concerning the unity of this Gospel Soil. We do not know who started the churchi n Antioch, whether it was planted by those who went home after Pentecost or if belevers scattered by persecution landed here. Either way we have a diverse group (note the leadership in verse 1) of ordinary beleivers who are together in prayer, studying God’s Word, and learning to deny themselves to seek and serve the Lord.

That leads to the second observation…

(2) Let’s focus on what is nourishing this Gospel Soil: a commitment to the Word, a devotion to prayer, and a denial of self.

All to often when most people talk about “apostolic ministry” or “being a New Testament church” or living “New Testament Christianity” their focus is not a New Testament focus? They choose, instead, to focus on miracles or speaking in tongues or spiritual authority but they do not talk about a commitment to the Word (worship), a devotion to humble prayer, or denial of self (fasting).

But that’s what we see the early church doing. Since Pentecost, we have seen them devote themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And here we see them gathered: worshiping & praying & fasting.

What can we learn from this pattern?

  • Gospel mission should be rooted in the local church. God has entrusted the gospel to local bodies of believers, diverse group come together for the purpose of studying the word and encouraging one another, being equipped to live faithful and missional lives.

(3) Lastly, we must remember that we have a powerul ally in the Holy Spirit. We can do nothing apart from the ministry of His Holy Spirit.

We cannot discern wisdom and forsake compromise without the Holy Spirit. We have no power to convict sinners, we have no strength to persevere, we have no love to give to one another, apart from the working of His Spirit within us.

And how does the Holy Spirit work within us?? Word, Prayer, Fellowship, & self-denial. These are His appointed means. Therefore, we must treasure the gospel, be committed to the gospel, and be devoted to one another.

If we are going to be a gospel church…

If we are going to be a gospel church, a place where disciples are made and built up in the faith, then we must commit to one another in transparent living and interdependent community.

If we are going to be a goepl church, a church where each member is equipped and encouraged to represent Jesus in our community, our workplaces, and our world, we must give eager attention to God’s Word.

If we are going to be a gospel church, a church where God’s Spirit is free to speak, we must demonstrate our earnest and eager desire to listen by giving attention to prayer and rediscovering fasting.

If we are going to be a gospel church, we must love, live, and share the gospel.

to view the entire message, check the videos on our facebook page.

Love Is Learned


Our culture talks a lot about it, especially this time of year. Yet even with all the talk, ideas, theories, and experience, our world is largely clueless on the topic. Even what we get right is often misapplied and misunderstood.

As Christians, those who serve and worship the author of love who, himself, is the very definition of love, we should be able to provide clarity on the topic. All too often, however, instead of our light shining into the world’s uncertainty, the fogginess of their confusion clouds our vision and obscures our understanding.

But if we could learn to love, like Jesus has commanded us to love, we would shine as lights in the world (Phil 2:15). We would see the reality of Jesus’ words as they see our love for one another and know we are his disciples (John 13:35).

I consider Paul’s words to the Thessalonian church…

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more…

(1 Thessalonians 4:9–10, ESV)

First thing we see is that the Thessalonians are loving one another well. I feel that he could very well be writing these words to our faith family. I am so proud to be a part of a church where we love well. This brief article does not afford the space necessary to recount the love you each demonstrate to one another and to me. Yet, he still encourages them to love more and more. Even at our best, we are limited. We may love well, but also love imperfectly, incompletely, and inconsistently. So, Paul says, “press on and love more and more.”

Next we observe that love is a learned skill. Love must be learnable, or God could not command us to love. The Thessalonians had been taught to love. Elsewhere in Scripture, we see older men and women encouraged to teach younger husbands and wives how to love one another.

Finally, we see that love is more of an action than a feeling. Love must be expressed in actions and behaviors, not simply felt. Of course, the emotional element is undeniable. Feelings are wonderful and can enrich our lives, but they are not ultimate. They cannot be relied upon.

To love in spite of our feelings is not hypocritical or dishonest, it is deep and mature. Love always acts on behalf of the one being loved regardless of how we feel. Indeed, experience will teach us that our feelings will often follow our actions and not the other way around.

To love in spite of our feelings

is not hypocritical or dishonest,

it is deep and mature.

So, let us learn new ways to love one another. Let us discover ways to serve and encourage one another. Let us patiently forgive, intentionally pursue, and selflessly consider one another as better than ourselves. Let us pray for, pour into, and hold onto one another. Let’s know one another and bless one another and depend on one another.

…for if we can learn this kind of love — and in crease in this kind of love — our joy will be increased, our friends will be built up, and our Savior will be glorified.

Love One Another.

On at least one occasion, Jesus was asked by the religious leaders of his day, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” (see Mark 12:28–34; Matthew 22:34–40; Luke 10:25–28)

By Jesus’ response, he links two essential commands together. He emphasizes the preeminent command to love God with everything and above everything, and then he tethers this all-surpassing love to the command to love our neighbor as ourselves. He even goes so far as to say that this second command is like the first. Essentially, Jesus is teaching that you and I cannot love God (who we cannot see) without loving our neighbor (who we can see). Loving people cannot be considered as mere consequence to our love for God. Loving people is the necessary evidence of our love for God.

Building from that love of neighbor, the New Testament ups the ante when those neighbors are brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus gave his disciples a “new commandment.” He told them to “love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34)

How is this commandment new? Hasn’t Jesus been teaching love of neighbor? Yes, but this command is new in at least two significant ways.

First, this love is not general but specific, directed toward his followers. Second, this love is not natural but heavenly, the standard is not how we love ourselves, but “as he has loved us.”

While we offer unconditional and demonstrable love to our neighbors (anyone who is near), there is a special, elevated, familial, determined, and sacrificial love that we offer to other believers. Paul echoes this idea when he commands the saints in Galatia to “do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10, emphasis added) Jesus said the world would know we are his disciples by the love we have for one another (John 13:35).

I have always found it curious that Jesus did not say that the world would know we belong to Jesus because of how we love them. Instead, God has chosen to display himself to the world through his people. Believers should possess for one another such a unique, supernatural, and puzzling love that the when the world sees the church, they see Jesus.

Consider the numerous “one another” commands in Scripture. Believers are told to “love one another” at least 15 times in the New Testament. Peter even calls for Christ’s followers to “love one another deeply, from the heart.” (I Peter 3:8) Paul says, “Make your love increase and overflow for each other.” (I Thessalonians 3:12)

What does this love look like? Consider these instructions: “Be at peace with each other” (Mark 9:50); “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love” (Romans 12:10); “Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10); “Serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13); “Carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2); “Be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2); “In humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3); “Pray for each other” (James 5:16); and “Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another” (Colossians 3:13).

These commands are wonderful and tangible ways we can show our love for all people – and we should seek to do just that. But consider to whom these commands are directed, especially this one: Let us also consider this one: “Live in harmony with one another” (I Peter 3:8).

This is how brothers and sisters in Christ are to dwell together and live life alongside one another in the local church. There is no other context in which we can display God’s love in the manner and to the magnitude that he intends.

Please do not misunderstand. I am not saying that a believer cannot know or express the love of God outside the local church – of course you can! You just cannot do it as well.

I am not saying you cannot be a believer without being a faithful member of a local church. Sure, it’s possible, but no believer can reach maturity in Christ apart from their union to other believers in the local church (Ephesians 4:11-16).

When we pick and choose those with whom we fellowship, and when we make our participation in the local church dependent on our opinions, our beliefs, and our preferences, we are not loving any differently than the world loves (Luke 6:32).

A conditional kind of love is natural, normal, weak, and it doesn’t impress anyone. It certainly does not cause unbelievers to take notice and stand in awe of God. Rather, it hides his wisdom, obscures his love, diminishes his word, and it leaves his people immature. It is no wonder why the church struggles to be effective — we have made faith and worship a consumer product, contingent on our personal tastes.

But imagine with me, a people who faithfully gather and supernaturally love and diligently labor for the gospel. And imagine what it means for the gospel of Christ to be the glue that binds a church together. Imagine how they would tenaciously love and serve one another. Individuals with various backgrounds, different socio-economic standings, different races, different passions, different opinions, different politics, and different preferences would become “one body and one Spirit… called to the one hope that belongs to [our] call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4–6)

Now THAT would be something to see! THAT would be worth pursuing. THAT would glorify God. Every believer should be a member of a local church where we can pursue this kind of love together.

If there is anything else I do to help you along this journey, please reach out in the comment section or at theologybill@gmail.com.

“Renew: 20:21”

Never has a year been so hated as 2020, yet after just one week of 2021, people were lining up to cancel their 7-day free trial.

In all reality, however, history has seen difficulty before, and every year brings a new series of opportunities. As Christians, we have reason above all else to maintain a perpetual and unshakeable hope.  Our King reigns, God is sovereign & good.

Every January, we pause and look ahead as a church family and ask the Lord to set our path and direct our steps. In consideration of 2021, we want to focus on these three things.

1. Rest in Jesus.

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”  (John 20:19, ESV)

On the evening of the resurrection, the disciples still find themselves fearful. They know the tomb is empty, they remmeber Jesus’ words, and they have hear rumors and reports of his resurrection… but still, they hide away in teh upper room.

But it is here, while their heads are swimming in a sea of uncertainty, that Jesus approaches his disciples and offers peace.

We do not need to fear because Jesus is near. He sees.

We do not need to be unsettled by uncertainty.

The pandemic, the economy, our relationships, marriages, our children, our health, our furutes… these are big overwhelming realities, but Christ is bigger.

2. Look to Jesus.

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20:20, ESV)

After Jesus offers peace, he reassures their hearst. He invites them to see his nail scars and spear wound. He calls them to look on him and he shows them the evidence of his love.

As we push through difficulty and seek to move past hardship, remember that Jesus is for you. He is with us and for us. So, look to him.

Read his word. Hear his voice. Learn his will. This is how we build our faith. – hearing the Word of God. And seeing him, we can rejoice!

3. Walk with Jesus.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:20, ESV)

Nothing must detour us from his mission. Nothing must delay our calling. We must push forward making disciples for this is our commission.

“As the Father sent Jesus” we are likewise sent.

…sent with a mission to continue our Savior’s purpose.

…sent with the same urgency for the stakes are high and souls hang in the balance.

…sent with the same joy set before us that we might see the glory of God and experience his Kingdom.

Yes, going forward can be tricky, but we must move forward. …with wisdom, with boldness, with intentionality, and with the Holy Spirit.

So, in 2021, Let’s remember and be shaped by these truths:

(1) Christ is near and we are invited to rest in him.

(2) Christ is here and we are invited to know and rejoice in him.

(3) Christ is clear that we are commanded to live on mission with him and for him.

Whatever it takes, whatever the cost, let us be found faithful, making the most of our time for he is more than worthy.

**to view the whole sermon, you can find our livestreamed services on our Facebook page.

Love the Word

On the night Jesus was betrayed, Jesus prayed what is known as His “High Priestly Prayer.” John reproduces much of Jesus’ prayer and you can read it in chapter 17 of His gospel. It is the longest recorded prayer of Jesus in the Scriptures. But, not only is it Jesus’ longest recorded prayer, it is His prayer offered at a crucial time – just hours before going to the cross.

His earthly ministry is concluding, His purpose will soon be fulfilled, and His disciples are going to have to face the most difficult (and perhaps the most crucial) moments of their lives without Him and scattered from one another.

What does Jesus pray on this, His final evening?

He prays for Himself and the conclusion of His mission. He prays for His disciples, for their unity, safety, and preservation. And He prays for us, for the ones who will believe because of the disciples’ witness.

In that prayer, He prays that His people would be made holy, that they would be “sanctified.” He prayed that they would be kept from the corruption of the world, being renewed after the image of Christ. This is so that they might faithfully reflect God’s image, accurately proclaim His truth, and effectively share His gospel.

“Sanctify them,” He prays.

But how is that to happen? Jesus tells us.

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

God’s chosen means for shaping His children is His Word. We cannot know God apart from the Bible. It is His Self-revelation to His people.

There are only two ways to know God. One, we guess and figure Him out – who He is, what He’s like, what He requires, etc. History is full of case studies indicating that this method has never worked. The “Religion & Spirituality” section of every bookstore is ripe with the bitter fruit of these attempts.

That leaves the other way: God tells us. This is the only way to know God. And thankfully, this is just what God has done. Not only has He acted in history, revealing Himself to His creation, but He has moved men by His Spirit to interpret His actions and to declare who He is, what He’s like, and what He requires. “No prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20–21, ESV)

Not only is the Bible the only means by which we can know God, it is God’s chosen way of relating to His children. It is by His Word that He directs our steps, feeds our souls, strengthens our hope, and refines our character. He teaches us, corrects us, and trains us by His Word. He reminds us of His promises, encourages us in His purposes, and guides us along His plans.

This is how, when being tempted in the wilderness, Jesus resisted the corruption of His mission by declaring that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” His Word nourishes us like milk feeds a baby (1 Peter 2:2).

This year have a plan for reading, understanding, and being shaped by God’s Word. Find encouragement to continue; find teaching to understand; and find accountability to obey.
Only in hearing, understanding, and obeying God’s Word can we know and walk with God.
It is my earnest desire and prayer for me and for you that we can stop imagining God for who we want Him to be. He is not okay with all the things we want Him to be okay with. He does not agree with all the positions we hold. His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways! For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are His ways higher than our ways and His thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

But… when we surrender our ways and our thoughts, when we forsake our own kingdom building, and when we begin to value Him and trust Him and seek to honor Him… THEN we will be able to experience the reality of His promises, the goodness of His ways, and the joy of His presence.

Such is the purpose, the promise, and the power of God’s Word. Whatever else we commit to in 2021, let us prioritize, consume, embrace, memorize, and commit to His Word.

If there is anything else I do to help you along this journey, please reach out, leave a comment, or send an email. I look forward to hearing from you.

God bless & Happy New Year.