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24 minutes | Jul 10, 2021
America’s Identity Crisis
America is in an identity crisis. People are searching for their identity and going to all kinds of drastic measures to change their identity in the desperate hope that with a new identity they will finally overcome their feelings of depression, anger, frustration, and lack of self-worth. You can simply look at some of the best selling books to find evidence for this. Last year the book “Untamed” was published by Glennon Doyle and has remained in the top 5 on the New York Times best seller list for 68 weeks straight. The book is a memoir that describes how she, a discontent wife and mother of 3, in her late 30’s suddenly falls for a women, realizes she’s lesbian, divorces her husband and starts a new life with a new identity. The tagline of the book says “This is how you find yourself.” Unfortunately, her story represents millions of Americans. Sermon notes: But what do we see when we go back to the founding fathers of the United States? Where did they find an identity for a new nation. We discover that there was no question in their minds about the identity of the United States because they based that identity upon a strong and unwavering faith in God. John Adams the 2nd president of the US speaks about this foundation of faith in a letter to Thomas Jefferson “The general Principles, on which the Fathers Achieved Independence, were the only Principles in which, that beautiful Assembly of young Gentlemen could Unite, and these Principles only could be intended by them in their Address, or by me in my Answer. And what were these general Principles? I answer, the general Principles of Christianity, in which all those Sects were United: And the general Principles of English and American Liberty, in which all those young Men United, and which had United all Parties in America, in Majorities Sufficient to assert and maintain her Independence. Now I will avow, that I then believed, and now believe, that those general Principles of Christianity, are as eternal and immutable, as the Existence and Attributes of God: and that those Principles of Liberty, are as unalterable as human Nature and our terrestrial, mundane System.” Sadly, those “immutable” principles of Christianity and the existence and attributes of God are quickly fading today in the USA. What many don’t realize is that when belief in the truth of God’s identity is lost, we also lose our own identity. Personal identity crises will always follow a public faith catastrophe. That is to say when the common population rejects God, the individual is left with no means to understand his existence and will resort to all new, strange, and extreme ways to obtain a meaningful identity apart from God. Another way we could look at it is like this, all identity crises are really about losing the identity of God, not of self! Find God and you will find yourself! Loose God and you will lose yourself! This is why God begins his very first written words to his chosen people with: Exodus 20:2-3 (NIV) 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. God was creating a new people and their identity would be the foundation for their nation. God knew that if their identity was not grounded in the nature of God himself then it would sooner or later veer off track. God’s very first words were words that clearly, uniquely, and undisputedly identified himself as God and God alone! If you don’t get anything else out of this sermon I want you to understand and to do one thing. Stop searching for your identity, stop looking for that elusive change you think you need to make in order to fulfill your desires and longings. Stop going to extremes to change your body, your lifestyle, you dress, or your home, or something else in search of identity. None of these things will ever bring you fulfillment and lasting identity. Stop searching for your identity and start searching for God because when you find him you will find your true identity. What happens when a nation or group of people lose the truth of who God is? [2Ki 17:15 NIV] 15 They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors and the statutes he had warned them to keep. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the LORD had ordered them, “Do not do as they do.” It is no surprise that those who are seeking an identity in themselves and for themselves struggle with self worth. Millions in the US struggle with feelings of worthlessness. Without the infinite value of God they are forced to dig within themselves to find value. They will find all kinds of things within themselves if they go looking for it but they will never find the infinite value of an everlasting, everloving, and everable God. Paul describes what it looks like when people turn from the truth of God’s identity and instead pursue their own passions. Romans 1:21-28 (NIV) 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. Always at the forefront of the loss of identity is sexual deviance and confusion. Why? Because your sex/gender is a core aspect of your unchangeable God given identity. Furthermore procreation, marriage and family are also divinely ordered elements of our society and a Biblical part of our God given identity. To live according to my god given gender, the nature that God gave me is to acknowledge that someone or something else has sovereignty in my life, because I didn’t choose the gender I was born with and I can’t change the gender I was born with. The existence of family itself is a testimony to God’s order, God’s plan, and God’s control of our lives. Thus, it is no surprise that when a society rejects the identity of God, rejects the authority of God, and rejects the sovereignty of God they will simultaneously reject the natural gender God has given them and the order he has put within creation. Man will go to all means and all methods to become his own creator and then worship himself! So how did American culture in particular get to this point of identity crisis? It is vital for the Church to understand where the thinking of the country is today. This identity crisis has in a big way crept into the church. We must identify it’s mistaken claims of truth and counteract them with what the Bible says. This is vital for each of us lest we also are caught up in the futile search for identity. It is vital for parents, in order to give their children a foundation upon which they can build their lives. And finally, it is vital for the gospel. We must understand that any presentation of the gospel must confront these new realities of American popular thinking. Let’s look at three popular American lies that are at the root of this rejection of the truth of God’s identity and his sovereignty in our lives, and that have led to America’s identity crisis. Lie #1 You are good! You are good – Truth: only God is good. Luke 18:18-19 We moved to Tacoma in 1999 where we found a little apartment across the street from Wright Park. The following summer a group of young people spent the summer months attacking unsuspecting victims after dark and beating them until they were unconscious. On August 19, 2000 they attacked Erik Toews as he walked through Wright Park after dark on his way home from work. They did it just for the fun of it, they beat him beyond recognition with their fists, knees and a croquette club. 8 youths were arrested, including an 11 year old, two 12 year olds and a 13 year old. After the youths were apprehended the news media interviewed one of the mothers and I remember her in tears saying, “My son really has a good heart.” I thought to myself, has she gone crazy? How does she define evil, bad? Do you have to murder two, three, four or more people before you become evil? That’s an extreme example but the sentiment in our nation is prevailing. We are not bad people doing evil things, but rather we are good people who sometimes make mistakes. Let’s make no mistake, these are not mistakes, they are crimes, sins, and they are evil. They are evil because man is evil! [Luk 18:18-19 NIV] 18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone. When we tell someone he is good no matter how he thinks or behaves then one of two things will happen when he does something that is obviously wrong. He will see himself as an exception to any rule or law that he has broken. What might not be acceptable for others is acceptable for him because he knows that he is a good person, so he would never willingly do something bad. Thus, if he did it, it is justified for him alone. If the individual cannot deny the sinfulness or the badness of what he has done is so obvious that there is no way of justifying it, then he will simply point the finger at someone else. So stealing, rioting, looting, and disregard for law and order are not the individual’s fault, rather those who are engaging in such sinful and illegal activities are simply victims of society. Thus, a “good” person does bad things only because he or his group is victimized by others. This method of justification is as old as sin itself. [Gen 3:11-12 NIV] 11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me–she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Personal responsibility and admission of personal guilt when it comes to sin is rare these days but we need to return to this vital understanding. Without it we become an unmanageable society of “good” people who do bad things and blame other groups, other races, and other individuals for their personal sin. The way out isn’t a comfortable one, it’s one of personal repentance before the cross of Christ. Yes, there is good news here and the good news is that God is good. You can stop relying on your own “goodness” God’s goodness is deeper, wider, higher, and greater than yours. And, yes, you are sinner, but God’s goodness can overcome that sin when you turn to the greatest good which is Jesus’ sacrificial death upon the cross for you and me. [Rom 5:8 NIV] 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We need to return in our thinking, and in our practice to the idea of the sinfulness of man. Lie #2 You can do anything Motivational speaker Tony Robbins tells his eager success oriented listeners that they can get anything they want if they follow his simple 5 step formula. 4 out of his 5 steps are about asking others for what you want and the final step is “ASK UNTIL YOU GET WHAT YOU WANT!” Wow, that sounds like all my kids when they were 4-5 years old! He then exhorts them, “Belief in failure is a way of poisoning the mind.” says Robbins who divorced his wife of nearly 15 years so that he could pursue his own fulfillment. The no limits mindset that many young people have today is like heroin for the soul. It convinces people that not only can they do anything but that they have a right to do anything. This destructive mindset leads people down a path of moral compromise justified by the belief that “I can do anything.” Ultimately, the conviction that I can do anything is the natural and logical conclusion when we put ourselves in the place of God. Ultimately, you can’t do anything, and that’s a good thing! Remember the young man who thought he was so good? He came to Jesus and ask what other good thing he might do to get into the Kingdom of Heaven? Truth: only God can do anything Luke 18:26-27 [Luk 18:26-27 NIV] 26 Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?” 27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” You are limited and in need of God’s power You have limited time to live You have limited strength You have limited knowledge God knows your limitations and has compassion [Psa 103:13-17 NIV] 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; 14 for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. 15 The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; 16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 17 But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children– How much better it is to humbly acknowledge the boundaries God has created for us and put our trust in a limitless God. You are finite but God is infinite! Lie #3 Follow your heart / be true to yourself I don’t believe there is a popular philosophy out there today that has caused more pain and destruction in relationships than this one. Nearly every divorce has this theme in it. It sounds like this: “I have to do what’s right for me” “I’m not going to put aside my happiness for the sake of another’s happiness” “Listen to that little voice from within” “Do what makes you happy” These all have the same root, they find the driving, guiding life force from within. This is akin to getting in a car, sitting behind the wheel, stepping on the gas and then taking your hands off the wheel. “Let the car guide us, it knows best where it should go.” This is ludicrous. We all know that a car must have guidance or it will simply end up in a ditch. Yet, this is how many parents approach child raising, and this is how many adults approach their own lives. They have no guidance system beyond their personal whims and emotional swings. Today they want one thing but tomorrow the same thing no longer satisfies them so they discard it for the next thing. They are following a fluid point and thus they become fluid. They are fluid in their jobs, fluid in their relationship, and fluid in their gender. Isn’t fluid just another way to describe instability, unfaithfulness, and lack of direction? Our lives demand a point of reference to follow that is unchanging. A point that can’t be moved by emotions, politics, finances, relationships, or sickness. We need a point to follow that is worth following because it offers us something that is of far more valuable than our very lives. We need a point to follow that is outside of ourselves and that will bring ourselves inline with it’s goodness, and grace. We need a point to follow that will give us hope so great that we can confidently follow that point to the grave and beyond. Truth: you are lost and need to follow Christ Mark 8:34 [Mar 8:34-37 NIV] 34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? God offers us true direction in life in Christ and his cross! Conclusion: We need to return to the foundation that our nation was built upon. Find our identity in Christ and not in self Seek goodness in God and not in self Trust in God’s ability to do all things and not in self Follow the cross of Christ and not our selfish desires
45 minutes | Jun 26, 2021
Bring Discipleship Back | Acts 2:17-38
What is missing in churches today? Where is the unseen hole? Simply put, we are missing true gospel centered discipleship. Without discipleship the church can still have an outward attraction and all the looks of activity but they will be empty and meaningless because in the end it will not take you to any meaningful place spiritually. Discipleship is the engine of the church and if we want our churches to grow in a meaningful gospel centered way then we must focus our attention on this core aspect of church life. Sermon notes: If the contemporary church were a ship it would no doubt be a modern cruise ship with the finest restaurants and entertainment. I would boast many decks filled with fun activities for her guests, luxurious staterooms, and guest services that meet your every whim. Yes, it would be a magnificent sight that would attract many. It would be tall and long with a wide berth and yet there would be something missing. It would have no engine, or at least if it did have an engine it would be far underpowered and equipped to safely propell the massive ship. The truth is that people don’t go on cruises because they have researched the sea worthiness of the vessel and know that the engine is quite powerful enough to get them through any storm, and that it is regularly maintained and fully functioning. No, people go on cruises because of the promise of free food, fun activities, and a chance to indulge themselves with few limitations. Sadly many churches have begun to take on a cruise ship esque spirit about themselves. Too many churches today are driving not by the engine of the gospel of Jesus Christ but by anything and everything else. All that can be seen is invested in heavily, and all that is unseen is abandoned because it would help you to get more feet across your gangplank. In order to find out practically what discipleship looks like I want to turn your attention to the example of the Apostle Paul in the church in Ephesus. In our text today we see one of the clearest descriptions of a discipleship ministry. So let’s let God’s Word inform us and instruct us about how we should disciple. In this text we read about Paul’s second visit to Ephesus. Not long before, in chapter 19, we read how he lived with them for 3 years. During these 3 years, he diligently served them through the teaching of the Word and the preaching of the Gospel. Then he went on to Greece, where he spent several months. Finally he decided to return to Jerusalem and on the way he wanted to stop by Ephesus to meet their elders one last time before going to Jerusalem. [Act 20:17-38 NIV] 17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. 18 When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. 22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. 25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. 32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” 36 When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship. This text gives us a living example of what Paul’s discipleship looked like. We also see the negative side of what happens when there is no discipleship and when there is false teaching. Paul warns that there will be fierce wolves who will not spare the flock. Without biblical, faithful, and prolonged discipleship, the church sooner or later enters a fog of obscurity when it comes to Biblical truth. In this dangerous fog she can easily lose her bearings and cease to see Christ in front her. Without a clear direction and without Christ at the head she loses her gospel passion and desire to continue forward. The consequences of a lack of discipleship are very serious, although sometimes they are not immediately obvious. Often churches continue to move forward by inertia alone. It can be seen that in Ephesus Paul was very worried about this. But the church cannot coast along for many years, sooner or later the inertia ends and then what will happen? When the church comes to the end of its gospel inertia we will inevitably see certain steps that lead the church away from the gospel itself and from Christ. It happens slowly and imperceptibly at first but it does happen. The departure of sound Bible teaching and the emergence of motivational sermons, popular philosophy, superficial teachings, and minor doctrines in its place. The vanishing of personal discipleship among church members. The church becomes nothing more than a comfortable place to meet with friends. The sermon loses its central place in worship. Instead of it, various entertainment elements, music, theater, and anything else, just not the preaching of God’s Word. Withdrawal of personal and public evangelism and appeals to repentance Compromises in core doctrine. Acceptance of non-biblical doctrine. The fall of biblical morality and the justification of different types of sin. Ignoring the importance of discipleship and biblical teaching is a slippery and dangerous descent from God’s word and from Christ. Paul describes this fall also in 1 Tim when he writes to young Timothy, who was a pastor in Ephesus. [1Ti 1:3-6 NIV] 3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer 4 or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work–which is by faith. 5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. We can say that 1 and 2 Timothy are commentaries on Acts 20.17-36 A little further we see the result of a failure in biblical discipleship. [1Ti 1:7, 19-20 NIV] 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm. … 19 holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. 20 Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme. There are two reasons for shipwrecks: one is a navigation error, the other is a mechanical error. Paul tells young Timothy that there are also two reasons why people are shipwrecked by faith: The first is doctrinal error, and the second is moral failure. Unfaithfulness to Christ in teaching always produces unfaithfulness to Christ in conduct. And we can also say the opposite! As we persist in unbiblical behavior, sooner or later we will change our teaching so that it does not condemn, but justifies our sin. Therefore, when we talk about discipleship, we mean both. Biblical discipleship is the combination of teaching and behavior, practice and doctrine. One should not be without the other. We can know all doctrines, all catechism, all theological terms, but if our life does not conform to these doctrines, we cannot be faithful to Christ and we will be shipwrecked by faith. Paul also encourages Timothy to maintain a clear conscience and strive for righteousness, exercise yourself in godliness. These are not empty words, Paul was an example of faithfulness to Timothy. He writes in Acts 20.26 “That I am clean of the blood of all” In order that we do not depart from Christ and remain faithful to Him and His Word, we must participate in the process of discipleship. Let’s look at a few characteristics of biblical discipleship from the life of the Apostle Paul in Acts 20.17-32 1. Biblical discipleship requires presence 18 When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. In the context of quarantine we especially need these verses. Personal physical presence is vital to Biblical discipleship. Only when we are together can we know each other Why did God decide to send his Son to us? His presence was important. Through personal contact we become real people. There are no Christian stars in discipleship. One big problem is that teaching in the church never reaches down into our daily personal life. We stand far from the preacher and nod our heads, he does not know what happened this morning, he does not know what you are fighting, he does not know your personal life. This is not criticism of the preacher, we need these sermons! We also need the personal presence of our brothers and sisters in our lives. Paul publicly and personally discipled at Ephesus [Act 20:20 NIV] 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. This group of elders was a narrow circle of people with whom Paul spent more time personally. 2. Biblical discipleship requires teaching While it may seem obvious, we must mention it. Teaching is central to the church, mission, evangelism, and ministry. It’s amazing how much Paul talks about doctrine in this little epistle to the elders in Ephesians. 20.20 “I did not hesitate to preach … I taught house to house 20.21 I declared .. repentance 20.27 To proclaim to you the whole will of God 20.31 I never stopped warning you He speaks of direct teaching 7 times! He reminds, he declares, and he warns them. He did it publicly and personally. He knew that without sound doctrine, the spiritual life of the church would quickly dissipate like steam. Therefore, we see how diligently Paul taught them, giving them a solid foundation on which the church could grow further if they continued in this teaching. But for this, they must also teach and not only, they must protect people from wolves who come from within that will teach false doctrine. A church without a teacher is open to all winds of doctrine, the cunning of men. 3. Biblical discipleship requires consistency 20.18 “From the first day … whole time” 20.31 “For three years, day and night … taught” Here we clearly see how much Paul devoted to himself to regularly and persistently teach people the Word of God. Consistency in the Word and doctrine is an indispensable quality of a faithful elder and faithful Christian. This means day after day he will not stop following the Scriptures and teaching others. If we follow the whims of man, if we only study from time to time, we cannot be faithful to Christ. Like any serious work, faithfulness in teaching requires constancy from us and will not prove effective if we are constantly starting, stopping, changing. [1Ti 4:16 NIV] 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. 4. Biblical discipleship requires hard work 20.19 “Working for the Lord” Have you noticed that the trend in media is toward shorter clips and superficial content. People are mainly interested in watching a 15 second clips on tik tok of someone scaring their girlfriend or pranking a stranger. Short, provocative, content will always be more attractive but it will never produce beneficial results. When it comes to discipleship there are thousands of provocative, entertaining, spiritual clips, and gimmicks that will never produce spiritual maturity. Paul warns Timothy of the fables, the philosophies of man. These false teachings and sometimes simply superficial teachings will attract a crowd but they won’t cultivate christian maturity. But real discipleship is hard work! Real discipleship is 80% unseen. If you see a Christian who has been faithful to Christ for many years, who shines with God’s love, and who not only knows Scripture, but lives by it, you see only a small tip of the iceberg. He is deep because he has spent hundreds, not a thousand hours alone with God and his Word. [2Ti 2:15-16 NIV] 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 5. Biblical discipleship requires humility 20.19 “With great humility” Humility is the soft quality of the soil of my heart before God. It is a heart tilled by the plow of true repentance. Without humility, the Word itself does not penetrate into my heart. Without humility, I do not see how this teaching touches me and convicts me. Without humility, my attempts to teach others will be rejected when they see that this teaching has not yet touched my heart. [1Ti 6:3-4 NIV] 3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions Humility is necessary because true discipleship requires me to sacrifice my time and my energy for another. Discipleship ministries is about investing your life into another with the knowledge that you may get no personal benefits from all your work. That takes humility! Discipleship requires humility because without it I will not point the other person to Christ but rather to my own success. Discipleship requires humility because without it Christ’ love and character can not shine through me. Discipleship requires humility when I realize that I have no power to change the life of the person I am discipling. A prideful person can not be successful in discipleship ministries because he will eventually find it exhausting, pointless, and that it doesn’t help him reach his personal desires. 6. Biblical discipleship requires patience 19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. Patience is imperative for Discipleship! Patience tells us there will be bumps in the road and we shouldn’t give up too soon. Patience testifies to our future hope in God’s power to save fully. Patience is a good example to the person we are discipling. We see this quality clearly in Paul. Wherever he was, regardless of the conditions around him, he always preached God’s Word and His kingdom. In fact, our faithfulness is always tested against a backdrop of difficulty and temptation. Being faithful to Christ in clear and good weather says nothing about our faith and the strength of our teaching. In the cave, where there are roaring lions, there we will see the state of our faith. 7. Biblical discipleship requires attentiveness 20.28 Keep watch over yourselves and the flock 20.29 savage wolves will come in 20.31 So be on your guard Satan often attacks the flock when we sleep. Bible discipleship implies that there will be attacks, and we must always be prepared. When we have regular meetings and accountability, it helps us a lot to stay awake. Conclusion Discipleship is extremely important to every member of the church and especially important to the elders of the church. For this there must be time together, teaching publicly and personally, There must be constancy, there must be work, there must be humility.
45 minutes | Apr 27, 2021
Do Not Be Afraid | Matthew 28:1-10
As we celebrate Easter this year we also mark a full year of living during a pandemic. We have all encountered new difficulties because of COVID. Many have been through COVID, others have watched as loved ones have suffered, sadly some of us have even lost friends and family to COVID. Yet, there is one aspect to the pandemic that I believe is common to our experience and that is fear. To one level or another we have all feared the ramifications of the pandemic in our lives and the lives of our loved ones. Some fear getting sick and the complications of COVID Some fear death Some fear for their parents, their children or their spouse Some fear for the financial ramifications of the pandemic Some fear the loss of contact with family and friends Some fear if life will ever return to normal https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LywwVy0za9s Unfortunately, fear is common to the human experience. You can’t live in this world and never experience fear. Sadly many people allow their fears to control their lives. When we fail to understand our fears and respond to them properly, they can cause great damage to our spirits and to the way we live our lives. Fears not dealt with lead to depression, anxiety, loss of relationships, inability to function normally at work or school. The question for us is not how to avoid fear altogether but rather how to respond to it correctly. As we look together at the story of Easter and at the truth it presents we can find a unique solution to our fears, one that has the power to calm our hearts, cure our anxieties, and give us a deep joy and hope for the future. Fear is a central part the gospel story The truth is that fear played a role in the lives of many in the gospels. There was fear at Jesus birth Both Joseph and Mary feared when an angel appeared to them Zacharias also feared The Shepherds were terrified Herod was troubled by the news of Jesus birth There was fear during Jesus ministry The disciples afraid when Jesus walking on water because they thought it was a ghost Peter James and John terrified when they saw Jesus in his glory and heard the voice of God the Father The Pharisees feared Jesus power and popularity There was fear at Jesus crucifixion The disciples ran in fear when Jesus was arrested The Pharisees arrested Jesus at night because they feared the people Pilate also feared public opinion The centurion who was guarding the cross was terrified by the earthquake and said, “surely he was the Son of God!” Mat 27:54 The disciples’ fear continued after the crucifixion right up until Jesus appeared to them and calmed their fears. Let’s look closely at one of these encounters from Matthew 28. 1 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” Mat 28:1-10 Faithfulness in the face of fear We must not overlook the actions of the women here. At first Peter didn’t go to the tomb, nor did John or James or any of the other disciples. Instead they allowed their fears, their disappointment, their worries to overcome them. Their fear was too big of a barrier to overcome. These women on the other hand show us the power of simple faithfulness to God and dedication to doing the right thing. Just like Peter, James, and John, these women had also lost their beloved Rabbi, their teacher, their leader, and the one in whom they put their hope. I don’t believe the women knew exactly what would happen next but one thing is true, they were not content to sit on their hands and do nothing. They didn’t know how and they didn’t know when but they knew God would do something and they knew they must not remain inactive. Their faith was simple but it was also strong. Friend, the worst thing you and I can do in our fear is nothing. God wants us to keep moving forward. He wants us to keep believing Him, to keep trusting Him, to keep expecting that He will somehow, someway come through the darkness. These women didn’t yet understand the truth of the resurrection but their simple faith led them to do something right, it kept them from sitting alone and feeling bad for themselves. They were on the right track, they hadn’t lost their faith despite the significance of the tragedy. They were moving forward knowing that God would do something! And later we will see that God did come through and God did reward them for their simple faith! I believe in the minds and hearts of these women were the promises of the prophets to God’s people. Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on their God. Isa 50:10 These women were in the dark and yet they trusted, they believed enough to go to the tomb. Maybe you are in a dark period of your life. Don’t let it kill your faith in God, keep moving forward, trust the only One who knows your future. He is good, He is God, and He is going to do something. [Eze 34:12 NIV] 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. What a beautiful picture the prophet Ezekiel gives us. We have a promise, God as a shepherd will rescue us on the day of clouds and darkness. Jesus applies this prophesy to himself in John chapter 10 when he says: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Jhn 10:11 Possibly these words were also on the minds of the women as they came to the tomb. They were slowly coming to the realization that Jesus had done just that, he had laid his life down for them. Now what? How would God take care of them? They didn’t know exactly how but I think they did believe that he would do it. Fear without faith We also catch a glimpse here of how terrible it is to face things without faith in God. We briefly see the reaction of the guard’s who evidently didn’t have faith. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. Mat 28:4 What did fear do to the guards and what might it do to us in the absence of faith? Fear literally made them like dead men. They ceased to function properly, it paralyzed them and kept them from their normal activities of life. Unfortunately there are people who have lived for years in this state. Afraid of sickness, afraid of socializing, afraid of the opinions of others, afraid of failure, afraid of change, afraid of relationships, afraid of the unknown. They live and yet they don’t live, they are like deadmen unable to function because of fear! Why did they fear? They feared because of the shocking nature of it They feared because it was an unknown power to them They feared because they sensed the holy presence of God What was the response? They trembled and were as dead men (Neither the angels nor Jesus said anything to the guards because there’s no sense in speaking to dead men.) They fled to the city (Mat 28:11) Instead of seeking truth, they took money to remain silent (Mat 28:12-15) What happens when I am motivated by fear? I easily compromise my value system I walk away from Christ in difficult times I can be held in bondage by destructive behaviors I have difficulty making making wise decisions My faith is weakened Without faith it is impossible to overcome these fears. Fear may be the first reaction but our faith determines the outcome. If you have fear today then take a look at where your faith is. God invites us to place our faith in Jesus. He is the only one who can truly calm our fears. From fear to faith and joy When we put our faith in Jesus our fears aren’t just calmed but they are actually turned into something better. We see this happen as the women encounter an angel at the tomb and then Jesus himself. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” 8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Mat 28:5-8 Fear as emotions needs to be calmed When we are terrified we can’t be reasoned with, what we need to be comforted before we can be counseled. Both the angel and Jesus begin by saying “do not be afraid” These few words should bring us great comfort. God doesn’t want us to live in fear. He wants us to experience the joy and peace that only he can give. However, before we can even focus on the truths that will aleve our fears and give us hope we just be comforted. The truth of Jesus’ resurrection is what really calmed their fears. They realized that Jesus hadn’t left them They put together his statements of death and resurrection No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. Jhn 10:18 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; Jhn 11:25 Although there is a remnant of fear now their faith is taking over and it is producing a growing joy. Afraid yet filled with joy They ran to tell the disciples Faith produces worship A faith filled heart is always a heart of worship and we see this as Jesus greets the women. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Mat 28:9-10 They worshipped Jesus because they now fully believed his claims to of deity They worshipped Jesus because he had conquered death They worshipped Jesus because he had conquered their fears Jesus’ response to them is also helpful for us. Jesus greets them with “chairete” literally – “rejoice” Jesus also comforted them before he instructed them. A sign of his love, concern and heart for them. Jesus gives further instruction. He doesn’t want them to nor the other disciples to be immobilized by their fears. Artist: Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov (1806 – 1858) – Painter (Russian) Born in Russia, Moscow. Dead in Russia, St.Petersburg. Title: Русский: Явление Христа Марии Магдалене после Воскресения, Christ’s Appearance to Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection Date: 1835 Medium: oil on canvas oil on canvas Dimensions: Height: 2,420 mm (95.27 in); Width: 3,210 mm (10.53 ft) Things to notice: We see both fear and faith in this painting Fear Fear is in the very dark nearly black left side of the canvas, yet this is behind Mary now Fear in the hands of Mary stretched out to Jesus asking for his help, his comfort Faith Faith in Mary’s direction, she is turned to Christ Faith in Mary’s position, she is kneeling to worship Jesus, she recognizes that he is LORD Faith in Mary’s eyes, looking with not so much with shock but with anticipation Faith in the light between Mary and Jesus, which also indicates the direction she needs to go, “go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee” In Jesus we also see a combination of seemingly contradictory aspects, as if he is saying both, “come” and “wait” One hand is raised with his palm facing Mary indicating she should stay where she is and come no closer. The other hand is lower, gently beckoning Mary with an open hand as if saying, “Mary, come put your faith in me!” One foot points away from Mary indicating that he must go to the father The other foot is slightly raised almost as if he could take a step closer to Mary reminding us of his promise, “I am with you even to the end of the age” His gaze is fixed on Mary, showing her that he sees, her, he knows her and he will care for her However, his body is obviously in the process of turning away from Mary, indicating that he is going to prepare a place for her. This is the tension that we live in, the already, not yet. A time when we may experience fear because we are not yet in heaven A time when we know that even in our fears God is with us A time when we can choose to live in our fears or live in the faith of the risen Savior, Jesus Christ! We all struggle with fears in one way or another. We think, “What will happen if… I get sick? I lose my job? I don’t get married? He or she rejects me? I lose someone close to me? We live in the “already, not yet world!” God has already given us hope but we are not yet in heaven. God wants us to trust him in our fears. He doesn’t want us to be like dead men, he wants us to be like living and shining beacons of hope. He wants us to go and tell! Hope in Jesus Christ is the only hope that can truly overcome all our fears because only Jesus has overcome sin and death. The Apostle Paul puts it this way. [1Co 15:55-58 NIV] 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. The truth of the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ was what transformed the disciples from fear filled to fearless. What about you? Have you trust in Jesus? Have you looked to him like Mary did? Turn to him now and you will see your fears turn to joy!
33 minutes | Mar 23, 2021
Temptation | James 1:13-18
Here’s a story I heard from Radio show host Chris Witts Johnny arrives at school in the morning and his teacher asks him, “Where’s your homework?” Johnny replies “Sorry, Mam, I couldn’t do it because there was too much noise at home.” His teachers curiously asks, “What? Noise all evening? What kind of noise?” Johnny said, “It was the television, Mam. It was too loud and I couldn’t do my homework.” The teacher was trying to be helpful: “Now Johnny. You could have asked them to turn down the volume, surely?” “No, I couldn’t,” he replied. “There was no-one else in the room.” We are all like Johnny to a degree, when confronted by our sin we look for ways to justify ourselves and blame others. But when it comes down to it we need to realize that there is no one else in the room who we can put the blame of our sin onto. In our text today James, once again goes straight for our hearts as he warns us of the dangers of blaming others, and specifically of blaming God when we encounter temptation. [Jas 1:13-18 NIV] 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. Don’t let your guard down When tempted,.. It says “when tempted” not “if tempted” Too many of us go around not ready for temptation, not anticipating it and not realizing that the devil is always looking for opportunities. Harry Houdini was a well known magician/escape artist in the 1920s. He often had people in the audience punch him as hard as they could in the stomach. On Oct 22, 1926 he invited several students into his dressing room before his performance. He had injured his ankle about week earlier so he reclined on the couch to talk with them. One of the students by the name of J. Gordon Whitehead approached Houdini and asked him if it was true that he could withstand any punch to the gut. When Houdini responded, “yes” Mr Whitehead immediately delivered 4-5 powerful and well directed and unexpected blows to Houdini’s stomach. Although Houdini hadn’t time to prepare his stomach for these blows, it seemed that he had survived them. Later that day however, he began to feel some discomfort and in another day or two he developed a fever. Eventually, he was taken to the hospital where it was discovered that the unexpected blows to his abdomen had ruptured his appendix. Unfortunately it was too late, the doctors could not save him and Houdini died of the injuries he sustained from a few punches to the gut that he was unprepared to receive. The story of Harry Houdini’s death highlights the significant difference between being prepared for temptation vs being unprepared. [1Pe 5:8 NIV] 8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Are you prepared for temptation? Are you aware of your weak points? Are you looking out for possible times, places, or things in your life that might cause you to be tempted? Don’t blame God …no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; The difference between tempting and testing. In the USA there is a controversial method the police use to catch thieves called “bait car.” The bait car is driven to some location where there are known to be many car thefts. The police use a plain clothes officer to drive the car. He then leaves the car, often with the door open and the keys in it. It’s very enticing for criminals. Usually it doesn’t take long for someone to come by and take advantage of the opportunity. What they don’t know is that the police have placed cameras in the car and they are watching. The car also has special electronics in it that when the police activate it causes the car to come to a complete stop and locks all the doors and windows. The criminal doesn’t get very far before suddenly the car rolls to a stop and he finds he is locked into his stolen vehicle. Unfortunately, some people view God this way. They think he’s up in heaven looking down on us and putting little traps in our way to try to catch us up, and when we do, he activates his remote and sends us tumbling on our faces. The illustration about the bait car is a good illustration of temptation and we need to understand that God never tempts us in this way. Some people point to the story of Abraham and how God tested him. Wasn’t that temptation? No, it was different. Tempting and testing are two drastically different things with contrasting goals. Tempting has the goal of getting someone to fall into sin. Testing has the goal of strengthening our faith. God tested Abraham’s faith, he gave him a difficult task but one that he knew Abraham could handle. As always, God’s tests are designed to strengthen our faith and increase our trust in Him. This is why James says in 1:3 that the testing of our faith produces perseverance. God’s tests are tests that promote growth and strengthening of our faith. A temptation, on the other hand, is something that is designed to weaken faith, weaken resolve, and weaken our spiritual state. A temptation is designed to make you fall. Satan is the ultimate tempter, his temptations are designed to make us fall into sin. Satan tempted Jesus: [Luk 4:2 NIV] 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The Pharisees tempted Jesus: [Mat 19:3 NIV] 3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” How do we blame God? By saying it’s not fair [Eze 18:25 NIV] 25 “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear, you Israelites: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? It’s easy to look at the lives of others and think that they have it easier than us, but we should never do this. To claim that God has given us unjustly given us more difficult circumstances is a lie. First we must admit that we all have difficulties and temptations that others don’t see. Therefore, never assume that the Christian life is easier for this person because they came from a Christian home or easier for that person because they have never visibly struggled with addictions. God doesn’t treat you the same as very one else because you’re not the same! God treats each of us personally and uniquely. You can be sure that God is more than fair with you. God with no exceptions God is merciful to those who love him and to accuse him of being biased, unfair, or having favorites is wrong because it accuses God of sin. By blaming the circumstance of life [Gen 3:12 NIV] 12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me–she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Another way we blame God is by blaming the circumstances he has given us. I only steal because I don’t have much money. I only look at pornography because I’m lonely. I only overeat because I’m stressed. I only yell at my kids because they’re disrespectful. I only get _______ because of _______ situation in my life. These are all nothing more than excuses we use to justify our sin to ourselves, no one else would ever believe it! When Adam shifted the blame to Eve he was really shifting the blame to God. Notice how he says, “the woman YOU put here.” If God is sovereign over all things but he never causes situations in our life that will force us into sin. We blame God if we claim that we had no other choice [1Co 10:13 NIV] 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. So often we see sin as the only real solution to whatever problem it is that we are going through. Family pressures can make certain decisions even more difficult. For some there is great pressure to be dishonest in order to get a job or to get into a school. Sometimes the pressure is to marry someone who is not a Christian. Many times I have talked with people who were struggling with a decision that they knew was wrong and yet they thought that there simply was no other way! In these situations we need to remind ourselves that God specializes in the impossible. When there is no other way and God’s way seems impossible, it is then that we must choose God’s way because it is then that we begin to trust fully in Him. We blame God if we claim that we are too weak overcome temptation [2Co 12:9-10 NIV] 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. Sin has a way of bringing depression into our lives and making us feel that there is no way out, that we are too weak and that we might as well just give in! Don’t believe these lies! You are weak only because you are not looking to God but you are looking to yourself. If you believe in Christ then you are not weak, you have his power to overcome temptation. Blaming God does damage to your soul When I blame God I must turn to myself for justification, I become my own judge and jury, the result will always be a mistrial. Instead I need to own my sin and turn to Christ who can truly justify me. When I blame God I am saying false things about Him and thus eroding my own faith in Him. When I blame God I adopt a victim mentality that will inhibit my spiritual growth and keep me from ever having victory over sin. When I blame God I am refusing all the help he wants to give me. Don’t give in to desire [Jas 1:14-15 NIV] 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. In just 2 verses James gives us the condensed version of the story of sin. It goes something like this: Evil desire Enticement Sinful action or inaction Death It is helpful for us to see the beginning and the end of sin in our lives. We need to understand the beginning because if we know how it looks and where it comes from then it is much easier for us to identify and avoid. It is helpful for us to see the end because when we know the end it brings sobriety and seriousness to our attitude about sin. Instead of seeing sin as something that is no big deal and nothing to make a fuss about it, we realize that it is deadly! Our deadly desires begin at the heart level and that is why if we want to avoid sin we must take careful consideration of our own hearts. [Pro 4:23 NIV] 23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Thankfully God gives us his word, his people, and his spirit to help us deal with our deadly desires. His Word is what brings conviction and helps us see clearly where we are wrong and also gives us helpful instructions about how to avoid sin. (Psa 19:6-14) His people help us on a practical level. We can pray for each other, encourage each other, rebuke each other, and give each other helpful advice. [Jas 5:16 NIV] 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. His Spirit helps us to see our sin daily and gives us the power to overcome those sins and grow in our faith. (Gal 5:16) Don’t be deceived [Jas 1:13, 16-17 NIV] 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. In the end we must realize that all sin, small and big, is deception. It deceives about its experience, it deceives about its quality, it deceives about its origin, and it deceives about who God is! Remember that when Eve was deceived by the serpent it was a deception concerning the very nature of God. Sin promises but it never delivers Gen 3:5 For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God Satan put God’s motives into question. He was really making a claim that God was withholding some good thing from Eve. God is not withholding good from you. God gives us his goodness through Jesus Christ. Unfortunately we are often deceived as to the nature of goodness. We think that which is destructive for us is good for us and we get upset at God when he doesn’t allow us to have it. *Illustration of my kids trying to eat cigarette butts when they were small. Don’t forget whose child you are [Jas 1:18 NIV] 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. Remembering whose family we are part of is an important aspect of overcoming temptation in our lives. I’m sure that for many of you, your parents often tell you, “remember who you are and where you come from.” This helps you to not lose those important values and principles that are part of your family. Family reminds us that we have others to be accountable to Family shows us that our sin can negatively affect others Family gives encouragement against sin Family allows us to rest from a sinful world As a Christian we need to remember what family we belong to. But for the Christian there’s more than that, when we remember that our father is the Heavenly Father, when we realize that he has given us great riches in Christ, then we have power to overcome many temptations. Conclusion: What are the greatest temptations for you now? Are you daily preparing yourself for these temptations? Are you blaming God or something else? What are the long term results if you give in? What can you do today to avoid this temptation? Who can you talk with to help you with this temptation? How can you pray against this temptation? What verses of Scripture might strengthen you?
42 minutes | Dec 11, 2020
The Lord’s Supper | What Is It and Why We Do It
Some time ago I took my wedding ring off at home because I wanted to do some exercises and I didn’t want to get my ring scratched up. I placed my wedding ring in a spot where I knew I would not forget it and where it would be very visible to me. For some reason after I finished my workout I forgot to put my wedding ring back on. The next day I also forgot to put my wedding ring on when I left for work in the morning. So as I was sitting there at work I noticed that awkward feeling that my wedding ring was missing from my finger. I made a mental note to make sure to put my ring on when I got home and so that it wouldn’t get lost. When I got home that evening I went to that spot where I knew I left my ring and it was gone. I began to go around the house and ask my family if they had seen my ring. They had seen my ring, in fact somebody had even picked my ring up and looked at it, but now it was nowhere to be found. Of course, you can imagine that I got upset, “23 years I’ve been wearing that ring and now it’s gone!” I told my family in frustration. So let me ask you why was that ring so meaningful to me? What made that small piece of metal have such significance in my life? Was it because there is gold in it? Yes, my ring does have gold in it but, honestly, it doesn’t have that much, relatively speaking it’s not that expensive of a ring. The reason that ring is so special to me is because it represents my marriage to my wife. It reminds me of the fact that I love her and she loves me and that we have promised to be faithful to each other for our lifetime. That ring was a gift from my wife to me on our wedding day and so it has a significance to me because it represents a very important event in my life and a very important promise that I have made. You could say that the wedding ring represents not only my marriage but also my entire family. In and of itself the ring is small, plain, and not that significant but when you think about all that it represents then it becomes highly valued. Today we are going to talk about the Lord’s Supper. In many ways the Lord’s Supper is like a wedding ring that God has given to the church. The Lord’s supper if we just look at the physical elements of it is not something very significant, it is simply a little wine and a little bread. These are in very basic foods. We don’t have any meat here, we don’t have any expensive or exotic foods. Everything is very simple. The significance of the Lord’s Supper is in what it represents. Just as the wedding ring is an important reminder of my marriage and the promises that my wife and I have made to each other, so also the Lord’s Supper is a vital reminder of what Christ has done for us. God knows that we are forgetful people and that we need regular reminders of these vital truths in our lives. Today we are going to look at the Bible to see where the Lord’s Supper comes from, what is the purpose of the Lord’s Supper, and how it should be conducted. I hope you will pay close attention because after I finish this sermon we will then as a church participate together in this unique and significant symbol which God has given the Church. Where does it come from? In order to really understand the Lord’s Supper we must go back to the original and look to see where it came from. 26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” 30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Mat 26:26-30 Mark and Luke also record this event in their gospels. We know that this was a very significant event in the life of the Apostles first, because it was one of only 3 possible times that they would have celebrated Passover with Jesus. However, more importantly, this was the last meal, and really the last few hours, that they would spend with their Rabbi, their beloved teacher, Jesus, before his crucifixion. At this point the apostles didn’t completely understand that Jesus was going to die but I think that they knew something significant was going to happen. Jesus had already told them that he was going away yet they seemed confused on this point. Jesus, however, knew exactly what was going to happen and he used these final days and final hours to convey some of the most important truths to his disciples. It comes from the Passover meal Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper during the Passover meal. The Passover meal was the most significant holiday meal that the Israelites were instructed to observe in the Old Testament. For the Israelites the Passover meal was an intimate family time when they recalled the events of the Exodus and they remembered God’s amazing power and ability to save the first born from death when the Angel of the Lord passed over. In many ways the Passover meal of the Old Testament served a similar purpose as the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament. The Passover meal was a powerful reminder to all of the people that they served a god who was able to save. At the center of this meal was a lamb that was slaughtered as a substitutionary sacrifice which stood in place of the firstborn. For those Israelites who believed God and followed his instructions and sacrificed the lamb, God spared their first born son that night. God instituted this meal as a regular yearly practice because he knew that it would be important for the people to have this reminder so that they would never lose sight of God’s saving power and they would never stop serving and worshiping the God who saved them. 26 And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ 27 then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’ ” Then the people bowed down and worshiped. Exo 12:26-27 It comes from Jesus As Jesus sat down to have the Passover meal with his disciples they would have been contemplating God’s ability to save his people, they would have been thinking about the lamb that had been sacrificed for that meal. It is at this point that Jesus takes the symbol of the Passover meal and now directs their attention to himself. He says “take and eat, this is my body.” This may seem like a very strange statement to you and me. And, of course, if anyone else were to make a statement like this it would be very strange. It’s hard to say exactly how the disciples responded to it at that time because they still did not fully understand the need for Christ to die on the cross. Nevertheless, we do know that Jesus made similar statements like this earlier in his ministry. The most significant statement that he made was in John chapter 6. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” 52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Jhn 6:48-56 After Jesus said this there were many disciples who left him but his core group stayed with him so they must have understood some of what Jesus was saying here. Jesus did not mean that we should literally consume him but rather that he was the source of true life and unless a person accept him by believing in him they could not receive the life Jesus was ready to give them. Jesus was simply taking these pictures from the Old Testament and showing how he is now the complete fulfillment of them. All of these events in the Old Testament portray God’s power and his saving ability in some way. However, they all have one thing in common, they were temporary measures. The mana provided life for the people only while they were in the wilderness, even the Passover Lamb was a temporary measure, eventually the firstborn would die of old age or of something else. All of these illustrations in the Old Testament are simply small ways in which God was making his saving power known. However, when we come to Christ we find something drastically different. Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of these pictures that we have in the Old Testament. Now when Christ points to himself he is not saying that he will save you from difficulties here on earth, he is speaking about eternal salvation. As the ultimate fulfillment of these salvation pictures Christ is the only person who can provide true, eternal life. In order that we would understand the symbolic nature of the Lord’s Supper and so that we would also understand the importance of frequently practicing the Lord’s Supper Jesus says the following: “…do this in remembrance of me.” Luk 22:19 The practice of the Lord’s Supper has always been an act of remembrance and something that we are called to frequently do in order to keep the important truths that it represents at the center of our hearts and at the center of our church life. It comes from early church practice While Jesus instituted the practice of the Lord’s supper with his disciples, we also see that this practice continued immediately after Pentecost at the beginning of the church in the book of Acts. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Act 2:42 The end of Acts chapter 2 is one of the most significant descriptions of the life of the early church. From these 6 verses we take an example for the life of our church today. We see in these few verses some of the foundational aspects of church life like; teaching, fellowship, prayer, sacrifice, unity, and, of course, the Lord’s Supper, “breaking of bread.” In fact in verse 46 it says that they met daily in the temple courts and they broke bread together in their homes. This daily practice of the Lord’s Supper didn’t continue for a very long time but it highlights how significant the practice was for the early church. Later on in the book of Acts we can also briefly see that this practice was continued in other churches. Act 20:7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. What is its purpose? Now that we have looked at the historical background of the Lord’s supper and at how Christ instituted it as well as how the church continued with this practice let’s look at the purpose. The Lord’s Supper is a symbol that reminds us of several vital gospel truths. It reminds us of the sacrifice of Christ And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you…” Luk 22:19 There are two important symbols in the Lord’s Supper, the first is the bread and the second is the wine. Jesus tell his disciples that the bread represents his body which was sacrificed in death on the cross for them and for us. At the core of the Christian faith is the truth of Christ sacrificial death. His death was a voluntary sacrifice for you and for me. His death is the only means by which a person can find forgiveness, eternal life, and union with God. Without the death of Christ on the cross our faith is nothing more than just trying to live by a bunch of rules. Without the death of Christ our religion is dead. Without the death of Christ there is no real hope for you or me. But as it was for the Israelites so it is with us, we need to be reminded of these vital truths. There is a difference between a Christian who keeps at the center of his mind and heart the death of Christ and one who doesn’t. What happens when we lose sight of the death of Christ? We become short-sighted and focus more on temporary things and less on Eternal things. We become ungrateful and we begin to complain about the temporary difficulties we have in our life. We lose our passion for God and instead develop stronger passions for things of this world. We lose the desire to go to church, to fellowship with other believers, to worship in community. We lose all motivation to share the gospel with those around us. We begin to fight, to argue, and to cause dissension with those around us. However, when we remind ourselves that Jesus died in our place, that he took our punishment, that he chose to give his life as a sacrifice for us, it will change us. It brings joy and thankfulness It allows us to fully worship It motivates us to serve and to sacrifice for others It gives us the passion to share the gospel It promotes unity within the church and with those around us It helps us to love others like Jesus loved us Some weeks ago I asked you if any of your parents ever told you to remember where you came from. Here we can ask something similar, “do you remember where your salvation comes from?” We must ask and answer that question often for ourselves because it will change our heart attitudes, it will change the way we think and the way we act. We have a great and mighty Savior who willingly gave his life for us! To know that you are loved in such a way changes your whole outlook on life. It humbles you and gives you hope! 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Rom 5:7-8 It reminds us of the promises of the New Covenant There is another powerful symbol in the Lord’s supper and that is the cup or the wine which represents the New Covenant that Christ created through the shedding of his blood. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Mat 26:28 The New Covenant is a miracle of God’s grace and his mercy in our lives. But it’s hard to appreciate the New Covenant unless we understand the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant is the law of Moses. 613 laws that God gave to Moses and to the people of Israel. When God gave them these laws he entered into a covenant with the people of Israel. If they would obey God’s laws, then God would bless them. We find this Covenant in the book of Exodus and later it is renewed in the Book of Deuteronomy. The Old Covenant was a conditional covenant based upon whether or not the people obeyed God’s law. God’s sums up the old Covenant at the end of the book of Deuteronomy by saying “if you diligently obey the Lord your God… then the Lord God will set you High Above All Nations” Deu 28:1 However if they did not obey God’s law then we see something completely different “However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you:” Deu 28:15 The Old Covenant was all or nothing. You either obeyed everything and got all the blessings or you didn’t and you ended up cursed. Of course you can imagine that no one could ever really obey all of the laws that God gave in the Old Covenant. So they were constantly offering sacrifices for their sins, yet these sacrifices were only symbols and didn’t really have the power to forgive sins. The Old Covenant was never meant as a means of salvation but rather as a way for man to see his own sinfulness and need for forgiveness. God knew all along that people would not be able to keep his laws perfectly. That’s why Paul tells us that the purpose of the law is to help us see our need for the grace and forgiveness and mercy that we find in the New Covenant. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. Rom 3:20 By contrast the New Covenant is not a conditional Covenant and it is not based upon the sacrificial system of the Old Covenant but rather upon the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The New Covenant does not depend on your or my ability to completely obey all of God’s law. Instead the New Covenant depends entirely on the ability of Jesus Christ to fulfill God’s law. 21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, Rom 3:21-22 To be included in the New Covenant is the greatest privilege you and I will ever have. It’s more prestigious than becoming friends with the rich, the famous, or the powerful. It is more important than getting into a good school or finding a position in a growing company. The New Covenant is the privilege of having a relationship with God, of being included into the family of God, and of having an eternal inheritance, and many other privileges that we have in Christ. It reminds us of the unity we have in the Body of Christ There is a third symbol that we find in the Lord’s Supper and that is the picture of the unity we have as the Church in the Body of Christ. 16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf. 1Co 10:16-17 The Church is unique because nowhere in the world can you find such unity. Nowhere can we find so many people with such varied backgrounds who are all united around one common truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I remember my first trip to Ukraine in 1994, everything seemed different to me, different people, a different language, different buildings, different traditions, different foods. Yet, I also remember visiting a church in the village on one of the first Sundays we were here. I sat in that small village Church and it looked nothing like my church back home, sounded nothing like my church back home, smelled nothing like my church back home. To an unaware observer they would not have seen anything that would unify me as an American young boy from Washington state with a village Church in the Odessa region half a world away. Yet, as I sat there I felt a great unity because I knew that they worshipped the same Jesus, I knew they had the same hope that I had, I knew they had the same beliefs, the same values, the same God. There was a deep unity in those things despite our outward differences. Today we can look around our small church and we can see differences. We can see differences in the color of our skin, we can see differences in the style of our clothing, we can see differences in our age, we can see differences in our backgrounds. There are all kinds of differences. But there is one thing that unites us, that is the blood of Jesus Christ, his sacrifice for us brings unity in diversity. I want you to notice for a minute the logo for our church, Odessa International Fellowship. We’ve already talked about the black background that represents a sinful world, we’ve talked about the many colors that represent the multicultural aspect of our church, and we’ve talked about yellow “O” which reminds us of the light of the Gospel. Now we want you to notice the red and white “I”. It stands for “international.” We want our church to be international, to be diverse, but we also want it to have unity and that’s why the “I” is red and white. The red stands for the blood of Christ and the white stands for the forgiveness that he gives, this is ultimately what unites us, it is what gives us unity in our diversity. How should it be conducted? Finally, let’s look at some of the important aspects of how the Lord’s Supper should be conducted in the church. Paul gives some clear instructions to the Church in Corinth. Unfortunately, this church was far from a good example to follow so Paul is very straightforward and somewhat harsh with them. 17 In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good…20 So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter! 23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. 27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 1Co 11:17, 20-30 The Lord’s Supper should be done in the fellowship of the church Just as the Passover was a family meal and a time of unity and togetherness, so the Lord’s Supper should emphasize the fellowship and community of the Church. Notice that Paul condemns them for having their “private” meals during the Lord’s Supper and he exhorts them that if they are hungry to eat a meal at home, but the Lord’s Supper is reserved for when the church gathers. The Lord’s Supper should be done in the unity of Christ Because the Lord’s Supper is a symbol of the Body of Christ it is important that there be a spirit of unity as we partake. This spirit of unity is found when we honor and serve our brothers and sisters in Christ. This spirit of unity is found as we humbly think about our equality in Christ and treat each other with respect and honor. Paul tells us that we should examine ourselves and that we should “discern the body of Christ.” This examination means carefully thinking about your relationships in the Church to see if there is anywhere that you have caused an offence and not taken care of it but rather allowed it to divide you from your brother or sister in Christ. It is vile to God to see us participating in the Lord’s Supper with a spirit of arrogance, criticism, or bitterness against others in the Church. If you have a dispute with someone, settle it quickly, repent and then you can partake in the Lord’s Supper knowing that you have peace with that person and peace with God. The Lord’s Supper should be done with thanksgiving Paul also points out the importance of having a spirit of thanksgiving as we participate in the Lord’s Supper. Before we partake we will thank God in prayer and each of us should meditate on what Christ has done and give God thanks. The Lord’s Supper should be done with those who profess and believe in Christ When we take the Lord’s Supper we are making a strong statement about our faith. We are proclaiming our belief in the death of Jesus Christ as the only means of salvation and forgiveness. This is why the Lord’s Supper is reserved for those who have clearly made a public profession of their faith through believers baptism. That means they have been baptized as a response to their personal faith in Christ Jesus. Partaking in the Lord’s Supper will not get you into heaven, it will not even make you a church member. Rather it is a response of all who have already believed. As we partake we do not receive some magical spiritual power, but we do receive blessing as we are reminded of all the riches God has given us through Jesus Christ. The Lord’s Supper should be done with thought and meaning Finally, as we read this passage we can clearly see that there ought to be serious thought and meaning put into the symbol of the Lord’s Supper. Paul tells us that some of those in the Corinthian church who ignored the significance of the Lord’s Supper and thoughtlessly partook in a spirit of arrogance later became sick and were even dying. God doesn’t take lightly those who take him lightly. This warning is for all of us today. Conclusion: Here’s what you need to know about the Lord’s Supper: The Lord’s Supper was instituted by Jesus as a powerful symbol to remind all Christians of the price Christ paid, the New Covenant they are now a part of, and the unity they now enjoy in the Church. As we partake today may we receive it by true faith in Christ, thanksgiving, and in a spirit of unity.
40 minutes | Sep 11, 2020
6 Reasons for Lack of Faithfulness in Ministry
Have you ever wondered why there are fewer faithful pastors now than there was 40-50 years ago? In this episode of the podcast I talk about 6 reasons why there is a lack of faithfulness in minsitry.
36 minutes | Sep 3, 2020
Our Son Left Us and This Is How We Dealt With It
Recently our oldest son Mishael left us and moved to the US. This is our second child to leave the home. In this episode Christina and I talk about how we deal with children leaving the home and we give some advice that helped us. We also talk about some gospel principles that are vital in these transitions. Below are links to some topics in the video: Christina’s ministry at the women’s center: (1:10)Church/Coronavirus update: (3:02)The kids new school year: (3:57)Seminar teaching: (4:50)About Mishael leaving us: (5:15)Christina’s thoughts about Mishael leaving: (6:36)Caleb’s thoughts about Mishael leaving (8:08)Comparing our oldest daughter leaving the house vs our son (9:43)What we wish we had taught him before he left (14:05)What was the hardest part about letting your kids go? (15:50)What helps you get through this? (17:57)Raising a child to leave you (19:16)How the principle of discipleship leads to a healthy transition 24:05How trusting God leads to a healthy transition (28:54)How continued relationship leads to a healthy transition (30:48) Listen to the audio version
12 minutes | Sep 2, 2020
“What if…” Chapter 4, Concern vs Worry
As with any sin, worry is a perversion of something that was originally good. So how do you know when your planning has crossed the line into worry, or when your concern for safety has gone overboard and turned into an unhealthy fear? Friends many people are struggling with worry, fear and anxiety during these unusual times. I decided to record a few chapters from by book “What if… How to Kill Worry and Anxiety Before They Kill You.” I hope this recording will help calm your worries and anxieties. I hope you might also take time to share this with a friend who you know is struggling with worry now.
46 minutes | Aug 28, 2020
Please Get This One Right
In this episode of The Gospel Today I talk about the blessedness of persecution. I share with you some of the story of Richard Wurmbrand and I talk about how we can prepare ourselves for persecution. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Mat 5:10-12 The story of Richard Wurmbrand In order to understand Christian persecution it is sometimes helpful to look into the lives of those Christians who have successfully endured persecution from the hands of evil and godless people. These testimonies help to embolden our faith and to see the true blessedness in persecution even if we have not experienced what they have experienced. Last November I had the privilege of visiting the prison in Bucharest, Romanian where Pastor Richard Wurmbrand was confined and tortured for his faith. The entrance to the prison where Richard Wurmbrand was incarcerated in Bucharest, Romania Altogether he spent about 14 years in communist prisons. Three of those years he spent in solitary confinement. This confinement was in a cell twelve feet underground, with no lights or windows. There was no sound because even the guards wore felt on the soles of their shoes. He later recounted that he maintained his sanity by sleeping during the day, staying awake at night, and exercising his mind and soul by composing and then delivering a sermon each night. An underground passage lined with prison cells. “Christians were hung upside-down on ropes and beaten so severely that their bodies swung back and forth under the blows. Christians were also placed in ice-box “refrigerator cells,” which were so cold that frost and ice covered the inside. I was thrown into one while I had very little clothing on. Prison doctors would watch through an opening until they saw symptoms of freezing to death, then they would give a signal and guards would rush in to take us out and make us warm. When we were finally warmed, we would immediately be put back into the ice-box cells to freeze. Thawing out, then freezing to within minutes of death, then being thawed out—over and over again! Even today there are times when I can’t bear to open a refrigerator. We Christians were sometimes forced to stand in wooden boxes only slightly larger than we were. This left no room to move. Dozens of sharp nails were driven into every side of the box, with their razor-sharp points sticking through the wood. While we stood perfectly still, it was all right. But we were forced to stand in these boxes for endless hours; when we became fatigued and swayed with tiredness, the nails would pierce our bodies. If we moved or twitched a muscle—there were the horrible nails. What the Communists have done to Christians surpasses any possibility of human understanding. I have seen Communists whose faces while torturing believers shone with rapturous joy. They cried out while torturing the Christians, “We are the devil!” We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers of evil. We saw that communism is not from men but from the devil. It is a spiritual force—a force of evil—and can only be countered by a greater spiritual force, the Spirit of God. Wurmbrand, Richard. Tortured for Christ (pp. 46-47). A large cell that would have held 40+ prisoners. When I look back on my fourteen years in prison, it was occasionally a very happy time. Other prisoners and even the guards very often wondered at how happy Christians could be under the most terrible circumstances. We could not be prevented from singing, although we were beaten for this. I imagine that nightingales, too, would sing, even if they knew that after finishing they would be killed for it. Christians in prison danced for joy. How could they be so happy under such tragic conditions? Wurmbrand, Richard. Tortured for Christ (p. 81). “I can never describe the beauty of this Church! Often, after a secret service, Christians were caught and sent to prison. There, Christians wear chains with the gladness with which a bride wears a precious jewel received from her beloved. The waters in prison are still. They receive His kiss and His embraces, and would not change places with kings. I have found truly joyful Christians only in the Bible, in the Underground Church, and in prison. ― Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ Persecution has always produced a better Christian—a witnessing Christian, a soul-winning Christian. Communist persecution has backfired and produced serious, dedicated Christians such as are rarely seen in free lands. These people cannot understand how anyone can be a Christian and not want to win every soul they meet. Wurmbrand, Richard. Tortured for Christ (pp. 152-153). How is it that the believer in Christ can endure such persecution and endure it with Joy? The answer is simple, we have a great hope, a powerful Savior, a sure promise, and ever present help.
15 minutes | Aug 21, 2020
“What if…” Chapter 3, What Is Worry?
Worry and anxiety are the weeds of the mind and spirit. Do nothing and they will grow! Leave them alone hoping that they will go away, and when you come back, they will be bigger and stronger than before. Eventually they crowd out everything else and do real damage to your spirit! In the New Testament, Jesus used a similar illustration when he taught his disciples about the destructive nature of worry. In the parable of the soils (Matthew 13:3-9) Jesus explained how worry can completely take over our life, not even leaving room for us to respond to the message of the gospel. Friends many people are struggling with worry, fear and anxiety during these unusual times. I decided to record a few chapters from by book “What if… How to Kill Worry and Anxiety Before They Kill You.” I hope this recording will help calm your worries and anxieties. I hope you might also take time to share this with a friend who you know is struggling with worry now.
16 minutes | Aug 18, 2020
Here’s a quick summer update, there will be more to come soon! Here’s a brief overview: Coronavirus situation in Ukraine is getting worse, some churches have gone back to online services and others are meeting outdoors We are beginning a new ministry to internationals called“Odessa International Fellowship.” We became grandparents for again on July 4th! WelcomeCosette Ivana Whitaker Suko! We recently had a meeting of our Ukraine Crisis Fund board and dispersed funds to pastors and churches in Eastern Ukraine. Our son Mishael graduated from high school and will be finally heading to the States on August 25th Christina continues to serve at the women’s center and council with clients there. During quarantine we wrote a new seminar on evangelism and have already taught it 3 times, including once in the Carpathian Mountains! Thank you for your prayers and support! Caleb and Christina Suko
12 minutes | Apr 24, 2020
“What if…” Chapter 2, The Acceptable Sin
“Every culture, every time period, and often every church has a few sins that are considered acceptable. For the patriarchs, polygamy really wasn’t that bad. In the New Testament, some churches thought it wasn’t a big deal to segregate the rich from the poor. Not so long ago in US history, many churches had no problem segregating blacks from whites. Today you could make a long list of sins that are acceptable by many in our culture. Worry is one of those acceptable sins.”
26 minutes | Apr 10, 2020
The Do’s and Don’ts of Attending Your Church’s Online Easter Service
Everyone is getting ready for the biggest Christian holiday of the year. The one Sunday when those who haven’t been to church for months climb out of their den’s to see what the church can offer them. And now we are all being told to stay home. How can you effectively prepare to attend your church’s online Easter service. What are some things you should avoid and what some things you should do to make it a success for you and your church? I hope you find this list of do’s and don’ts helpful. If you do, please share them with a friend as we are all trying to figure out how to make Easter Sunday during quarantine work. Don’t stay up late on Saturday night. Do get to bed on time so you can be rested, awake and ready to worship on Sunday.Don’t just watch movies on Saturday night. Do prepare the night before by reading some Easter passages with your family.Don’t leave the house a mess on Saturday night. Do clean-up the night before so you won’t be distracted by anything out of place during the service on Sunday morning. Don’t watch the service in separate rooms with everyone in your family on their own devices. Do decide with your family what room you’ll all gather in to watch the service together.Don’t stay in your pajamas or worse yet in bed while watching the online service. Do get dressed and dress nicely like you usually would for Easter.Don’t be distracted with a device in your hand during the service. Do ask your whole family, you included, to put devices aside for at least the duration of the worship service.Don’t make disparaging remarks about the quality of the video or what the pastor is wearing or anything else. Do focus on worshiping God and meditating on the truth of the resurrection.Don’t forget to bring your Bible to the service. Do open your Bible as your pastor speaks and follow along with the verses he is reading.Don’t be silent about your church’s Easter service. Do invite your friends, neighbors and relatives. Let them know when and how you’ll be watching, send them a link and ask them to watch with you.Don’t watch in complete isolation. Do take an active part in the video chat, let others know you are there, share a prayer request, and respond to others.Don’t refrain from your usual donation. Do give a gift to your church through some online means, your church needs it now more than ever.Don’t stop worshiping when the service is over. Do take some family time to discuss the sermon, pray together, sing a hymn.Don’t forget to fellowship with other believers. Do make 2-3 phone calls after the service to people who may be feeling very lonely and discouraged during this holiday.Don’t forget to let your pastor know how he encouraged you. Do send your pastor a quick note and let him know that you watched his sermon and how it blessed you.Don’t forget to share the gospel. Do use all means of technology to communicate the gospel to anyone you know who has not believed yet in Jesus. What do’s and don’ts could you add to this list?
17 minutes | Apr 9, 2020
“What if…” Chapter 1, How We Start
Friends many people are struggling with worry, fear and anxiety during these unusual times. I decided to record a few chapters from by book “What if… How to Kill Worry and Anxiety Before They Kill You.” I hope this recording will help calm your worries and anxieties. I hope you might also take time to share this with a friend who you know is struggling with worry now.
20 minutes | Mar 20, 2020
How to Use Quarantine to Advance the Gospel, 5 Things You can do
Everyone seems to be rethinking how they can continue to minister and preach the gospel during these days of quarantine because of the Coronavirus. In this episode of the podcast I share with you 5 ways that you can continue to advance the gospel even while you are isolated. (Yes, I know I accidently said, “Now Is the Time” instead of “Gospel today!”)
43 minutes | Mar 6, 2020
The Coronavirus, How Should Christians Respond?
In this episode I talk about how Christians should respond to the Coronavirus and how we can use it for the Gospel. I also respond to Rajesh from Singapore who asked? “Kindly do clarify whether 1 cor 3 is speaking about leaders. If yes, how do we apply for believers? How do we understand that they will be saved even his work is burned in fire? Is he speaking about false teachers or some other category?”
47 minutes | Feb 16, 2020
10 Uncomfortable Questions on Love and Marriage
Christina and I decided to ask each other some tough questions about love and marriage. In the end marriage and the gospel are closely tied. Listen along with us to find out how we answer these questions. Questions for Christina Were there ever times in our marriage when you didn’t feel love for me?What annoys you most about me and how do you deal with it,What’s the biggest difference between your family growing up and your family now.How did you know I was the one for you?Do you ever find it difficult to forgive me for something? How do you deal with that? Questions for Caleb Did you have a girlfriend before me? How did that affect your decisions about dating and marriage later on?Have ever been tempted by pornography? How did you deal with it?What do you do when an attractive woman catches your eye?What was one of the biggests shocks for you after we got married?How do you deal with conflict in marriage?
45 minutes | Jan 18, 2020
Why Did Jesus Need to Get Baptized if He Was Sinless?
John came with a baptism of repentance, yet Jesus wanted to be baptized by John. If Jesus didn’t need to repent, then why did John baptize him? Episode resources In this podcast episode I also share with you a few ministry updates and talk about the holiday of “Baptism” on January 19th here in Ukraine.
35 minutes | Jan 10, 2020
Are You Planning for the Gospel in 2020?
How are you planning to input and record gospel goals for your life in 2020? If you have a some helpful suggestions, you can share it with us here. Gospel resources Gospel video with app for sharing the gospel in about 20 languages: The Story Film A short book that simply explains who Jesus is, designed with unbelievers in mind. Who is Jesus?
11 minutes | Jan 3, 2020
A New Podcast for 2020
As we start 2020 I want to wish many blessings in this new year. In this short episode I talk about the new name for the podcast and a plans for this year.
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