Category Archives: Bible

Church Growth the Bible Way

 

The last couple of posts cover church growth and congregational friendliness, today I want us to open the Book of Acts and see how the early Church grew.  Let’s just call this what it is: Church growth the Bible way.ipad 016

A quick survey of the book of Acts in the Bible and you quickly realize that the early church grew. No they increased, make that multiplied. Look at the early chapters and the growth of the church:

  • Acts 2:41, 47; “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. . . . And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
  • Acts 4:4; “But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.”
  • Acts 5:14; “And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,”
  • Acts 6:1, 7;”Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. . . . And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”
  • Acts 8:4, “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.”
  • Acts 9:31, “And the church in Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”

There it is! The is a simple Biblical formula that made growth possible.
1. They had peace. Not peace with Judaism. Not peace with Rome. Not peace with the world. Definitely not peace with Satan. But peace with God through Christ and therefore with each other.
2. They were being built up. Encouraged, edified, taught by God’s word and by each other’s example.
3. They walked in fear of God. Yes, fear as in reverence and awe. But also fear as in “this is Creator who spoke the world into existence and who caused the immediate death of two who lied to His Spirit (cf. Acts 5).”
4. They walked in the comfort of the Holy Spirit. They had the promise of Acts 2:38-40. They understood the seal of guarantee that Paul talks of in Ephesians 1:13-14. Their spirit in tune with His produced the fruit of Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.
5. All this lead to the final words of this verse “it MULTIPLIED.”

How is the church growing where you are? Are you part of the problem or the solution?

- Scott

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Lead Me Not Into Temptaion, I Can Find The Way Myself.

Each and everyone of us faces temptations in one or more areas of our lives. I do not know what tempts you to pull away from or hide from God, but there is something, and you know what that something is. So does our enemy the devil! He knows my weaknesses as well as yours, and he will find a way to get you thinking about that something. Temptation may be a terrible subject for a Thursday morning, yet on the other hand this may be a good subject as we near the weekend.

There is good news; whatever temptations you face, you can win the battle to resist. Here are five (5) things that will help you and I win the battle against temptation if we will remember them.

photo credit: The Rocketeer via photopin cc

photo credit: The Rocketeer via photopin cc

  1. Remember that we are part of a SPIRITUAL Kingdom. Paul reminds us in 2 Cor 10:3-6 that our weapons are not physical because we battle in a spiritual arena. God gives us the armor we need to do this battle if we will but take it up and put it on (Eph 6:10-18). When I face physical temptations, remembering I am a citizen of a spiritual kingdom, will help me keep focus.
  2. Remember TEMPTATION is NOT SIN. Our Savior faced temptations (Matt 4:1ff) yet he faced them without giving in and did not sin (Heb 4:15). We cannot let tempting thoughts take root or make safe harbor in our minds / heart. When such thoughts enter, we must push them out and not act on those thoughts.
  3. Remember that sin is NOT REALLY PLEASURABLE. Advertisements, movies, and magazines all make sinful behavior appealing; Satan knows how to deceive. But whatever pleasure sin produces is temporary, transient, or passing. The Hebrew writer reminds us that Moses chose rather to suffer mistreatment with God’s people that to enjoy the “fleeting pleasures of sin” (Heb 11:25).
  4. Remember that God does NOT tempt. Take a look at Jas 1:13-15. Our own desires pull us into sin, the things that John calls “all that is in the world” (1 Jn 2:15-17).
  5. Remember that Temptation is Powerful. Some will fall as we learn from David with Bathsheba, Solomon and all his wives, Adam and Eve, and so many others in recorded Biblical history. One way to avoid falling into a sinful behavior is to avoid situations that tempt us. If David had been where he should have, he would not have seen Bathsheba, if Eve had walked away, well you get the point.

Just a few more quick observations for you when you face temptation:

I pray this helps you.
-Scott

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When Tragedy Strikes: Why do bad things happen?

From Thursday’s blog:

Many times when storms or tragedy strike, we find ourselves asking a question similar to this, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I am not sure that anyone can satisfactorily answer that question for everyone. But the Bible does give us the answer, an answer that requires a strong faith and strong foundation.

I find it interesting that Jeremiah asks a similar question in Jeremiah 12:1, “Righteous are you, O LORD, when I complain to you; yet I would plead my case before you. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?” In other words, “Why do good things happen to bad people?”

There is a quick answer to the question “Why do bad things happen to good people?” from Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5:43-45, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

But what are the reasons bad things happen to good people?

Today we begin an answer.

First Bad Happens Because we Live in a World Cursed by Sin. We read in Genesis 1:31 at the end of God’s creation that in the beginning all was very good including mankind. Then only a couple chapters and a short while later

ABC 3340 Cullman Sky Cam Tornado 04.27.2011

ABC 3340 Cullman Sky Cam Tornado 04.27.2011

mankind sins against God and that sin brought its curse. Turn to Genesis 3:16-24, “To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.”

Because of man’s sin, pain and suffering entered his experience. Because of his sin, toil and sweat entered man’s world. Because of his sin, sorrow and death became a reality to mankind. The serpent was correct, Adam and Eve now understood (knew of) the good they had and the evil that resulted from their listening to him.

Because of sin, God removed man from the Tree of life. The Tree of Life was for Adam and Eve their source of immortality. Now without access to the Tree of Life both disease and the  pain of deterioration become known to them. Now even nature becomes an agent of potentially bad things. Death can now come to man via animals, accidents, bacterial infections, or viral infections. No person after Adam and Eve is immune.

Consider what the Preacher says in Ecclesiastes 9:2-3 , “It is the same for all, since the same event happens to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As the good one is, so is the sinner, and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.”

Consider also the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die . . .”

Bad Happens Because we Live in a World Cursed by Sin.

We will consider a second reason on Monday’s Morning Drive.

- Scott

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Journey Through Mark – 12

What a great journey we are on together. I am looking forward to each time we walk with Jesus. Today’s trek opens our eyes to more of the opposition Jesus faces and we see His ability to answer with loving truth. We also see more about the importance of our heart. As we journey in Mark 12, we witness the following events:

  • Mark 12:1-12 – The Parable of the Tenant Farmerslove
  • Mark 12:13-17 – Paying Taxes to Rome
  • Mark 12:18-27 – The Resurrection of the Dead
  • Mark 12:28-34 – The Greatest of Commands
  • Mark 12:35-37 – The Son of David
  • Mark 12:38-40 – The Danger of Showy Religion
  • Mark 12:41-44 – Two Coins in the Coffer

Let’s stop and listen again to Jesus answer the question about the Most Important Commandment. Jesus’ answer is that there are two important commandments of which there are no other that are greater than these two: 1) “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:29-30). 2) “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” Mark 12:31).

  1. Love God with ALL Your Heart. The heart is in their understanding, the part of you that feels. It is your emotional seat. You are to love God like you love your spouse, children, parents, and grandchildren.
  2. Love God with ALL Your Soul. Soul is from the Greek word “psyche.” This word describes the whole of Human essence – our breath or life. The soul is everything that we are.
  3. Love God with ALL Your Mind. This is the seat of intellect. Loving God is more than a feeling it is a thinking and rational adventure.
  4. Love God with ALL Your Strength. This is what you can do. Love God with your abilities and energies. Love Him until you have nothing else to love Him with and then love Him more.

This thought crosses my mind: If Loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength is the Greatest Command; then “What is the greatest sin?” Would it be failing to love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, soul, mind and strength?

The Second Command is to love your neighbor as yourself. There are two keys to following God: Loving God completely and loving mankind earnestly. (cf. 1 John 4:19-21).

If loving God is the most important command, how do I love God? John says to “Walk in His commandments” (2 John 6). That is we are to do His will. Which would include obeying Him according to His terms (cf. Mark 16:15-16), worshiping Him according to His authority (John 4:24), and living for Him daily (1 John 1:7 – walk daily in the light; 1 John 2:15-17 – love God and not the world)

If the second command is to love my neighbor, how do I love my neighbor? The obvious answer is: as I love myself. It means putting the interest of others before my own. Is not that the example Jesus gave in life and in death?

-Scott

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Journey Through Mark – 11

Our journey today in the eleventh chapter of Mark brings us to the point where the tension between Jesus and the religious authorities of His day reach a boiling point. Already, the Chief Priests feel they have to stop this Jesus. They fear His influence on people. They fear this could result in a loss of revenue for them. Politically, they begin to fear for their already precarious position with Rome. And greater still, as leaders of Judaism, they had fears that this Jesus was misleading people away from the coming Messiah.

  • Mark 11:1-10 – Jesus enters Jerusalem with Triumphal FanfareWeekend Reading
  • Mark 11:11-14, 20-26 – Jesus and a misleading Fig Tree
  • Mark 11:15-19 – Jesus clears the Temple of Avarice
  • Mark 11:27-33 – Jesus’ Authority, where does it come from?

For our walk today we focus on Jesus and the events at the Temple, “And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city.” Mark 11:15-19

We walk into the temple area known as the Court of Gentiles this is the open courtyard of the Temple. It is here that all people of all backgrounds and ethnicities can gather. Only Jews can proceed deeper into the temple, only priests can enter the Holy Place, and the High Priest alone can enter the Most Holy Place. The courtyard comprises the greater part of the approximately thirty acres of the Temple area.

By the time Jesus is ministering and proclaiming the coming Kingdom, this area of the Temple had become a market place, a bazaar, a giant yard sale, and stockyard. Here we come to be in the Temple, the place where God met with His people, where His people came to be nearer to Him. Here we are to worship and here we find, not God, but a market place – not a Publix or a Winn Dixie, but a market place like you would find in third world countries in our current world. Vendors are yelling from their tents and cubicles selling their wares. Pigeons are . . . doing what pigeons do. Animals are grunting, mooing, bleating, eating, and eliminating waste. We come to meet God and we meet the smells of dirty dusty animals and people. The atmosphere was less than conducive to worship.

Along with the disciples, we are trying to take all of this in, when we see Jesus. He seems to be too quiet and we can tell He is in deep thought. All of the sudden, Jesus cannot take it anymore! He seizes the moment. He overturns the tables of money changers and merchants. Coins roll across the courtyard, animals flee for safety, pigeons fly to the top of the walls, feathers flying as they escape. Jesus turns around those who using the Temple area as a short-cut to the other side of Jerusalem.

Jesus reminds them of the messages of the prophets:
“ . . . will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” Isaiah 56:7.
“Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the LORD” Jeremiah 7:11.

What can we learn from these events?

We begin understanding that the Church (gathered Christians) is the Temple today. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” Ephesians 2:19-22. The Church is:

  • A Group Religion
  • For salvation of the lost
  • For Spiritual Worship in His Name
  • Not a set of religious programs
  • Not a society or country club
  • Not business

But we also notice that each individual Christian is a Temple of God in his/her own right. “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body”1 Corinthians 6:18-20.

  • Do not sell yourself to sin.
  • Do not see yourself to the world.
  • Do not sell out to materialism.
  • Keep focused on God (cf. Rom 12:1-2)

- Scott

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Journey Through Mark – 10

Ecuador 2013Welcome back to our journey together. I pray that by now this walk is a part of your daily routine. I pray that as we walk together, you are growing closer and closer to our walking companion – Jesus.  Today as we walk in His company, there is much to learn. Some of His teachings are uphill walks and until our spiritual health improves we will have to take these hills slowly. Some of what we learn from Him today, may upset you. That is okay, we all need reminders of who we should be and not just pats on the head telling us, “that’s alright.” Listen as Jesus talks as we walk.

  • Mark 10:1-12 – Jesus teaches about marriage, divorce, and remarriage. He gives only one reason for divorce and remarriage; the other person’s infidelity.
  • Mark 10:13-16 – Jesus welcomes little children to Him. We must become like children in His eyes.
  • Mark 10:17-27 – A wealthy young man learns a hard lesson about material possessions. A lesson we need to take a serious look at.
  • Mark 10:28-31 – Jesus tells about the cost of truly walking with Him.
  • Mark 10:32-34 – Jesus foretells of His death a third time.
  • Mark 10:35-45 – James and John make a mistaken request.
  • Mark 10:46-52 – Bartimaeus receives his sight.

When the disciples understand the wealthy young man’s plight, Peter exclaims, “See, we have left everything and followed you” (Mar 10:28). As we journey today, take time to reflect on your blessings and what you are willing to give up to walk with Jesus. Are we doing the same at Peter? Do I want to walk with Jesus? If I do, what is the cost?

Honestly, to walk with Jesus does have a cost. Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel,” (Mark 10:29). The cost is our earthly ties. To give up our house is to let go of our possessions; what the wealthy young man could not easily do. If my life is build around gaining the world, and laying up treasures on earth (cf. Matt 6:19-21), then following Jesus will be difficult. If I life by the slogan “You Only Live Once,” and use that to do what I want to do and gain what pleases me getting what I can, saving for my long, relaxing, vacationing retirement, then I may have difficulty daily walking with Jesus. Society says to vote for the person and the policy that fattens your wallet and takes care of your wants at little cost to you. Society says to look out for yourself and your life on earth.

Jesus says, No.”  Give all that up and turn your back on your family too. This has to be difficult. My junior high Sunday School teacher converted to Christianity and his family disowned him and considered him “dead” for all practical purposes.

When we commit to this journey with Jesus, people (friends and family) will not understand and some will make your decision difficult. This is part of the persecution Jesus mentions in Mark 10:31. When I told my high school friends, just before graduation that I was going to school to become a minister, I knew some of them would not understand, but there was one I expected to support me. He was a member of a conservative Christian church, a part of the American Restoration Movement. We had very similar religious backgrounds and differed only in some of the specifics of worship.  I thought, he would support me. But it was this friend whose statement stung the hardest. “Why? You are too smart to be a preacher, you could make a lot more money as an medical doctor!”

Yes, the cost of walking with Jesus is high. But high cost equals high rewards. ” . . . receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Mark 10:30-31). Give up your belongings and life to God and know that God will take care of you (cf. Matt 6:25-34). God’s people will not go without necessities and added to that is our eternal inheritance that never fades away or decays! Part of that reality is our new family – those fellow Christians with whom we are so closely connected. I have more “mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers” than I can count. Family I know I can always count on. This family in Christ is a great blessing, one that will follow into eternity.

I high cost? Yes. But an even greater eternal dividend!

- Scott

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Journey Through Mark – 9

This is our ninth walk as we journey through Mark’s account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. We are across the half-way point, do not turn back now! We are learning so much from this man, Jesus. He is turning heads and hearts everywhere He goes. During our last walk with Him, He asked His followers a challenging question, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter breaks the silence and confesses that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God! If you believe, with Peter, that such is the case, I am joyful for you.  I hope and pray you commit your life to Jesus as the Christ.

Now let’s catch up to Jesus and the apostles as the walk the dusty roads of the Middle East.

  • Mark 9:1 – Jesus tells of the coming Kingdom
  • Mark 9:2-13 – Jesus’ transfiguration
  • Mark 9:14-29 – Evil spirits, healings, and prayer
  • Mark 9:30-32 – Jesus talks about His death and resurrection
  • Mark 9:33-37 – Who is the greatest in the Kingdom?
  • Mark 9:38-40 – People are either against Jesus or for Him
  • Mark 9:41-50 – Facing temptations, they will come

Walk back and take a look at Mark 9:1. Listen intently to what Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”

Some standing around on that day; some standing there with Jesus would see His Kingdom. I am sure that Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddeus, Simon, and Judas were thinking of a physical kingdom with standing armies and a vast treasury. The were considering all the possibilities of being at Jesus side when He ruled over God’s people and even Rome from Jerusalem. They had visions of Jerusalem’s return to world prominence. I am not convinced they had yet fully grasped Jesus’ Kingdom. I know they had not, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).

Some people in Judaism and in Christendom today still wait for a Messianic Kingdom. Some today still look for a future when Christ will return to reign on the earth. But Jesus said some that stood with Him on that day would see the kingdom come with power. Either Jesus was wrong and the Kingdom did not come, or those who wait today are wrong and the Kingdom did come and does exist – today.20110816-122724.jpg

Jesus was not wrong! The Kingdom did come and it came with power. “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Act 2:1-4). All of the apostles, except Judas, were resent that day. It was Peter who would stand and declare the arrival of Jesus’ Kingdom (Acts 2:14-36). A few years later, the former persecutor turned preacher, Paul would write, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:13-14).
His Kingdom is His Church on earth. You are welcome to enter His Kingdom. Those whom He adds to His people are part of His Kingdom. Will you allow Him to add you? “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47) “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Act 2:36-38). So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). Be added to His Kingdom – today!

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