Two Young Girls and a Cousin

Rembrandt_Christ_In_The_Storm_On_The_Sea_Of_GalileePeter was one of four fishermen that Jesus called to be a member of His special group—the twelve Apostles of the Lamb. These men were entrusted to take the message they would learn during the three year ministry of Jesus and spread it to the ends of the earth. It would be no small task. However, the Lord would send the Holy Spirit to empower and enable them for the job.

As a fisherman, Peter was a member of a hard working and physically strong class of men. Fishermen in Palestine during the first century were not models of moral behavior. They were:

  • Gruff – abrupt and rude in speech
  • Unkempt – shabby, untidy, disheveled in appearance
  • Vile – morally bad
  • Used Vulgar Language – cursing
  • Had Boisterous Tempers – hot headed
  • Fearless – willing to face the sudden and dangerous storms on the Sea of Galilee.

Of all the disciples, Peter was the one the others looked to for leadership. He was willing to take the lead, even to his own embarrassment, when others stood passively by. Let’s look at Peter’s fearlessness. He was willing to fight for Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane when the soldiers came to arrest him…he even cut off the ear of Malchus, one of the soldiers. And yet, this fearlessness as a tough guy, a fisherman, a man’s man, was not enough to stand for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

After his arrest, Jesus was taken before a kangeroo court in the High Priest’s palace. Peter was outside, as close as he could be, waiting to get word in order to find out what the religious leaders would do with Jesus. As he waited we read where he denied even Continue reading “Two Young Girls and a Cousin”

Holy Who? – Inviting the Holy Spirit Back into Our Gatherings

Every Sunday morning millions of believers gather in various places around the world for church. However, without the presence of the Holy Spirit they are only club meetings, gossip sessions or fashion shows….but they are NOT Church!

Jesus left the Holy Spirit in charge of the church when He ascended back to the Father. He called men into leadership, but He charged them to do nothing, except wait, until the Holy Spirit took His rightful place among them.

Times have changed, but the Scriptures have not. When we read the New Testament we are driven to our knees in prayer for the same work of God to take place in our generation. We wonder how, when and where the Lord will do it again. We read about revivals from various lands and previous eras, and again we wonder how, when or where will the Lord do it again?

I’m convinced we are asking the wrong questions. Instead, we should ask, “Who?’ Who empowered the saints in the Book of Acts to spread the Gospel with such exponential Continue reading “Holy Who? – Inviting the Holy Spirit Back into Our Gatherings”

Persecution and the Power of Forgiveness

Christians have always been persecuted…it is part of our call. (Acts 14:22) The call to plant churches and reach the unreached, will cost us. It will cost our time, our resources, and possibly even our life. We easily forget that all but one (St. John and excluding Judas) of the original Apostles were brutally martyred for the sharing of the Gospel. Their blood and lives were offered on the altar of God’s grace toward mankind. They did not die in vain.

In our day of “at ease in Zion” religianity (my word), we know little of sacrifice, death or persecution. However, this is not the case in other countries and it will eventually find its way into the U.S. in the not too distant future. Church Planters in foreign lands and with limited resources are laying their life on the altar of sacrifice for the gospel’s sake.

In the midst of persecution the Lord is offering us the opportunity to demonstrate the power of grace and forgiveness. Instead of retaliation, it is an open window to be an example of truth and grace. Yes, let us stand for the equal rights of all men. However, if we proclaim the name of Christ let us never fail to offer forgiveness and mercy.

The early church saw persecution as a norm for proclaiming the gospel…they expected it. (1Thes. 3:3-4) Paul viewed it as a ministry opportunity to proclaim Jesus and advance the message among another class of people. (Phil. 1:12-13 – Kings, Governors, soldiers, etc.) After all, Paul knew from his initial calling into ministry that his life was destined for persecution. (Acts 9:15-16) When we adopt their attitude by surrendering to God’s highest purposes we will realize that rejection and persecution is a biblical norm. Then we will also discover the power of communication it offers to us. Continue reading “Persecution and the Power of Forgiveness”

ReThinking Church, Part 10 – Biblical Leadership

America was born out of the seed of representation and democracy. It has given us the greatest freedoms of any civilized nation. Of course, baggage and error always comes with liberty and freedom, but that is the price for genuine freedom. Along with the secular government given to us by the trials of the forefathers, there is another pattern given to us. Unfortunately, it was given to the Church. That pattern is that the American church, for the most part, adopted the same forms of secular society and imposed it upon the ecclesiology of the church. Many fellowships take a vote from the local members to decide just about everything, or at the very least, have a board of Deacons who run the church on all matters. (physical and spiritual)

Is this the New Testament pattern? Is this the way Paul and the early apostles established leadership in the expansion of the church? Is this the polity we should use in our local churches?

Upon a casual reading of the NT we find the biblical pattern for church government to be quiet different from the American version. Here are the constants we find throughout the survey of the New Testament.

Church Planting and the Apostles’ Doctrine

Immediately after the birth of the New Testament Church on the Day of Pentecost, we read where the believers gathered together to form a community of fellowship, prayer and doctrinal instruction. (Acts 2:42) I’ve been thinking about this for a long time and pondering a few areas as it relates to church planting. My focus rests upon a simple question:

In the NT how much doctrinal instruction was expected before other church planters (apostles/missionaries) were sent out?

There would seem to be two extremes. First, there is the position that only those officially trained in Seminary are qualified to hold such a position. Second, there is the position that anyone with a burden should be sent out as soon as possible. The former turns the church planting into a slow and almost non-existent process and seems to violate the New Testament norm and would even disqualify the twelve apostles. (Acts 4:13) The later may multiply quickly, but it opens the door for all types of heresy and catastrophes caused by novice leaders. (1Tim. 3:6)

Couple this with the fact that the early Apostles did not have a written doctrinal statement to use for class room instruction, or even a completed New Testament text. Therefore, what did they demand for future leaders to understand before sending them Continue reading “Church Planting and the Apostles’ Doctrine”

God’s Sovereignty and Spiritual Warfare

A casual reading of the Bible reveals the marvelous truth that God is Sovereign. That simply means that nothing takes place in this life which does not go through His Hands and that He is supreme over everything. That can be a controversial statement and one which gives rise to some interesting theological discussions. But how does it affect and apply to spiritual warfare? Let’s briefly look at this.

What does it mean to “go through God’s Hands?” Does that mean He instigates all things and that all things are the work of His Hands? Of course not. However, everything which takes place will either be promoted, permitted or prevented by the Father’s Sovereign will. That which He promotes and prevents can be declared the hand or finger of God with Scriptural certainty. However, that which He permits can have other sources; though none of them are independent of God’s Sovereignty.

Why all of this? Because while upholding God’s Sovereignty we must not press our view of sovereignty beyond the full Scriptural position. If we do, we will find ourselves calling the work of Satan the Hand of God. We have an enemy who fights believers and seeks to steal, kill and destroy. (Jn. 10:10) The OT prophets, Jesus and the early church stood against and engaged the powers of darkness as the cause of evil works. We must also recognize the presence of the enemy and stand in our rightful position in the finished work of Calvary lest we roll over and yield to the enemy’s hand while believing it is God’s Hand. Continue reading “God’s Sovereignty and Spiritual Warfare”

Get Dirt Under Our Fingernails

Church planting isn’t for the faint of heart. Neither is evangelism and outreach. Both require men and women who are willing to place their life, substance, families, careers and talents on the line for the sake of the kingdom of God. We can learn a lot more about church planting and outreach from a group of farmers than we can from a group of businessmen. The similarities of a farmer and a church planter, or one given to outreach, are enlightening to say the least.

Church planting is messy – The gospel is not made for the ivory and glass towers of social comfort. Men are dying without Christ and need to be rescued. However, getting into their lives can be messy and complicated. But, let us remember that we have the answer, and we must not shrink back from the call. After all, Jesus is our example and our messy lives did not keep Him from entering our world of sin and shame.

Church planting is a challenge – Farming requires the challenge to break up hard ground in preparation of the seed. Likewise, people can be hard and afraid to trust others, and for good reason. Let us be genuine friends to sinners, and let us have pure motives. Men will open up the issues of their life if they feel we are honest, respectful and caring. Continue reading “Get Dirt Under Our Fingernails”

ReThinking Church, Part 8 – Church Planting is NOT the Mission

Now, before you have a stroke, let me explain. Of course church planting is part of the overall strategy of evangelism and the spread of the Gospel. However, if we count the establishing or planting of a church as the final goal, we miss the heart of Jesus and the example of the Apostle Paul in the book of Acts.

When church planting becomes the mission, several destructive issues arise.

  • Power Play – Fight over who’s boss (Can involve family ties, social clicks, racial profiling, etc…)
  • Satisfaction – We have arrived.
  • Pride – Look what we have accomplished.
  • Inertia – At ease in Zion.
  • Self Absorbed – Can we build a larger building to impress the community. (Of course, the building is always for the ‘Glory of God.’ …sarcasm intended.)
  • Old Testament Paradigm – Come and hear, as opposed to New Testament model of ‘go and tell.’

The above problems, and many others associated with them, is what we see in the majority of fellowships in America.  However, these all contrast the teachings of Jesus and the outworking of His teachings which are demonstrated through the early church, Continue reading “ReThinking Church, Part 8 – Church Planting is NOT the Mission”

What If?…Paul on the Road to Damascus.

Nearly 2,000 years ago, Saul Paulus of Tarsus was traveling to Damascus to arrest and bring back to Jerusalem those whom the Sanhedrin had labeled as Jewish heretics. These Christians were turning the religious community upside down with their claims of a resurrection and Saul was determined to  stop them. However, his plan was interrupted by the appearance of the risen Christ. What a shock. The one Paul despised because of the teachings of the apostles in Jerusalem, had now stepped across time and smitten him with blindness and a call to ministry. This man of giant intellectual power and strict obedience to religious regulations would never be the same.

Much like Paul, until we are blinded by the love and light of Jesus and stop chasing our self-serving ambitions, we will never hear the Lord’s instructions and purpose for our life. As long as our anger and rage ignites our passions and consumes our actions, we are deaf to the voice of the Lord. Regardless how our actions are ‘approved’ by the modern church or ‘casual believers,’ the Lord alone knows our hearts. He sees us even when no one is around and knows our every thought. He constantly appeals to our conscience to consider the road we are on, and the claims he makes upon our life.

What happened that stopped Paul in his tracks? What changed this Pharisee of religion into an Apostle of the Lamb? He did not meet a salesman, a lifeless religious leader, a wild eyed fanatic or a silver tongued orator… He met Christ! The only one who could change his heart from self-centeredness to Christ-centeredness. The only one who could Continue reading “What If?…Paul on the Road to Damascus.”

Church Planters Conference – November 2011

Here is a report concerning the PROJECT INDIA Church Planters Conference held in November in rural India. Many great testimonies are coming in regarding the work the Lord did and is doing from this conference. I’ll be sharing some of them on the Letters From India page in the next few days. As you look at the photos, I would like for you to realize it was not my desire to have my picture on it, but Bro. John insisted that, culturally speaking, they strongly desire to see a picture of any person speaking to them. Therefore, I simply yielded to their request according to Paul’s teaching in 1Corinthians 9:19-23.

We had 65 (60 men, 5 wives) attend the three day conference. I taught on four subjects: The Cross, The Love of God, Evangelism and Church Planting. It was a great time of teaching and joyful fellowship. A personal highlight for me was hearing and seeing (via DVD recording) these men sing praises to the Lord, and hearing the testimonies they sent to me.

Part of the messages was video recorded in order to send into the remote villages which do not have phone service. They are playing the messages for outreach and training of other men who were unable to attend the conference. We gave new Bibles to those Continue reading “Church Planters Conference – November 2011”

Did Paul Make a Mistake at Athens?

I get many questions via email and personal conversations. One common one is, “Did Paul make a preaching mistake at Athens when he quoted Greek philosophers?” This question arises because many have heard preachers, some with strong personal conviction, share how the Apostle Paul made a mistake in his Mar’s Hill address to the Athenians. (Acts 17:22-34) This position was made prominent by William Ramsay. (1851-1939) It was also presented by F.F. Bruce (1910-1990) years ago when he said in his book, “Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free,” that Paul’s ministry in Athens was a failure because he failed to preach the “word of the cross.” (p.246) But is this correct?

We need a little background before answering this question. Paul visited Corinth immediately after leaving Athens. (Acts 18:1) While reminding the Corinthians of his visit to them, he wrote and reminded them how he came preaching “Christ crucified” and not “with lofty speech or wisdom.” (1Cor. 2:1-5) From this passage, many teach that Paul learned a meaningful lesson and was admitting to a fundamental mistake in his approach and discourse when he spoke to the Athenians by quoting their philosophers and poets. Also, they argue, Paul did not establish a church in Athens. Therefore, we have several questions which arise from this explanation of the text.

  • Does the position that Paul made a mistake in his preaching at Athens accurately represent the biblical text? 
  • Was Paul admitting in Corinthians that he had made a mistake in his approach at Athens?
  • Did he fail to properly present the gospel? 

Here is my brief explanation on the subject after many years reading and praying through each side. I do believe there are godly and sincere believers on each side, therefore, my take on this is not meant in any way as a slap at those who disagree, but rather as offering as to why I do not believe Paul made a mistake in presenting the gospel at Athens. Continue reading “Did Paul Make a Mistake at Athens?”

ReThinking Church, Part 6 – God Uses the Wrong People

As we continue investigating the New Testament model of ‘church,’ the next thing which stands out is how the Lord uses all the ‘wrong people.’ Of course, I say this tongue in cheek as only the Lord can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. However, when we compare the members of the early church to the our middle and upper class fellowships, we see a stark contrast.

We leaders hate to admit it…but we target the ‘money people.’ They can fund our projects, support our needs and put our church finances at ease as they immediately come with a dividend. This stings, but time and time again I have seen fellow Pastors ‘suck up’ to those in the community who have financial success, while ignoring and even standing aloof from those who were in real need. To appease our conscience we send outreach into the poor neighborhoods and projects, but we dare not have these poor little unkept families come and smudge up our nice rooms and sanctuary. So we use a place out side our facilities to minister to them. God help us! We are hypocrites. Continue reading “ReThinking Church, Part 6 – God Uses the Wrong People”