Scripture of the day

Elementary, My Dear…

Foundation

Foundation (Photo credit: RBerteig)

Several weeks ago our church staff decided to split our Saturday morning Bible study into two groups. One more advanced, and the other a beginner class. We call them “Meat & Potatoes” and “Milk & Honey,” respectively. I was tasked to come up with topics to discuss in the beginners class. I came up with what I thought were good topics for new believers or people who wanted to know about the Bible, God, and Jesus.

As I was reading the Bible the other day I came across this passage:

Therefore we must progress beyond the elementary instructions about Christ and move on to maturity, not laying this foundation again: repentance from dead works and faith in God, teaching about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. Hebrews 6:1, 2

This passage is very enlightening to me. It gives great insight into what is an elementary teaching and what isn’t. I had to go back and make sure what I was teaching was an elementary teaching. I had to take out some stuff and add in others I didn’t include the first time.

Remember, we must consider that the book of Hebrews was a letter written (possibly by Paul) to Jewish Christians. They already had a firm foundation in the Old Testament Scriptures and came to believe in Jesus Christ. Therefore we must include those in the elementary teachings as well.

Considering this passage and the Bible as a whole, here is my list of elementary Bible teachings:

  • Inspiration of the Bible
  • Origins of sin and current state of sin
  • Repentance of sin
  • Salvation through Jesus Christ by grace
  • Faith in God
  • Prayer to God (includes laying on hands)
  • Baptism
  • Fruits of the Spirit
  • Love
  • Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the end time resurrection
  • Eternal judgement (either eternal life or death)

Counsel for Church Goers

My question to you then is, Have you been taught, or learned for yourself, the proper foundation for being a Christian?

The reason this was brought up in the letter is because these basic truths were not being taught, or understood correctly. The author of Hebrews wanted to move on to ‘spiritual meat’ without having to go back and rehash basic beliefs. You too, need to be aware of the basic Christian beliefs and whether you understand them correctly. Then, you need to move on to the ‘meat’ of the gospel and strengthen your spiritual life.

Admonition for Leaders

If you are a leader or teacher, you need to make sure your flock knows these things well before moving on to more difficult things in the Bible. Of course, everyone will be in different stages. That means you have to know your people and know what they are in need of. You will be doing a disservice to your people if they don’t have a firm foundation in Jesus Christ. Don’t teach your people prophecy if they don’t personally know Jesus. Prophecy is for believers (1 Cor 14:22). Teach your flock what they need to know.

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Feel free to share your thoughts on this and if you think I may have missed another basic Bible truth.

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Categories: Being a Christian, Corinthians, Hebrews, New Testament, Resurrection, Scripture of the day, Writings & Acts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Can you trust in the prophets?

Tomb of Zechariah

Tomb of Zechariah (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I read the Old Testament prophets and read about the stuff they saw in visions it really makes me think. Some of those visions were really weird. I mean, what would you think if someone told you they saw a 30′ long scroll flying through the sky? Or, they said they saw two women with stork wings? Or, they see hallucinations of the devil and angels? Would you think they were crazy? Probably. They may need some medication and put into an institution. That’s what our society would do anyway.

Those are the types of visions that Zechariah, an Old Testament prophet, had. They were strange but they had an intended message. At the same time, Zechariah and all the other prophets were competing against false prophets. It was so bad, Israel rejected all the prophets unless they said something positive. Rejecting God’s messengers, and ultimately rejecting God, is what led Israel into all kinds of trouble. They weren’t in tune with what God wanted for them nor did they have any trust in God.

Prophets of Old

Why do we even waste our time reading these complex Old Testament prophecies? This is why: part of the message was intended for people during Zechariah’s time, part of it was for the time of Jesus, and some of it was intended for us today. Some of what is said in the Bible may sound crazy and strange, but it has a purpose. God is trying to get our attention any way He possible can.

Good Questions

It all comes down to one word: trust. Can we really trust what the prophets said over 2,500 years ago? Actually, can we trust what God says? That’s the real question. Everything God says and does has one goal in mind—our salvation.

I’m leaving you with many questions today. The biggest one is, can you really trust God? You need to dig down and answer this question for yourself. Nobody else can answer it for you. If you can’t answer it or you can’t trust God, then ask yourself why not. Have you studied the Scriptures lately?

Categories: Being a Christian, Minor Prophets, Old Testament, Scripture of the day, Zechariah | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some Things Never Change

Tasty Food Abundance in Healthy Europe

Tasty Food Abundance in Healthy Europe (Photo credit: epSos.de)

The more I read the Old Testament the more I realize how deeply entwined it is with the New Testament. Everything discussed in the Old is brought forth with a deeper revelation in the new. With this in mind, I was recently reading through Haggai.

If you haven’t read this short book in a while, let me fill you in. It’s about God speaking through Haggai to tell the people to build His temple. They had already built up their houses and were living well. But, they had only built the bronze altar from the temple and nothing else.

A New Home

This was a group of 50,000 people who were the first ones to return to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity. These people coming back spent most, if not all, of their lives in Babylon. That would be like me or you going to another country we have never been to because our ancestors are from there.

They wanted to feel comfortable. They wanted to rebuild a destroyed city. They wanted to live good. But, God told them to build His temple first.

This makes me think of something Jesus said. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus told His hearers to seek the Kingdom of God first. Before everything. Everything includes worrying about what you will wear, eat, or drink. These are basic needs to survive. Jesus said that when we seek God’s Kingdom first then He will give you everything you need.

Priority of Needs

This was true in Haggai’s day and in Jesus’ day. It is still true today. We often find ourselves looking for the perfect shoes to match our outfit. Or, the best restaurant to eat at. We seek out the soda (pop) we crave. We are concerned with our own basic needs (desires) because that is what we are told to do. Pop psychology tells us to fulfill our basic needs—worrying about God will come later. Jesus says fulfill our relationship with God first and our basic needs will be taken care of.

I don’t know about you, but I need to hear this message more often. Working as an associate pastor getting only a monthly stipend, I find myself worrying about bills, food, and water. But, I need to remind myself that God has everything under control. The only thing I need to worry about is pursuing His will for my life and living out His word in my daily life. I urge you to do the same.

Categories: Being a Christian, Haggai, Minor Prophets, Old Testament, Scripture of the day | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Independence day … How important is freedom?

Today marks 237 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. For me, this means freedom. Freedom of speech. Freedom to bear arms. Freedom of religion. Freedom to pursue what makes you happy. Freedom is what God wants for us. He gave mankind freedom to make their own choices. This is pure freedom. But, freedom comes with a cost.

I’m Free

When people are free, the line between what is right and what is wrong becomes blurred. Objective truth now becomes more abstract and relative. What may be true for me may not be true for you because we are both free to think as we want. Our society is very similar to the Roman society nearly 2,000 years ago. The Roman world flourished because they were free to think as they wished. This posed a real problem as the gospel of Jesus Christ spread. Check out the words Paul wrote to Timothy:

4th of July fireworks over Seattle.

4th of July fireworks over Seattle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“If someone spreads false teachings and does not agree with sound words (that is, those of our Lord Jesus Christ) and with the teaching that accords with godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing, but has an unhealthy interest in controversies and verbal disputes. This gives rise to envy, dissension, slanders, evil suspicions, and constant bickering by people corrupted in their minds and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a way of making a profit. Now godliness combined with contentment brings great profit. For we have brought nothing into this world and so we cannot take a single thing out either. But if we have food and shelter, we will be satisfied with that. Those who long to be rich, however, stumble into temptation and a trap and many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils. Some people in reaching for it have strayed from the faith and stabbed themselves with many pains.” 1 Timothy 6:3-10

The Problem

This may seem to contradict what Paul wrote to the Philippian church. I wrote about it in May here. In that passage Paul was saying that it didn’t matter what people’s desires were as long as Jesus was being preached. Here, Paul is talking about people “acting” godly to make money. They may be preaching about Jesus but they are using religion to control people and make a profit. This type of control takes away freedom.

But that’s the problem. Since we live in a free world people have the liberty to preach false teachings that are not in line with what Jesus taught. Since people are free to do that, they can assert control over others.

The Question

Are you strong enough to hold on to the true words of Jesus and keep away from false gospels?

Back to my question: How important is freedom to you?

Let me rephrase that: What’s more important to you, freedom or the true gospel?

My answer is simple; preaching the true gospel trumps my own personal freedoms all day. But, I feel truly blessed and grateful to live in a country founded on freedom for all people. Feel free to leave your answer in the comments below.

Categories: Being a Christian, Gospels, New Testament, Pauline Epistles, Scripture of the day, Timothy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Everyone, save yourselves!

“Be conscientious about how you live and what you teach. Persevere in this, because by doing so you will save both yourself and those who listen to you.” 1 Timothy 4:16

Greek NT

Greek NT

Watch Your Actions

In the Western world, it’s usually every man (or woman) for him/herself. We are an individual based society. There are both positives and negatives to this but I’m going to stay neutral. Therefore, as individuals, we must be wary of what we are doing, because I can guarantee people are watching you. Non-Christians can’t wait to point out a Christian’s faults and errors. You have to watch everything you say and do. Your actions and words directly affect your character and how people perceive you. If your actions don’t match your words, then your words—which contain much power—can lead someone away from God and that will be on you.

Authentic Living

On top of that, we are living in the postmodern world. Which is a reaction against the modern world and all its absolutes. In this world we live in, people (especially the younger generation) demand to see consistency in Christians. Not just consistency, but also authenticity. Don’t try to act like you have it all together at church and live like the rest of the world during the week. It is this hypocritical way of living that destroyed the belief in the absolute truth of the Bible. Live every single day and hour for God and don’t cover up your failures, let God do that.

Have you heard the saying, “Once saved, always saved?” Well, not to bash on anyone’s beliefs, but it’s hard to reconcile this text with that belief. If you read the rest of this passage you will see Paul urging Timothy to live a better life. Not to let go of the gospel; setting an example with how he lives his life and teaches the Word of God. By living this type of life, Timothy was essentially guaranteeing his own salvation and those who followed what he taught. In other words, if he didn’t live this way, he would be lost like Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim 1:20).

Calling All Christians

The point of being a Christian is not just prayer, or Bible reading, or going to church once or even twice a week. The whole point of being a Christian is living out your daily life (everything you do), to the best of your ability, in the will of God. Showing love and compassion for others even when you are late for work, hungry, or tired. Admitting when you are wrong. Having respect for your elders and those younger than you. Reading the Word of God to others and practicing what you preach. This call is not just for pastors or ministers. This call is to every living, breathing Christian on this Earth. This call to live an authentic, God centered life is for you!

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Categories: Being a Christian, New Testament, Pauline Epistles, Scripture of the day, Timothy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sticks and stones will break your bones…

“My aim is to know him [Jesus], to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10, 11

Importance of the resurrection

Importance of the resurrection (Photo credit: Martin LaBar)

I hope that you all said this in prayer this morning. As Christians we are to share in the sufferings of Jesus. What does that mean to me and you? These are just three things you may have to suffer through.

  • Jesus suffered ridicule on many occasions for who He spent time with. Don’t be afraid to hang out with the vilest of sinners; Jesus did. But, make sure you are grounded in the faith of God beforehand so you won’t fall into sin. This is what we are called to do. Sinners may never know about the truth of God’s love unless you go to their world and show them.
  • Jesus also suffered physical harm. We can expect the same thing. It may or may not happen but don’t be surprise if some bully wants to assault you for believing and following Jesus.
  • Jesus didn’t allow the pleasures of this world to control Him. This is by far the hardest thing we face. We have entertainment all around us. Do we let it control us or do we control it? Movies, TV shows, Internet blogs, lust, our own selfish desires all distract us from doing God’s will. This is by far the most suffering we will face—leaving behind worldly desires and accomplishments. Our kingdom is in heaven where we will walk the streets of gold.

I want to attain the resurrection from the dead and go into eternal life with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is my prayer today. I want to be like Jesus through the good and the bad. Sticks and stones will hurt. People’s words will hurt. But Jesus will make it all right!

Categories: Being a Christian, New Testament, Pauline Epistles, Philippians, Scripture of the day | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

5 steps to keep yourself from complaining while doing something you don’t like

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without blemish though you live in a crooked and perverse society, in which you shine as lights in the world.” Philippians 2:14, 15

English: St. Augustine arguing with donatists.

English: St. Augustine arguing with donatists. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am guilty and so are you! We all have done this in the past. When our job, or our spouse, or our church requires us to do something we don’t like, we complain about it. Now, I’m sure you don’t always express your dissatisfaction but I’m sure it’s there, building up inside of you. The Bible says don’t do it at all. It can be hard, but it’s a lot easier if you follow these five biblical steps:

5 Steps To Stop Complaining

1. Stop being selfish. The essence of the entire Bible is to care for others before caring for yourself. I’m sure you have heard about the Golden Rule. Think of the needs of others before complaining about doing something.

2. Think of your reputation. Paul says that if you don’t complain and argue you will be blameless. Your reputation is on the line every time you are asked to complete a task.

3. Set an example. Paul also says that if you don’t complain you will be pure. As a Christian, all eyes are one you. You represent Jesus Christ in all you do. Remember that the next time you want to fuss about something trivial.

4. Be a child of God. We live in a perverse and evil world. That doesn’t mean you have to act that way too. Stand out in this world through your upstanding actions. Look forward to heaven because you know this world is not your own.

5. Shine your light. In Matthew chapter five, Jesus explains that we are both salt and light. Salt is when you are flavoring someone with the gospel. You are speaking to them about God, heaven, and salvation through Jesus. Light is when your actions line up with what you are saying. Sometimes we need to put the salt back in our pockets, and let our lights shine through our actions. You are light to this world so your actions must correspond to that.

Get Busy

I know, I know, this can be hard. But, with the proper amount of time in prayer and keeping your focus on God’s mission, this will come easy to you. Follow these five steps. Write them down. Print them out. Carry them with you where you know you will be tempted to complain. God has called us all out of confusion and into his glorious light. Let’s make sure that all aspects of our life reflect that light, not just when we go to church.

Categories: Being a Christian, New Testament, Pauline Epistles, Philippians, Scripture of the day | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Ultimate Sacrifice—Dying For Your Friends

US Navy 030526-N-4048T-025 Memorial saluting 2...

Memorial saluting 23 U.S. Marines assigned to 2d MEB killed in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom

In one of my past sermons I used an illustration about two Marines who died. They died standing their ground to stop a speeding truck loaded with explosives. While all the Iraqi police fled, those two brave Marines didn’t. They shot and killed the driver and disable the engine. The truck still blew up but it never made it on the base. Those two Marines were the only ones who died. They saved the lives of everyone sleeping on the base.

Those two Marines made the greatest sacrifice.

In John 15:13 Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this – that one lays down his life for his friends.” That means that if you want to love someone to the fullest, you will die for them. This type of love is greater than any love you can give to your spouse, children, or even to God. I’m convinced that if a person sacrifices himself/herself to save others, they will be in heaven because there is no greater love than this.

Memorial Day

This weekend we celebrate those who have given their lives in service to this country. Those who gave their lives to save their brothers and sisters. These men and women who paid the highest sacrifice, gave you the greatest gift ever. They gave you the gift of the gospel. “How is that?” you may be wondering.

When the Apostles and early Christians died, the gospel spread even further. Their death propelled the gospel and gave others a chance to be saved. Those two Marines who died gave everyone in that base an opportunity to learn about Jesus and surrender their lives to God.

All the men and women who have died serving this country gave me and you an opportunity to hear the gospel and be saved. Now it’s your turn. Are you going to take advantage of your freedom? Are you going to accept the gospel? Are you going to serve Jesus Christ?

Make a Difference

Here is your chance to honor those who died for you. Leave the name(s) of your friends or family members who died in service in the comments below. Pray for those families mentioned below as they will be in mourning this weekend. Finally, click here to purchase Combat Ready and learn how you can use your experiences for the kingdom of God. All profits from the book will go toward spreading the gospel and planting a church.

May God bless you and use you in your service to Him.

Categories: Being a Christian, Church Plant, Military, New Testament, Scripture of the day | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Hypocrite Preachers!!!

English: Zambrów - the monument of Jesus Chris...

“What is the result? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being proclaimed, and in this I rejoice.” Philippians 1:18

This passage above is completely taken out of context. So let me fill you in with the juicy details.

During Paul’s ministry, he was not only confronted by Jews and gentiles, but by other Christian’s too. The Christians would follow Paul everywhere he went, scrutinizing everything Paul said and did. When Paul would leave an area, they would come in a teach contrary to what Paul taught. This happened during his entire ministry.

Now, Paul is in prison for preaching the gospel as he is writing this letter. But, he is cool with that. Why? Because word is getting around that he is in jail because of what he is teaching about Jesus. He is fine with being in jail because the gospel is spreading.

Paul goes on to say that it doesn’t matter why people are preaching either. Some people preach out envy or rivalry. In others words, they preach because they think they are smarter or better than someone else. Still others preach out of selfish ambition while some do it out of genuine love.

Paul says it doesn’t matter why people preach. The only thing that matters is that Jesus is preached. Think about that for a minute…

It doesn’t matter if you are Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal, Apostolic, Jehovah’s Witness, or Seventh-day Adventist. What matters is the gospel being preached. Yes, some people and denominations preach false doctrines. But don’t we all fall short? These denominations don’t agree with each other’s doctrines. But doctrines will never save you. Knowing the truth will never save you. Only Jesus will save you! So, as long as Jesus is being preached, I will rejoice along with Paul.

How many times have you criticized someone for being a hypocrite, or doing something wrong, or saying something wrong, or believing in something that you don’t agree with? That’s what this is all about. Just because someone knows more or understand more about the Bible doesn’t make them a superior Christian.

It is the job of the Holy Spirit to lead people to all Truth. We don’t have all truth. We can easily be wrong and not even know it. Let’s allow the Holy Spirit do His job. Stop attacking other Christians because of what they believe in. Stop looking for faults in your pastors, priests, and ministers. They are sinners just like you. All you need to worry about is living your own life according to God’s word and tell others about the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ!

Categories: Being a Christian, New Testament, Pauline Epistles, Philippians, Scripture of the day | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Calling all warriors

English: Head-piece to Ephesians. Ephesians 6:...

“Pray for me also, that I may be given the message when I begin to speak – that I may confidently make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may be able to speak boldly as I ought to speak.” Ephesians 6:19, 20

We all need to be prayer warriors, not just a select few nor just the church leaders. Paul makes it clear that he also needs prayer. The passage above follows the famous “Armor of God” section. As warriors, we are all called to put on the full armor of God. Then, like Paul says, pray for me too. Pray for your leaders that they say and do the right things.

God wants all of us to be warriors—suited up for battle. God wants us all to be gladiators—fighting the good fight until our last breath. God wants us all to be soldiers—laying down our lives on the front lines so others have a chance to hear the gospel. God wants us all to be fighters—keep pushing forward through the enemy’s heavy blows, never giving up faith.

Welcome to the Army of The Lord. Please pray for those of us on the front lines so that we may preach the gospel with clarity and power.

Categories: Being a Christian, Ephesians, Pauline Epistles, Scripture of the day | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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