This past Sunday I was able to teach from Acts 24. The Apostle Paul is in Caesarea on trial before Felix and the Sanhedrin. Here is the audio of the sermon: Accused but Acquitted
We have a cat that the kids named Molly. I just call her cat. During the day she is outside and comes in at night. Recently she climbed up in our carport where she was stuck. I thought, she climbed up there, she has to know how to come down. That was not the case.
I ended up having to get a ladder out, climb to the very top and grab her to bring her down. In the process I was scratched by her and my jacket received some nice new holes from her claws.
I needed to intervene.
The word “intervene” means to take action to improve the situation.
Intervention is Needed
Like my cat, we have found ourselves in a dire predicament. I am not talking about just making some bad decisions. I am talking about a spiritual condition that has left us unable to save ourselves. We need an intervention.
A book that I would recommend to read more than once would be Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. It is a classic with so many metaphors for the Christian life that is so relevant for us today.
There is this one particular moment where the main character, Christian, is trying to get the burden off his back. He runs into a man named, Mr. Worldly Wiseman. Christian wants to go to the path to remove his burden and go to the Celestial City. Mr. Worldly Wiseman is asking why he would want to go that way:
Mr. Worldly Wiseman says, “If you continue in this direction, you are likely to experience wearisomeness, painfulness, hunger, perils, nakedness, sword, lions, dragons, darkness, and, in a word, death, and who knows what else.”
Christian responds, “Why Sir, this burden upon my back is more terrible to me than all these things which you have mentioned.”
Christian understood that the burden on his back was worse than the dangers that were ahead. He would be willing to endure those terrors in order to be relieved from his burden.
This is so insightful for me because many times we want relief or intervention from our problems. This is not a bad desire; I want that at times. But if we misunderstand that there is a greater danger, a heavier burden, that we face besides trials and tribulations which is sin than those trials and tribulations will be unbearable.
I have to understand that sin is worse than trials or tribulations. Sin is worse than the dragons according to Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress. Sin is worse than sickness or disease even. Sin is an eternal problem. A weight that is incomparable that every human being bears (Romans 3:23).
We may ask for intervention/help from those trials and tribulations. Sometimes that happens and sometimes not. If intervention happens for those than it is just for a time. We still are in a dire predicament. For the believer it is very important for us to understand that the great intervention did take place.
Sin has been paid for. The burden can come off. This is better than even healing or relief to come temporarily because there is eternal healing and eternal relief that is in Christ. Just like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress who understood that the burden coming off meant more than the dangers he would face on his journey.
Friend, the burden can come off, Jesus paid the price by giving his life. Turn to him, call on his name to be saved (Romans 10:13).
Blog Recap: Here is an article on the life of Amy Carmichael to share with you again. She was a missionary in India who founded an orphanage.
I am reminded of the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23). These are the reflection of Jesus Christ. We are to reflect Jesus in all things, and that is also in the fruit of the Spirit.
Not everyone may be familiar with Amy Carmichael or her writings but she is a world changer. There is a sweet vault of wealth that comes from the writings of Amy Carmichael. You read the spiritual riches that she possessed that came from her heart that was joined to Christ. Amy Carmichael is a world changer as she served the country of India by bringing the message of salvation to a dark place.
Amy served India for over 55 years, opening an orphanage and founding a mission in Dohnavur. She was a prolific writer, which includes many books of poetry, her testimony of the mission work, her biography, and devotionals.
My first hearing of Amy Carmichael was as a child in school. The story goes that Amy, who is the oldest of seven siblings, was born with brown eyes but wished she had blue eyes like her brother. She would often pinch his cheeks to make the blue in his eyes stand out. As an adult, she realized that God gave her brown eyes to help her gain more acceptance in India. I don’t know if this story is true. I couldn’t find a credible source either way, but she knew God had molded her and created her to be a vessel in India.
Amy was born in a small village in Ireland in 1867. She was raised in a God-fearing family. God equipped Amy with a strong personality. She left Scotland as she was accepted by the Japanese Evangelist Board, and sailed to Japan in March 1893. Once she entered Japan, she wasted no time going throughout the streets with a translator sharing Jesus Christ. She wore the native dress.
She entered India in 1895, where she remained until her death in 1951. Though her original goal in going to India was not to start an orphanage, God directed her steps. It started when a seven-year-old girl, Preena, came running to Amy to be rescued. Rescued from what? Her family was going to sell her to the temple where she would become a temple prostitute. Though dark, this was the custom in India and Amy would make her aim in caring for the children that were to be forced in this life. She would wear the dress of the culture, and dye her skin with coffee to make her skin darker in appearance to be accepted.
By 1904, seventeen children were under her care. It would continually grow. Amy soon was called “Amma,” which in Tamul means mother. At the mission, her job was to be a nurse to those who were sick, to teach the children the basics, and raise them up in the ways of the Lord. Though Amy never married or had children, God gave her many children to raise as her own. Through Amy’s life, she was able to help thousands of children and to this day, the Dohnavur Fellowship continues.
In 1931, she suffered a serious fall, which would change her daily life. Though not completely bedridden, she was very limited in mobility. She would never recover from this injury, and had another serious fall in 1948. This fall resulted in her being bedridden for the remainder of her life until the Lord brought her home. Through this season in her life, she wrote more than 13 books, which shows her diversity and knowledge.
You may not be familiar with Amy Carmichael but once you read some of her writings it doesn’t take long to see her impact. Elizabeth Elliot, greatly impacted by Amy Carmichael, said, “With the exception of my parents, there is no one who has more deeply influenced my spiritual life than Amy Carmichael.”
Amy is known to have said, “Nothing is important but that which is eternal.” She lived by that mindset by counting the cost, leaving her home, and living in an unfamiliar place where should would be an example of Christ to them.
Amy never solicited funds from anyone. She never left India and never sought financial help. Amy was encouraged by the way George Muller trusted God for His provisions of the thousands of orphans that were under his care, and she had the same mindset with the ministry God entrusted to her. John 15:7 says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” That was her motivation.
She had a mindset of prayer and had this motto with everyone who served in the mission:
1) We don’t need to explain to our Father things that are known to Him.
2) We don’t need to press Him as if we had to deal with an unwilling God.
3) We don’t need to suggest to Him what to do, for He Himself knows what to do.
Amy not only left an impact with the thousands of children she rescued and freed from temple prostitution, but left a greater impact through the power of the gospel as many lives were changed forever.
She was in a dark land that was in the clutches of Satan, but we know God is in control and is greater. We must remind ourselves that when it may seem the darkest, light shines the brightest. God has called His church to infiltrate, and that is exactly what Amy did with her life.
She Teaches Us the Importance of Being Steadfast Until the Very End:
It would have been understandable for Amy to go back home to Scotland with her family at any point in her life, but she resolved in her heart that India was her home. I am reminded of what Paul wrote to Timothy in his last letter to his son in the faith. He said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7–8 ESV).
In one of Amy’s poems, she so eloquently portrays her steadfastness by saying:
From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire,
From faltering when I should climb higher,
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee.
Amy Carmichael is a world changer. As you read about her life, may it be a fan to your flame of faith as you serve the Lord.
Shadow and shine art Thou,
Dear Lord, to me;
Pillar of cloud and fire,
I follow Thee.
What though the way be long,
In Thee my heart is strong,
Thou art my joy, and song —
Praise, praise to Thee
We live in a post-Christian America. To some, it would seem that the “good ol’ days” of Christian values have been tossed out the window of progressivism. Timothy Keller wrote this booklet, How to Reach the West Again. He communicates the problem while giving the answer by looking at what we can learn from the early church in how it reached its culture.
Keller, as usual, writes in a way that is convicting but not demeaning of Christians today. This short read is something that I would encourage every believer to read. We live in a culture where there seems to be a mass exodus of leaving blue states to go to red states or withdrawing from culture. The question that needs to be asked is how can we best share the gospel in our country that is less Christian? Today we can find more and more people who have never stepped foot in a church. We find more and more that have no understanding of God and his law (the ten commandments). More and more many look subjectively at what is right and wrong.
Keller points out that the gospel we know needs to be shared will need to be lived out. It is something that will take time as believers build relationships with nonbelievers. It is going to take intentionality as we pursue relationships in pointing to God’s grace and mercy. Believers need to be faithful in life and integrity in public spheres, it is going to require us not to withdraw from culture but to live in it and be different.
Faithful in Life
Keller gives the example of how God told Jeremiah and the Israelites in Babylonian captivity about being part of the culture. God tells Israel to seek the peace of the city—plant gardens, build houses, and seek its prosperity (Jeremiah 29). Keller writes, “we can still serve people, be good neighbors, and be involved in culture while being faithful and open about our Christianity.”
In reading this, I was challenged with something that was taught to me. It was that the thought that Christians should be the best in every sector of life. They should be the best artist, creators, musicians, educators, and leaders. Keller writes, “[The] expansive vision for Christian influence in every area of human life, not because Christians are dominant there, but because they are faithful there.” By believers being faithful servants to public witness. The church needs to be a place to help train and e what it looks like to live out our Christian beliefs in the workplace.
In it for the Long Haul
The early church knew and understood that the gospel changes us. They also knew that it was a marathon more than a sprint. It would take time. It would take work. Therefore, their commitment was until the Lord took them home.
Today, Christians must look at the road ahead for them in reaching the west again as a commitment that will take time and work just like the early church. Being faithful and not frustrated. Being willing to spend time and being humble. Reflecting Jesus and dying to self. It all matters.
If you get a chance to get a copy of How To Reach The West Again I hope you can spend some time thinking through what Keller presents.
I wanted to get better at running. Mainly is that I never could run for long distances and wanted to challenge myself. I could sprint but would burn out pretty quickly. There are two older gentlemen at our church that love running and they invited to join them. I did it and they blew me out of the water.
Part pride and part realizing that men who are older than I could outrun me caused me to want to get better at running. I started to run, more and more and finally was able to run the farthest that I ever did without stopping. I started to research more on what I needed to do to build endurance. I looked at what were some healthy ways to push myself without injuring myself.
Like running a long distance takes some time to build up to, so does having a healthy prayer life. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessolanica a list of Christian disciplines. These come out almost like Tweets. He writes, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 These 5:16-18).
Sandwiched in these verses we read to pray without ceasing. What does that mean? As a simple definition it means to invest oneself in regular extended and strenuous prayer.
To invest oneself in regular extended and strenuous prayer
Where does it start?
Prayer as a Lifestyle
First, it requires us to look at prayer as a lifestyle not just a spiritual discipline. In fact there should be no separation from prayer and being a Christian. Christians should pray. A. W. Pink wrote, “Prayer is not as it is an attitude-an attitude of dependency on God.”
R. C. Sproul said, “Prayer is not optional for the Christian; it is required.” With that, one must not compartmentalize prayer as just a spiritual discipline but as it is constantly casting oneself in total dependency upon the Creator who is sovereign over all.
Understanding that prayer is dependency upon God, it helps in understanding that prayer is asking God to help us to know and do His will.
Prayer as Priority
Second, we must see prayer as a priority to that of being a Christian. To the early church it was a priority. There are many references where we see the first church praying.
- After Jesus ascended to heaven and commissioned the church to be witnesses and to wait for the Holy Spirit they went to the upper room and prayed (Acts 1:8, 14).
- We see that the early church devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching, fellowship breaking of bread, and of prayer (Acts 2:42)
- Peter was going to prayer in the temple as an opportunity as God healed a man (Acts 3).
- Through prayer God used that to communicate with Peter and Cornelius bringing about the Gospel going to the Gentiles (Acts 10).
- The church met and prayed for the release of Peter from prison (Acts 12:5).
- The church prayed and asked God for direction on where and who to send out as missionaries (Acts 13:2-3)
If it was priority and consumed so much church life, then wouldn’t prayer be important for the believers today? I wonder what it would look like if prayer was a priority for the church in America. Where we cast our whole selves before Him and realizing who we are in light of who God is. A. W. Tozer said, “Prayer at its best is the total expression of the total life.”
Let us strive to not only make prayer a priority but also the lifestyle of the Christian.
A Long Time Since You Heard From Us
I hope and pray you are doing well. I must apologize for not writing more. It has been a huge adjustment to this new season of life and blocking out time to write has not been my best discipline.
In Washington we were able to have our first snow of the season. I took this picture early on because it didn’t last. By the end of the day, all the snow melted. It sure is pretty to look at!
Here is an update regarding us as a family:
The kids- They are doing great!
Jackson and Jude are involved in the youth basketball of the area and are loving it. A big moment was for Jude stepping out of his comfort zone and doing something he has never done. He was hesitant at first but loves it.
Jude had some educational setbacks before we left California and with COVID making things even harder it set him back even more. This year he has grown leaps and bounds in reading and writing. I get excited to see him pick up a book now and start reading it. He is getting closer and closer to where he needs to be and the way he pushes himself through these struggles is quite inspirational.
Adah is doing well in 7th grade. She is making new friends that she has invited to youth group at our church. I am amazed at her willingness to share the gospel and invite kids to the church. She is excelling at school and really has started to apply herself. She is maturing into such a godly woman, it is great to see.
Jackson is loving his friends and sports. He is quite an athlete. He did baseball in the fall and now basketball. He loves it and is having fun. He is doing well at school and loves going and learning.
She has gone through so much with her health. She was diagnosed with IIH earlier this year. Here is a brief description from Alyssa about it, “IIH is a brain condition called Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension or IIH. In short I have too much spinal fluid in my head. I was relieved talking to the doctor because I have raised concerns about my symptoms for years while being brushed off; the main symptoms being headaches and a form of tendinitis.”
She has dealt with this for many years and to have a diagnosis is helpful. So far she has had her medication changed three times and each time it takes her a couple of weeks to adjust. I am encouraged by how she has handled all of this. The move alone has been rough in certain way but on top of that being diagnosed with something that has impacted her for so long and learning how to go forward has not been easy to say the least.
We have a great community that has reached out and been mindful of her and her health.
God has her in his hands. She is liking working in Juvenile Detention and has a great crew to work alongside of. There have been some heavy cases and we just see that people need Jesus so much.
This year has been full of many things. I just completed another semester for my Masters of Theology program. I have about three classes left. I am shooting to be done by the Spring.
I also completed my EMT course to be certified to serve as a volunteer firefighter. I passed the course and also the test for the national registry. I don’t recommend doing both masters program and the EMT course at the same time as it was a little hectic to say the least. Alyssa and the kids were very patient with me through this endeavor.
The church, RCBC, is going well. The Lord continues to amaze me with his faithfulness. He has been faithful in the finances of the church and with many new families being added to the church. I am very confident that God has placed RCBC exactly where it is to be a light in the community. The gospel continues to be shared weekly and people are confronted with the truth. I get excited to see the growth and what God is doing. We see because of sin we were dead in our sins and trespasses but God who is rich in mercy and great in love makes us alive in Christ Jesus.
This year we completed a series on What is the Church?, Jesus Fulfills: Looking at the Festivals in the book of John, The Book of Acts (a lot of the recordings we did not get as we were outside for most of the summer), and we just started our Christmas series called, Come Let us Adore Him.
We have been able to experience the seasons now and see how winter can be tiring. We are currently getting ready to see some family for a little bit and it will be a nice time to reconnect with friends as well.
We plan on continuing to be part of the community where God has placed us. We see that the fields are ready for harvest but the laborers are few (seems to be a trend today with finding workers, lol). Where God leads, we want to follow!
A big thank you all for your continued prayers and support. We miss you all and long for days we can see one another again!
It is an interesting phrase for sure. I heard it recently and wondered where did it come from. The meaning of the phrase is basically for a soldier to stay at their post and not give way. Some trace this phrase all the way back 1769 by Samuel Johnson.
I believe the same phrase can be true to Christians with the core doctrines of faith. More specifically would be the centrality of Scripture. If one does not depend on Scripture everything else will follow. Ones doctrines and beliefs, if not grounded from the Bible will change and compromise will take place. Like dominoes standing on end, knock this down, your life will follow.
More than ever it would seem that we must lead with our convictions which stem from the Bible. What do we need to hold too?
- Hold to the Word of God as authoritative and Inspired (2 Tim 3:15-17).
- Hold to the Word of God that it is relevant today and is what you need (Heb 4:12).
- Hold to the Word of God that it is how God has spoken to us. This is how God has revealed himself in a special way (John 1:14; 2 Tim 3:15-17).
- Hold to the importance that the Bible leads people to faith (Rom 10:17).
King David is attributed to writing this:
The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is clean,
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward (Psalm 19:7-11 ESV).
We just celebrated the reason why we gather as a church like many churches around the world. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is why we preach, why we have faith, and why we are no longer in our sins ( 1 Cor 15:12-21).
This miraculous work means that Jesus paid in full for our sin through his life, death, burial, and resurrection. This is the greatest news that we would ever hear or know. We need it all, you can not separate one part from the other! One author puts it so well, “Man’s burden of sin and shame is loosed by the cross but then consumed by the empty tomb.”
As we celebrate this great truth, what does that mean in how live today?
Understanding the Tension
There is a tension of living in a post-resurrection part of history. We have the already but not yet tension. Already the work has been done in Christ but the final blow to evil is not yet (Rev 20:7-15). God’s kingdom is already here but not yet here in its fullness.
We have Good Friday and we have the resurrection but there was still Saturday, the day in between those days. There was that tension between Savior’s death and the unknown for the disciples (though Jesus said he would rise again from the dead).
The post-resurrection Christian is like living the Saturday of events between the already but not yet. Christ rose and is alive; we now await the not yet. There is still anguish and despair in this in-between but what we await in the not yet of glories forevermore (2 Cor 4:17). We live in the tension of enduring in this world yet not being of this World.
So we await even with this tension of the already but not yet with what the author of Hebrews directs us, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:1-2).
The Resurrection Changes Everything
There are a few events in my life that has changed me forever. Getting married to my best friend Alyssa. Another is having three wonderful children (parenting in and of itself changes you). Being exposed to some amazing aspects of God’s creation that will stick with you forever.
But all of these still fail in comparison to how the resurrection changes everything presently and eternally.
John Calvin wrote this very powerful result of the resurrection:
He was sold, to buy us back; captive, to deliver us; condemned, to absolve us; he was made a curse for our blessing, sin offering for our righteousness; marred that we may be made fair; he died for our life, so that my him fury is made gentle, wrath appeased, darkness turned into light, fear reassured, despisal despised, debt canceled, labor lightened, sadness made merry, misfortune made fortunate, difficulty easy, disorder ordered, division united, ignominy ennobled, rebellion subjected, intimidation intimidated, ambush uncovered, assaults assailed, force forced back, combat combated, war warred against, vengeance avenged, torment tormented, damnation damned, the abyss sunk into the abyss, hell transfixed, death dead, mortality made immortal. In short, mercy has swallowed up all misery, and goodness all misfortune.
So the believer does not live to fight for victory, they fight from victory. The last few verses that are in 1 Corinthians 15 are
“I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Corinthians 15:50-57
The resurrection means that the Christian has gone from death to life; from enemy of God to a child of God; from being spiritually blind to being able to see. This changes everything!
This past Sunday I had the opportunity to preach on what is the mission of the church?
There are a lot of good things the church can do. In fact, we should do good unto others especially of those of the household of faith (Gal. 6:10). The question then comes up what does good mean? That is for a different time.
Though there are many things that a church can go and to be busy with, there is really only one mission of the church. We find what that is in Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus said, “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
We have the mission and that is to make disciples.
You can listen to the whole sermon below:
As a child, I was taught this rhyme. It went like this, “Here is the church. Here is the steeple. Open the doors and see all the people.” This rhyme involved your hands and fingers being used to display the people, steeple, etc. Maybe you remember this one or have taught your children?
That rhyme describes the church as a location or a building. Which is true. We can give a friend directions in finding where our church meets but this is just a location not a definition of the church.
I started a new series called Church Blueprint, my desire is to point out that the church is not a location but a people. Professor Gregg Allison defines the church as, “the people of God who have been saved through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and have been incorporated into his body through baptism with the Holy Spirit.”
The church is the body of believers (Christians) coming together in a local gathering who are united in Christ. Even today, though we are not gathered together as we are different homes and jobs, we are still the church.
When you leave your local congregation on Sunday morning, you are still the church.
When you wake up in morning you are still the church. When you go shopping, you are the church.
We are the church!
I am so thankful for the church. Ultimately the church is the gospel made visible. May we be the visible representation of Jesus to the world, our community, and our neighbor!