Leaving Laodicea
456 - Embracing the Kingdom

456 - Embracing the Kingdom

April 20, 2020

I love this quote, "The definition of a fanatic is someone who loves Jesus more than you do."  So true.  But as a culture, we have always had a love/hate relationship with total commitment and self-abandonment.  We admire those whose commitment leads them to do great things, like win an Olympic Medal or lose a tremendous amount of weight.  And we applaud their commitment because we value the object of their goals.  But on the other hand, we detest the commitment of terrorists, idealogues, and others like that.  We brand them as activists, fanatics, or extremists.

But in Jesus' day, this is exactly how the world saw His followers.  They were activists who wanted nothing more than to see the entire world come to the same understanding they had regarding Christ.  They were extremists who sacrificed everything for a cause greater than themselves.  And they were fanatics, no longer interested in the things of this world because they had their life focused on something unseen, mystical, and illogical.

And of these, the Lord said the "world was not worthy" of them (Heb. 11:18).  My, how we have changed today.

Today, the church falls into two main camps.  One, the camp where our relationship with Christ is defined by rule-keeping and our ability to follow the law.  And two, those who view their relationship with Jesus as something profitable to add to their already busy lives, much like sprinkles on a cupcake or sweetener to our coffee.  But there is another option.  And these are the ones whose relationship with Christ is not based on guilt, religious duty, the hope of heaven and eternal reward, or the fear of hell and eternal punishment.  No, this select group is drawn to Christ because of His overwhelming beauty and glory and the irresistible power of His Kingdom.  The very kingdom we are commanded to proclaim today.  Remember?  We are to proclaim, like Jesus, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 4:17).  And we are to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom.

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. (Matt. 4:23)

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. (Matt. 9:35)

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matt. 24:14)

But what is the "Gospel of the Kingdom"?


The Gospel of the Kingdom

In the first century, the words "gospel" and "evangelize" referred to heralding the good news that a new emperor had been installed in the Roman Empire.  Heralds would go out to proclaim the good news, informing people that a new era of peace, salvation, and blessing had begun.  They then exhorted people to get down on their knees to worship the new emperor, their rightful king. The apostles used the same term to describe the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom of God.  The gospel that the apostles preached was the announcement, the heralding, that Jesus of Nazareth had become this world’s true Emperor (Lord), launching a new era of peace, salvation, and blessing, and because of it, everything has changed.

And it was this message that turned the world upside-down during the first century.  But it is a message seldom preached today.  Did you ever wonder why?

Once we begin to see the glory of Christ and the wonder of His Kingdom, everything changes.  He is no longer a historical figure, but Someone we literally adore and long to be with.  He is Someone we will gladly abandon all to follow.  Are you interested in knowing more about this glorious Christ and His wondrous Kingdom?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on What it Means to Embrace the Kingdom of God.

To download the slides to this message, click - HERE

455 - What is the Kingdom of Heaven?

455 - What is the Kingdom of Heaven?

April 19, 2020

As we begin our study on John the Baptist, we are going to take the Scripture accounts of his life from all four gospels and merge them into one single narrative.  But rest assured, all you will see is nothing but Scripture.  Nothing has been added.  This helps us get a complete view of John's incredible ministry, the man Jesus said was without rival in all of humanity (Matthew 11:11).

The following is the beginning of John's ministry as told from Matthew 3:1-12, Mark 1:4-8 and Luke 3:1-18.

(LK) Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.

(MT) In those days John the Baptist (MK) came baptizing in the wilderness (MT) of Judea. (LK) And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, (MT) saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"  For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, (LK) saying: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the LORD; make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'" (MT) Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. (MK) Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, (MT) and all the region around the Jordan went out to him (MK) and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.

(MT) But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, (LK) he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, (MT) "Brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.'  For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.  And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees.  Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." (LK) So the people asked him, saying, "What shall we do then?"  He answered and said to them, "He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise." Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?"  And he said to them, "Collect no more than what is appointed for you."  Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, "And what shall we do?"  So he said to them, "Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages."

Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not, John answered, (MK) and he preached, (LK) saying to all, "I indeed baptize you with water (MT) unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry, [and] (MK) whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose.  I indeed baptized you with water, but (LK) He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.”  And with many other exhortations he preached to the people.

But there is so much more.  And note the substance of John's preaching.  It was of repentance and the coming Kingdom of Heaven.  Are they both related?  Absolutely.


The Word of God Came to John

Did you catch the open phrase of John's ministry?  It says "the word of God came to John in the wilderness" (Luke 3:2).  How did that happen?  What was that like?  Does God still reveal Himself to others as He did to John?  Or has that time of specific, intimate instruction from God to man somehow ceased?  And if the "word of God" doesn't come to individuals today, did God stop transmitting or did we stop receiving?  These are important questions you must answer for yourself as you grow in your understanding of Him.  But remember, God can do anything He wants to anyone under any circumstance and at any time that pleases Him, period.  And He doesn't ask you or me for permission or how comfortable we feel about what He is doing.  We just hang on for the ride.

That's why it says in Ephesians 3:20-21:

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.

Did you get that?  Ask or think.  It may take a measure of faith to ask God for something, but it takes even less to think it.  And God can do "exceedingly abundantly" beyond what we dream about in the solitude of our mind late at night but would never allow it to pass our lips and be heard by others.  God has them both covered.

Join with us as we look at the life of the greatest man that ever lived, according to Jesus.  And I think He is a perfect judge of character.  Don't you?

The following is a study on the Beginning of the Ministry of John the Baptist and the Preaching of the Kingdom of Heaven.

454 - God Responds to Repentance

454 - God Responds to Repentance

April 18, 2020

Another Sunday is upon us and the church is still having to figure out how to worship together while practicing self-distancing.  Awkward and uncomfortable, I know.  But I believe our choice to forgo our right to assemble and worship for the sake of the least of these (those who are at greater risk), is proper and prudent.  And I believe the Lord will honor the free sacrifice of our own rights for the sake of others.

With that said, the following message is from the first two chapters of the book of Joel.  In fact, as we go through Joel together, I think you'll be amazed and comforted at how the crisis in Joel's time (locust invasion) parallels the crisis we are facing as a church and a nation today.  For me, the most encouraging truth from Joel is the solution to their locust problem then is the same as the solution to our coronavirus problem now.  And that solution, as always, is repentance.

We will specifically focus on Joel 2:12-13, which reads:

"Now, therefore," says the LORD, "Turn to Me with all your heart, (how) with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning."  So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God, (why) for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.

Note, the first sentence is a statement by God.  The second is the application from Joel.  And Joel's words are timeless.  They are just as valid and true in his generation as they are today.  So take them to heart.


Two Truths About God from Joel

If you read the small book of Joel, you will discover there are two unchanging truths the Lord wants us to know about Himself.  It is almost like He is presenting these as an encouragement to His children when they go through trying times and He wants us to rest in these eternal truths.  The first one deals with God's sovereignty.

God is in control of all situations we may face - government intrusion, war, illness, heartache, financial ruin, swarming locusts and the coronavirus.  Name your catastrophe, it doesn't matter.  God is in control.

And the second one is even more encouraging.

God responds to repentance.  Always and forever.  Without fail.  No matter how horrible the sin that prompts the repentance.

Or, to put it another way, God loves us as least as much as the best human father we could imagine would love his children.  Howie Cunningham, Ward Cleaver, James Dobson, Andy Taylor, Carl Winslow, Philip Banks, you name it.  They are great fathers, maybe better than the ones you had as a child.  But God is off the charts!  Beyond comprehension.  So there is no comparison.  Period.

As we face an uncertain future, let's confidently hold fast to our certain God.  Rest in Him.  Trust Him.  Grow in a likeness to Him.  And when you do, you'll find His promises to be true.

My brethren (put your name here), count it all joy when you fall into various trials, (why) knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4).

And remember, you are "complete in Him" (Colossians 2:10).

The following is a study on Repentance, Old Testament Style, as revealed in Joel 1-2.

428 - The Forgotten Discipline of Remembering

428 - The Forgotten Discipline of Remembering

June 26, 2019

Unfortunately, in our walk with the Lord, Chaucer's ancient adage proves true:  Familiarity Breeds Contempt.  It breeds contempt in the form of apathy, laziness, indifference, lack of honor or respect and, finally, of misplaced love.  It seems to be the curse of Western Christianity that wants for nothing save the things that matter. What can we do when we find our relationship with the Lord boring at best?  What happens when, to quote the classic song by the Righteous Brothers, "we've lost that lovin' feelin'"?  What happens then? How can we recapture what we have a hard time even remembering?  We find the answer in the Lord's letter to His church in Ephesus.


Familiarity Breeds Contempt

The church at Ephesus, when John penned the Revelation, was only one generation removed from the life of the Lord.  They were a hard-working bunch of committed believers who had a resume and doctrinal purity that would be the envy of almost any church today.

“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil.  And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary" - Revelation 2:2-3.

In fact, they worked for the Lord to the point of sheer exhaustion.

“I know your works (the results of employment, duty, business, something to be done), your labor (to toil to the point of exhaustion, the labor which demands the whole strength of a man exerted to the utmost to accomplish the task), your patience (to remain under, to bear up under), and that you cannot bear (support, stand) those who are evil (bad, worthless, wicked, vicious, harmful, bad in heart, conduct, and character).  And you have tested (tried, to prove either good or bad) those who say (affirm, proclaim) they are apostles (messengers, sent ones) and are not, and have found (by examination, search, or inquiry) them liars (false); and you have persevered (to bear up under patiently) and have patience (to endure, to remain under), and have labored (to be fatigued, worn out, weary, faint) for (what) My name’s sake and have not become weary (faint from constant work)."

I get tired just reading all that they did.  But, like the church today, they had missed the most important part of their relationship with Jesus.  The relationship!

“Nevertheless (in spite of all this) I (Jesus) have this against you, that you have left (to forsake, quit, abandon, desert) your first love ( agapē)" - Revelation 2:4.

Sobering words.  The Lord said He is "against" them... even after all the good they had done.  How could that be?  And what can they do to right their sinking ship? It may seem simple, but it is hard to remember the right things.  Sometimes it is painfully hard.

"Remember (to call to mind, to keep on remembering) therefore from where (why, how) you have fallen (to fall off or from, to fall away, to fail, to be without effect, in vain); repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place— unless you repent" - Revelation 2:5.


Do You Remember?

It may seem simple, but it is hard to remember the right things.  Sometimes it is painfully hard.  Consider the following questions to help begin the process of remembering:

What does it mean to remember? Take a moment and remember your first few weeks as a new creation in Christ. What were you like? Back then, how would you feel about yourself now? Did you make any promises to the Lord that you would not even think of making today? Did you keep whatever promises you made to Him? Has your relationship with Him cooled over time? If so, did it happen gradually, like a slow leak? Or did it happen all at once? What do you remember about that time?

There is so much more to remember.  To find out about the forgotten discipline of remembering, keep listening. The following is a study on Revelation 2:2-3.

403 - God Never Waste an Experience, Good or Bad

403 - God Never Waste an Experience, Good or Bad

May 27, 2017

God never wastes an experience in our life, good or bad.  When we sin, for example, God uses our failure as a ministry to help others struggling with the same sin.  He allows us to share the times we fell flat on our face to encourage others who are doing the same.  It seems that's what Jesus was teaching Peter.

In the upper room, during the last supper, Jesus told Peter He was praying for him.  But His prayer was not to remove the temptation and inevitable fall from Peter.  No, His prayer was that when Peter fell and suffered the consequences of that fall, that once he repented and returned to Jesus, he was to strengthen his brothers by that experience.  Consider the following:

Luke 22:31-32 - And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren."

Jesus didn't tell Peter he would deliver him from the temptation, the sifting.  He promised Peter that after he fell and recovered and returned to his faith, Jesus would use that experience to encourage and strengthen others who were struggling in the same way.  That's why, in John 21, we see Jesus restoring Peter by saying, "Feed My lambs" (John 21:15).  Even after Peter's epic denial of Jesus, his ministry was not finished.  In fact, it was just beginning.  And so it is with us.

Does this thought encourage you?  It does me.  If you want to learn more about your usefulness after your failure, then keep listening.

The following is a study on John 21:15-23.

388 - The True Intent of the Law

388 - The True Intent of the Law

February 26, 2017

In the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus reveals to us what life is like in His Kingdom, He contrasts the Old Testament Law with its true intent.  And it does this by saying, "You have heard that it was said to those of old... but I say unto you."   Or, to put it another way, "You have an understanding about the Law and what it governs, but I want to show you the true intent of the Law and what it really means."

The Law governed external actions.  Or so it seemed to them and to us.  But in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus shows us the true intent of the Law by contrasting it to the human understanding of it.  In other words, only actions matter in the mind of men.  But with God, everything comes from the heart.

"For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Do you want to know more about having a heart that is pleasing to the Lord?  Good.  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on Matthew 5:21.

376 - Stupid is as Stupid Does

376 - Stupid is as Stupid Does

December 5, 2016

When we look at the warnings from the Lord found in the first chapter of Proverbs, we are naturally drawn to the almost prophetic words of Forrest Gump.

"Stupid is as stupid does."

To put it in the words of Solomon:

“How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?" - Proverbs 1:22.

Or, "How long, you simple (foolish, simpleminded, stupid, naive, moronic) ones, will you love simplicity (what is foolish, simpleminded, stupid, naive, moronic)?"

Great question. But what is the object of this question? What exactly are the stupid ones loving stupidly? What can we learn about the wisdom of God from what is being said here? If you want to know more, then keep listening

The following is a study on Proverbs 1:20-33.

348 - Did You Worship Last Sunday?

348 - Did You Worship Last Sunday?

May 25, 2016
We've worked real hard to redefine what worship means today?  And, in doing so, we've made it more about music or style or a feel-good experience than what it has historically meant in the past.  But what does "worship" really mean?

According to Webster's Dictionary (1828) worship means:  "To honor with extravagant love and extreme submission.  It means to declare or attribute dignity and worth.  Worship is to show profound reverence and adoration."

And this has nothing to do with a style of music or what I've seen in church most of my life.  Which brings us to the question:  Did you worship last Sunday?  Did you honor your Lord with extravagant love and extreme submission?  Did you boldly declare His dignity and worth among the congregation?  Did you show, by your very actions, your profound reverence and adoration for the Lord last Sunday?  And if you did, what was that like?

And if you didn't, or if you're not sure, then keep listening.

The following is a study on True Worship.

320 - How to Receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

320 - How to Receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

September 2, 2015
In his book, The Baptism With the Holy Spirit, RA Torrey reveals a Scriptural path of seven simple steps anyone can follow to be baptized with the Holy Spirit.  All seven steps are found or implied from Acts 2:38.

Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

The steps include:
  1. You must be saved.  Truly saved.
  2. You must renounce all sin.
  3. You must be baptised.
  4. You must live a life of obedience.
  5. You must have a desire, a thirst for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
  6. You must ask.
  7. You must ask in faith and believe.
Do you want to know more about the abundant spiritual life and the indwelling Presence of the Holy Spirit?  If so, then keep listening.

The following is a study on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

260 - Go and Sin No More

260 - Go and Sin No More

September 17, 2014
Sometimes we accept the forgiveness of Jesus and assume it's simply a one-sided act.  He does all the work and we reap all the benefits.

It's like changing the lyrics to the old song that goes:  "Jesus paid it all."  And with this we agree.  "All to Him I owe."  Uh, not so fast.  I'd rather just take the forgiveness and go home.

But that's not how it works in the Kingdom of God.  In John 8 we see a woman forgiven by Jesus and left with the following command:  "Go and sin no more."   Did you ever wonder why He said that to her?

To find out more, keep listening.

The following is a study on John 7:53-8:12.