Leaving Laodicea
453 - Increase our Faith!

453 - Increase our Faith!

April 11, 2020

As I have been sharing with you since late last year, the times we are facing as believers, and as a church and a nation, demand faith.  But not faith as usual or faith that is comfortable.  We need mature faith, secure faith, maybe even radical faith to believe what our Lord says about everything, and then act on that belief like we truly believe what we claim to believe.

In fact, one of the signs of maturity in our walk with Christ is our ability to drown out the voices of our culture, and even our own voice of fear, doubt, and insecurity, and live in the joy of sheer trust in His character, His Word, and His promises (and warnings).  Our desire is to learn how to trust as a little child does his loving father, without question, and with great joy.  And for logical, pragmatic, even somewhat cynical people, that leap in trust can be quite difficult.

"But where does faith come from?" many often ask.  The disciples recognized their need for more genuine, mature, seasoned faith when it came to continually having to forgive someone who sinned against them over and over again with no true sign of repentance.  When faced with that impossible task, they cried out to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" (Luke 17:5).

Our need for more faith is apparent.  But where do we go to increase our faith?


Faith and the Word of God

In Romans 10, after speaking about Israel's need to hear the gospel, Paul then makes this most revealing statement:

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Rom. 10:17)

Or, to put it another way, "faith comes by hearing the word of God."  And it's really just that simple.  The object of what we are to hear to increase our faith is the Word of God.

If you have been in church for any amount of time, you know that on Easter you will hear a sermon about the resurrection, just like you will hear about the birth of Jesus during December.  It's just what we in the church do.  It's almost a sacred tradition.

This means that many of us have heard dozens of sermons about the empty tomb every late March or early April.  And if we're not careful, the wonder of the resurrection may get dull by rote habit or tradition.  Remember, familiarity often breeds contempt.

But this Sunday, I want God's Word to bring the sermon and not me.  I want each of us to have our faith increased by hearing His Word, and not by hearing a pastor (like me) expound on His Word.  In essence, let's go directly to the source for the pure milk of His Word and not settle for the homogenized, skim stuff.

Therefore, I have taken the liberty of reading a combined account of the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord taken from the four gospel accounts.  In other words, what you will hear is everything Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote so we can get a perfect picture of everything that transpired with our Lord and His disciples from His death until His ascension.  And to be quite honest, I have preached these passages for decades and yet found myself mesmerized as I marveled at the picture they present when combined and synthesized together.

What you will hear is pure Scripture (although I do make a comment or two.  Sorry, can't help it.  It's in my nature).  And I will let you know the source from where I am reading before I read.

So join with me today as we let the Holy Spirit, using Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, present our Easter sermon for us.  I will simply try to act as the host or facilitator, bring a few comments of clarification or questions, as we listen to this wondrous story.

The following is a study on the Resurrection of Christ as told from all four gospel accounts.

445 - What it Means to Follow Jesus

445 - What it Means to Follow Jesus

January 17, 2020

When Jesus began His earthly ministry, His initial message was the same as John the Baptist.  He said, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 4:17).  And throughout the next three years, one underlying theme in His teaching was about life in His Kingdom.  When Jesus sent out His disciples to preach His message, He said, "As you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand' " (Matt. 8:11).  Jesus even told those close to Him why He spoke to the crowds in parables.  And His answer had to do with concealing from some the knowledge of the kingdom of heaven.  He said, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given" (Matt. 13:11).

Finally, He shared parables specifically pointed to revealing what the kingdom of heaven, His Kingdom, was like.  He said it was like a "man who sowed good seed in his field" (Matt. 13:24).  Or, it was like a "mustard seed" which, being small, grew into a tree "so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches" (Matt. 13:31).  Jesus likened His Kingdom to "leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened" (Matt. 13:33).  And to express how wonderful His Kingdom is for those who possess it, He said it was like a "treasure hidden in a field" (Matt. 13:44) or a "pearl of great price" (Matt. 13:46) that was worth all one had on earth.

Jesus then asked His disciples, "Have you understood all these things?"  They said to Him, "Yes, Lord" (Matt. 13:51).

I wonder what our answer would be today?  Do we understand His Kingdom?  Do we fully know what it means to follow Him?  Can we honestly say we are proficient in following Jesus?

I'm not so sure.  And maybe you aren't either.


What Life is Like in the Kingdom

Let's just take a flyover view of the first few chapters in Matthew and see if we can determine some principles and instructions for what it means to live in the kingdom of heaven.  And then compare them to what we teach in church today, and I think you'll be as shocked as I was.

Blessed… or Not So Blessed - Matthew 5:3-12
Self Identity - Matthew 5:13-16
His Standard of Righteousness - Matthew 5:20
Anger - Matthew 5:21-26
Lust and/or Sexual Sin - Matthew 5:27-30
Marital Relationships - Matthew 5:31-32
Oaths and Dishonesty - Matthew 5:33-37
How to Respond to Evil - Matthew 5:38-42
How to Respond to Haters - Matthew 5:43-47
Be Perfect - Matthew 5:48
Self-Promotion - Matthew 6:1-4
How to Pray - Matthew 6:5-13
How Much Forgiveness? - Matthew 6:14-15
Fasting and Other Disciplines - Matthew 6:16-17
Our Life Focus - Matthew 6:19-21
Everyone Serves Somebody or Something - Matthew 6:24
Worry, Doubt, and Fear - Matthew 6:25-34
I’m Right and You’re Wrong - Matthew 7:1-2
I’m Good and You’re Bad - Matthew 7:3-6
What is a Life of Faith - Matthew 7:7-11
Treat Others Like You Treat Yourself - Matthew 7:12
Turnstile or Interstate - Matthew 7:13-14
Fruit Inspector - Matthew 7:15-20
Doing and Not Just Talking - Matthew 7:21-23
Don’t Be Stupid! - Matthew 7:24-27
Minister Within Your Reach - Matthew 8:1-17
Everything Costs Something - Matthew 8:18-22
And so much more!

Remember, following Christ means to forget everything we think we know about everything but Him, and simply trust in child-like faith.  Our entire reality now changes, as citizens in His Kingdom, to something incredible and supernatural.

Do you want to learn more about what it means to follow Jesus?  If so, then keep listening.

The following is a study on What it Means to Follow Jesus.

413 - The Importance of Baptism

413 - The Importance of Baptism

August 17, 2017

Baptism has fallen out of favor in the church today.  Many people are confused about baptism. And since there seems to be such a wide diversity of opinion about what baptism means and how important it is, many in the church have relegated it to an archaic, antiquated ritual and not much more.  And that is a grave mistake.  Why?  Because baptism is your first act of obedience as a Christian.

Many in the church who call themselves Christians have not been baptized according to the New Testament baptism.  That may include some of you who are listening to this podcast.  But think, if we are unfaithful to the first command of obedience to our Lord who saved us, it makes it much easier to disobey His other commands.  Does this describe you?

The question we ask today is why don't people get baptized?  And there are at least five reasons: ignorance, pride, indifference, rebellion, or because they are simply lost.  In this message we will look at each of these in detail.

Are you confused about baptism and why it seemed so important in New Testament times but not so much today?  If that describes you, then keep listening.

The following is a study on baptism.

411 - We Will Not Be Equal in the Kingdom of God

411 - We Will Not Be Equal in the Kingdom of God

July 10, 2017

We will not all be equal in heaven.  Now we're not talking about salvation, but of rewards.  All of us are equal in regards to salvation because it is a gift given freely to those who believe.  In this, there is no question.  But what we do with our salvation is another matter.  And we will be rewarded for our faithfulness to Him in this life.  Consider the following:

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 - For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if anyone builds on this foundation with (1) gold, silver, precious stones, (2) wood, hay, straw, each one’s (personal) work will become clear; (how) for the Day will declare it, (how) because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s (personal) work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures (gold, silver, precious stones), he will receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned (wood, hay, straw), he will suffer loss (of reward); but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

Charles Stanley also spoke of this in his book, Eternal Security.  He said, “Some believers will be entrusted with certain privileges; others will not. Some will reign with Christ; others will not (2 Timothy 2:12). Some will be rich in the kingdom of God; others will be poor (Luke 12:21, 33).  Some will be given true riches; others will not.  Some will be given heavenly treasures of their own; others will not.  Some will rule and reign with Christ; others will not.  Privilege in the kingdom of God is determined by one’s faithfulness in this life.  It is true that there will be equality in terms of our inclusion in the kingdom of God, but not in our rank and privilege.”

Does this sound troubling to you?  Maybe confusing?  If so, keep listening to learn more.

The following is a study on the Judgment Seat of Christ and the Marriage Ceremony of the Lamb.

394 - What Does it Mean to Live by Faith? - Part 1

394 - What Does it Mean to Live by Faith? - Part 1

April 2, 2017

In Acts 2, after the promised Holy Spirit came mightily upon the faithful praying in the upper room, and after Peter preached his Spirit-empowered sermon, the infant church grew from 120 to over 3,000 literally overnight.   And now the apostles had a logistics problem.  How were they to manage a crowd of over 3,000 newbies without the benefit of Christian literature or Lifeway, CCM, K-LOVE, God's Not Dead 1 and 2, WinterJam, or local mega-churches with multiple, cross-town campuses?  What were they to do?

The answer was simple.  They were to teach their new Christian brothers exactly what Jesus spent three years teaching them— how to live by faith.  That's right, faith.  Remember?

Hebrews 11:1 - Now faith (pístis) is the substance (to place under, the basis, foundation, that which underlies the apparent) of things hoped for (confident expectation, to abide still, to expect fully), the evidence (proof, conviction, assurance, supreme confidence) of things not seen.

As we dig deeper into the life of the early church, we'll discover that faith was pretty much all they had.  And it was enough for them to turn their world upside down (Acts 17:6).

Do you want to know more about what it means to live by faith?  Good.  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on Acts 2:36-41.

370 - When Our Saved Life Looks Like Our Lost Life

370 - When Our Saved Life Looks Like Our Lost Life

October 31, 2016
When we look at the chilling words of Jesus that tell us "unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:20) we are perplexed.  And rightly so.  When we then see the requirement of becoming a "new creation" in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17) in order to possess the "righteousness that exceeds that of the scribe and Pharisees," we are faced with even more than questions.

Are you a new creation in Christ?
Has God changed you from the inside out?
Do you possess a righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees?
If so, how do you know?
Can your friends and family tell?

And then one more:

Does this describe you?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law - Galatians 5:22-23

Have you ever asked yourself these questions?  How did you answer?  What does it mean if your answer to these questions are, no?  To find out more, keep listening.

The following is a study on Matthew 5:20.

364 - Why Did God Choose to Save You?

364 - Why Did God Choose to Save You?

September 26, 2016
Great question.  Why did God choose to save each of us?  Was it because He wanted to make our life better?  And, if so, what does "better" mean?  And "better" from whose perspective?  His?  Or ours?  Maybe He chose to save us to give our life purpose and meaning.  And what would that purpose be?  And whose purpose are we talking about?  God's?  Or ours?

See the problem?  When we view the purpose of our salvation from how it affects us, we tend to become self-centered and inner-focused.  But it's not about us, it's all about Him.  Totally for Him and Him alone.

Want to discover the true reason God chose to save you?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on total surrender.

359 - The “You Are” Versus “You Do” Passages

359 - The “You Are” Versus “You Do” Passages

August 7, 2016
Many Scriptures speak of things we must "do" as followers of Christ.  Some of them are:

You are to "take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5).
You are to "walk according to the Spirit" (Gal. 5:16).
You must "present your bodies as a living sacrifice" (Rom. 12:1).

But when we find some passages that speak about who we are (in contrast to what we do), they should stop us cold in our tracks.  These are Scriptures that define and describe us from the Lord's perspective.

In Matthew 5 we find two of these:  "You are the salt of the earth" (Matt. 5:11), and "You are the light of the world" (Matt. 5:12-14).  And the implications of these are profound.  Want to discover more?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on Matthew 5:11.

357 - Being a Peacemaker is More than You Think

357 - Being a Peacemaker is More than You Think

July 26, 2016
Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matt. 5:9 ).   Which ponders the questions:

What is a peacemaker?
What does peace really mean?
And with whom does the peacemaker make peace?
Who is calling the peacemakers “sons of God”?
And what does this look like in real life?

Amazingly, the answer to these questions might very well change your world.  To find out more, keep listening.

The following is a study on Matthew 5:9.

356 - Is Your God Too Small?

356 - Is Your God Too Small?

July 17, 2016
When we are overwhelmed with fear, it's usually because our God is too small and our problems are too big. 

Have you ever experienced a fear of Death?
Fear of the Future?
Fear of Failure?
Fear of Never Being Loved?
Fear of Pain or Sickness?
Fear of Financial Ruin?
Fear of Divorce?
Fear of Something Happening to My Children?
Fear of Being Victimized?
Fear of Getting Older?
Fear of Things Always Changing?
Fear of Trusting?
Fear of Confrontation?
Fear of the Death of a Loved One?
Fear of Satan?

If so, the reason for your fear is that your God is simply too small.  Way too small.  Tiny.  Do you want to know how to change that?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on 1 John 3:1-3.