Wednesday, January 31, 2007

2 Timothy 1:8-9

Scripture:
8So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, 9who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,

Insight:
Paul pays a great price for boldly proclaiming the gospel and he is encouraging Timothy to continue to stay the course with him in this calling. Paul points out that it is not in their own strength that they can endure this suffering, but rather it is because of the power of God they have received through Christ. It is this amazing grace provided in Christ that has both saved them and has called them to live a holy life. When we are surrendered to Christ we have his grace which is power and it strengthens us to live a holy life even when it results in our personal suffering.

Monday, January 29, 2007

1 Timothy 6:11-12

Scripture:
11But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Insight:
Paul is instructing Timothy to flee from all this. What is all this? In verse 5 he talks about men of a corrupt mind who have been robbed of the truth and who think godliness is a means of financial gain. This sounds a lot like the modern prosperity message. In contrast, Paul tells timothy to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love endurance, and gentleness. I find the word pursue to be interesting. If I am pursuing something, it means I am diligent and unwavering. I press on, keep going, and do what I must until I get it. It drives me. I think of how I pursued my wife. I even wrote and sang love songs to her in my pursuit of her. Paul says pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love endurance, and gentleness. He doesn’t say to just think about these things or long for these things. He continues telling Timothy to fight the good fight. These are also aggressive words. They underscore the amount of seriousness and effort we are to put forth. Some would say that this is legalism and works oriented Christianity. But I say no. It is not just obeying a bunch of man-made laws and rules. The pursuit of righteousness, godliness, faith, love endurance, and gentleness is a natural component of a sincere love for God. It is who we are when we are in Christ. He is worthy of our pursuit and the fight!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Twentysomethings: They can handle the truth

I lead a discipleship group of about 12 young men between the ages of 18 and 25. I have to tell you that I firmly believe the church in America is missing it in regards to the twentysomething generation. It grossly underestimates and sells short the depth of this generation.

What is the twentysomething generation looking for? While it is true that they appreciate a comfortable and relevant style, that is not the primary desire. They can find relevance all over: in the movies, on TV, at college, and in music. However, what they are looking for is truth. They are looking to be challenged. They desire discipleship. They want to experience the power of God. They want God to change them and be the deep & driving force in their lives, not just another thing to fit into their busy lives because someone says it’s important. They want to be real and therefore God has to be part of their core, not just like a piece of clothing they put on every Sunday morning.

According to research released by The Barna Group, twentysomethings who were heavily involved in church as teens never make the transition to being actively involved as adults. Impatient with a church that doesn't disciple them, and unable to see the connection between their faith and everything else in life, they disconnect. Some of these young people return to the fold later in life, but most do not.

What Should We Do?
The disengagement of twentysomethings is not inevitable or unavoidable. We don’t have to perpetuate the bleeding. In fact, the steps we should take to address this crisis are things we should be doing anyway.

Discipleship and Mentoring:
Jeff Meyers, Ph.D. and President of Passing the Baton International states it clearly, “By the time they're in their twenties, Christian young people are "programmed out." They've been to so many events, so many concerts, so many evangelistic presentations that they have become inoculated to mass spiritual influence. What they really need, and what they are begging for, is life-on-life mentoring from significant adults.” Life-on-life mentoring, or one-on-one mentoring, is critical as mature Christians invest time, energy, prayer, and commitment into the lives of twentysomethings. Additionally, Jesus poured his life into young people. He primarily discipled young people with a small group approach. Small discipleship groups promote the community experience of support and accountability while intentionally exploring what it means to live a Christ-centered life. This hits home with twentysomethings. It is real and it is applicable. It is also truth.

Instill a Biblical Worldview:
David Kinnaman of The Barna Group recommends that the church “develop teenagers’ ability to think and process the complexities of life from a biblical viewpoint.” Unless we focus on helping people in the church develop a biblical worldview, they'll live as if non-theistic worldviews are true. Here's the difference, we are trying to make the church fit into their world rather than making their world revolve around the Bible. We must take seriously the thoughtful questions that twentysomethings are asking. We must promote and teach a biblical worldview. We must share why this matters. Twentysomethings want to know how the Bible relates to their lives and how it helps them deal with life.

Please, let’s stop underestimating the depth of the twentysomething generation. Let’s stop assuming that they are just looking for a cool, comfortable, and relevant time. They deserve the truth, they desire the truth, and they can handle the truth!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

1 Timothy 4:7-8

Scripture:
7Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

Insight:
The word that jumped out at me was train. This is a call to action, commitment, perseverance, and dedication. I am reminded of the popular saying in athletic training, especially weight training, “no pain – no gain.” To grow our muscles and our cardiovascular abilities we must, at frequent times, push them to the limit. This process is usually very uncomfortable and even hurts in the beginning, but after a period of time the body gets used to the process and actually craves the training. Training also involves a healthy diet of putting into yourself the good stuff and not the bad stuff. Paul is making this comparison of physical training to spiritual (godly) training. The process of growing in Christ, in holiness, in righteousness, and in godliness requires training. It seldom just happens; it takes action. However, just like physical training, it can be uncomfortable and outright painful at times. But, it is when we push through this pain and persevere that we experience the growth and ultimately the victory. Here’s some good news, we do not have to go through this training on our own. We have a personal trainer: Jesus. He has developed our training program and is with us every step of the way encouraging us, spotting us, and lifting us up when we fall. Lord, continue to pour out your grace on me as I go through this training process.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Trip to Nogales, Mexico

On Tuesday I joined a group of staff from my church to visit a ministry on the outskirts of Nogales, Mexico. Our intention was to determine if, and how, we can participate and support the efforts of this ministry. The ministry is called Cuirim House. It utilizes the Celtic-Monastic rhythm approach which consists of prayer, work, and study. I found it to be a wonderful synergy of spiritual pilgrimage, outreach, and discipleship. The house is incarnational in approach in that it fits into the community. It is not Americanized. It is not a posh Christian retreat center. It looks and feels like its surroundings which are extreme poverty. The surroundings are essentially make-shift homes with no running water, heat, or sewer of any kind. This is the poorest place I personally have ever been. The needs, and therefore the ministry opportunities, are huge. The Cuirim House works through the local church in this impoverished area as they help build houses, feed hungry children, provide clothing, and minister the gospel. They do not directly provide support to the community. Rather, they honor the role of the local church. What a humble, respectful, and effective approach.

I was particularly struck by a comment made by Ramone, the pastor of the local church in this barrio: “I continue to move toward the back of the room.” What he said is that his role as a pastor is to raise up other leaders in the church who can do God’s work. He literally is moving to the back of the church as he allows maturing saints to step into the roles God has called them to: preaching, teaching, etc. He is practicing the early church approach of making disciples. He is multiplying. He is sharing the pulpit with those he is discipling as they are prepared. It is a beautiful thing; it is biblical; and it is inspiring. I pray that the churches in America will be drawn back to this call of equipping the saints and embrace this active form of discipleship from the top-down. We can learn from the whole body including the pastor of a small church in the barrios of Nogales, Mexico; even though he is not a mega-church pastor or a best-selling author.

Prayer:
Lord, I thank you for the work you are doing on the outskirts of Nogalas. You love people. You have called us to help the poor. I thank you for the obedience of Brian and the work that is going on through the Cuirim House and the local church in that impoverished, yet precious, neighborhood. May you strengthen the workers and multiply their efforts for your glory. May you receive the reward of your suffering.

Monday, January 22, 2007

1 Timothy 2:3-7

Scripture:
3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time. 7And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.

Insight:
Paul is presenting the fact that it is for all men that Jesus gave his life. It is not just for the Jew, but also for the gentile. Jesus suffered and died for all men. This is really the mission of Paul; to proclaim this truth. Thank you Lord for your gift to us all. God wants us all to be saved and to know his truth. Unfortunately, all do not submit themselves to God in faith and repentance.

This also reminds me of an excerpt from an old-school sermon I recently heard: “Jesus is worthy of the reward of his suffering.” It changed the way I look at evangelism and discipleship. It directed the focus to God. While I need to care for others, my motivation for evangelizing and discipling is not primarily for them, it is for God. I care about souls because the Lord gave his life for them. It is his reward that I work for and in doing so the lives of man are forever changed. It is all about God.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

1 Timothy 2:1-2

Scripture:
1I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

Insight:
These passages highlight the importance Paul is placing on prayer. He is urging Timothy to pray for everyone and specifically government officials. What is the motivation for this prayer? Is it so all will be blessed to live prosperous and comfortable lives? No, it is so there will be a peaceful and quiet environment where the Ephesians can live godly and holy lives. Not to live lives of leisure, but rather to live lives devoted to God. Should the prayers be for the comfort of man or for the glory of God? It is for the glory of God that Paul is encouraging Timothy to pray. It is too easy to fall into the rut of praying self-focused prayers rather than God-focused prayers. The desire of our hearts needs to be the glory of God. Our prayers need to be directed to this same end. Resist the lure to primarily engage in self-focused prayer and turn your prayer focus heavenward. This doesn’t mean that you will not lift up personal needs. We are instructed in Philipians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Saturday, January 20, 2007

1 Timothy 1:18-19

Scripture:
18Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, 19holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.

Insight:
I really like these passages because they are a picture of the importance of giving, or receiving, confirmation and encouragement. Paul writes to Timothy to encourage him and to show him that the task he is about to take-on in Ephesus is truly a task given to him by God. He is letting Timothy know that he is in the will of God (having a “good conscience”). He reminds Timothy of the prophetic words spoken over him regarding this scenario and purpose. Again, a big motivation for doing this is to encourage Timothy to “fight the good fight”. We need to learn from this exchange and implement it in our lives. It is important to be encouragers. Finally, this text ends with a sober sentence which talks about people “shipwrecking” their faith. What I take from this is that what Paul is about to write Timothy is pretty important and that, if ignored, may lead to a serious spiritual condition. Let’s pay attention to the rest of this letter.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Hebrews 13:18

Scripture:
Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way.

Insight:
This was interesting because he says that they have a clear conscience. Yet he says they desire to live honorable in every way. He doesn’t say that they do live honorably in every way all of the time. Is this a picture of the heart and that you can have a clear conscience because you are actively giving all of your life to God, surrendering everything, and repenting of sin as you are convicted of it even though you still may have issues hidden in your life? Is this a glimpse into the process and state of sanctification?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Hebrews 13:20-21

Scripture:
20May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Insight:
So this is saying that God wants to give me good stuff so I will be happy? WRONG! But isn’t this a theme of many ministries today? Anyway, let’s get back to the Bible. This prayer in Hebrews is that God will equip us with every good thing that we need in order to do HIS will. He will provide the things we need to serve him! The prayer continues with a call for God to work in us what is pleasing to him. Finally, how can he even use us to produce good and pleasing outcomes for him? It is only through Jesus Christ and for his glory that it can happen. For it is only through God’s grace and Jesus that anything good can come from us. We must stay God focused. God uses us for his purposes. We exist for God. When we submit our lives to him we become his slaves. But being a slave of God is not a bad thing. It is actually where we find true freedom. It is where we find purpose. It is where we find life. But don’t serve God for these reasons. Allow God to work in you for HIS GLORY and for HIS PLEASURE – to the glory of Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hebrews 12:4-7

Scripture:
5And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?

Insight:
Discipline is such a hard thing to accept. Ever since we were children it is something we never looked forward to or enjoyed. We usually try to avoid discipline. But it is exactly that discipline which can save us by preventing that wrong behavior from occurring again. Discipline is used to correct our behavior that, left unchanged, can cause serious pain and/or death. God disciplines us to save our lives; to save our souls. God disciplines us because he loves us. This passage in Hebrews also makes the connection between hardship and discipline. Hard times and suffering are also an opportunity to grow and gain proper perspective. We are to endure hard times and know that God is using these tough times to grow us up and make us into who he wants us to be and who he can ultimately use for his purpose. Endure, persevere and know that in it all God is showing you love. I realize it is easier said than done, but nevertheless it is truth. Here’s another bit of encouragement. God disciplines, but he also shows us through his Word how to live correctly and through Jesus and God’s grace he teaches us how to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions. God disciplines, but he also teaches us, he instructs, and he transforms us.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Hebrews 12:1-3

Scripture:

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Insight:

These passages follow what is often called the faith chapter where the author of Hebrews reminds us of all the fathers in the faith who have gone before and persevered for God. They obeyed God and did his will even when it was not easy, popular, or comfortable. They are our great cloud of witnesses. In that context, we are instructed to get rid of all the sin in our lives that prevents us from doing the will of God. This passage indicates that sin entangles us. It trips us up. It ties us down and does not allow us to run the race. It prevents us from doing the will of God and from being used by God. If we are tied up with sin, how will we reach the finish line and receive the prize? However, we have Jesus. We need to focus our lives on him; not ourselves; not the world. Jesus needs to be our desire. We need to remember what he endured for us. Partner with Christ in your race. Allow him to transform you. Submit yourself to him. Throw off sin. Fight it back. Run the race with perseverance.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Acts 14:19-22

Scripture:
19Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. 20But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe. 21They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,"

Insight:
Being a Christian is not historically the equivalent of joining a social club and going to parties. Serving God is serious business and fraught with hardship and suffering. Look what it says in Acts, "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God". Why do we think that when we follow Christ that all will be roses? Why are we told by many today that if we become a Christian we are more likely to have a blissful, comfortable, life that is filled with material wealth and comfort? This is completely contrary to the Bible and the experiences of the apostles and the early Christians. We are promised suffering and hardships if we are to serve God and enter His Kingdom. Look at how committed Paul was in his service to God. After being stoned in Lystra, he didn’t stay away from the city. Rather, he returned to minister to the new disciples in that city. This reminds me of a faithful brother in Christ, Gary Witherall, whose wife was brutally shot and killed in Lebanon. He didn’t write-off the people of Lebanon and the middle-east. He is still committed to ministering in Lebanon and the region. He has gone back to “encourage them to remain true to the faith”. We are called to total abandonment in our service of God. Even when it is hard and when it hurts.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Revival Hymn - A Compilation of Challenging Sermons

I found this compilation of sermons on the topic of revival very challenging, refreshing, and encouraging. I especialliy appreciate the God focus. May we all die to self and live for HIM. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKwyJ1cUuOc

Hebrews 6:10-12

Scripture:
10God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. 12We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Insight:
We often hear that God is not interested in our work(s) and that it is not about what we do or don’t do. However, these passages are just a sample that God does in fact care about our work. It is because he is a just God. He wants us to be diligent – work hard. He wants the focus of this work to be a love for him that is lived out as a love for others. These passages in Hebrews indicate that it is so important to him that it is tied to our eternal hope. He warns us against becoming lazy in our faith and instructs us to imitate those who persevere in their faith to again gain what has been promised. These passages indicate that faith and belief involve work and effort. Faith is not just a thought, a feeling, or a statement. Our faith is lived out, or worked out, in our acts of love for God. It is an active faith. God cares about what we do.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Hebrews 6:7-8

Scripture:
7Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. 8But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

Insight:
We are the land. The question is, “are we drinking in the rain often”? Are we in the Word of God? Are we spending time meditating on his Word? Are we fasting and praying for his revelation? We don’t control the rain, but in the verse it says “land that drinks”. This indicates that we must take action and accept it and make the effort to open up and drink. It doesn’t say land that is rained on often. It says land that drinks in the rain often falling on it. Then after we have received the rain and made it part of who we are, we are to produce a crop useful for whom it is farmed: GOD. We must take the water of his Word and act upon it. If we do not drink and do not produce a USEFUL crop, then we will be useless to God and burned up.

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Teaching Ministry of Eric Jones

Freedom in Christ, City of Grace Church (August 1, 2008)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Philippians 1:1-11 (January 20, 2008)


Philippians 1:12-30 (January 27, 2008)


Philippians 2:1-11(February 3, 2008)


Philippians 2:12-30 (Unavailable)

Philippians 3:1-11 (February 17, 2008)


Philippians 3:12-21 (February 24, 2008)


Philippians 4 (March 2, 2008)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jesus Series - Part 1 of 3 (Sept. 30, 2007)


Jesus Series - Part 2 of 3 (Oct. 7, 2007)


Jesus Series - Part 3 of 3 (Oct. 14, 2007)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
Galatians - Chapters 1 & 2 (Oct. 9, 2007)


1 Timothy 1:12-20 (November 1, 2007)