Category Archives: Faith

5 reasons the church must teach the Bible

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching …” (Acts 2:42). This tells me two things about the early church: (1) members were hungry for teaching; and (2) leaders taught.

We have a pretty good idea about what they taught. Based on the content of Peter’s Pentecost sermon as well as other passages in Acts, they exposited Scripture. (See Acts 2:16-21,25-28; 3:22; 7:2-50; 8:30f; 13:16-41; 15:15-18; 28:23,26-27.) They taught as Jesus taught them. He had “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:32,44–45).

Bible teaching was in the beginning—as it always must be—at the center of church life.

Let’s be clear about what we mean by “Bible teaching.” Teaching the Bible goes beyond using a biblical passage as a peg on which to hang good ideas. Bible teaching approaches the Bible in such a way that allows the biblical text to set the agenda and to speak for itself. What God has said in His Word is what we must teach.

Walter Kaiser, in Toward an Exegetical Theology, comments: “In the midst of all the feverish activity to restore the Church once again to her former position of influence and respect, all sorts of programs and slogans have appeared. But regardless of what new directives and emphases are periodically offered, that which is needed above everything else to make the Church more viable, authentic, and effective, is a new declaration of the Scripture with a new purpose, passion, and power. This we believe is most important if the work of God is to be accomplished in the program of the local church.” (emphasis added)

Consider these 5 reasons (not meant to be exhaustive) why the church must prioritize strong Bible teaching.

1. The church must teach the Bible because it is God’s Word.

Rather than using a lot of theological-sounding words to make the point, let’s put it in a way my grandchildren can understand: What the Bible says, God says. All of Scripture (yes, even Leviticus)  was “breathed out by God,” meaning the writers wrote exactly what God wanted them to write. Because it is God-breathed, “it is profitable for teaching,” and the result of teaching the Scriptures is that believers are “complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

2. The church must teach the Bible because it is God’s authoritative Word.

When we say what the Bible says, we speak with authority—God’s authority. When we go beyond what the Bible says—even though it may be good advice, we speak in our own authority.

3. The church must teach the Bible because it is sufficient.

Because the Bible comes from God and carries His authority, it is uniquely sufficient to accomplish His purposes. Anything of eternal significance that results from our teaching or preaching happens because of the power of God’s Word—not because of our comments about God’s Word.

Some churches today undermine and deny Scripture’s sufficiency by relegating the Bible to the periphery of the church’s worship. Shame on us! Because worship is an intelligent and loving response to God’s revelation of Himself, the Word needs to be central in worship—not an appendix to worship. A congregation that doesn’t know the Word of God is incapable of worshiping God “in Spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

4. The church must teach the Bible because it is required.

Jesus commanded us to make disciples, not just converts, and disciples are made by teaching the Word. This is a requirement for fulfilling the Great Commission (Matt. 28:20).

5. The church must teach the Bible because it is needed.

Churches are filled with biblical illiterates. Research reveals this as a fact. We should expect biblical illiteracy in secular society, but not in the church. On the other hand, we shouldn’t be surprised by Christians’ lack of biblical knowledge when churches marginalize biblical teaching.

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching …”

Bible teaching was at the center—not the periphery—of early church life. May it be so today!


 

 

 

 

 

Beyond the coffee and doughnuts

What sometimes passes for Christian fellowship is about as nourishing as the doughnut you ate in Sunday School last week. Though enjoyable, it brings little spiritual benefit.

To fellowship is to share. That’s the basic meaning of koinonia—sharing. But it’s a sharing that goes beyond the coffee and doughnuts. We may think that just because we’ve shared food and time with one another that we have fellowshipped. But maybe we haven’t—not in the true biblical sense.

True fellowship is not primarily a social activity but rather a relationship. So instead of thinking of fellowship simply as the act of meeting together, let’s think of fellowship in terms of sharing our lives together in a such a way that facilitates our growth in Christ.

There’s more than one way to share biblical fellowship, but here are 3 essentials:

Speaking God’s Word to one another

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.” (Acts 2:42, HCSB)

In True Community, Jerry Bridges explains the practice in the early church: “Those first Christians from the Day of Pentecost were all Jews. They were steeped in the Old Testament Scriptures, but as they listened to the apostles’ teaching and were enlightened by the Holy Spirit, they began to see those Scriptures in a new way. They were daily gaining a new understanding of them. And as they individually learned from the apostles’ teaching, they shared with one another what they were learning. This is fellowship: sharing with one another what God is teaching through the Scriptures, and this is an important part of true community.”

In our present-day practice of fellowship we effortlessly discuss everything else except what God is teaching us from His Word and what He’s doing in our lives. Why do you suppose that is? Why do we find easier and more natural to talk about our favorite football team or latest movie release than about what God is teaching us in His Word?

Encouraging one another

“And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, HCSB)

Christian fellowship involves encouraging one another. But how? The writer of Hebrews is not telling us that we encourage each other simply by attending the church meetings. Mere attendance doesn’t “promote love and good works.” The key word is “promote.” That’s a strong Greek word that means “to provoke, incite, or stir something up.” The word can have a negative meaning, as in Acts 15:39 where it speaks of stirring up disagreements. In Hebrews 10:24 it’s used positively to call us to consider how we can nudge each other forward in service and obedience.

Holding one another accountable

“Let the righteous one strike me — it is an act of faithful love; let him rebuke me — it is oil for my head; let me not refuse it.” (Psalms 141:5, HCSB)

David prayed for godly people to hold him accountable. In fact, he considered a righteous person holding him accountable as an act of love. Do you have someone who holds you accountable spiritually? This should be happening every week in our small groups and Sunday School classes. If we don’t have that kind of accountability to others we’re missing a much-needed aspect of Christian fellowship.

Coffee and doughnuts are fine. I’ll have my coffee black and my doughnut chocolate, thank you. But let’s not miss the deeper meaning of fellowship—sharing our common life in Christ. Fellowship includes sharing what God is teaching us through His Word, nudging one another forward in our walk with Christ, and holding one another accountable spiritually.

10 questions for discerning God’s will

In Psalm 119:24, the psalmist called God’s decrees “my counselors.”  Let God’s Word counsel you by asking yourself these questions in your moments of decision.

1. Can this be done to the glory of God? (1 Cor. 10:31)

“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  

2. Will this make me a stronger or weaker Christian? (1 Cor. 10:23)

“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.” 

3. Am I doing this for the Lord? (Col. 3:23)

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.”  

4. Can I do this in Jesus’ name and with God’s blessings? (Col. 3:17)

And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” 

5. Does this have any appearance of evil? (1 Thess. 5:22)

“Abstain from every form of evil.”  

6. Will this cause me to offend someone or cause me to be a stumbling block? (Rom. 14:21)

It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.” 

7. Will this damage my witness?  (1 Cor. 8:9-13)

“But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will not the conscience of him who is weak be emboldened to eat those things offered to idols? And because of your knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” 

8. Will this involve me with the wrong company? (1 Cor. 15:33)

“Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” 

9. Will I be content before God with the consequences? (Gal. 6:7)

“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” 

10. Am I willing to stand before the judgment seat of Christ with this? (2 Cor. 5:10)

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” 


Scripture quotations taken from the New King James Version.

Who ought to go as missionaries?

I was a freshman at Union University when I heard Dr. Bryant Hicks, professor of missions at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, speak in a chapel service on the subject, “Who ought to go as missionaries?” That was 30-something years ago. His answer has stuck with me:

1. Those who can.
2. Those who care.
3. Those who comprehend the need.
4. Those who consent.
5. Those who are called.

That same year I also heard Baker James Cauthen speak at a student missions conference about his missionary call. Dr. Cauthen was the executive director of the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) of the Southern Baptist Convention. I can still hear the sound of his voice as he made an impassioned plea:

“Do not do what seems convenient. When you come to the place of decision, you do in your soul what you believe God is saying to you, and commit yourself with firmness to it.”

God used Dr. Bryant and Dr. Cauthen to call me to the mission field. I could. I cared. I comprehended the need. I consented. I was called. And I committed myself with firmness to it.

The call that took me to Africa as a young man still burns in my soul nearly four decades later, though I’m living it out in a different way and different place today.

Some are called to go and serve in other cultures. Others, to stay and support those who go. All are called to join God on His mission regardless of geography or vocation.

John Piper reminds us that we have three choices – go, send, or disobey.

5 reasons we pack Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes as a family

My favorite time of year has arrived. Football season is in full swing. College basketball is gearing up. The air is turning crisp. The leaves are turning. The holidays are just around the corner. That can mean only one thing: it’s shoebox time.

Every year, my family packs shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. A ministry of Samaritan’s Purse, OCC works like this: individuals, families, churches, and groups fill empty shoeboxes with gifts of toys, school supplies, clothing, hygiene items, and notes of encouragement. The boxes are collected and delivered to needy children around the world. Since 1993, Samaritan’s Purse has delivered more than 124 million shoeboxes to children in 150 countries and territories through Operation Christmas Child.

We choose to participate in Operation Christmas Child AS A FAMILY. Our 6-year-old daughter is involved in every phase, from choosing what to put in the boxes, to buying the items, packing the boxes, and dropping them off at the collection center. There are 5 good reasons we make this a family event.

1. We want our daughter to discover the joy of giving.

A child’s inclination is to think first about getting. Ours is already making her Christmas list, and it grows longer by the day. As her parents, we must be intentional about teaching her the joy of giving. I recommend you go to samaritanspurse.org/occ and, with your child, watch the videos of children around the world receiving their OCC shoeboxes. Through watching these videos, our daughter sees with her own eyes the pure joy that her giving brings to others, and it delights her

2. We want our daughter to understand that the world doesn’t revolve around her.

We’re not doing our kids any favors by leading them to think the world revolves around them. To combat the sense of entitlement that our culture drives into her brain daily, we work to raise a child who is genuinely grateful for whatever she has. Shoeboxes help us reinforce this.

3. We want to foster in our daughter an empathy toward the poor.

In our household we talk to our daughter about what it means to be poor. As we look together at pictures of children living in poverty we talk about what their lives are like and how those kids must feel. We do to foster compassion and so she can have perspective on her first world problems. 

4. We want our daughter to learn that little things can have a big impact.

We want her to realize that you don’t have to do great big things to make a difference in somebody’s life. Even the smallest acts of kindness can have an eternal impact. A small shoebox can be a part of changing children’s lives all over the world.

5. We want our daughter to know that we give because God gave.

Shoeboxes are a great opportunity to show the love of God to children around the world, they’re also a great way to teach our child about the love of God. As we pack our boxes we reinforce the truth that we give because God gave. We love because God loves us. We share to follow the example of Jesus by helping those in need and proclaiming the hope that is in the gospel.

How many boxes is your family packing this year? To learn more go to samaritanspurse.org/occ.

20 missions quotes that will challenge you to action

As we move into that time of year when many churches emphasize missions, it’s good to be reminded that missions is more than just another program of the church and it’s more than a seasonal emphasis. Missions is an expression of the very heart of God. The Great Commission is, as Hudson Taylor said, “not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.” Here are 20 more of my favorite missions quotes that challenge me to take seriously the call to missions.

  1. “Lost people matter to God, and so they must matter to us.” – Keith Wright
  2. “Let my heart be broken with the things that break God’s heart.” – Bob Pierce
  3. “To belong to Jesus is to embrace the nations with Him.” – John Piper
  4. “We must be global Christians with a global vision because our God is a global God.” – John Stott
  5. “The Lord did not tell us to build beautiful churches, but to evangelize the world” – Oswald J. Smith
  6. “No one has the right to hear the gospel twice, while there remains someone who has not heard it once.” – Oswald J. Smith
  7. “Go, send, or disobey.” – John Piper
  8. “If the Great Commission is true, our plans are not too big; they are too small.” – Pat Morley
  9. “A congregation that is not deeply and earnestly involved in the worldwide proclamation of the gospel does not understand the nature of salvation.” – Ted Engstrom
  10. “Today Christians spend more money on dog food than missions.” – Leonard Ravenhill
  11. “Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor. – Charles Spurgeon
  12. “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.” – William Carey
  13. “The mark of a great church is not its seating capacity, but its sending capacity.” – Mike Stachura
  14. “Sympathy is no substitute for action.” – David Livingstone
  15. “The reason some folks don’t believe in missions is that the brand of religion they have isn’t worth propagating.” – unknown
  16. “I don’t know how your theology works, but if Jesus has a choice between stained glass windows and feeding starving kids in Haiti, I have a feeling he’d choose the starving kids in Haiti.” – Tony Campolo
  17. “If we love God’s fame and are committed to magnifying His name above all things, we cannot be indifferent to world missions.” – John Piper
  18. “Any church that is not seriously involved in helping fulfill the Great Commission has forfeited its biblical right to exist.” – Oswald J. Smith
  19. “The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.” – Carl F. H. Henry
  20. “Here am I. Send me.” – Isaiah

10 ways I’m praying for my pastor

My pastor needs prayer, and so does yours. Every pastor needs prayer. The apostle Paul acknowledged repeatedly that he needed the church to pray for him. He appealed to the Romans: “strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf” (Rom. 15:30). To the church at Corinth Paul wrote: “You also must help us by prayer” (2 Cor.‬ ‭1‬:‭11‬). He twice urged the Thessalonians: “Brothers, pray for us” (1 Thess.‬ ‭5‬:‭25; 2 Thess. 3:1‬). Pastors desperately need prayer.

Here are 10 specific and biblical ways I am praying for my pastor:

1. I pray that his first love will be Jesus (John 21:15-17).

2. I pray he will keep his marriage and family a priority. They are his first ministry (Eph. 5:25; 1 Tim. 3:4).

3. I pray he will have the mindset that true success in ministry is measured by faithfulness to God—nothing more, nothing less (1 Cor. 4:2).

4. I pray for his purity so that he will not fall into temptation (Ps. 24:3-4).

5. I pray he will continually seek God’s direction for our church (Ex. 33:13-15; Ps. 32:8; James 1:5).

6. I pray he will have boldness to speak the truth and grace to speak it with humility (Acts 20:18-21; Eph. 6:19).

7. I pray that he will teach sound doctrine (2 Tim. 2:15; Titus 1:9; 2:1).

8. I pray he will discern what is most important and be guarded against the tyranny of the urgent (Acts 6:1-4).

9. I pray God will protect him from negative criticism, false expectations, and gossip, and that he will have a soft heart in the face of abusive and mean-spirited people (Prov. 26:4).

10. I pray he will receive the rest that he needs (Luke 5:15-16).

Pastor, “far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you” (1 Sam. 12:23).