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Russ Brewer

Russ Brewer

Rescued from the domain of darkness, transferred to the kingdom of the Son. Undershepherd of Grace. Husband of Corinne. Father of three. Chew-toy to Zeke...

Website URL: http://www.thegracetabernacle.org E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Spiritual Warfare Bible Study for Christian Leaders

Thursday, 22 September 2016 17:52 Published in Blog

when God is blessing and satan is attacking

Introduction

1) Where in the life of our church is God working?

a. _________________________________________________________________

b. _________________________________________________________________

c. _________________________________________________________________


2) What threat does this create to Satan and the demonic world?

a. _________________________________________________________________

b. _________________________________________________________________

c. _________________________________________________________________

When God is working

Introduction

3) The Bible is full of examples of when God is working. Where in scripture do we see God working and what does it look like?

purify and strengthen

4) Read Exodus 4:24-26. In verse 24, what was the Lord seeking to do?

a. In verse 25, what did Zipporah do? What does this imply Moses had not done yet?

b. Why does the Lord require purity in His leaders?

c. In what ways can serving as a leader actually purify us?

d. Even though purification is not easy, why is it a good thing?

e. What are some dangers if we don’t grow in the Lord, while we serve as leaders?

5) Read 1 Samuel 30:1-6. What was happening in this account?

a. In verse 4, how did the people respond to the tragedy in verses 1-3? In a sense, where did they “go to” for strength and comfort?

b. We can see how much this strengthened and comforted them in verse 6. What were the people talking about doing? Why?

c. At the end of verse 6, what did David do?

d. When people are “taking up stones” against us, how do we strengthen ourselves in the Lord?

e. How can we strengthen one another in the Lord?

when satan is working  

Discourage and derail

6) Read Job 1:10-12. When Satan sought to bring Job to doubt God, he attacked Job’s family, finances and health. How might losses like these…

a. Discourage God’s servants?

b. Cause them to doubt God?

c. Cause them to lose the ability to have the time or focus on serving Christ and His people?

7) What kinds of things can happen to God’s servants to discourage them?

Anger and Unforgiveness

8) Read Ephesians 4:27. This verse says to not be angry and to not give the devil a foothold. How can anger get our focus off of Christ and His kingdom, and thereby giving Satan a foothold?

9) 2 Corinthians 2:11 speaks heavily of forgiveness as it relates to galvanizing a church against the schemes of Satan. Why is forgiveness so critical to a healthy church?

a. Why does Satan’s schemes seek to create attitudes of unforgiveness amongst God’s people? What does this produce amongst God’s people?

b. If we see an attitude of unforgiveness, how should we address it?

Divide and Conquer

10) Read Jude 16. This verse lists several attitudes that hinder the work of God. What do these attitudes look like and how do they hinder God’s work?

a. Grumblers & fault finders

b. Following after their own lusts (e.g. desires, opinions)

c. Speaking arrogantly

d. Flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage

11) Read 1 Timothy 5:19. This verse says to not receive an accusation against an elder unless there are two or more witnesses. Timothy was a godly church leader; why would Paul need to warn him about receiving accusations about other leaders?

a. How does that relate to the steps of reconciliation given by Jesus in Matthew 18:15-17?

b. If Timothy were to receive every accusation against an elder, without this requirement of 2 or 3 witnesses, what would likely happen to that leader or ministry?

12) Absalom at the City Gates – 2 Samuel 15:1-12

a. Satan rarely uses a crackpot to cause disunity. Who was Absalom? What was he like?

b. In verse 2, what was Absalom doing? Why did he rise early?

c. How did Absalom’s counsel create a seed of doubt in the minds of others? What impact did that have on David’s ability to minister? (c.f. verse 6) Why?

d. What response, or lack of response, did we see in David and the rest of the leaders? How did their silence contribute to the problem?

i. Who should they have talked to?

ii. What should they have said?

13) What principles can we glean for maintaining unity when people start creating an “us/them” or “divide and conquer” approach to the leadership?

a. _________________________________________________________________

b. _________________________________________________________________

c. _________________________________________________________________

Confusion and Disorder

14) Paul and the Fortune Telling Slave - Acts 16:14-22

d. How was God working in verses 14-15?

e. What was the slave girl doing in verse 17? What effect did this have?

f. How much of what she saying was untrue?

i. How can saying “accurate” information sometimes be harmful?

g. When Paul commanded the spirit to leave her, in verse 18, how was it viewed in the community?

i. Why can the “right” response appear wrong to some people?

h. This fortune-telling slave created a situation that could not be resolved cleanly. How was this effective in undermining the ministry of Paul?

15) What principles can we glean for maintaining unity when Satan creates confusion and disorder?

a. _________________________________________________________________

b. _________________________________________________________________

c. _________________________________________________________________

Conclusion

16) 2 Corinthians 4:7–12 “7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death works in us, but life in you.”

a. In verse 7, what is at stake in Paul’s ministry?

b. When Paul is not crushed, not despairing, etc. is that because Satan has given up his assault against Paul? If not, why is Paul strong in the face of such trials?

c. Why does Paul talk about “we”? How can we help one another when facing these kinds of trials in our ministries?

Unity in Leadership when Satan Attacks

Wednesday, 20 April 2016 10:31 Published in Blog
A key component of leadership is maintaining unity in the midst of the enemy's attacks. Often well-intentioned men need to be trained in how to handle Satan's attacks--especially when he seeks to discourage, divide and discredit God's servants. The following study can be used on a retreat, at a leadership meeting, in a conference breakout session, etc. Feel free to modify this for your purposes. Thanks and God Bless!

when God is blessing and satan is attacking

Introduction

1) Where in the life of _________ is God working?

a. _________________________________________________________________

b. _________________________________________________________________

c. _________________________________________________________________


2) What threat does this create to Satan and the demonic world?

a. _________________________________________________________________

b. _________________________________________________________________

c. _________________________________________________________________

When God is working

Introduction

3) The Bible is full of examples of when God is working. Where in scripture do we see God working and what does it look like?

purify and strengthen

4) Read Exodus 4:24-26. In verse 24, what was the Lord seeking to do?

a. In verse 25, what did Zipporah do? What does this imply Moses had not done yet?

b. Why does the Lord require purity in His leaders?

c. In what ways can serving as a leader actually purify us?

d. Even though purification is not easy, why is it a good thing?

e. What are some dangers if we don’t grow in the Lord, while we serve as leaders?

5) Read 1 Samuel 30:1-6. What was happening in this account?

a. In verse 4, how did the people respond to the tragedy in verses 1-3? In a sense, where did they “go to” for strength and comfort?

b. We can see how much this strengthened and comforted them in verse 6. What were the people talking about doing? Why?

c. At the end of verse 6, what did David do?

d. When people are “taking up stones” against us, how do we strengthen ourselves in the Lord?

e. How can we strengthen one another in the Lord?

when satan is working  

Discourage and derail

6) Read Job 1:10-12. When Satan sought to bring Job to doubt God, he attacked Job’s family, finances and health. How might losses like these…

a. Discourage God’s servants?

b. Cause them to doubt God?

c. Cause them to lose the ability to have the time or focus on serving Christ and His people?

7) What kinds of things can happen to God’s servants to discourage them?

Anger and Unforgiveness

8) Read Ephesians 4:27. This verse says to not be angry and to not give the devil a foothold. How can anger get our focus off of Christ and His kingdom, and thereby giving Satan a foothold?

9) 2 Corinthians 2:11 speaks heavily of forgiveness as it relates to galvanizing a church against the schemes of Satan. Why is forgiveness so critical to a healthy church?

a. Why does Satan’s schemes seek to create attitudes of unforgiveness amongst God’s people? What does this produce amongst God’s people?

b. If we see an attitude of unforgiveness, how should we address it?

Divide and Conquer

10) Read Jude 16. This verse lists several attitudes that hinder the work of God. What do these attitudes look like and how do they hinder God’s work?

a. Grumblers & fault finders

b. Following after their own lusts (e.g. desires, opinions)

c. Speaking arrogantly

d. Flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage

11) Read 1 Timothy 5:19. This verse says to not receive an accusation against an elder unless there are two or more witnesses. Timothy was a godly church leader; why would Paul need to warn him about receiving accusations about other leaders?

a. How does that relate to the steps of reconciliation given by Jesus in Matthew 18:15-17?

b. If Timothy were to receive every accusation against an elder, without this requirement of 2 or 3 witnesses, what would likely happen to that leader or ministry?

12) Absalom at the City Gates – 2 Samuel 15:1-12

a. Satan rarely uses a crackpot to cause disunity. Who was Absalom? What was he like?

b. In verse 2, what was Absalom doing? Why did he rise early?

c. How did Absalom’s counsel create a seed of doubt in the minds of others? What impact did that have on David’s ability to minister? (c.f. verse 6) Why?

d. What response, or lack of response, did we see in David and the rest of the leaders? How did their silence contribute to the problem?  Who should they have talked to? What should they have said?


13) What principles can we glean for maintaining unity when people start creating an “us/them” or “divide and conquer” approach to the leadership?

a. _________________________________________________________________

b. _________________________________________________________________

c. _________________________________________________________________

Confusion and Disorder

14) Paul and the Fortune Telling Slave - Acts 16:14-22

d. How was God working in verses 14-15?

e. What was the slave girl doing in verse 17? What effect did this have?

f. How much of what she saying was untrue? How can saying “accurate” information be a detriment?


g. When Paul commanded the spirit to leave her, in verse 18, how was it viewed in the community? Why can the “right” response appear wrong to some people?


h. This fortune-telling slave created a situation that could not be resolved cleanly. How was this effective in undermining the ministry of Paul?

15) What principles can we glean for maintaining unity when there Satan created confusion and disorder?

a. _________________________________________________________________

b. _________________________________________________________________

c. _________________________________________________________________

Conclusion

16) 2 Corinthians 4:7–12 “7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death works in us, but life in you.”

a. In verse 7, what is at stake in Paul’s ministry?

b. When Paul is not crushed, not despairing, etc. is that because Satan has given up his assault against Paul? If not, why is Paul strong in the face of such trials?

c. Why does Paul talk about “we”? How can we help one another when facing these kinds of trials in our ministries?


Slaves of Christ

Friday, 23 May 2014 18:11 Published in Blog

Introduction

The concept of slavery always has and always will be one of the most repugnant social institutions humanity has ever seen. It violates every sensibility in us. The idea of one person “owning” another cuts to the very core of justice. While much can be said about slavery (and we will in a few minutes), the fact remains that the Bible says in numerous places we are slaves of God, righteousness and Christ.

Consider these following verses (all verses are from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted):

· 1 Corinthians 7:22  "For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave."

· Romans 6:22  "But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life."

· 1 Peter 2:16  "Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God."

· Acts 27:23  "For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me."

· Revelation 22:3  "There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him."

As we consider these verses and what they teach, we will address what it means to be a slave, what it means to be Christ’s slave, and the impact on our lives.

Slavery Defined

In the New Testament, each of the occurrences of the word “slave” is the Greek word “doulos” (or a variation of it). Doulos comes from the word “deo” meaning to bind (Strongs, 1401). It was the term for a slave (Liddel/Scott, 210). It referred to one who was completely controlled by someone else, or something else (Luow & Nida, 1:472). The ancient Greek writer, Xenophon, explained that “doulos” speaks of one who is in a permanent relation of servitude to another (Trench, citing Xenophon, 30). Likewise, to be a slave means one person’s will is completely bound to the will of another. It requires complete dependence and undivided allegiance.  (Zodiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary, 1401).

The word “doulos” occurs 182 times in the Greek New Testament. It’s the run of the mill term for slave. Actually, in most places in the New Testament where the word “servant” is used, it’s the word “doulos.” Thus, rather than being a rare word, it’s occurs throughout the New Testament.

Much confusion in the Christian life can be resolved by understanding the principle that we are slaves of Christ, rather than his servants. The word “servant” implies we have a will; we have a “say” in the matter; that we could tell the Lord we’d rather not obey Him right now. However, if we realize all those “servant” verses should be translated as “slave,” suddenly the scriptures come alive with what it means to live for Christ and follow Him.

To make this clearer, we need to understand the other Greek words that could have been used to describe our service. For instance, the standard Greek word for “servant” is the word “diakonos” from which we get the word “Deacon.” It’s from the root word “runner” and means someone who runs around serving others. If “diakanos” had been used those 182 times, we could easily make the case that we are servants of God as opposed to slaves. And while “diakanos” does occasionally speak of our service to Christ; usually it has the focus of serving other people.

There was the Greek word “therapone” from which we get the word ‘therapy.’ This was the idea of serving another person voluntarily.

Another word, “oiketes,” was a house slave. Although this person was a full slave too, their status was higher than the “doulos.” The “oiketes” lived in homes. They weren’t work animals to be used up and discarded.

Finally, there was one more word for slave called “uperetes.” This was a galley slave. They probably had an even lower status than “doulos”—and Paul even describes himself as an “uperetes” in 1 Corinthians 4:1, “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants (uperetes) of Christ.”

So, when the New Testament describes our relationship with Christ, it often uses the term “doulos.” For instance, one of our favorite verses is Matthew 25:23 which says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Yet the word there is “doulos” and the NAS even correctly translates this verse as, “Well done, good and faithful slave.”

Likewise, in Philippians 2:7, Paul speaks of Jesus and says, “but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant.” The actual word there is “doulos” and thus Jesus Himself took the form of a slave.

Just as a person was a slave in their era, and required to fully obey the will of his master, Christ was a slave of His Father. In the same way, we are slaves of Christ and obligated to do his will.

To understand this point further, let’s talk about slavery in the New Testament times.

Slavery in the New Testament Times

The life of a slave in the ancient world was different than many of us might realize. On the one hand, it was an abusive and oppressive system. For instance, according to the Roman law of Patria Potestas, a slave owner essentially had life and death power over the life of his slave. During the ancient world slaves were so common they were often treated with disregard.

It has been estimated that at any given time, half of the empire were slaves—that’s 60,000,000 people (Wight, Manners and Customs of Bible Lands, 292). The entire economy ran on the system of slavery. In fact, a person who had no slaves was considered as poor as a homeless person. It has been said in those days, having only three or four slaves was considered poverty. Having ten slaves was scarcely sufficient. Having 200 slaves was a good amount. But someone who wanted to count in society needed to have 1,000 slaves working for him. Wealthy Romans might possess as many as 20,000 slaves (The NT Milieu, ed by Du Toit, Section 5.3.3-514).

Slavery was certainly an evil system. The church father Chrysostom said, “Slavery is the fruit of covetousness, or degradation, of savagery.” People were often forced into slavery against their will (though we’ll see in a moment many actually chose slavery because of its potential benefits). Likewise, it is true that in many situations, slaves had no rights. They could be crucified, sold, branded and emasculated against their will.

The entire Roman economy was based on slavery. In terms of market principles, the ancient Roman economy was somewhat similar to ours. No doubt, there are massive differences between our two economies, but generally speaking, Rome was based on market economics. There were elected leaders, there were taxes, and there was trading and shipping.

Thus, part of the reason for slavery was simply to drive the economy.

The Romans engaged in business ventures somewhat like we might today, except typically these businesses were run by households. Whole households would own farms, mines, ships, pottery works, etc. Obviously, these business ventures would produce goods to sell and the whole house would benefit.

Here’s where slavery was key. The Romans despised labor. They felt it was beneath them. So to get anything done, they used slaves. Often these slaves were imported from conquered nations. These slaves weren’t always cheap and they weren’t always unskilled. In fact, it was common to have slaves as the teachers. Slaves even taught medicine. Some of ancient history’s most well-known writers were once slaves—such as Dionysius and Eutychides. Some of our most beloved Bible characters were once slaves—heroes like Joseph and Daniel are inspirational examples to us.

Another reason for slaves is a way of handling masses of people. Their society did not have a safety net of welfare and food stamps. A person in dire straights had no way of receiving care. Working in the home of a slave owner granted them food, clothing and a roof over their heads. In an odd way, slavery actually helped to  extended the lives of many millions of people.

In many cases the slaves were living in better conditions than a free person. Often, a slave walking down the street was dressed as well as a freeman. If they came from wealthy homes, they were often dressed better than some freemen. Slaves and freemen were so much alike the Romans instituted a law that slaves needed to wear a designation so they could be distinguish from free citizens. Thus, many times individuals sold themselves into slavery.

This is not to gloss over the evils of slavery. By far the most common way a person entered slavery was to be the unfortunate citizen of a conquered nation. As the occupiers entered into a city they gave the residents two choices: slavery or death. Many chose death, but even more chose slavery. No doubt the conquering nation felt they were being merciful in granting life to these people. This is even more astounding when we understand many served in a family business and eventually earned their citizenship.

When we think of the American abuses of slavery; we think of permanent ownership. Roman slavery was not this way. Roman slaves were not without hope, and for diligent slaves, it was a path to Roman citizenship. The Romans learned early on that if a slave had no incentive of freedom, he also had no incentive to work hard. Slaves needed to work hard because an owner might have hundreds of slaves. Thus, he needed each one to justify his room and board. This was a motivation for slaves: they could eventually purchase their citizenship (Hopkins, Conquerors and Slaves, 126).

Slaves would receive 5 denarii a month. Because their living expenses were already paid for, 5 denarii a month would have been twice the discretionary spending of the average freeman. Thus, if they saved their allowance, they could soon purchase their freedom. Cicero wrote a diligent slave could earn his freedom in seven years (Cicero, Philippic, 8.32).

There was both a humanitarian and economic reason for the freeing of slaves. As slaves became older, their skill would increase and therefore they were “worth” more. But on the other hand, as they became older, the cost to keep them healthy also grew. Therefore, their owner could sell them their freedom at a high price because of their skill, and then with the profit buy a cheaper, younger slave and still have money left over (Hopkins, Conquerors and Slaves, 118). It was said most diligent slaves purchased their freedom by 30 years old.

When slaves of Roman citizens became free, they also became Roman citizens. Likewise, freed slaves were not permanently relegated to the lower classes. Slaves themselves could own property and even other slaves (Hopkins, Conquerors and Slaves, 126). Likewise, the potential wealth of ex-slaves was limitless—ancient Roman philosopher Pliny spoke of an ex-slave who had amassed a fortune of 4,000 slaves, 7,200 oxen, and a cash savings of 60 times the fortune of some senators (Pliny, Natural History, 33.135).

Finally, when a Roman slave owner died it was common to free all his slaves. This was so common that eventually the government began to regulate this practice to not flood the society with 500-1000 slaves in a day. The book Conquerors and Slaves by Keith Hopkins, has an section of a chapter titled, Why did the Romans free so many slaves? The freeing of slaves in the Roman empire was designed, among other reasons, to reduce the natural repugnance of such a system.

We must not gloss over the evils of slavery but we do need to understand the world of slavery in biblical times. It has been said that no other book has done more to free slaves than the Bible. At the same time, the Bible tells us we are Christ’s slaves. Likewise, Jesus says we are to love God and serve Him  as our Master (Matthew 6:24). Furthermore, He Himself became a “doulos” to show us how to fully obey our Heavenly Father. Thus, when Paul and the other biblical authors teach this principle; they do not envision a Master who cruelly beats his slaves, but rather a kind and gracious Lord who loves and cares for His servants. Now let’s discuss what it means to be slaves of God.

Our Slavery

As we began, the Bible teaches that all true believers are slaves of Christ. Sometimes you’ll hear a person say, “I’m not a slave of anyone!” One of the principles we have to understand is we are all slaves. It’s not as though we used to live as free people, but then became slaves of Christ. Instead, the Bible says we were always slaves, except that now our ownership has transferred from an evil master to a righteous Master.

The Bible is very direct in saying all people are slaves—we are either slaves of sin or slaves of Christ. Romans 6 makes this abundantly clear. Let’s quickly look at some key verses from Romans 6.

Romans 6:16 says, “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” Paul’s point here is when we are captive to a certain behavior, we are enslaved to it. Keep in mind, all the words “slave” in Romans 6 are from the Greek word “doulos.”

So what were we slaves to? The next verse in Romans 6 makes this clearer. Verse 17 says, “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed”. Likewise, Jesus said in John 8:34, “Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” If we sin, we are slaves of sin.

When Romans 6:16 says, “…you were slaves of sin…” this is the condition of every person outside of Christ. Ephesians 2:1–2 states this idea in slightly different words: "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience." We all formerly walked according to the course of this world and Satan. Why? Because we were slaves. No one is free. We are all slaves.

Praise God we have been set free from this evil master by Jesus Christ. Romans 6:18 goes on to say, “and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” Again, notice we have been “...freed from sin…” How were we set free? By Christ.

This is what the term “redemption” means. Redemption means to purchase something. It has the idea of us being on a slave block, under the evil master and ownership of sin and Christ comes up, pays our price and purchases our freedom from that old master of sin. Ephesians 1:7 explains this when it says, "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace." Christ has redeemed us and wiped away the former deeds we engaged in while we obeyed our former master of sin.

Does this mean Christ has bought us, paid for our forgiveness and now we’re free to go off and wander the fields of life on our own? No. We were bought by Christ and now we have been taken to His home—our new home. Our old home was a vile dungeon where we were engaged in sin and being tortured and tormented. Now we are brought to a new home and treated as princes. We are not treated as galley slaves. We are not treated as field workers. We are treated as sons and we live as sons.

Here’s what we need to understand—even though we are sons, we still must obey our Heavenly Father. Ultimately, He is still our Master. Just because He is loving and gracious and good to us as adopted sons, does not mean we are free to disregard Him and disobey Him. He still calls the shots. We still must obey.

Going back to Romans 6, verse 18 says: “and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” We are still slaves, but we are slaves of righteousness. Verse 22 rounds out the thought by saying: “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” Again, we are slaves of God who now obey God.

You see, we are no longer bound to the master of sin, we no longer have to obey it. We’re set free. We’re liberated. However, we are still bound to obey God. Remember when we read Ephesians 1:7 which says, “In Him we have redemption through His blood…” A few verses later, in verse 14 it says we are “God’s own possession.” As God’s own possession, our will is now captive to our Father’s. He is still the Master. We are still His servant.

This means we must do what is right and pleases Him. Once we have been set free from sin, we are no longer slaves to it. We no longer are bound to do what is wrong. Now our default orientation is to do right. We seek what is right. We long for what is right. We are grieved when we do wrong. We sometimes still sin, but at the end of the day, our heart’s desire is to do the right thing.

And here’s what we need to understand about our new slavery. Since we are free from sin; that means we are now bound to do what is right—and the right thing is always to obey Jesus. There is no such thing as being freed from sin into a condition of doing whatever we want. If God is our Master, we will want to obey Him. If we still want to sin, then sin is still our master. It’s that simple. We can’t thirst for righteousness while at the same time thirst for something Jesus doesn’t want for us. We either obey sin or we obey God. Romans 6:16 gives us no other options.

Therefore, by definition, being set free from sin means we are finally free to pursue holiness and righteousness. We are finally able to obey the Lord. That’s why Romans 6:22 says, “now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness.” It leads to holiness because we can now actually pursue what pleases the Lord.

Practical Application:

The application of this principle is obvious—when Jesus is our Master, we will obey Him. We will seek to know His will through His Word. We will read it, study it, learn it, know it, and live it. It will become the guide for how we live life. Like a slave listening to his Master, His Word will mark and decide our actions, our decisions, our goals, and our objectives.

Our lives will begin to look different from before. For instance, there will be times when we may not “want” to have our daily devotions, but because Jesus is our Lord, we will. There will be times when we may not “want” to go to church, but because Jesus is our Lord, we will. There will be times when we won’t “want” to engage in the acts of righteousness God calls us to, but because He is our Lord, we will.

Yet, even in this new condition, there will be times when our old nature rises up against our new nature. Even the eminent apostle Paul struggled with sin. He said in Romans 7:14 “…I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.” The fact remains, even though we have been set free from sin, our flesh keeps going back to our old master. Like an old horse that continues to follow familiar paths, our flesh will always want to go back to our old habits. That’s why we need to keep reminding ourselves of these truths throughout all our days. If we have been set free, even though we may be riding a horse that wants to go the old way, we can control it and guide it to righteousness. And we can say with Paul a few verses later, “I joyfully concur with the Law of God… (Romans 7:22).” We will always struggle with our flesh, but if we are born-again, we have received the Spirit of God that crucifies our flesh (Romans 8:13) we might live and walk with Him.

Although we’ve stated it several different ways; in all of this, we need to understand our freedom from sin, and our freedom in Christ, does not mean we have the freedom to do whatever we want. Why not? Because that would be sin! If we just go off and live life any way we want; in complete disregard for Christ, then we are engaging in sin. Romans 14:23 says, “Whatever is not of faith is sin.” To live a life unconcerned with God would be to live a life without faith; and this would be sin. As we mentioned earlier, Jesus said in John 8:34, “…everyone who sins is a slave of sin.” Therefore, to engage in habitual disregard for Christ means to sin and to habitually sin means to be enslaved to sin. So, tying this back to Romans 8:13 if we live in sin; we will die. Why? Because we have demonstrated Christ is not our Lord and Master and we are still in bondage to sin.

Objections

Having said all of this, there are a couple of questions that might be asked.

For instance, “What kind of person enslaves their own children?” The heart of this question is rooted in the wrong perception of slavery. Remember in our discussion of slavery earlier, God graciously brings us into His home and His family. He lavishes His grace upon us (Ephesians 1:8) and treats us as adopted sons (Ephesians 1:5). He even extends to us an inheritance in Christ (Ephesians 1:11). In all these ways, He abundantly and graciously blesses us. Perhaps a similar question could also be asked—“What kind of person who has been bought out of a horrible enslavement would question the goodness of a Master who takes us from a dungeon of slime and puts us into a palace of blessings?”

Similarly, another question might be asked, “If I am set free from slavery, why do I have to now obey Jesus?” There are a couple of verses that seem to teach contradictory thoughts. For instance, in John 15:15 Jesus says, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends.” Galatians 4:7 says, “Therefore, you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” In light of everything we’ve discussed, what do these verses mean?

Well, for one thing—they do not mean we have to choose one principle and reject the other. We are not to approach the Word of God as a salad bar where we only agree with the things that we like.

As we’ve already demonstrated, the Bible clearly states our condition as slaves of God. But it also states our condition as sons of God. Both are true and neither is mutually exclusive. How do we understand this?

In the biblical world, children obeyed their parents. The Ten Commandments even say, “Honor your father and your mother.” This principle was so serious Deuteronomy 21:18-21 says rebellious children could even be stoned. The principle is clear—God took obedience seriously. If a child did not to obey his or her parents, they could be cut off. And while the New Testament does not reinstitute the death penalty for disobedient kids, it does not remove the command. Instead, passages like Ephesians 6:1-3 reiterate it. The principle continues: children, obey your parents.

Thus, when we are reconciled to God through Christ, He adopts us as children. We have the rights and privileges of children. We have a status as children. This does not remove our requirement to obey. We are still captive to do the will of the father. Even in John 15:15 where Christ calls us “friends,” the full thought begins in the preceding verse which says, “You are My friends if you do what I command you.” We are friends, but we are required to obey. Likewise, we are sons, but we are required to obey.

Moreover, these passages (John 15:15 and Galatians 4:7) speak to the Father’s disposition to us. They are both given to demonstrate the heartbeat of God is not as a harsh, uncaring Master. God knows us as His children. Christ knows us as His friends. He knows us like sons. He knows us like family. So, when He commands us to obey Him in any situation He allows into our lives, He knows what we can bear. His disposition is not to mercilessly make us miserable, but to lovingly lead us to the place of our greatest fulfilment and joy in submission to Him.

Final Thoughts

At this point, we still may not be thrilled with this concept. The question is not to figure out if we agree with this doctrine. The question is, “Does the Bible teach this?” The undeniable answer is, “Yes, it does.” I may not have expressed these thoughts fully or the most eloquently, but we cannot deny the Bible teaches we are slaves to Christ. Like every other tenet of scripture, we need to let the Bible tell us what is true—and we need to likewise come humbly to these texts and submit to them. This is what it means to have Jesus as our Lord and Master.

So, now one final question remains: Is Jesus your Master? If not, it is time for you to surrender to Him. Romans 10:13 says, “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” To call upon Jesus as Lord means to surrender to Him and obey Him as your Master. We should regularly acknowledge this to Christ. If you have not done this recently, I encourage you to begin today.

Thanks for reading, and may we together press on to love and serve our Lord Jesus Christ.

Together in Christ,

Russ Brewer

Reasons to Join in a Church

Thursday, 10 April 2014 19:34 Published in Blog

Reasons to Join in a Church

Or reasons to go to church

Related to Jesus—Church is a place…

1. To worship God publically and publically show our commitment to Him (Ps 96:3). If we do not declare His glory publically, what does that say about us? (Matt 10:32)

2. To tune our worship to truths about God that we might not otherwise declare of Him (Ps 96:1).

3. To serve God and His people and be a part of the work He is doing (Phil 2:13).

4. For God to teach us from His Word using trained shepherds who do carefully teach the text. (1 Cor 4:6)

5. To join with God’s heartbeat—God is about His church and if we're not about His church, how can we say we have fellowship with the Holy Spirit?

6. To obey God’s commands to " not forsake the assembly together" (Heb 10:25).

7. To bring our tithes and offerings before the Lord (Ps 96:8).

8. Where God reigns rather than Satan.


Related to Others—Church is a place…

1. To join with the body of Christ and strengthen them in their service to the Lord.

2. To encourage others by our presence. We encourage others letting them know that they, their ministries and the things of God are valuable to us.

3. To experience the flow of God's grace amongst His children (Eph 4:16).

4. To use your unique gifts and fulfill your unique calling, not as a lone-ranger but joining with the work God is doing in and through a church (1 Cor 12:7).

5. To be equipped for the work of service (Eph 4:12).

6. To learn to bear with the weaknesses of other people that you might otherwise not associate with.

7. To be a part of God’s family and learning to love the 'family of God' even when they are not ‘ideal’ people.

8. To learn of needs of others so that we might pray for them (Eph 6:18).

9. To learn our obligations to other believers, to ourselves, and even to non-Christians.

10. To fulfill the “one another” commands such as love one another, serve one another, bear one another’s burdens, be hospitable to one another, etc. We cannot obey these commands unless we have a clear role in the body of Christ.


Related to Yourself—Church is a place…

1. For God to work in us (Phil 2:13).

2. For God to shape us to be the people He calls us to be (Eph 2:21).

3. For to find friends that are “closer than brothers” (Prov 18:24).

4. For us to be built up in love and good deeds (Heb 10:25).

5. For us to find comfort during our times of needs (2 Cor 1:2-5).

6. For us to find others who can give us counsel and wisdom from the word of God (Prov 15:22).

7. For us to keep spiritually balanced and therefore spiritually effective. One of Satan’s main tools to sideline the Christian is imbalanced Christianity. Attending church, being sharpened by others, involves grinding off the burs of imbalance and inflexibility.

8. For us to draw upon the strength of others when we are weak (1 Thess 5:14).

9. To find people worth modeling after/emulating (Phil 3:17).

10. To learn from a man of God bringing the Bible to bear on you specifically and not a mass audience.

11. To develop life-long relationships with godly/wise people whom will help guide you in your walk with Christ.

Logos Bible Software Review

Wednesday, 22 January 2014 11:10 Published in Blog

When most people are looking for Bible Software” they are looking for something that will help them understand the Bible. They want the ability to search the Bible for words and phrases, a few dictionaries, perhaps a few commentaries keyed to the passage, etc.

When people go hunting online for Bible software to buy, “Logos” always is at the top of the list b/c of its impressive features. I have owned Logos for about 12 years and have been using it for going on 20 years. I was using back in the Windows 3.1 days when I was in college at Moody Bible Institute.

Understanding the value of Logos for you first begins with understand what Logos is. I usually try to tell people that Logos is not really “Bible Software” like what they're thinking (as in my description above). It’s better viewed as an extremely sophisticated bookshelf. The price is high because you’re buying top-notch resources—the kinds of commentaries, dictionaries, journals that scholars use. You might spend $300 on a set of commentaries, Logos will sell those to you in a package with many others for $500, but you’re getting tons of other books too. The key question is: Do you want to study the Bible, or do you want a library about the Bible? If you're a pastor, or preparing to be a pastor, then you will very likely benefit from the power of a good library. If you're not a pastor (even if you're a very scholarly Bible class teacher) you may want to read this whole review to decide for yourself.

The fact is, that almost all the Bible Study that I (and most other people) want to do can be done better and quicker with something other than Logos. Logos is SLOW. Logos is CUMBERSOME. Frankly, for daily use, I don’t like it. As a nearly 20 year user, I’ve seen it degrade in functionality tremendously (it was awful back in the Windows 3.1 days but it began really humming along nicely during the “Libronix” days and now it’s slick but terribly slow again—just opening it up can take a few minutes and I have a brand-new computer). A pastor needs Bible software for more than just complex searches—we need it to glance at a word’s Greek root while in a theological discussion with a church member, we need it to find a verse during a counseling meeting, we need it to double check a verse address while preparing a sermon. For all of these needs (which are my primary day-to-day needs) Logos almost literally doesn’t work. Since it takes so long to open, I’ve had some many times where me and someone in my office are just staring at the computer waiting for it to load and I'll eventually just jump over to an online Bible study site and find what I’m looking for immediately. Consequently, because it is slow and cumbersome, for most of my basic Bible needs, I use BibleHub (http://biblehub.com/) and just recently started using Blue Letter Bible again (http://www.blueletterbible.org/index.cfm).

Logos can technically do anything you want, but it doesn't do it in a way that makes sense. I find that I have to literally watch their tutorial videos nearly any time I want to do something that extends beyond my normal usage. Moreover, I find their video format of “help” very unhelpful. If it their manual was simply written, I could just skim it to find to the part I’m looking for. Instead, I need to watch a 15 minute video to find the one key that was 5 seconds of content. Or I have to search one of their forums to find a dozen people trying to answer a similar question and wade through the helpful ideas, unhelpful ideas, opinions etc. Consequently, if I can’t figure it out right away, I tend not to even try. Thus, rather than being able to do “anything” I find that for me, Logos can do very little.

There’s also the issue of owning a product that automatically goes obsolete unless you keep up with the technology. It’s as if you own a book where the print fades every five years and you need to have it re-inked again just to read it. That’s very frustrating. It’s not exactly Logos’ fault—and they claim that you’ll never have to buy your resources again—but I find that in reality, I’m shelling out hundreds of dollars every few years. Consequently, over the last 10+ years, I have given them thousands of dollars. I have begun to regret that investment. I’m not sure I wouldn’t do it again, but I probably would have bought less packages. In fact, I have pretty much stopped buying Logos’ resources and returned to print for things like commentaries.

Another point is their mobile apps. IMHO, they barely work. I first got a smartphone specifically so that I could have my “library” in my pocket all the time. I figured it would be great to reference a greek word while in a conversation with someone. The reality is that all the slow, non-intuitive issues with their desktop software translates to their mobile apps too. I find that I rarely use it because it just takes too long. I'll be listening to a sermon and the preacher will say, “Now let’s look at Romans 10:9” and because the Logos app is so slow, by the time I’m actually at the verse, the preacher is way beyond it. I’m using a Samsung Galaxy S4—hardly a slow phone.

So the question again boils down to why a person would want to have Bible Software. If they are looking for a powerful way to access thousands of books—then Logos is the best. Having given this candid and somewhat negative review, I still would say that every pastor should own and use Logos every week. Even though I am frustrated with Logos, the fact is that when it comes to “opening books” I own, Logos is great. In fact, I would say that the level of scholarship I employ in a typical sermon-preparing-week probably surpasses what even scholars could do a generation ago. Logos enables me to hit this level of scholarship relatively easily. But that’s with the understanding, it’s not the “Bible study” elements that allow me to have such scholarship, but rather the ability to open up tons of books in seconds rather than hours. If you’re not the kind of person that wants to read a ½ dozen dictionaries on a word, or study Philo’s use of a word, then Logos’ primary (perhaps only?) strengths won’t mean much to you.

Those are my thoughts. Thanks for reading

Church Discipline Verses

Sunday, 13 November 2011 18:33 Published in Verse Lists

Be Reconciled:

Matthew 5:24–25 (NASB95) — 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. 25 “Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.

Romans 12:18 (NASB95) — 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

 

Confront Sin When Necessary:

Matthew 18:15–20 (NASB95) — 15 “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 “But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. 19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

 

Turn a Brother From His Sin:

Galatians 6:1 (NASB95) — 1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.

James 5:19–20 (NASB95) — 19 My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

 

Do not Wrangle with Foolish People

Proverbs 26:4 (NASB95) — 4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Or you will also be like him.

Proverbs 29:9 (NASB95) — 9 When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, The foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest.

Matthew 7:6 (NASB95) — 6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Proverbs 17:14 (NASB95) — 14 The beginning of strife is like letting out water, So abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.

2 Timothy 2:16–18 (NASB95) — 16 But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some.

Proverbs 12:15 (NASB95) — 15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.

 

Remove Factious People Quickly:

Titus 3:10 (NASB95) — 10 Reject a factious man after a first and second warning,

Avoid Dissentious People:

2 Thessalonians 3:14 (NASB95) — 14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame.

2 Thessalonians 3:6 (NASB95) — 6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.

 

Do Not Give False Teachers a Platform:

1 Timothy 1:3–4 (NASB95) — 3 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, 4 nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.

 

Some False Teachers Are To Be Accursed:

Galatians 1:9 (NASB95) — 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

1 Corinthians 5:5 (NASB95) — 5 I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Bring Charges against Elders with at least two witnesses, Publically Rebuke Those Found Guilty

1 Timothy 5:19–20 (NASB95) — 19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. 20 Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.

Do Not Receive or Associate With A Person Who Needs /Or is Under Discipline:

1 Corinthians 5:11 (NASB95) — 11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

2 John 9–10 (NASB95) — 9 Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting;

Be on Your Guard:

Philippians 3:2 (NASB95) — 2 Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision;

Ephesians 5:6 (NASB95) — 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

Colossians 2:8 (NASB95) — 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

Colossians 2:18–23 (NASB95) — 18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God. 20 If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.

Be Careful of Arguing with Fools:

Proverbs 14:7 (NASB95) — 7 Leave the presence of a fool, Or you will not discern words of knowledge.

Proverbs 17:10 (NASB95) — 10 A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding Than a hundred blows into a fool.

Proverbs 18:2 (NASB95) — 2 A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind.

Proverbs 20:3 (NASB95) — 3 Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, But any fool will quarrel.

Proverbs 26:4 (NASB95) — 4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Or you will also be like him.

Proverbs 26:5 (NASB95) — 5 Answer a fool as his folly deserves, That he not be wise in his own eyes.

Proverbs 27:3 (NASB95) — 3 A stone is heavy and the sand weighty, But the provocation of a fool is heavier than both of them.

Proverbs 27:22 (NASB95) — 22 Though you pound a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, Yet his foolishness will not depart from him.

Proverbs 28:26 (NASB95) — 26 He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But he who walks wisely will be delivered.

Proverbs 29:11 (NASB95) — 11 A fool always loses his temper, But a wise man holds it back.

Ecclesiastes 10:3 (NASB95) — 3 Even when the fool walks along the road, his sense is lacking and he demonstrates to everyone that he is a fool.

Ecclesiastes 10:13 (NASB95) — 13 the beginning of his talking is folly and the end of it is wicked madness.

Ecclesiastes 10:14 (NASB95) — 14 Yet the fool multiplies words. No man knows what will happen, and who can tell him what will come after him?

Ecclesiastes 10:15 (NASB95) — 15 The toil of a fool so wearies him that he does not even know how to go to a city.

Did God create evil?

Tuesday, 11 June 2013 11:10 Published in Blog

Did God Create Evil? Often people wonder, “If God is omnipotent, did God create evil?” We are obviously uncomfortable answering “yes” to this question and often we start hunting for answers. Invariably, our hunt produces additional questions: What is evil? Where did evil come from? Why didn't God stop evil from starting? Here are some of my thoughts regarding these answers.

First, we need to properly understand what “evil” is. The Bible often compares evil to darkness (Ephesians 6:12, Luke 22:53, Col 1:13) and goodness to light (Matt 4:16, Luke 11:36, 1 John 1:5, etc.). When we study what light is, it is simply photon particles assembled together and traveling in wave form. But what is darkness? Darkness is just the absence of those photon particles. There is no particles of "dark”, there are just less particles of light. There’s a not a physical way to add darkness, it can’t be packaged up. It’s just the absence of light photons. In the same way, “evil” is just the absence of good.

So when God created the world, He created it perfectly good (Genesis 1:31). In being perfectly good, He also created it with the capacity to turn away from beholding His awesome goodness. He gave humanity the capacity for true moral choice. In doing so, He created an environment where humanity can disengage from His goodness and seek that which is less good. Seeking anything less than God’s total goodness is, in some measure, seeking evil.

This is the condition of the realm in which we live. All of us are in a state of variable goodness. Sometimes we seek God fully (or so we think). Sometimes we seek Him half-heartedly. In reality, when we seek anything less than God’s fullness of perfection, in some measure we’re saying that we’re content with a smidgen of evil in our lives. This is why all of us must daily seek to be fully surrendered to God so that we might have the fullness of His goodness and purity in our lives.

So, why did God allow this? In many ways, we are going to have to wait until we are with Him in glory for the answer to this question. I suspect that once we leave this cursed dimension, and we are with God in glory—we’ll understand completely what God has been doing. More than that, Isaiah 45 says that we’ll agree with everything that God has done.

But still, between now and that day, how do we understand why God allowed humanity to seek anything less that His perfection? The best explanation I know is to say that God seeks His ultimate glory. Along these lines, He has sovereignly ordained this route for greater glory as we both praise Him willingly and find our joy in Him as we turn from sin.

Let me illustrate it this way: We would all agree that it is more glorious to have love that is expressed, rather than merely to have love. For instance, it’s good that I love my wife. But if I never tell her I love her, that’s not as good as if I expressed my love. Even more so, it’s better for me to show my love through tangible actions. Thus, if I really love my wife, I show her the most honor by expressing my love and showing her my love.

Similarly, it brings God more glory if we offer Him praise willingly. You see, God could have created us to be robots that mechanically had to praise Him—and in some ways, this is what He has done in creation (Psalm 19:1). But when it came to us, God created us with the capacity for choice because it is better when we choose to worship God willingly. Now I believe that God is sovereign over our choices and none of us resist His will, however, each person who is in fellowship with God would acknowledge that we worship Him sincerely and willingly. We are not being forced to worship Him. Not only that, but we also find greater joy in Him as we turn from our sin and find the wisdom of His ways. This route has increased our love and gratitude for God and gives us the capacity to willingly express this love and gratitude towards Him.

To tie these pieces together, since God is all-knowing, and all-powerful, and all-wise--He always knows and chooses and does that is best. Thus, in some way that we won't fully understand until we're in glory, God has decided it is best to allow this condition where humanity can choose to worship God or choose to look away from Him. Since this is the best route God could have chosen, any other route would have been to do evil Himself, and that is impossible for Him.

There will be a day when all those who willingly praise God will enter into His Kingdom. Likewise, all those bent on seeking evil will go away from them into Hell. This is because seeks true worshipers (John 4:23-24). Those who do not desire to worship Him will not have to, but their immortal soul will go to a place where His goodness is totally absent—Hell.

So, those are my thoughts. Are they the full story? Obviously not. There is still much more that can be said. There are literally books on the topic that seek to plumb the depths of this difficult question. But these cursory thoughts get us started and they help me to rest assured that God is in control and have redemptive purposes in our lives.

Intentional Ministry

Developing a “Vision Statement” for Your Church (Ugh, the term “Vision” is so annoying)

Introduction:

Imagine this familiar scene: Your church is having a late night leadership meeting. During the meeting one member has a great idea that they can’t wait to share. This person is bubbling up with enthusiasm for their idea. They finally get their chance to tell the whole group and...whoosh, you can feel the life being sucked out of the room. This good-natured person is certain their idea would solve all the problems. But instead it falls flat. It's DOA. Not well-received. Not embraced.

What happened? Often, the root stems from a lack of unity around the mission, objectives, goals and tactics of an organization. More than likely, the person’s “great idea” was actually a “tactic” (more on that below). In their mind, their tactic satisfied the goals of the organization, its objectives, and its mission. But the rest of the committee couldn’t see the connection or didn’t believe it would be effective. Perhaps they had different goals in mind. Perhaps they had different objectives. Perhaps, even, they had a different sense of the mission of the church.

When this occurs, the results can be disastrous. Hopefully the unity of the group absorbs this challenge and handles the moment with kindness and forbearance and manages to press forward. But all too often these disheartened committee members are so discouraged by having their “great idea” rejected that they resign from the committee and perhaps leave the church.

The solution to these problems can often boil down to good, clear leadership. The church needs a clear, objective plan of action. The church needs direction. And the leadership board is tasked with establishing the mission and objectives while working with the ministry leaders to figure out the goals and tactics. Without this formula; the pursuits of the church often end up being driven by expedience, ease, or whoever has the strongest personality and most influence. The church ends up being led by arbitrary forces that can be hit or miss in terms of effectiveness, rather than proceeding according to a prayerful intentional plan of action.

The church needs leadership to develop a plan for intentional ministry. This happens when the leaders prayerfully determine the “right” things to do, and then work with the ministry leaders to fulfill these objectives. This produces unity and joy within the church body.

This essay are my thoughts on how to develop a plan for intentional ministry.

Is this about developing a “Vision”? Below are some of my thoughts about how to unify the church around a common mission statement, set of objectives, measurable goals and specific tactics. However, before I explain each term, you may notice the relative absence of the term “Vision”. This is because the result of the work that follows comprises the “Vision Statement”—I prefer to view this as intentional ministry because I find the term “vision” widely misunderstood and often confused with other elements that comprise well-thought through ministry.

Churches often misunderstand the difference between a “Mission” (and the ensuing objectives, goals, tactics) and “Vision”. Sometimes the church’s mission will even be called its “Vision”. This ends up further confusing the matter. What’s worse, sometimes churches will cast a “Vision” statement though it’s is really a list of tactics—things that the pastor hopes to do one day. It’s not uncommon for a pastor to be considered one who has lots of “Vision” just because he can dream up all kinds of things for the church to do. This is not having vision, it’s a pipe-dream and unless its tied to the church’s mission, objectives and goals, it ends up frustrating the rest of the leadership.

So again, the “Vision” is the overall picture of how to do the ministry of the church. It’s not a single element of the church’s ideas for ministry, it’s everything.

Mission Statements, Objectives, Measurable Goals, Specific Tactics

Mission: Before anything else can happen, the elders need to identify the “mission” of the church. The “mission” speaks to why the church exists. It is the fundamental purpose of the church. A good mission statement is ultra-succinct, not just to make it memorable, but because the mission is, by definition, the foundational purpose of the church.

Church mission statements will probably follow something along the lines that the church exists to obey and glorify God, build disciples, reach the community, etc. Although some churches might add additional thoughts, most mission statements will contain these elements.

Longer mission statements occur (I believe improperly) when they are cluttered with “objectives” and “goals” which we’ll talk about below. Objectives and goals are vital to the process, but they must be kept in their proper place. Likewise, sometimes mission statements are amplified with flowery verbiage. Not only does this make them unnecessarily long, but it decreases the power of the succinct mission statement.

Ideally, the mission can be boiled down to a slogan such as “Exalt, Edify, Engage” or “Connecting _______ (the target community) to the Lord.” The slogan should be stated in a manner that encapsulates the mission statement in a memorable and easily understood phrase. This this is presented in the church publications (print and online) so that each member and visitor understands the mission and can carry it forward in their own lives while telling others about why they should come to that particular church.

Once the mission is framed out, the leaders needs to prayerfully determine what objectives they need to accomplish in order to fulfill their vision.

Objectives: Objectives frame out how the church will fulfill its mission statement. It’s about what the church does. It answers the question: what must we do and be in order to fulfill this mission statement? Sometimes this is called the “purposes” of the church. Objectives (or purposes) of biblical churches consists of things like worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service. They can also contain affirmations of core principles of the church. They may even contain the kinds of ministries offered, or the manner in which they are offered.

Objectives demonstrate how the church fulfills the mission. The “mission” covers why the church exists, the objectives covers how the church does this.

Goals: Once objectives are established, they need to then be broken down into measurable goals. Goals are the detailed items that need to accomplish the church’s objectives. Goals must be specific, measurable and attainable. A goal that is unmeasurable is at best an “objective”, but more likely just a hope, dream, ambition or desire. Either way, an unmeasurable “goal” is not a goal.

One of the most common ways to establish goals is to do a S.W.O.T. analysis. S.W.O.T. stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. During this phase, the leaders need to list each objective of the church and prayerfully discuss its Strengths: what has the Lord given and blessed? Weaknesses: how can we develop the church to meet this objective? Opportunities: where has the Lord given us solutions that moves us forward in reaching the objective? Threats: are there real-live issues or problems that might threaten our ability to reach this objective?

In working through a SWOT analysis, the leadership can begin to assess the goals needed for the upcoming year. Goals should be those that can truly be attained. Unrealistic goals end up discouraging those in leadership. (In some cases, “unrealistic” goals are actually objectives and can be put in that section).

Along these ideas, when formulating goals, various items ought to be considered. For instance, the elders should have a clear sense of what God expects of a mature Christian. This can include matters of knowledge (e.g theology, Christian living, etc), aspects of personal piety kinds & frequency of prayer, certain passions (for the lost, homeless, widows), etc. The leadership should also discuss what the church wants to accomplish in local and overseas missions. Moreover, when thinking about goals, the elders can (and should) work with the ministry leaders to prayerfully identify what the specific ministry needs to accomplish.

Sometimes goals are too “high”—they might be measurable and attainable, but not likely achievable with the current dynamics of the situation. Perhaps the ministry leaders lack the skill to accomplish these goals. Perhaps the facility simply can’t support these goals. In this case, the goal needs to be pulled from the overall vision statement so as not to needlessly discourage the church and/or leaders. They can, however, be a part of the leadership discussion for forward thinking down the road.

Likewise, goals should be framed keeping spiritual realities in mind. Leaders need to avoid falling into the trap of establishing attendance numbers as goals (e.g. that the Sunday School ministry needs to have 100 people coming out). Ministry is a spiritual endeavor. We must factor in the battle between the work of God and the work of Satan. Faithful ministry infused with God’s grace might not achieve man’s number-driven goals. It might be unwise and impractical to require the youth group to grow by 50 kids next year. If the youth group is actually teaching biblical truth, there may instead be an uprising of students who reject the group. Conversely, it is possible for a youth group to grow (and thereby “succeed”) because it is actually being unfaithful to the church’s overall vision statement. Thus, generally speaking, ministries should avoid using attendance numbers as goals. They can, however, establish goals for the content taught, the number of events offered, or staff training, or the kinds of ministries & programs offered, etc. Therefore, goals need to be framed in terms of spiritual objectives while avoiding attendance goals.

This whole process can be facilitated with a brainstorming session(s). During this session, the mission and objectives are reviewed and potential goals are discussed. Generally they can be added to the list—regardless of their merit in a brainstorming fashion. Then they are discussed in terms of best fulfilling the church’s mission and objectives. Finally, the leadership prayerfully decides which “goals” best become the action plan for that particular ministry during that particular year.

Lastly, as mentioned already, the church board should discuss the ministry goals on an annual basis. Often a leader will want to accomplish a certain “goal” that is not feasible for a variety of reasons. This goal can be tabled, or placed on the long-range planning list, for a future year evaluation. If the leadership board evaluates this vision statement on an annual basis, then the members can have a sense that when God provides, that goal might be revisited. This allows for maturing & developing thoughts to be folded into the action plan of the church. This also preserves unity because one leader’s passion might be put on hold for a year (or more) but then as the other leaders come to see the need, or as the dynamics allow, that tabled goal may one day be put added to the Vision Statement. In some cases, a particular goal may be placed on the goal list not as a “goal” to accomplish, but rather the goal is for the board to come to a unified conclusion as to whether or not that goal should be on the church’s future list of action steps. Following this procedure, Lord willing, unity will be maintained along the way.

Tactics: Next, the board needs to work with the ministry leaders to set in place tactics that can be implemented to accomplish those goals. Tactics are the specific action items that will bring about the goals. They can range from theoretical to ultra-specific. This is where the elder board can meet with the ministry leaders, explain the church’s vision and objectives, and work with the ministry leaders to establish goals and tactics that fulfill the mission and objectives.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for ministry leaders to skip over objectives and goals and go right to tactics. This is where disunity begins to rear its head. Good leadership is needed—not to control the ministry leader’s thinking, but to affirm the mission and objectives of the church and then help identify tactics to accomplish the goals. Without building on this common ground; tactics can quickly become “this-is-my-favorite-idea” action points that leads to frustration and discouragement for everyone involved.

When leaders lay the groundwork of the church’s mission, objective and goals, working out the tactics becomes fun and exciting; particularly because many levels of leadership can be involved. The elders can give the mission & objectives to the ministry leader. The ministry leader then calls a meeting for his or her ministry team. They go over the mission and objectives (and goals) as given by the elders, but then seek to establish tactics that fulfill the church vision. In this way, each ministry has the freedom and latitude to let their gifts, skills and desires fold into the overall direction of the church.

Evaluation: This final step is as important as all the preceding ones—without it, the above items are a waste of time and energy. Intentional ministry means establishing the direction of the church and then making modifications along the way. Thus, every year the ministry goals and tactics of the church should be evaluated to determine their effectiveness; not to criticize ministries and leaders, but to ensure that the church is actually accomplishing its mission and objectives. Without evaluation, churches get bogged down in sacred cows and the classic “this is how we’ve always done it” kind of thinking. Tactics that don’t work need to be discarded. Goals that have been met need to be celebrated and replaced with new ones. New ideas need to be folded in. New dynamics need to be identified. With each passing year, the church will move the body forward in attaining their mission and objectives.

This is intentional ministry: establishing the mission, identifying the objectives, determining the goals to fulfill the objectives, developing and initiating appropriate tactics, and then evaluating them for their effectiveness.

Communicating with the Church

Once the above areas of development are identified, the leaders can begin to map out the best avenues to teach these principles to the congregation. This instruction needs to take three primary forms.

First, the congregation needs to understand the overall objectives and purpose of the church. They need to understand that there are areas of spiritual development that God expects of them, and that they are accountable to Him to develop.

Second, the congregation needs to be taught on the particular objectives themselves. These items can be taught in venues such as Small Groups, Sunday School, conferences, etc. Each year, the elders should evaluate what was taught in light of what should be taught to confirm that indeed the overall objectives of the church are being furthered.

Third, the congregation needs to be told why the church is doing what it does (and not something else). Some goals for each ministry (probably not all) need to be given to the church and explained. The church needs to understand how that ministry operates in harmony with the overall church mission and objectives. This will help them know how they can support that ministry and keep it before the Lord in prayer. Once they see the intentional design for a particular ministry, some people may even decide to be involved furthering that vision statement. But they won’t likely get involved if they don’t know what the ministry objectives and goals are. Moreover, if they DO want to be involved in a ministry without knowing the church’s vision statement, they might be looking for a place to live out their own “vision” which leads back into the overall problem of disunity.

Communication of the overall mission statement is not just a matter of good organizational dynamics, it’s a matter of being diligent to preserve the bond of unity.

Conclusion:

Does this sound like a lot of work? It doesn’t have to be. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Several books, articles and handouts are already available to help in this process.

God bless you as you seek to closer align God’s church with God’s word.

So those are my thoughts, I’d love to hear yours.

Grace and peace, Russ


Mission, Objectives, Goals, Tactics Worksheet

 

What is the mission of the church?

 

What objectives must be in place to accomplish this mission?

1)

2)

3)

4)

5)

Take each objective and establish specific goals and tactics that need to be accomplished in order for that objective to take place.

Objective #1:

a) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

b) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

c) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

 

Objectives #2

a) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

b) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

c) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

Objectives #3

a) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

b) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

c) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

Objectives #4

a) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

b) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

c) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

Objectives #5

a) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

b) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

c) Goal:

i) Tactic:

(1) Evaluation:

ii) Tactic:

 

(1) Evaluation:

Books of the Bible for Small Groups

Friday, 14 September 2012 13:36 Published in Church Resources

A Small Group Leader’s Look at Books of the Bible Themes and Purposes and how they can be studied in the context of Small Groups


This is a list of all the books of the Bible and their potential use within Small Groups. Each book is given a brief theme and then an overview. Please keep in mind, all the Word of God is profitable and any study of scripture is bound to have lasting value—this list is just a tool for Small Group leaders to be able to quickly consider all the books of the Bible when prayerfully considering what should constitute their next group study.


OLD TESTAMENT

Genesis
Themes: Beginnings
Overview: Genesis explores grand themes such as God’s design, God’s plan, God’s sovereignty, God’s faithfulness, man’s sin, man’s folly. This is a great study for a wide range of Small Groups. Groups consisting of newer Christians will benefit from exploring foundational Bible stories. Groups with more seasoned members will benefit from a closer, theological examination of the themes that begin in Genesis and weave throughout the rest of Scripture.

Exodus
Themes: Redemption and Deliverance of Israel
Overview: Exodus explores God’s faithfulness and provision to a barely obedient person (Moses) along with a barely obedient nation (Israel). Much of the first 20 chapters will be classic, familiar accounts of God working through Moses. Chapters 21ff focus much more on the laying down of God’s Law for His people. Small Groups studying Exodus would find it most profitable to study chapters 1-20 separately from 21-40. Chapters 21-30 might be better suited to a guided examination of God’s holiness and character reflected in His law.

Leviticus
Themes: Holiness
Overview: Leviticus was the worship manual for the Jewish priests. Often readers get bogged down and bewildered by its bloody details. But if they can get past the unfamiliar nature of sacrificial worship, they will find some great instruction on God’s holiness, atonement, redemption, civil and moral ethics, etc. Just as with Exodus, Small Groups studying Leviticus might benefit most from a guided study of how the law reflects God’s holy character.

Numbers
Themes: Wanderings in the Wilderness
Overview: Certain chapters of the book of Numbers, such as Chapter 13, make for extraordinary rich spiritual material. But as a whole, Numbers is a challenging book for Small Groups. Much of it contained detailed census records interspersed with troubling historical accounts. It does highlight man’s fickle walk with God and thus Small Groups will likely benefit most from examining a few of the historical accounts separately from the law/census sections.

Deuteronomy
Themes: Second Law/Renewed Covenant
Overview: Deuteronomy covers the social, moral and priestly law for the Jews just before they entered the Promised Land. It has some excellent nuggets that speak to every dimension of life. Like pearls of a necklace, it is best to examine the many jewels of Deuteronomy individually.

Joshua
Themes: Conquer and Divide
Overview: Joshua recounts the Jewish conquest of the Promised Land. For the most part, it contains narrative history. The cracks of Israel’s obedience already begin to show and it underscores the need for total obedience to the Lord in all our dealings.

Judges
Themes: Seven Cycles of Defeat
Overview: Judges is a sad reminder of the cycle of sin in our lives. It shows that without the clear Word of God, and without a commitment to obey it, individuals and society rationalize horrendous decisions.

Ruth
Themes: Kinsman Redeemer 
Overview: Ruth is a quick, touching story of God’s provision for Ruth, her mom, and a lonely guy. It has wonderful themes of God’s love, relational love, obedience, truth, faithfulness, loyalty, etc. This is a charming story for Small Groups consisting of couples looking to remind themselves of commitment to God’s ways, to one another, and to family.

1 Samuel
Themes: Transition from Judges to Kings, Theocracy to Monarchy
Overview: 1 Samuel is filled with life-on-life principles that cover the gamut of living for the Lord. It chronicles Samuel’s start, Saul’s rise and fall, and even David’s hopeful life. A through-the-book study through 1 and 2 Samuel would take considerable amount of time, yet the stories and principles uncovered would speak to many dimensions of life for years to come.

2 Samuel 
Themes: David's Reign as King
Overview: 2 Samuel gives us the most detail of any one person outside of the Gospels for Christ. We learn about what makes David “a man after God’s own heart.” We also learn how even the most spiritual saints can fall. 2 Samuel can be studied alone or with 1 Samuel—both methods would be spiritually valuable to a Small Group looking to examine living for the Lord in a variety of circumstances.

1 Kings
Themes: United and Divided Kingdom, Solomon
Overview: 1 Kings picks up with the death of David. It has some powerful lessons in the early chapters. Soon, however, it’s clear that the Jewish heart is not fully sold out for the Lord. The division of the Kingdom and their decent is tragic. Many Christians do not understand Jewish history and even the profound meaning behind terms like “Judah” and “Israel” used throughout the Old Testament are lost when readers are not aware of the nature of the United/Divided Kingdom. 1 and 2 Kings would be most beneficial in Small Groups whose purpose is to convey biblical truth to the members.

2 Kings
Themes: Israel and Judah Fall, Exile
Overview: 2 Kings continues with Israel’s and Judah’s full speed decent toward outright rebellion. While there are a few bright spots, for the most part the spiral marches downward until the end of both kingdoms.

1 Chronicles
Themes: God's view of David
Overview: 1 Chronicles feels very similar to 2 Samuel and 1 Kings however it has a more sympathetic view of God’s people. Just as with 1 and 2 Kings, a study of 1 and 2 Chronicles helps readers understand the rest of the later portion of the Old Testament. Many Christians do not understand Jewish history and even the profound meaning behind terms like “Judah” and “Israel” used throughout the Old Testament are lost when readers are not aware of the nature of the United/Divided Kingdom. 1 and 2 Chronicles could be studied in conjunction with 1 and 2 Kings and would be most beneficial in Small Groups whose purpose is to convey biblical truth to the members.

2 Chronicles
Themes: God's view of the Kings of Judah
Overview: 2 Chronicles is similar to 1 and 2 Kings however it is more sympathetic to God’s people. See comments on 1 Chronicles for the benefits to Small Groups.

Ezra
Themes: Rebuilding the Temple and People
Overview: Ezra begins with the ending of the Jewish exile. The people begin to return to rebuild the temple of God. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that God must work and the people must purify themselves. Like many of the Old Testament historical books, there will be value in learning the accounts contained in Ezra, however, a close study of it would most likely benefit groups that focus on information rather than personal interaction and discussion—though the mixed marriage episode of Ezra 9 will doubtlessly yield much spirited questions! The leader will need to have some answers to the questions that are bound to come up.

Nehemiah
Theme: Rebuilding the Walls
Overview: Nehemiah is often studied by men’s groups for its organizational value. Nehemiah himself was a man who properly mixed reliance upon God with personal diligence. It’s an excellent study on these matters. Certain kinds of Small Groups (e.g. consisting of businesspeople or those looking for leadership principles) will be tempted to study Nehemiah for its principles of organizational management—and while there may be some valid points along the way, we must keep in mind that the purpose of the book is to record God’s amazing work during Israel’s troubled days.

Esther
Theme: Preserving God’s People
Overview: Esther is a simmering story of love, intrigue, betrayal and conquest. The Lord uses Esther and her uncle to save the Jewish people from genocide. Keep in mind that Esther never specifically refers to the Lord, though His hand is implied and evident behind the backdrop.

Job
Themes: Suffering and Sovereignty
Overview: Job is about a righteous man being tested. The first few chapters give a glimpse of the heavenly backdrop to a series of profoundly tragic events in Job’s life. Much of the book, however, centers on the poor counsel of Job’s friends. Only towards the end does the Lord step in and clarify what’s going on. Even then, God’s point is primarily that He is beyond our understanding and that we should trust Him. While there are gems throughout the book of Job (e.g. Job 19:25-26 is an astounding reference to Christ from this early Old Testament book) yet Small Groups studying the book of Job might want to consider focusing primarily on Job 1-3, browsing through chapters 4-37, and then zeroing back on chapters 38-42.

Psalms
Themes: Worship, A Personal Response to the Person and Work of God
Overview: Psalms is often viewed as a worship manual or poetry book. However, it is often classed with “Wisdom Literature” and provides numerous answers to the question: “How should a righteous person live in a sinful world.” While there is much devotional material for worship, there is just as much practical material for living life. The book of Psalms makes for a great Old Testament study into worship, living for the Lord, right thinking, faithful living, etc.

Proverbs
Themes: Wisdom / Fear of the Lord 
Overview: Proverbs is all about wisdom. Wisdom is defined as “fearing the Lord.” This book is replete with practical advice for how to live life successfully (the literal meaning of the word ‘wisdom’). Proverbs is best studied verse by verse, slowly in small bites and through discussion and meditation. Reading too much in one sitting (even a ½ chapter at a time) causes one to lose the weight and impact of what’s been taught. It makes for an ideal study during family devotions where 2-3 verses are read, discussed for 10-15 minutes, and then prayed about. Using a child-friend version allows for even the youngest readers to fully participate.

Ecclesiastes
Themes: Lived Apart from God is Empty 
Overview: Ecclesiastes is similar to Proverbs in practical advice for living a successful life. It has the added theme of also trying to help the reader assemble a rudder for life’s major decisions and how we should view each day of life we receive. Ecclesiastes is easier to study in a Small Group setting, than Proverbs, because of its shorter length and tighter arrangement of verses around thematic elements.

Song of Solomon
Themes: Romance: God's View of Love and Marriage
Overview: Despite the challenges of Song of Solomon (it can be tricky to follow because it jumps from different perspectives without warning) it’s a great study for married couples looking to turn up the dial on “all dimensions” of marital life. Keep the a/c on because an honest and candid discussion over the various passages will make for some very steamy conversation!

Isaiah
Themes: Salvation
Overview: Isaiah is a monument to God’s grace and plan for salvation. It is filled with amazing prophecy, chilling warnings, inspiration and comfort. It makes for a great study with a Small Group—as long as the guide is able to focus on the numerous nuggets and not get bogged down in the numerous details. A thorough understand of Isaiah is foundational to a thorough understanding of the New Testament.

Jeremiah
Themes: Warning of the Last Hour
Overview: Jeremiah faced a nation hostile to the Lord. It is filled with warnings to everyone—from spiritual leaders, to government, to the average person in the community. It is filled with many wonderful portions of scripture, some known to nearly all believers. At the same time, the numerous warnings are so dire and so protracted that a group study would necessitate a guided approach to finding the most relevant content.

Lamentations
Themes: Weeping & Mourning, The funeral of a City
Overview: Lamentations is written from the perspective that God’s holy city of Jerusalem has been sacked. It fully recognizes the validity of God’s judgment upon His people. There are some very beautiful passages but they are set in the midst of some very dark verses.

Ezekiel
Themes: Condemnation, Consolation, and Restoration
Overview: Ezekiel is another challenging book that is best studied by a group with a guide that moves over the more inscrutable sections. While there are some extremely important chapters (such as Ezekiel 36), there are several interpretative challenges that would confuse many Small Groups.

Daniel
Themes: God's Sovereign Plan for Israel 
Overview: Daniel has two very distinct components. On the one hand it recounts the history of Daniel and his friends in Babylon. One the other hand, it foretells God’s redemptive plan with the Messiah. The historical accounts are going to be extremely familiar (e.g. Daniel and the Lion’s Den) whereas the prophetic accounts are going to be both fascinating and confusing and will likely produce much spirited debate; yet lead to a vastly richer appreciation for the precision of God’s prophetic plan.

Hosea
Themes: Loyal Love
Overview: Hosea is a shocking and almost disturbing account of a prophet’s love for his very unfaithful wife. Ultimately, however, it is a picture of God’ loyal love for His people despite their waywardness. With the right guidance, this book can help groups to wrestle with God’s unconditional love as well as the depth of our own sin. It’s a picture of Romans 5:8 in all of our lives. Also note, that there is a Christian movie called “Amazing Love: The Story of Hosea” that provides a faithful rendition of the book. Adding that movie to the study would make for a warm evening of fellowship and edification.

Joel
Themes: The Day of the Lord (In Retrospect and Prospect), Locusts
Overview: Joel is a short book foretelling the coming judgment of God through an army of locusts. It focuses on the Day of the Lord and provides helpful material in learning Eschatology. It would be best studied in conjunction with other prophetic books such as Zechariah, Daniel and Revelation.

Amos
Themes: Social Injustice of Israel
Overview: Amos centers on the social justice of Israel and provides many principles that correspond to life today. A study focused here and there on various sections of this book would provide a helpful look into ethics and our social responsibility.

Obadiah
Themes: Edom's Judgment, Brother's Keeper
Overview: Obadiah contains the prophetic account of the coming judgment on Edom. It’s very short and ultimately very specific in content. It would be best studied in the midst of a larger study on the Minor Prophets.

Jonah
Themes: God's mercy upon Repentant Gentiles
Overview: Jonah is a familiar story about this prophet’s disobedience, punishment, obedience and disappointment with God. All through the book runs the underlying theme that God is faithful to all people even when we’d rather He not be. It has great principles that would be excellent to draw out in the context of a children’s ministry or youth group—adults would benefit too, of course, though the overall study would be limited to a couple of weeks. This book would make a nice introductory study for a group launching into an examination of global missions.

Micah
Themes: Justice of God Versus the Social Injustice of Judah
Overview: Similar to Amos, Micah centers on the social injustices of Israel. It has some themes/principles that clearly cross into life today.

Nahum
Themes: Nineveh's Judgment & Destruction, Flood
Overview: Nahum predicts God’s coming judgment upon Nineveh. Apparently the city soon forgot Jonah’s warnings and they will finally face destruction. This book would be best studied in the midst of a larger examination of the Minor Prophets.

Habakkuk
Themes: Faith & Doubt & Answers
Overview: Habakkuk is about a prophet’s sincere questions towards God and God’s answers. It’s about a man’s faith being tested but ultimately triumphing because of the character and faithfulness of God. Habakkuk could be studied in 5-7 lessons and serve as the framework to a larger examination of apologetics.

Zephaniah
Themes: Future Global Judgment/Day of the Lord
Overview: Zephaniah is a short book covering prophecies of future global judgment as well as future restoration. Like some of the other minor prophet books, it contains helpful material for eschatology but should also be studied in conjunction with the other apocalyptic literature.

Haggai
Themes: A Call to Construct the Temple, Misplaced Priorities
Overview: Haggai is an excellent book often overlooked because it’s placed between two heavily prophetic books. It’s about how the people of God have discounted God, and yet God is calling them to be renewed in their faithfulness to Him. There is much good material for a Small Group study.

Zechariah
Themes: Israel's Comfort and Glory, Preparation for the Messiah
Overview: Zechariah contains numerous important prophecies for both the first and second coming of the Messiah. It’s a great book for the study of Eschatology but needs to be also read along with Daniel and Revelation.

Malachi
Themes: Disintegration of a Nation, Hearts of Stone
Overview: Malachi is another very practical book that is often overlooked. It’s filled with excellent principles for living life well. It’s brief enough that a group won’t get bogged down in it. Malachi makes a great book to go through between other longer portions of scripture.


NEW TESTAMENT


Matthew
Themes: Jesus as King
Overview: Matthew is the account of the life of Christ from a Jewish perspective. A thorough study of Matthew will help the reader develop a greater understanding of Jewish thinking/culture and prophecy.

Mark
Themes: Jesus as Servant
Overview: Mark is often considered to be Peter’s account of the life of Christ. It’s a fast-paced, highly dramatic exciting narrative. At some points, it zeroes in with great detail, at other points it moves swiftly. It’s a great introductory study into the life of Christ.

Luke
Themes: Jesus as the Son of Man, Jesus as the Perfect Man
Overview: Luke is the researched account of the life of Christ. It’s filled with details and precision. It’s meant for the person who has little understanding of Jewish culture and shows that although Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, He is the Savior of all nations.

John
Themes: Jesus as the Son of God
Overview: John is written from a somewhat different perspective than the other three Gospels and covers much more theology. The person studying John will develop a rich understanding of the details of Jesus’ life, but even more, they gain a deep and profound understanding of the person of Jesus. This is one of the best books for a Small Group to work through.

Acts
Themes: Birth and Growth of the Church
Overview: Acts gives the historical account of the birth and growth of the church. It’s filled with exciting and amazing drama. On the one hand, it’s a great study for a group because it renews our passion to serve in this ever-expanding kingdom of God. On the other hand, if the group is made of disparate believers, it might create tension as the group works through questions about God’s miracles for then and now. 

Romans
Themes: The Righteousness of God
Overview: Romans is Paul’s theological treatise on salvation. It’s about how sinful people (us) can be reconciled to God. Many groups study Romans only to find out that some of its doctrines and themes can become quite daunting. It’s really a terrific study, but the group needs to know that they will be challenged at every level as they work through the material. Leaders should be certain that the group is ready for this kind of commitment before launching into Romans—more than one group has shrunk as the less-than-committed members are not ready or willing to take on the challenges of Romans.

1st Corinthians
Themes: Correction/Condemnation
Overview: 1 Corinthians is Paul’s letter to a church that’s gotten off the right path. Paul’s tone is highly corrective. There is much wonderful, practical, vital material throughout this book and covers everything from pride, to personal purity, to lawsuits, to relationships with others, to marriage, to order in worship, spiritual gifts, to tithing, to Christ’s return, etc.

2nd Corinthians
Themes: Defense of Paul’s Apostleship
Overview: 2 Corinthians is Paul’s sequel to the first letter. Apparently the first letter caused some stir and this is Paul’s answer. It is filled with comforting, consoling words. It reflects Paul’s heart. Like 1 Corinthians, this second letter is filled with practical life-on-life principles and would make a great second study for a Small Group.

Galatians
Themes: Justification by Faith
Overview: Galatians is all about getting the doctrine of justification right. It’s a sharp, fast study into the purity of the Gospel. Likewise, towards the end, Paul gives those familiar verses on walking by the fruit of the Spirit. This book makes an excellent study for groups consisting of members who have come out of a ritual-based understanding of having a relationship with God.

Ephesians
Themes: New Life in Christ 
Overview: Ephesians is an excellent study for a Small Group that is just beginning. It has two divisions, Chapters 1-3 covers our position in Christ. Chapters 4-6 explain how to live that out. It’s a wonderful balance of solid and profound theology intermixed with practical application for life.

Philippians
Themes: Joy and Unity in Christ
Overview: Philippians is often called “God’s Guide to Joy.” Indeed it is, but it’s also much more. It could just as easily be called, “God Guide to Relationships” as Paul helps put in place right thinking so that the Philippian church would have right relationships with the world, their enemies, false teachers, close friends, and less-than-close “friends.” It makes for a great study for a newer Small Group or one that is looking to deepen the fellowship between believers.

Colossians
Theme: All-Sufficiency of Christ
Overview: Colossians is very similar to Ephesians in theme and content, just shorter. It’s a great study for a new group because it focuses on Christ, on our relationship with Him and how that relationship should impact every area of our life. It’s one of the best studies for a Small Group that is just starting out.

1st Thessalonians
Themes: The Model Church
Overview: 1 Thessalonians contains Paul’s happy letter to a church that enjoyed his commendations. They were already living faithfully and just needed some more encouragement for life. This book would make a great, practical study by any group. It also contains some eschatological doctrines too spice-up the group’s discussions.

2nd Thessalonians
Themes:– Work While You Wait, Comfort and Correction
Overview: 2 Thessalonians contains more exhortation than its predecessor. It contains a higher percentage of eschatology and should be studied by a group after they’ve worked through 1 Thessalonians.

1st Timothy
Themes: Shepherd’s Manual, Directions to a Young Pastor
Overview: 1 Timothy is an extremely important book for the setup of the church leadership. It contains numerous exhortations to the pastor about doctrine, teaching, example, false teachers, etc. Likewise, it lays out in detail the qualifications for those in leadership. Although 1 Timothy is essentially a manual for pastors, it should be read and studied by every believer. The principles it contains are not just for leadership, but for everyone.

2nd Timothy
Themes: Soldier’s Manual- Ministry is a battle to be fought
Overview: 2 Timothy is similar in usefulness to 1 Timothy. It goes over similar ground for teaching, conduct, etc. It is somewhat shorter and is best studied by a Small Group that is going through the Pastoral Epistles together (e.g. 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Titus).

Titus
Themes: Adorning the Doctrine of God
Overview: Titus is similar to 1 and 2 Timothy in content and purpose. It was written to Titus to guide him in establishing churches. It is more practical and life-on-life than the Timothy epistles. There is so much personal content in Titus that it even makes a great group study independent of the other Pastoral Epistles.

Philemon
Themes: From Bondage to Brotherhood, Slave to Saint
Overview: Philemon is a short letter from Paul to Philemon about an escaped slave. It’s a quick read and most certainly will be bundled together with other of Paul’s letters. It does highlight principles about the transformation of a person, forgiveness, faithfulness, etc.

Hebrews
Themes: The Superiority of Christ 
Overview: Hebrews is a deep and profound study into the supremacy of Christ. This book works through many important Old Testament teachings and shows how they pointed to Christ, were fulfilled in Christ and how they are surpassed in Christ. The group that studies Hebrews together sets out on a course towards a deeper understanding of Christ, greater understanding of our calling as His kingdom people and even a greater understating of our mutual role towards one another.

James
Themes: True Faith Works 
Overview: James is a series of intensely stated but extremely practical points for practical living. It’s a favorite for Small Groups because every week has something for everyone. It’s a great study and just the right overall length.

1st Peter
Themes: The Christian Response to Suffering
Overview: 1 Peter is an important and helpful book for many dimensions of Christian living. It speaks to attitudes of the heart—our approach to the Word, to instruction, to our identity, to the church, to Christ, to family, to trials. It’s an excellent study for a Small Group.

2nd Peter
Themes: Character and Counterfeit Christianity
Overview: 2 Peter primarily warns of false teachers. It covers some very important groundwork for understanding how we got God’s truth and what it means to have counterfeit truth. If studied along with Jude, this would be a great book to work though for a group hoping to have a better understanding of the times in which we live relative to the warnings of the Lord.

1st John
Themes: The Tests of Eternal Life
Overview: 1 John is all about examining ourselves in light of who we are in Christ. Over and over, John lays out principles that true believers will follow. The implied warning is that if these principles are not true in our lives, then we should examine our faith to be sure it’s real. The book of 1 John covers great themes of fellowship, holiness, love, relationships, Christ, God, etc. It makes an excellent study for Small Groups.

2nd John
Themes: Lookout for False Teachers
Overview: 2 John is much shorter than 1 John and basically a warning from the apostle that we must be on the lookout for false teachers. It’s so short that it will most likely be studied with other books. Ideally, it would be examined along with 2 Peter and Jude.

3rd John
Themes: Care for the Saints 
Overview: 3 John resets ground covered by 2 John reinforcing the principles that while we need to watch false teachers (2 John) we need to also lovingly take care of the saints.

Jude
Themes: False Teacher X-Ray
Overview: Jude is very similar to 2 Peter. It’s an X-Ray study on the inner workings and claims of false teachers. It contains much useful material for analyzing today’s religious hucksters. Groups looking to firm up their commitment to sound instruction should study Jude along with 2 Peter.

Revelation
Themes: The Return of Jesus Christ
Overview: Revelation is the final prophecy of God’s Word for the end times. It’s written in apocalyptic language that is difficult to understand and open to interpretation. There is much practical material as well, but usually that material is buried within prophecy. Revelation ends up being a very challenging study for Small Groups because a solid understanding requires real work, especially by the leader. Without a strong, clear commitment to verifiable truth, a group study of Revelation can quickly break down into heated debates about personal opinions.

Miscellaneous Church Sign Messages

Sunday, 22 April 2012 06:01 Published in Church Resources
Here are some miscellaneous church sign messages :

THE HAND OF THE LORD IS MIGHTY

JOSHUA 4:24

 

 

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