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“Revival is God’s people doing God’s work, God’s way.” Vance Havner (2008)

“The Sermon on the Mount is a statement of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is having His way with us.” Oswald Chambers (1995)

I recently learned an important lesson about doing things God’s way. When a local Sunday School class invited us to lead a study of the Sermon on the Mount (SOTM), I suggested a twenty-six-week series. The class leadership countered with twelve weeks or less and only thirty minutes of teaching each week!

How do you cover fifty-plus sayings of Jesus in such a limited timeframe? Concerned twelve weeks would not allow for anything more than a compromised exploration of the most important sermon ever preached and that generalizing the Sermon would not adequately encourage the doing necessary to produce strong houses (Matthew 7:24-25), I pressed for more time. The leaders stood firm.

Much to my surprise, the syllabus we developed together turned out to be God’s way for the study. He used what I would call an overly simplified approach to reveal several foundations of His kingdom and its good news. Honestly, I am amazed at the revelation and encouragement I received from the study.

In the process, I also learned that deep technical dives into Scripture are not always the best method for teaching, and that God orchestrates teaching opportunities with more consideration for the audience’s needs than the teacher’s abilities and preference.

Lastly, I was once again reminded that God has a way for everything; finding and following His ways always leads to exciting adventures and discoveries.

It should come as no surprise that Jesus has much to say about doing things God’s way: the only way He did everything (John 5:19, 30; John 12:49-50; and John 14:24). In this article, we will explore two of God’s ways for doing the sayings of Jesus. But first… Read the rest of this entry »

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

Romans 12:2 reveals two important things about the Christian mind. First, there is something wrong with it; it must be “renewed, renovated, and completely changed for the better (Blue Letter Bible, Outline of Biblical Usage, 2020).” Second, without this renewal, the Christian will remain both conformed to the world and unable to know and obey God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will.

The renewal of our minds – required for our transformation into Kingdom citizens – is more challenging than most Christians recognize. We are born with a nature that works hard to interpret the things we hear and read in ways that will not disrupt our established paradigms. We prefer to trust existing interpretations of Scripture and are encouraged to do so by our teachers.

Holding fast to sound doctrine is important, but resistance to paradigm shifts can leave us short on the truth. Therefore, it is important to recognize that the combined doctrines of man fall short of explaining God and His kingdom. Our maturation as Christians requires a humble approach to learning. We would do well to maintain an objective consideration of God’s word and the vastness of its truth.

What if, instead of relying on comfortable interpretations, we accepted the word of God as it is written, allowing it to challenge our paradigms? What if, instead of applying assumptions of hyperbole or metaphor to every passage that threatens us, we wrestled to grasp the depth of God’s word? With these challenges in mind, we offer a case in point from two statements found in John’s first epistle:

Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. 1John 3:9

We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. 1John 5:18

Taken literally, the Holy Spirit (through John) claims that every Christian does not and cannot sin, because he has been born of God, because he keeps himself (i.e., attends to carefully, takes care of, guards), and because the wicked one has no influence over him. Take a moment to consider this claim literally; resist the temptation to explain it away. The implications are astounding!! Read the rest of this entry »

It is our hopeful contention that Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount so very early in His ministry to prepare those who would follow Him for the storms they would face in sharing and living it with others. The gospel of the kingdom of heaven – the good news of God’s reign in the hearts of His people – would be so radically counter-cultural, not only to the heathen Gentile, but to the Jew as well, that it was only fitting and fair to lay it out from the beginning. Full disclosure; nothing hidden.

As we read the Sermon two-thousand years later, we must use our imagination and consider the timing to appreciate God’s approach in the introduction of His New Covenant. It is both simple and instructional: Jesus first taught His followers about life in the kingdom so they could then observe Him walking it out before them and His Father. “He who hears these sayings of mine, and does them…” is the disciple-makers way.

So, what are we to do about these sayings of Jesus in the Beatitudes? Is there a way we should respond to them? Or, are we left to simply hope the blessings will one day be ours?

God intends for every Christian to respond to every offer of His grace in the same way: through faith. It is no coincidence that the process of faith begins with the hearing of faith (Romans 10:17), proceeds through obedience to the faith (Romans 1:5), and culminates with the work that perfects our faith (James 2:22). Indeed, the process of faith answers the question, “How should we study the Sermon on the Mount?” The only way to become a kingdom citizen is by grace, through faith.

The Sermon begins with the Beatitudes for this very reason. Read the rest of this entry »

The entire New Testament was written during a time of chaos. Indeed, God used each of the main characters as His instruments in creating the chaos that surrounded them. When God manifests Himself, chaos ensues. Chaos is not only normal for a Christian, it is a sign of God’s presence. In the chaos, the part of us that belongs to God has access to the peace of God that transcends all understanding. Still, we must allow the chaos to test and purify; we must allow it to shake out that which shall not remain (Hebrews 12:25-29).

When chaos finds its way into our lives, it creates a tension between our desire to maintain current normalcy and our finding the new normal which God is trying to work in us and through us (see Philippians 3:12 and 2Corinthians 3:18). Our carnal mind attempts to inhibit God’s work by distracting us and/or dissuading us of the notion that God is up to something. Those that notice themselves focused more on maintaining the status quo than on finding the next level of glory, should immediately suspect their carnal mind and invite the Holy Spirit to renew their thinking (Romans 2:12). Only then will we know the will of God in the chaos. Read the rest of this entry »

I recently participated in a Facebook “conversation” regarding the value of Christ’s death in our salvation. Trying to encourage the other participants to look beyond the cross to the life that saves us, I referenced Romans 5:8-10.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

Confusion ensued, ultimately leading to this question: Rob, do you accept that one can have assurance of their salvation?

As most of you know, I try to “just be the pen” in everything I write. God was faithful to direct my fingers in the following response. I hope it encourages you to share with others. We need to be having these kinds of discussions in the body of Christ.

Our Answer (slightly edited): Of course you can have assurance of salvation, assuming God’s conditions are met (e.g., endure to the end (Matthew 10:22), abide and bear fruit (John 15:1-8), do not bury your talents (Matthew 25:24-30), avoid falling away (2Thessalonians 2:1-4)). In case you were wondering, I do not see these as the Christian’s work to procure salvation. They are the work of God appropriated by our continuing faith (which is also a gift, Ephesians 2:8-9).

Still, salvation requires participation (Philippians 2:12-13 describes this beautifully). Striving to enter is necessary (Luke 13:24). We must be diligent to add to our faith and make our call and election sure (2Peter 1:5-11). This is only possible in Christ and by the power of His resurrected life.

I fear that many are loitering around the cross, either worshipping the instrument of death or trying to worship a savior who is no longer there. They are not being instructed and encouraged to move on down the difficult road that leads to eternal life (Matthew 7:14).

The old man must be buried and the carnal mind subdued – both works of the Spirit, requiring our submission (Romans 8:13; Romans 12:2; 2Corinthians 3:18). We must walk in the newness of life that has been offered (Romans 6:4). That life is not our own (Mark 8:35). It is the resurrected life of Jesus Christ. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live… (Galatians 2:20)

And so, the bottom-line answer is: The one who continues to surrender, sacrifice, and submit their life to the lordship of Jesus Christ can have certain assurance of their salvation. Read the rest of this entry »

This article is a bit of a walkabout. It reminds me of a tourist group out for a sight-seeing adventure. Not every sight will be for everyone, but each one will find something here to encourage, edify and equip them for the good work we have all been created to walk in (Ephesians 2:10).

Every Jesus follower is responsible to be (or become) a faithful steward of God’s mysteries (1Corinthians 4:1-2). So why do we so often play the mystery card to avoid our responsibility as stewards? For example, the fact that we have been made one in Christ Jesus is a mystery (Galatians 3:28). We would rather keep it that way than commit to the hard work of agreeing with Jesus’s prayer for the manifestation of that reality (John 17:23). And another: The Bible suggests that church discipline is necessary for strong healthy fellowships. Rather than search out its proper application, most church leaders treat it as a mystery – avoiding it altogether for fear of running off the wrong people.

God’s expects us to steward His mysteries for the advancement of His kingdom. Playing the mystery card for our own motives (e.g., to avoid difficult responsibilities, or excuse error in our teaching) is rebellion; many times unintended, but nevertheless adversarial to the purposes of God.

We must search out the mysteries of God. To the best of our ability? Yes, and no. With the help of others? Again, yes and no. Under the anointing and guidance of the Holy Spirit? Yes and yes.

With the anointing and guidance of the Holy Spirit, we search out the mysteries of God with our whole heart and the help of others – the purpose of our search being His glory and the advancement of His kingdom.

Let’s practice our searching with Ephesians 6:10:

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

Paul is encouraging us to be strong in two distinct ways. We are to be strong in the Lord, and we are to be strong in the power of His might. In my humble opinion, this is the most power-filled verse in the entire Bible. Three of God’s “power” words are included:

  1. Be strong (endynamoō): The root is dynamis – the explosive power of God.
  2. Power (kratos): The dominion of God – the power of His authority to reign.
  3. Might (ischys): The ability and force of God – to accomplish what He intends.

This is what Paul is talking about when he goes on to encourage us to put on the whole armor of God. This is what it takes to stand against the wiles of the devil. Get your head around that!

As leaders in the Workplace – that includes all segments (business, religion, education, government, etc.) – we are responsible for leading others into this kind of radical life. Note carefully: This is the normal Christian life!

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I don’t know who first said, “The Bible is the LORD’s manual for life,” but it is surely as true now as it was then. The LORD has a way for everything. We ignore His ways at our peril.

Most would readily agree that the Bible contains prescribed ways for salvation, sanctification, and all the other big Kingdom processes. Some have recognized His prescription for building the church (Ephesians 4:11-16) and evangelizing the world (John 17:21-23). When we follow the LORD’s ways, He gets involved – sometimes just to show that His ways are the best ways.

The Process

As important as success is to the LORD and man, it should not surprise us to discover that the LORD has prescribed a way of finding and securing success. He has revealed it in Psalm 37. Let’s take a look at it.

1 Do not fret because of evildoers,
Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity.
2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,
And wither as the green herb.

Step 1: Taking our eyes off the world and focusing them on Jesus. Beholding His glory, we will be transformed into the same likeness, by the Holy Spirit (2Corinthians 3:18). Furthermore, knowing the fate of the worldly, we should fear the desire to become like them (James 4:4).

3 Trust in the LORD, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.

Step 2: The LORD desires and has commanded us to trust Him. To trust in anything or anyone else is idolatry.

Step 3: The LORD has created us to walk in good works (Ephesians 2:10). It is there that we find Him. Those works are determined by Him, and He is glorified in them (Matthew 5:16).

Step 4: The LORD promised “the land” to the Israelites. He has promised something much greater to the followers of Jesus Christ. He has promised us abundant life in His kingdom. We must dwell in Christ and learn to live in the kingdom of heaven. “The kingdom of heaven is like…” It is important to recognize this kingdom is here now.

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The kingdom of heaven is like a mighty river that flows through our lives – the Kingdom River. There are people that visit the river on special occasions to temporarily enjoy its beauty and refreshing water. There are others that regularly go down to the river – bringing along their ski, pontoon, or fishing boat (and the occasional friend) for the various forms of entertainment these devices and the river might provide to them.

Some people enjoy the Kingdom River so much, they have built houses on its banks. As folks back home say, “they have a ‘place’ on the river.” They go to the river almost every weekend – to get away from the hustle and bustle of the world. Some of them even live in yachts and houseboats, floating right on top of the mighty river.

None of these people are river people. Most of them don’t even know that river people exist. Those who know a little something about the river people consider them quite odd and, if they will admit it, scary. Like the mysterious water people Elwin Ransom encountered in Perelandra, the true river people live in – AND BREATHE!! – the Kingdom River.

The river people are very much unlike everyone else. They do not have roots on land. They do not visit the mighty river on special occasions, or for regular entertainment. For them, the river is not a place to get away from the world.

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Now that we have positioned ourselves to hear God’s instruction, and discovered the purposes of God in His call to more, we can begin to explore His process for planning. I feel the need to share – here at the beginning – that God’s way for planning is not like anything you may have experienced in the world.

There are many ways that the kingdom of God is contrary to the world (e.g., love your enemies, the greater serve the lesser). Planning is one of those things. In fact, planning as we know it – work breakdown structures, contingencies, etc. – have no place in the kingdom of God.

This is a hard thing for a process-oriented problem solver to share. I love planning. Task lists are my thing. It is hard letting go of what you are good at.

That is why, when God called me to the more of Workplace Ministry, the first thing I had to die to was my propensity to create and own the process. At first, I thought God’s issue with me was my desire to own and control. While that was something He would deal with, the bigger consideration was the method of planning itself. Read the rest of this entry »

The kingdom is like a mighty river, flowing over time. The river is a story – the story of God’s kingdom. It is the Kingdom River.

Like most mighty rivers, the Kingdom River has a deep channel; a channel that cuts through time, on the river’s way through eternity. The Kingdom River makes its own path. It determines, by its power, where it will flow.

In the channel of the Kingdom River, the current flows deep and with great power. It draws all of humanity to itself. But, the channel of the Kingdom River is a dangerous place. All who are swept up in it eventually drown.

The Kingdom River, as it is with most mighty rivers, also has its shallows and quiet pools; places where young and old first enter – where they find peace and comfort. In this part of the river, the waters rarely come up to your knees; and the strong current is rarely felt. Still, many are satisfied to stay there.

Regrettably, they are not aware of the dangers that are lurking nearby.

Removed from, but within view of the Kingdom River, is a broad road. Many are traveling down the broad road. Many – perhaps most – of those traveling on the broad road are irritated by the site of the river. They want nothing to do with it. They consider the people gathered at the river to be foolish and weak.

Many others, on the broad road, are comforted in knowing that the river is close. When they pause to look and consider the road, they feel drawn to come near. But that would require them to leave the broad road, and they are not ready for that. Perhaps some other day. In the end, they never make it to the river’s edge.

This is a sad tragedy, but not so much as that which unknowingly threatens the shallow and quiet pool dwellers.

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