Leaving Laodicea
460 - What Does it Mean to “Abide in Christ”

460 - What Does it Mean to “Abide in Christ”

May 25, 2020

In John 15 we have the Lord's blueprint for the "abundant life" (John 10:10) He promised each of us.  And no, that life doesn't involve expensive cars or vacation homes or buckets of cash or having Your Best Life Now!  The abundant life in Him is defined by being able to bear His fruit, and bearing it in ever-increasing quantities.  Or, like Jesus said, "more fruit", then "much fruit", and finally "fruit that will remain".  Consider the following:

"Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit." (John 15:2)

"By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples." (John 15:8)

"You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you." (John 15:16)

Unless the church fully understands the importance of bearing the fruit of Christ, the Vine, this incredible teaching of Jesus will have little meaning or lasting effect on our lives.  Or on the lives of those we try to influence with the Word, our spouse, our friends, our parents, children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren.  We must come to a clear understanding that the only purpose for the branch, the only reason you and I were created and chosen in Him (Eph. 1:4), is to bear the fruit of the vine.  And the only one who benefits from the fruit we bear, is the Vinedresser, the Father.  The one key to hearing "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matt. 25:23), is our commitment to being nothing but branches, committed totally to bearing His fruit. As we said last week, there is no other way.


But, How Do We Bear His Fruit?

The key to bearing His fruit is tied up in the single word, abide.  Last week we defined the word abide (ménō) as to "remain, dwell, live", but always, in John's writings, with the idea of a relationship in view.  However, in John 15, the definition of abide (ménō) expands to mean "to be and remain united with Jesus, one with Him in heart, mind, and will, and to remain steadfast, unwavering in that relationship.”  That understanding of abide (ménō) puts this entire passage under a new, incredible light. So how do we bear His fruit?  Or what part do we play in this divine equation?  Simple, abide.  It's hard to do in real life, but it's simple, nonetheless.

"Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me." (John 15:4)

"I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

"If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned." (John 15:6)

"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you." (John 15:7)

"As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love." (John 15:9)

“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love." (John 15:10)

Remember, this is only the beginning.  If you can capture the joy of abiding in Him as a dependent branch, a life of abundant joy (John 10:10) is right around the corner.  So buckle up! The following is a study on John 15:4-6 on How to Bear His Fruit. To download the slides to this message, click - HERE

459 - “Abide in Me, and I in You”

459 - “Abide in Me, and I in You”

May 20, 2020

Once we move past identifying the characters in this teaching (Jesus is the vine, God the Father is the vinedresser, and we are the branches), we can clearly see the focus is on bearing fruit (more fruit, much fruit, and fruit that remains).  But the key to having a relationship with the Lord that allows us to bear the kind of fruit that brings glory to the Father (John 15:8), is being able to "abide" in Him, in the vine.  In fact, we find that phrase repeated over and over again in this amazing discourse.  Consider the following:

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me." (John 15:4)

"If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned." (John 15:6)

"If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you." (John 15:7)

"As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love." (John 15:9)

“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love." (John 15:10)

So the concept of abiding is not something to be taken lightly.  Obviously, it is a description of the relationship Jesus has with the Father, and the relationship all Three share in the Godhead.  And the amazing thing is that He commands us, no, He invites us to abide in Him the way He also abides in His Father.  What a wonderful privilege He offers each of us.

But let's address the elephant in the room, the $64,000,000 question.  What does abide in this passage really mean?


United in Heart, Mind, and Will

On a simple level, the word abide (ménō) means to "remain, dwell, live."  In John 15:11, the word is translated "remain" when it says "that My joy may remain (ménō) in you."  But the word has a much deeper meaning than that.  In John’s writings, it conveys more with the mechanics of the relationship between one thing or person and another.  Thus the context of (ménō) could be "remain in or with someone."   We see this in 1 John 2:19 where (ménō) is translated "continued with us."

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us (ménō); but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. (1 John 2:19)

In John 15 (ménō) means "to be and remain united with Jesus, one with Him in heart, mind, and will, and to remain steadfast, unwavering in that relationship."  Now, that changes everything.

"Abide (remain united with Him in heart, mind, and will, to remain steadfast and unwavering in that relationship) in Me, and I (abide) in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides (remain united with Him in heart, mind, and will, to remain steadfast and unwavering in that relationship) in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide (remain united with Him in heart, mind, and will, to remain steadfast and unwavering in that relationship) in Me." (John 15:4)

But it gets better.  Next, He tells us how to bear fruit to bring the Father glory and to prove we are His disciples (John 15:8).

"I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who (what) abides (remain united with Him in heart, mind, and will, to remain steadfast and unwavering in that relationship) in Me, and I (abide) in him, (what) bears much fruit; (how) for without Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

As I shared in my last post, this is only the beginning.  Join with us as we endeavor to grow closer to the Lord by becoming a fruitful branch of His vine, for the glory of the Vinedresser.  Because at this time in our history, nothing else really matters.

The following is a study on John 15:3-5 on how to Abide in Him.

To download the slides to this message, click - HERE

458 - “I Am the True Vine”

458 - “I Am the True Vine”

May 20, 2020

For the past two months, our nation has been held in the grips of, as President Trump said, an "invisible enemy."   But this "invisible enemy" is not Covid-19.  Nor is it the loss of jobs and the bankruptcy of thousands of small businesses and the inevitable collateral effect that will have on our economy for years, maybe even decades, to come.  No, the "invisible enemy" we face is fear.  And fear is a result of a lack of faith, and a lack of faith renders even the strongest believer useless as His light-bearer (Matt. 5:14-16).

But we know that.  Yet, for some strange reason, it doesn't seem to have any effect on us.  Why?

Because many of us as believers in the West have surrendered our rights and privileges as children of God (Romans 8:16-17), in order to live comfortable lives in this fallen world.  We have made ourselves, as James tells us, "an enemy of God" because of our "friendship with the world" (James 4:4).  Just spend a few minutes on Facebook and you can see the narcissistic cancer that runs unchecked in our culture today... even in the church.

These are truly desperate times.

But what are we to do?  How can we prepare ourselves for what the Lord is allowing to happen?  And what lesson is there to be learned from watching Him bring our evil and proud society to its knees by events beyond anyone's control?  What do we need to do?

Simply this:  We need to grow in our faith and our relationship with our Lord like never before.  Like there is no tomorrow.  Because there might not be.  We are not guaranteed tomorrow (James 4:13-16).  No one is.

Now is the time for serious soul-searching.  Now is the time to put Him first in all things and to lay up for ourselves "treasures in heaven" and not spend our lives collecting trinkets and toys on earth (Matt. 6:19-20).  And the best way to do this is to truly understand what our life is all about and why God created each of us in the first place.

Welcome to John 15.


The Vine and the Branches

For the next few weeks, we will be taking a detailed look at John 15 and our Lord's teaching about His relationship with His Father and our relationship with Him.  We will see the example of a vine, a vinedresser, and branches.  And most importantly, we will grow to understand the importance of fruit.  More fruit (John 15:2).  Much fruit (John 15:5). 

And fruit that will last and remain when all else fails (John 15:16). Jesus began this incredible teaching by saying He is the true Vine, and His Father is the Vinedresser (John 15:1).  Have you ever thought about the nature of a vine, its branches, and the vinedresser?  After all, this is the example Jesus chose to teach us about this relationship.

    • The vine is planted by the vinedresser wherever the vinedresser desires.  The vine has no say on where it is planted.
    • The vine is cared for by the vinedresser.
    • The vine is dependent totally on the vinedresser.
    • The vine’s only function is to produce fruit.
    • But the fruit is for the benefit of the vinedresser.
    • The glory of the vinedresser is his vine, but only if it produces fruit.
    • And the glory of the vine is its fruit.
    • The only function of the branch is to bear the fruit produced by the vine and for the glory of the vinedresser.  It is good for nothing else.

And this is only the beginning.  Join with us as we endeavor to grow closer to the Lord by becoming a fruitful branch of His vine, for the glory of the Vinedresser.  Because at this time in our history, nothing else really matters.

The following is a study on John 15:1-2 on the Vine and the Branches.

To download the slides to this message, click - HERE

457 - The Prophetic Implications of COVID-19

457 - The Prophetic Implications of COVID-19

May 5, 2020

Right now, we as a nation and as the church are in the midst of an unprecedented worldwide pandemic that has some unfortunate, unforeseen circumstances.  We are currently mandated by our government to stay at home and practice social distancing.  Which, in effect, means no corporate church services.  No normal business activities.  No hugging our grandchildren or shaking hands with a friend.  No picnics at the park, no day trips to the mountains, no shopping at the mall, no having friends over for dinner.  All of that has changed.

But so has our culture.  Our economy is in a free-fall.  Unemployment claims are greater, much greater, than in the time of the great depression.  Small businesses are closing at a rate unseen in our lifetime and the future looks dim, at best.  Liquor stores and abortion clinics are deemed essential, but churches are not.  And since lawlessness has increased greatly, "the love of many," as Jesus foretold, "has grown cold" (Matt. 24:12).

These are truly desperate times.

But could God be trying to tell us something by all that is happening around us?  Is He trying to get a message to us, a warning?  And, if so, what is that message and why are we as a people so obstinate and hard of hearing?

We know, from Scripture, that God warns His people primarily in two ways.  One, by sending them a prophet, a prophetic voice in their generation to proclaim the words of the Lord.  God often sent a Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or John the Baptist to bring His people back to repentance before He chastised them for their sins.  Unfortunately, because of our collective pride, we in the West are not particularly open to a modern-day Isaiah or a proclamation of "Thus says the Lord!" from anyone.

So often God warns His people the second way, by a remedial judgment.  He allows storms, plagues, war, famine, or pestilence to bring us to our knees and allows us to realize that God is God and we are not.  God often humbles us by showing us how much we are not in control.

Could that be what is happening right now?  And, if so, what warning are we failing to heed?  And what changes do we need to make in our lives right now?

Remember, God is sovereign.  That doesn't mean He is the cause of suffering and death.  No, our sin brought that upon us.  That blood is on our own hands.  But what it does mean is that nothing happens in our lives, good or bad, without His permission.  Why?  Because He is sovereign.  He is good and gracious and holy, but foremost, He is sovereign.


The Blessings and the Curses

In Deuteronomy, we find a list of promises God gave to Israel that also applies to each of us today, as individuals and as a nation (and church).  They are found in Deuteronomy 28.  In this chapter, God gives His people one grand if/then promise.  If they will "diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, (how) to observe carefully all His commandments" (Deut. 28:1), then an incredible, breathtaking list of blessings will follow.  In fact, the Lord says "all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake (overwhelm) you, (why) because you obey the voice of the Lord your God" (Deut. 28:2).  Did you catch that?  His blessings will literally overtake them (you can't outrun the blessings of God), and literally overwhelm them.

Would you like to be blessed like that?  Then read the rest of the if conditions in Deuteronomy 28:3-14.

But there is a dark side.  It is the consequence of not meeting God's if/then standard.  He says:

"But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you" (Deut. 28:15).

And as wonderful as the blessings are, the curses are much worse.  Much!  And we are seeing many of them manifest right before our eyes.

If you are wondering what you and your church can do to prepare your hearts for God's possible remedial judgments, keep listening.  For our days ahead may be dark indeed.

The following is a study on the Prophetic Implications of the Covid 19 virus and Deuteronomy 28.

456 - Embracing the Kingdom

456 - Embracing the Kingdom

April 20, 2020

I love this quote, "The definition of a fanatic is someone who loves Jesus more than you do."  So true.  But as a culture, we have always had a love/hate relationship with total commitment and self-abandonment.  We admire those whose commitment leads them to do great things, like win an Olympic Medal or lose a tremendous amount of weight.  And we applaud their commitment because we value the object of their goals.  But on the other hand, we detest the commitment of terrorists, idealogues, and others like that.  We brand them as activists, fanatics, or extremists.

But in Jesus' day, this is exactly how the world saw His followers.  They were activists who wanted nothing more than to see the entire world come to the same understanding they had regarding Christ.  They were extremists who sacrificed everything for a cause greater than themselves.  And they were fanatics, no longer interested in the things of this world because they had their life focused on something unseen, mystical, and illogical.

And of these, the Lord said the "world was not worthy" of them (Heb. 11:18).  My, how we have changed today.

Today, the church falls into two main camps.  One, the camp where our relationship with Christ is defined by rule-keeping and our ability to follow the law.  And two, those who view their relationship with Jesus as something profitable to add to their already busy lives, much like sprinkles on a cupcake or sweetener to our coffee.  But there is another option.  And these are the ones whose relationship with Christ is not based on guilt, religious duty, the hope of heaven and eternal reward, or the fear of hell and eternal punishment.  No, this select group is drawn to Christ because of His overwhelming beauty and glory and the irresistible power of His Kingdom.  The very kingdom we are commanded to proclaim today.  Remember?  We are to proclaim, like Jesus, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 4:17).  And we are to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom.

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. (Matt. 4:23)

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. (Matt. 9:35)

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matt. 24:14)

But what is the "Gospel of the Kingdom"?


The Gospel of the Kingdom

In the first century, the words "gospel" and "evangelize" referred to heralding the good news that a new emperor had been installed in the Roman Empire.  Heralds would go out to proclaim the good news, informing people that a new era of peace, salvation, and blessing had begun.  They then exhorted people to get down on their knees to worship the new emperor, their rightful king. The apostles used the same term to describe the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom of God.  The gospel that the apostles preached was the announcement, the heralding, that Jesus of Nazareth had become this world’s true Emperor (Lord), launching a new era of peace, salvation, and blessing, and because of it, everything has changed.

And it was this message that turned the world upside-down during the first century.  But it is a message seldom preached today.  Did you ever wonder why?

Once we begin to see the glory of Christ and the wonder of His Kingdom, everything changes.  He is no longer a historical figure, but Someone we literally adore and long to be with.  He is Someone we will gladly abandon all to follow.  Are you interested in knowing more about this glorious Christ and His wondrous Kingdom?  Then keep listening.

The following is a study on What it Means to Embrace the Kingdom of God.

To download the slides to this message, click - HERE

455 - What is the Kingdom of Heaven?

455 - What is the Kingdom of Heaven?

April 19, 2020

As we begin our study on John the Baptist, we are going to take the Scripture accounts of his life from all four gospels and merge them into one single narrative.  But rest assured, all you will see is nothing but Scripture.  Nothing has been added.  This helps us get a complete view of John's incredible ministry, the man Jesus said was without rival in all of humanity (Matthew 11:11).

The following is the beginning of John's ministry as told from Matthew 3:1-12, Mark 1:4-8 and Luke 3:1-18.

(LK) Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.

(MT) In those days John the Baptist (MK) came baptizing in the wilderness (MT) of Judea. (LK) And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, (MT) saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"  For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, (LK) saying: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the LORD; make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'" (MT) Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. (MK) Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, (MT) and all the region around the Jordan went out to him (MK) and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.

(MT) But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, (LK) he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, (MT) "Brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.'  For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.  And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees.  Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." (LK) So the people asked him, saying, "What shall we do then?"  He answered and said to them, "He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise." Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?"  And he said to them, "Collect no more than what is appointed for you."  Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, "And what shall we do?"  So he said to them, "Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages."

Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not, John answered, (MK) and he preached, (LK) saying to all, "I indeed baptize you with water (MT) unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry, [and] (MK) whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose.  I indeed baptized you with water, but (LK) He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.”  And with many other exhortations he preached to the people.

But there is so much more.  And note the substance of John's preaching.  It was of repentance and the coming Kingdom of Heaven.  Are they both related?  Absolutely.


The Word of God Came to John

Did you catch the open phrase of John's ministry?  It says "the word of God came to John in the wilderness" (Luke 3:2).  How did that happen?  What was that like?  Does God still reveal Himself to others as He did to John?  Or has that time of specific, intimate instruction from God to man somehow ceased?  And if the "word of God" doesn't come to individuals today, did God stop transmitting or did we stop receiving?  These are important questions you must answer for yourself as you grow in your understanding of Him.  But remember, God can do anything He wants to anyone under any circumstance and at any time that pleases Him, period.  And He doesn't ask you or me for permission or how comfortable we feel about what He is doing.  We just hang on for the ride.

That's why it says in Ephesians 3:20-21:

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.

Did you get that?  Ask or think.  It may take a measure of faith to ask God for something, but it takes even less to think it.  And God can do "exceedingly abundantly" beyond what we dream about in the solitude of our mind late at night but would never allow it to pass our lips and be heard by others.  God has them both covered.

Join with us as we look at the life of the greatest man that ever lived, according to Jesus.  And I think He is a perfect judge of character.  Don't you?

The following is a study on the Beginning of the Ministry of John the Baptist and the Preaching of the Kingdom of Heaven.

454 - God Responds to Repentance

454 - God Responds to Repentance

April 18, 2020

Another Sunday is upon us and the church is still having to figure out how to worship together while practicing self-distancing.  Awkward and uncomfortable, I know.  But I believe our choice to forgo our right to assemble and worship for the sake of the least of these (those who are at greater risk), is proper and prudent.  And I believe the Lord will honor the free sacrifice of our own rights for the sake of others.

With that said, the following message is from the first two chapters of the book of Joel.  In fact, as we go through Joel together, I think you'll be amazed and comforted at how the crisis in Joel's time (locust invasion) parallels the crisis we are facing as a church and a nation today.  For me, the most encouraging truth from Joel is the solution to their locust problem then is the same as the solution to our coronavirus problem now.  And that solution, as always, is repentance.

We will specifically focus on Joel 2:12-13, which reads:

"Now, therefore," says the LORD, "Turn to Me with all your heart, (how) with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning."  So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God, (why) for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.

Note, the first sentence is a statement by God.  The second is the application from Joel.  And Joel's words are timeless.  They are just as valid and true in his generation as they are today.  So take them to heart.


Two Truths About God from Joel

If you read the small book of Joel, you will discover there are two unchanging truths the Lord wants us to know about Himself.  It is almost like He is presenting these as an encouragement to His children when they go through trying times and He wants us to rest in these eternal truths.  The first one deals with God's sovereignty.

God is in control of all situations we may face - government intrusion, war, illness, heartache, financial ruin, swarming locusts and the coronavirus.  Name your catastrophe, it doesn't matter.  God is in control.

And the second one is even more encouraging.

God responds to repentance.  Always and forever.  Without fail.  No matter how horrible the sin that prompts the repentance.

Or, to put it another way, God loves us as least as much as the best human father we could imagine would love his children.  Howie Cunningham, Ward Cleaver, James Dobson, Andy Taylor, Carl Winslow, Philip Banks, you name it.  They are great fathers, maybe better than the ones you had as a child.  But God is off the charts!  Beyond comprehension.  So there is no comparison.  Period.

As we face an uncertain future, let's confidently hold fast to our certain God.  Rest in Him.  Trust Him.  Grow in a likeness to Him.  And when you do, you'll find His promises to be true.

My brethren (put your name here), count it all joy when you fall into various trials, (why) knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4).

And remember, you are "complete in Him" (Colossians 2:10).

The following is a study on Repentance, Old Testament Style, as revealed in Joel 1-2.

453 - Increase our Faith!

453 - Increase our Faith!

April 11, 2020

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

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

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

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


Faith and the Word of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

452 - How to Hear God’s Voice

452 - How to Hear God’s Voice

April 3, 2020

As we see the day of His return approaching, we must be more diligent to make sure we don't fall for the great deception Jesus spoke about (Matt. 24:4) and prepare ourselves for the coming apostasy (2 Thes. 2:3). Why?  Because as our Lord warned the deception would be so great even the elect, if possible, would be deceived and fall away (Matt. 24:214). So what are we to do?  How do we become a faith prepper and guard ourselves against such great deception?  The answer is simple to understand, yet difficult to do.  In Cliff Notes style:

You must personally experience God yourself. Second-hand faith won't cut it. Your faith must be first-person, personal. You cannot live on the faith of another. And your encounters with God must be on-going and habitual. Especially as we see the darkness approaching. This is what becoming a faith prepper is all about.

In essence, you must know God.  Intimately.  Personally.   And you do that by learning to hear His voice.

"And this is eternal life, that they may know (ginōskō) You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3)

The key to not falling for falsehood and deception is an experience with God.  After all, a relationship between two people must include talking and listening from both parties.  And so it is the same with each of us and the Lord.  We talk. We ask. We beg. Sometimes we demand.  But does God ever speak personally to us?  If so, how?  And how often?


How To Hear God's Voice

The key to learning to hear God's voice is desire.  Do you have a desire to thirst after Him and His righteousness more than you do, for example, to keep abreast of current events?  Do you watch FOX News more than you spend time in His Word?  Are you on Facebook more than on your knees in prayer?  If so, why are we surprised we seldom if ever, hear the voice of our Lord? Remember, a key characteristic of being one of the Lord's sheep is being able to hear His voice.

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know (ginōskō) them, and they follow Me." (John 10:27)

Did you get that?  Jesus' sheep hear His voice.  It's the defining characteristic of being His sheep.  But what does that say if we don't hear His voice?  What are the implications? The key to intimacy with anyone is communication. That’s two-way communication.  Between each of us and the Lord.  So one of the most important things we can learn in our life with Christ is how to hear his voice? Do you long to hear His voice?  Do you have a hard time differentiating between His voice and your own voice?  If so, keep on listening.

The following is a study on How to Hear God's Voice.

451 - Everything Follows Faith

451 - Everything Follows Faith

April 3, 2020

One of the questions each of us will have to come to grips with as we see the time of our Lord's return approaching is this:  Do you believe what you say you believe?  Or, more pointedly, how does your life reflect what you claim to believe?  In other words, do we really believe everything the Scriptures say about God, this world, heaven and hell, our lives, the future, whatever?  Or are we somehow hedging our bet in His Word to fit what we feel or think?   Consider the following scriptures and ask yourself if you truly believe what they say.

But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Do you believe this statement to be true of you?  If so, make it personal by putting your name in the place of "those".

But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for (your name) who love Him."

Let's try one more.  Do you believe this statement to be true?

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

If you believe God can do more than you can ask or think, then put your name in this verse.  Make it first-person, personal.

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that (I can) ask or think, according to the power that works in (me), to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.

So why is this important?  Because your relationship with God, your intimacy with the Father, will rise and fall on your belief in Him and in His character. Your beliefs always determine your actions.  Always.  In everything.  For example, if you don't believe God can do "exceedingly abundantly above all that (I can) ask or think," then you will be overcome by your doubts and fears and feel like a helpless kitten abandoned in the dark.  But if you believe God is who He says He is, then you will be invincible in faith before anything that comes your way.

Why?  Because everything follows faith!


Everything Follows Faith

Search your soul and ask yourself the following questions:

Do you really believe what the Scriptures say about God, life, His church, and you?
Do you really think it’s possible to learn how to hear His voice speak to you in a way that is unmistakable?
Do you believe you will ever experience an outpouring of His Spirit like what is revealed in Scripture during your lifetime?

Or let's hit a little closer to home.

Do you believe these statements are true?
Do you believe what God's Word proclaims is true as reality, and not necessarily what we see, feel, or hear?
How are you going to begin to change your life to live in His Kingdom and not in the world that is fallen and passing away?
And are you ready to begin today?

If you answer yes to the last question, you are just beginning the great adventure.  So hang on, it's going to be quite a ride!

The following is a study on Faith and Actions and focuses on Numbers 9 and 2 Kings 8.