Bible Study: The Holy Spirit Feeds and Leads

lightstock_402795_download_medium_user_247011

If you read Ephesians chapter 1, particularly verses 11-14, you’ll learn that Christians are…

FED by the Spirit

There are 3 things in particular the the Spirit “feeds” Christians. As you read Ephesians 1, you can see the independence and the intersection within the Trinity in regards to salvation. Thus, Christians are “fed”:

  • Salvation: All 3 Persons of the Trinity are involved in our salvation!
  • Security: “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13).
  • Inheritance: The Spirit of God is a “down payment” or “guarantee” of our inheritance.

LED by the Spirit

There are at least 2 ways in which Christians are led by the Spirit. This is seen early in Ephesians 1:3-5. They’re led:

  • In godliness: Jesus said, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:12-14).
  • In holiness: Peter reminds the church, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passion of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:14-16).

Whether it’s used for personal growth and maturity, or for a home Bible study, I hope that this brief outline is helpful to you.

Blessings,

Joe

Balance vs Seasons

pexels-photo-170750

Today, William Vanderbloemen, writing for Forbes.com, put out an article titled “There is No Such Thing as Work-Life Balance.” I felt vindicated. I felt satisfied. This is something that I’ve been proposing for a long, long time. In fact, I share the thought fairly regularly at New City Church, where I pastor. Whereas balance is based on an Eastern mysticism type of thinking, seasons, on the other hand, are biblical and an experiential reality. (Just read Ecclesiastes 3:1). There will inevitably be times in our lives when we’re working more (or less), when we’re playing more (or less), when we’re saving more (or less), when we’re spending more (or less), but these facts don’t necessarily mean we’re individuals who are out of balance. We are, in truth, just experiencing different seasons in our lives. There are a number of things that can lead to changes in season: marriage, parenthood, a career change, an injury or illness, even spiritual growth! The important this is this: in each and every season, God has a purpose for us…and it is for His glory and our ultimate good.

Anyway, I wanted to share the above article with you. I hope you find it interesting and helpful.

PS–Care to share what season you’re in???

Blessings,
Joe

Making Room for the Word

lightstock_112731_medium_user_247011

Acts 19 details Paul’s experience in the ancient city of Ephesus, the city after which the epistle is named. The Apostle Paul met a number of challenges while he was there, but he also witnessed God’s gracious work, in both miracles (Acts 19:11) and redemption (Acts 19:17). However, I want to focus on the conclusion of a specific event: the episode in which the redeemed Ephesians burned their books containing magic formulae and incantations, the sum of which, Luke records, amounted to 50,000 pieces of silver.

Following that event, something remarkable is stated. Luke writes, “So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.”

It isn’t accidental or without purpose that verse 20 (“So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily”) occurs immediately after the converted Ephesians burned their books. The consecutive nature of this text teaches us that, practically speaking, the Word of God flourishes and grows where room is made for it. With this in mind, let me as a few questions:

How much time do you spend watching television? Or Netflix? 

How much time do you spend messaging?

How much time do you spend having unnecessary conversations on the phone? 

How much time do you spend on apps (you can verify this by checking the battery usage under Settings)?

Where can you make cuts? Spend more time on Bible apps, like this one. Download a devotion, like this one for men or this one for women. It may cost you to make room for God’s Word in your life (it certainly cost the Ephesians!). But when we make room for God’s Word, the fruit and goodness that the Word brings always follow. My contention is that the Word of God will not grow in our lives, and the fruit of it will not appear, until we make room for it.

Blessings,

Joe

Praying and Journaling: The Perfect Pairing

lightstock_362437_download_medium_user_247011

I recently led a 2-part Bible study on the Spiritual Disciples. It was helpful and productive. Here, I want to share 2 disciplines in particular, because I believe they work extremely well together when one is trying to grow stronger in the disciplines. Personally, I’ve found that exercising the spiritual disciples in tandem helps immensely, because focusing on one particular discipline at a time can often become monotonous and boring.  The 2 that I’d like to recommend are prayer and journal writing. Here’s how it’s done.

First, find a journal you like. (For me, the journal is almost as important as the discipline itself. If you don’t like the journal, you won’t like the discipline.) Also, find a good pen or pencil, whichever you prefer, to keep with the journal for convenience’s sake. Name it. Date it. Keep loose notes tucked in the back fold. When finished, this journal will be a record of grace and providence.

Next, spend your prayer time writing out your prayers in the journal. This has a number of benefits. For one, you can think more clearly about what you’re praying. You also have a record, a record that you can conveniently return to, of what you’ve prayed for (and why). This will help you keep record of God’s answers, too (cf. Psalms 77:11-12; 116:1-2).

When we pray without journaling, we can become distracted and even forget what or who we should be praying for. Journaling helps keep our prayer life focused, disciplined, and orderly.

Finally, expand on your prayer time (as it’s being journaled) by praying in 4 distinct categories. They are:

  • supplication — this is a prayer of request, as in “let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6). We all “make the ask” with God, because He cares for us (Psalm 55:22). When we do, it’s called supplication.
  • intercession — this is a prayer made on behalf of someone else. When we pray for someone’s wisdom, health, or especially salvation we’re making intercession for them. Colossians 1:3 says, “We always thank God . . . when we pray for you” (italics added).
  • praise and adoration — this is a prayer that acknowledges the attributes and praiseworthiness of God. Sadly, this category of prayer often suffers, because we don’t know God as we ought. But the Bible tells us that He is good, holy, wise, and powerful. These are just a few attributes worth praising Him for.
  • thanksgiving — this, finally, is a category that speaks for itself–thanksgiving. It’s about expressing to God the gratitude that we have for our lives, our salvation, our forgiveness, our family, our friends, our employment, and the myriad of other things for which we should be thankful. “Bless the Lord, O my soul,” the Psalmist said, “and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2).

I hope that practicing these disciples in tandem helps you grow spiritually. For me, it’s a nonissue. I nearly always couple these 2 together, and it has helped me immensely. I hope that it helps you, too.

Blessings,

Joe

 

The Pastor and the Prophet Pt 2

calvin-company-of-pastors-manetsch-789x444-300x168

As was stated in Pt 1, there are similarities and differences between the two offices of pastor and prophet. In this second part, the differences will be further considered.

First, the office of pastor is unique, because, unlike the office of prophet which is primarily verbal in nature, the office of pastor is multifaceted: it’s verbal, it’s physical, it’s, in a word, soul work. Preaching the Word is merely one aspect of the work. A pastor is expected to meet numerous needs, and not only the need of an audience to hear the Word.

Second, the prophets had a national and cultural responsibility that led them to prophesy to the Israelites at large. “‘Comfort, comfort my people,’ says your God., ‘Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins'” (Isaiah 40:1-2). The pastors of the New Testament, however, are seemingly more focused on the local church and local cultural, which means that the church’s spiritual temperature is more important to a pastor than the nation’s. True, pastors are compelled to pray for all people, king’s included (“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior”). But a pastor’s first priority is not the nation in which he pastors but the church over which he holds his charge (2 Timothy 4:1-5).

These are just a couple of ways in which the offices of pastor and prophet differ. Each hold a unique and important role in the providence of God. And as such, we should be grateful to God for the prophets of old and the pastors of new.

Blessings,

Joe

The Pastor and the Prophet Pt 1

jesus-preaching.jpg

I find it more and more common today for people to either be ignorant of the pastoral office, the prophetic office, or the distinction between the two. True, the mistake may be made in naiveté, but nevertheless the distinction is overlooked and often untaught, and I personally think it’s to the harm and detriment of the church. Here are some thoughts, both on the definitions and the differences.

First, the pastor (who preaches a previously revealed Word) is not a prophet (who reveals a the Word originally), at least not in the technical sense of the word. True, many people use the word prophet in a diluted sense, to describe the job and function of the pastor. However, E. J. Young writes, “The prophets were recipients of Divine revelation and not merely religious leaders with gifted insight” (My Servants the Prophets, 153). Thus, a pastor preaches a previously revealed Word, and a prophet is the one who originally relayed the revelation from God. Both the Old and New Testament prophets received the Word of God directly from Him (examples are here and here), and subsequently spoke that word with introductory formulas indicating that the world they were speaking didn’t originate with them (see, e.g., Ezekiel 34:1 and Amos 5:4).

Next, the pastor and the prophet both have intended audiences, but they are and were quit different. Pastor’s preach to flocks of God’s people, local churches, whom they also care for on a day-to-day basis, while prophets were (essentially) entrusted with the responsibility of revealing God’s Word exclusively. Thus, the pastor’s work is far from done once he has finished preaching, but the prophet’s work is done once he has faithfully delivered God’s revelation. This brings the final point.

Finally, the pastor and the prophet do have this in common–the gauge by which God measures their work is faithfulness, not the acceptance of or popularity with the people to whom they are preaching.  Jeremiah, as they say, didn’t have one convert before Jerusalem’s capture and exile. Ezekiel was a prophet in the exile. Timothy didn’t receive respect as a pastor, because he was considered too young.

These offices will be further explored in part 2.

Blessings,

Joe

Don’t Make Resolutions. Set Goals.

creativecommons-andreasoverland

For 2017, I’m suggesting that you forget about the resolutions and, instead, set goals. Why? Well, I have 5 reasons goals are better than resolutions.

  1. Goals are specific. Resolutions tend to be general, with direction but no particulars. Goals are specific. For example, if you want to improve your health this year, don’t make the resolution to get fit. Set the goal of going to the gym 3 times per week. Want to read the Bible? Set the goal of reading John’s Gospel. (You can break it up into 3 7’s since it’s 21 chapters.)
  2. Goals are measurable. Whenever you set a goal, you’re setting a measurable thing, because you’re moving toward a definite end. So, if you want to gain 5 pounds of muscle, or if you want to read the Bible by December, you can track and measure your progress. That’s important to keep you moving forward toward your goal. Small victories are important!
  3. Goals are reasonable. Oftentimes, resolutions are just too abstract. Goals are simple: if you can’t attain them, then they’re not reasonable. The goals that you set shouldn’t sabotage your potential for progress. If you’re not a reader, for instance, don’t set the goal of reading the Bible in a weekend!
  4. Goals are God-glorifying. Whatever goal you set should aim at making you a better person, a better Christian. If not, then why set it? Jim Rohn once said, “Set the kind of goals that will make something of you to achieve them.” Check out 1 Corinthians 10:31Romans 14:23, and 2 Corinthians 8:21.
  5. Goals are reviewable. This last point is important, because we need to be able to review our goals while we progress…to know whether or not we’re on course, need an adjustment, or are doing poorly. Write down your goals, place them in your closet door, on your bathroom mirror, or your car’s dashboard, and review them regularly.

I hope this helps you achieve great goals in 2017.

Pastor Joe