Life Without Lack Original Audio Recordings – Dallas Willard

LWL

Dallas Willard’s original audio recordings from a church teaching series in 1991, which later became the book Life Without Lack, are now available on Dallas Willard’s resource website.  You can search for them here, or I have them linked down below.

Life Without Lack (8 part teaching series audio)

God in Himself, Part 1
God in Himself, Part 2
Why There Are People on Earth
Why Such Lack and Evil?
Trust in God: The Key to Life
Trust and Death to Self
Sufficiency Completed in Agape
Through One Day With Jesus

PDF Handout to accompany the teaching course

The audio quality isn’t the best, but it’s a wonderful resource to savor, especially for those who loved the book transcription.  Enjoy!

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Fall: A Season of Change

kristian-seedorff-149478-unsplash.jpg
I don’t know about you, but Fall is my favorite time of the year.

The colors of the trees, the smell in the air.

The weather, the food, the festivals, the Fall sports, the anticipation of the coming holidays, and for many kids, playing in the leaves.

When I was a young boy, I loved to play in the leaves. My grandma’s house was the best for playing.  She had dozens of huge mature trees with what seemed like millions of leaves.  My grandma would rake them up into a pile, then I would jump into it.

One fall, when I was four years old, I was at my grandma’s house and I was playing outside while she was doing yard work.  It was lunchtime, so, we went inside, leaving unfinished work outside, to return to. Afterward, we returned outside. Her raking. Me playing.

I ran out the door and dove into a leaf pile, but to my surprise, found myself face to face with a chipmunk. I bolted back to the house, scared and crying, saying: “Munk-munk, scary!”

A story I’m reminded of each Fall season.

Seasons have a way of sticking with us.

Maybe it’s because of the unique way they contribute to our year. With the outward seasons of nature we make preparations. When the weather gets cooler, we bring out our stored away clothes. We bring out certain decorations. We find certain meal recipes. These things trigger our memories making us thoughtful.

Similarly, in our spiritual lives, if we acknowledge that we are going through a change in season, we might be more reflective about the gifts and challenges of that season.

Fall is a time of year, that, for me, brings out the full range of emotion: anticipation, wonder, uncertainty and more. These feelings are stirred up because Fall is certainly a time of change. We see it all around us every day.

We see it when we see the daily transformations of our natural surroundings and we may start to consider our work, our relationships, and our future. The changes are beautiful and vibrant, arguably the most beautiful time of the year. But this coming season is also a sign of decay and death. When the leaves begin to fall, when the plants begin to shrivel, we are reminded of this fact.

A chapter is ending. Summer is over. Time is passing. We are another year older.

The fact remains, we cannot stop or reverse the change of our seasons. God put nature into motion, and each year, around this time, a great symphony erupts all around us. Every living creature is busy in preparation for the changes to come. From the smallest insect, to the largest mammal, every single living thing is suddenly aware that we are in for dramatic changes in how we go about our daily lives.

For many of us, there is also profound nostalgia in the Fall season. Fall ushers in,
Some of the most socially significant American holidays, like Halloween and Thanksgiving; as well as leading us into the coming Christmas season. These holidays connect us to memories going all the way back to our childhoods. Reminding us of growing up.

You might already know, but biologically, the changing colors of the autumn leaves are actually the leaves reverting to their original hue, as their chlorophyll is gradually blocked. The trees pull energy inward for the coming Winter, and we get to witness their vibrant true colors.

This season, let’s do the same thing. Let’s focus our energy on God. Let’s let our true colors show bright.

Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV) says:
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Maybe, lately in our lives we’ve been just blending in with the world around us. Let this Fall, be a season of change, a time for our true colors to shine through. A time to shed our lives of our selfishness and our personal desires. Like the trees preparing for winter, may we draw inward toward God, and closer to Him in all aspects of our lives.

Let’s let the fruits if our relationship with God become evident in the lives of those around us.

Galatians 5:22-25 (ESV) says:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

I mentioned earlier that in our spiritual lives if we acknowledge that we are going through a change in season then we might be more aware of some of the things that need attention. I hope that this autumn, this Fall, can be more than just a season of transformation, but a time and season of spiritual transformation. A time to grow closer to Jesus.

Let me leave you with this Scripture.

Titus 2:11-14 (ESV) says:
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,
12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,
13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

The Road Ahead: Reignite (Sermon)

The Road Ahead Title Reignite

The Road Ahead (Reignite)
Preached at Williamstown Christian Church on August 21st 2016
(Sorry for the odd formatting, but this is how I write my manuscript sermons)

Tonight is the closing ceremony,
For the 2016 Olympic games in Rio.

As you might expect tonight,
The closing ceremony,
Typically concludes with,
The extinguishing,
Of the flame.

(Pause)

The flame in the cauldron,
In the Olympic stadium,
Is typically the most recognized symbol,
Of the Olympics,
Outside of the Olympic rings.

This dates back to the games of ancient Greece,
When athletes competed in a relay race,
Passing a torch to one another.

Until the last runner,
Would sprint to the top of the stadium,
And light the flame,
To signal the beginning of the competition.

For many years, however,
There was no flame.

But it was officially reignited in 1928,
And the idea of the marathon relay,
Where runners would once again carry the torch,
Was revived in 1936 for the Berlin Games.

The relay began,
In ancient Olympia,
And ended in Berlin,
After passing through seven countries,
And covering some 2000 miles.

From 1936 and on,
The Olympic Torch Relay,
Has remained an important part of the Olympic tradition.

The flame carries a message,
As it passes through each town,
City and village.

It announces that the games are about to begin.
It embodies and spreads the ideals of the Olympics.
It spread the word and excites the people.

(Pause)

You know…
God has handed to each of us a torch,
To bear for Him.

That torch is the light of the Gospel,
The knowledge of God and His ways,
And the very Word of God.

It is put into our hands and our hearts,
And the fire is ignited,
So that we may burn as lights,
In a sin darkened world.

Each of us are to let our light shine,
So that all can see Jesus.

Each of us are to pass on our torch,
And keep the marathon going.

To keep the fire burning,
So that those down The Road Ahead,
Can come to know Christ.

(Pause)

For some of us this morning,
Our fires are lit,
Burning bright and hot.

For others of us,
Our fires are smoldering,
Or have even gone out.

Extinguished,
For one reason or another.

Or simply died out,
Because of lack of fuel,
Or neglect,
Or whatnot.

(Pause)

This morning,
I want to encourage you,
To Reignite.

To rekindle,
The fire you once had,
In your Christian walk.

To regenerate,
The passion to serve,
To share,
To worship,
And to love,
All in the name of Christ.

With the goal,
Of starting a fire so great,
That it lasts for generations to come.

(Pause)

Two weeks ago,
We started a new series:
The Road Ahead.

During this series,
We considered the question:
“What is to come on The Road Ahead?”

And to answer that,
I suggested three things,
That we, as a church, must do.

Three objectives,
That will ensure The Road Ahead,
Meets our goals, hopes, and predictions,
And especially meets God’s will for this church.

As we currently face uncertainty,
The future may be unknown,
But proper action now,
Will ensure it arrives in the right location years from now.

So, on The Road Ahead,
And for those of you who missed the past two weeks,
Or for those of you who need a refresher,
This is what we explored:
We must first Regroup.

To Regroup:
“For us to stop and pray,
And prepare ourselves spiritually,
Before we continue doing something.
To stop and seek God’s will,
Reorganize before continuing on.”

Last week,
We explored that we must have Resolve.

To decide firmly on our course,
Or a firm determination to do something.

Our determination for this church,
Going forward, is that:
We “Resolve that we seek to know Christ more deeply.”

And this morning,
In our final point for this series,
We’ll see the need for us to Reignite.

Reignite our passion for Christ,
Our passion for our church body,
And our passion for the community.

(Pause)

Next week,
We’ll have a one-week,
Stand-alone message,
About the importance,
Of the Word of God in our daily lives.

(Pause)

Last week,
We quickly touched upon a verse,
That I want to come back to,
This morning.

2 Timothy 1:6-7 (ESV)
6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,
7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

In case you don’t remember,
Here we have Paul,
Writing to Timothy,
Encouraging him.

In this letter,
We gain insight,
That many have possibly abandoned Paul,
During his difficult circumstances,
In prison, in Rome.

Timothy,
Has obviously maintained his friendship,
And is pressing on,
As a leader in the early church.

(Pause)

Paul’s second letter to Timothy,
Is great,
For a number of reasons,
But mostly because,
Of how personal it is.

It was written just before Paul’s execution,
And as any of us would do,
If we were writing to a close friend,
Facing imminent death,
We would try to say,
Everything we need to say.

In this letter,
Paul is essentially telling Timothy,
To follow in his footsteps.
To continue down the same road.

Paul recognizes Timothy’s potential,
And his huge faith,
So he takes this opportunity,
To encourage,
To inspire into action,
To push Timothy to Reignite.

(Pause)

The Greek word in verse 6,
Translated as “fan into flame”,
Is Anazópureó (an-ad-zo-poor-eh’-o).
That literally means to Reignite.

To fan a fire.
To stir up a fire.
To rekindle a fire.
To reignite a fire.

Paul wants Timothy to keep the fire going.

You should know,
There is no suggestion,
In the original language,
That Timothy’s fire necessarily went out.

However,
Like any Christian,
Any human being,
We all need an incentive,
To keep things going full force.

So, then what is our incentive?
What keeps us motivated?

The unknown writer of Hebrews, says:

Hebrews 10:23-25 (ESV)
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Church,
It’s us,
Who keep each other motivated,
Who keep each other on fire,
To an extent.

Edification.

Our elder John Brill,
Spoke of edification during Lord’s Supper,
Weeks ago.

Building each other up.
Stirring each other along.
Encouraging one another.
Reigniting our flame for Christ.

(Pause)

Yes, we must certainly,
Devote daily,
Personal time,
To Christ individually.
That’s a given.

But when we walk through these doors,
This is our time to,
Develop each other in spirit,
Build each other up in service,
Saturate each other in love and support.
“Fan each other’s flames”

The final step,
To assure that The Road Ahead,
Will foster a promising future,
For Williamstown Christian Church,
Is to Reignite.

To reignite our faith.
To reignite our passion.
To reignite our love.

During times like these,
Times of uncertainty,
Times of change,
The motivation declines.

It becomes easy,
To fret about the future,
And forget the past.

But I’m asking you to remember,
Why you’re here.

Remember,
The successes,
The victories,
The accomplishments,
The good memories,
That you’ve had here at Williamstown Christian.

(Pause)

Earlier when we read in 2nd Timothy,
Paul didn’t say,
“Gain new gifts”,
Or “start a new fire”.

No, he said:
Fan into flame,
The gift you already have!

Reignite!
Reignite the original fire!
Reignite the original passion!
Utilize your great devotion,
Employ your intense conviction,
And use it to fuel action,
Here in the church,
And at home,
And in the community.

Hebrews 3:13-14 (ESV)
13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

Exhort one another every day.
Hold our original confidence.

The successes of the past,
The victories of the past,
The accomplishments of the past,
The good memories of the past,
That I spoke of earlier.

Hold them,
Use them,
But, don’t sit on them.

Use them as fuel for the future. (Pause)

I’m concerned,
That too many Christians,
Live in their past purpose,
Instead of creating a present purpose,
For their lives!

May I suggest to you,
That God is not as concerned,
About our past purpose,
As you and I might be!

Are we still living off the old victories,
And old successes,
Instead of using them,
To fuel the future?

We might to saying:
“Well, we used to do this…”
“We used to do that…”

But what I we doing now?
Today?

Listen, people burn out,
And eventually passion fades out,
Because of no current purpose,
No current resolve.

If we are going to be a distinctive church,
In our community,
In Grant County,
We must Reignite.

So, then,
Beyond the encouragement,
Beyond the edification,
Of our fellow believer,
What does that mean?

As a church,
We must have:
Compassion for the hurting.

We must be:
Unashamed of Biblical truth.

We must make:
Relationships a priority.

And we must have:
Authentic worship of God.

Church,
Purpose creates passion for God!

No purpose, no passion!
No passion, no future!

So, Reignite your passion!

Is your Christianity diluted,
Derailed,
Or dismal?

Do others see your Christianity as dry,
Dull,
Or dead?

Then I encourage you to Reignite!

(Pause)

Most of you may know already,
But I came to Christ while in high school.

My best friend,
Was responsible for inviting me to church,
And was ultimately,
The one who baptized me.

Now, shortly after my baptism,
His family went through some tough times.

His parents divorced,
And his mother was now a single parent,
To 4 teenagers.

(Pause)

My best friend’s parents,
Had married young,
And had to make sacrifices early on.

My friend’s mom,
Had actually quit going to college,
Putting herself aside,
So her husband could pursue his business dreams,
While she stayed home with the kids.

Now, recently divorced,
And with him out of the picture,
She had to make a choice.

She chose to Reignite.

First, she ignited the newfound responsibility,
Of providing for her family.

Then…
She reignited her dreams of school.
She reignited her dreams of a career.
She reignited her passion within.

In a short time,
She was finishing up,
A degree in nursing,
And pursuing a job she loves.

All at the same time,
Caring for,
And providing for her children at home.

When life became a mess,
When everything seemed to be falling apart,
When it seemed like the future was bleak…

She reignited her personal passion.
She reignited her broken family.
And ultimately,
Reignited the strong woman within.

Years ago, as a newlywed,
Is this what she planned on the Road Ahead?

Absolutely not.

But what makes us successful,
As individuals,
And as a church,
Is the ability to properly handle,
Incoming struggles,
Unexpected results,
And so on.

(Pause)

At this point,
You might be asking: How?
You might be asking: What does that look like?

Well, I think Paul gives a great description,
Of what a Christian,
Who is on fire for Christ,
Looks like.

Romans 12:9-18 (ESV)
9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

In verse 11,
The word fervent.
Literally means,
“Boiling”.

Paul says:
Don’t be slothful,
Don’t be lazy,
Instead, be so on fire for Christ,
That you’re boiling over in spirit.

Spilling out, onto the people around you.

(Pause)

Let’s Reignite our passion for Christ,
Our passion for our church body,
And our passion for the community.

So much so,
That we’re boiling over.

(Pause)

It’s not easy.

It takes faith
It takes work,
It takes encouragement.

But I believe,
It’s a step that must be taken,
As a church,
And as individuals,
In order to pass our torches,
Our faith, our fire,
Into the future,
Down The Road Ahead.

(Pause)

But maybe you’ve never accepted Christ.

You cannot reignite,
Something that’s never been ignited,
In the first place.

Maybe you’ve never known the life-changing Savior,
Who asks you into a fellowship with Him.

Is He tugging at your heart this morning?

Romans 10:8-13 (ESV)
8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);
9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.
13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

The Lord Himself,
Offers eternity with Him,
Beginning the very moment,
You submit to Him…

The decision is yours this morning.

If you claim Jesus Christ as Savior,
Declaring Him as Lord,
Will you please come forward now?

The Road Ahead: Resolve (Sermon)

The Road Ahead Title Resolve

The Road Ahead (Resolve)
Preached at Williamstown Christian Church on August 14th 2016
(Sorry for the odd formatting, but this is how I write my manuscript sermons)

How many of you have one of these at home?
(Hold up a honey bear)

This twelve-ounce jar of goodness,
Exists here today,
Only because tens of thousands of bees,
Flew some 100,000 miles,
In a relentless pursuit of nectar,
Gathered from millions of flowers.

Every one of those foraging bees have Resolve.

By the time each died —
Living all of around 6 weeks,
During honey-making season —
They had flown about 500 miles in 20 days,
Outside the hive.

As these bees were flying themselves,
Literally to death,
Production inside the hive continues,
With amazing efficiency.

A bee brings nectar to the hive,
Carried in their “honey stomach.”

As that bee enters the hive,
It is then greeted by a younger,
Receiver bee,
Who helps relieve them of their load.

A receiver bee deposits nectar into a cell,
Reducing its water content,
And raising its sugar level,
By fanning it with their wings,
And regurgitating it up to 200 times,
Killing microbes along the way.

More bees surround this cell,
And fan them with their wings 25,000 times or so,
Turning nectar into honey.

When the honey is ripe,
Wax specialist bees arrive to cap off the cells.

And that is how every single ounce
Of every single pure honey bear jar in the world —
Hundreds of thousands of them —
Is brought into being.

Every ounce,
Every drop,
Every bit of that amazing honey,
Is the result of a bee’s life of Resolve.

(Pause)

Last week,
We started a new series,
The Road Ahead.

During this series,
We are considering the question:
“What is to come on The Road Ahead?”

And to answer that,
I am suggesting three things,
That we, as a church, must do.

Three objectives,
That will ensure The Road Ahead,
Meets our goals, hopes, and predictions,
And especially meets God’s will for this church.

As we currently face uncertainty,
The future may be unknown,
But proper action now,
Will ensure it arrives in the right location years from now.

So, on The Road Ahead,
And for those of you who missed last week,
This is what we explored:
We must first Regroup.

To Regroup:
“For us to stop and pray,
And prepare ourselves spiritually,
Before we continue doing something.
To stop and seek God’s will,
Reorganize before continuing on.”

This morning,
We’ll explore that we must have Resolve.

To decide firmly on our course,
Or a firm determination to do something.

Next week,
We’ll see the need for us to Reignite.

Reignite our passion for Christ,
Our passion for our church body,
And our passion for the community.

(Pause)

Are you ready?
Alright, let’s get to it.

On The Road Ahead,
As Williamstown Christian Church,
We must Regroup,
And hopefully you’ve had some time to do that this week,
But now, secondly,
We must also have Resolve.

To have Resolve,
Means that we must,
Decide firmly on our course,
Or have a firm determination to do something.

As a church,
As we look toward the future,
Down The Road Ahead,
There must to be a goal.
There must to be a plan.

(Pause)

What I would like to do,
This morning,
Is suggest one course of Resolve,
For our spiritual lives;
As a church,
And as individuals.

One course of action that each of us,
As followers of Jesus Christ,
Ought to continue to do.

Or for those of us,
Who still are on the fence about the whole thing,
Something to seek out,
And begin doing in our lives.

If we would actually,
Whole-heartedly,
Make and keep just this Resolve,
It would transform our lives,
And revolutionize this church.

Right now,
And also into the future, on The Road Ahead.

Are you ready?

I Resolve that we seek to know Christ more deeply. (REPEAT)

Right now,
In light of our current situation,
In light of the changes we’re experiencing.

My resolve is NOT:
That our attendance would grow dramatically.

My resolve is NOT:
That our offerings would increase.

My resolve is NOT:
That someone would donate a large chunk of money,
For our elevator project.

My resolve is NOT:
That we would get more volunteers than we could handle,
For our children’s ministry.

Although all of those things,
Would be nice…

My one hope would be that every member of this church,
And every visitor who visits,
And every seeker who gives us a try,
Would come to know God,
More personally and intimately than ever before.

Why?
Because next to knowing God,
Nothing else matters.

That must be our Resolve,
As a church,
And as individuals.

(Pause)

While in prison,
The Apostle Paul writes:

Philippians 3:7-11 (ESV) says:
7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Paul went through an amazing conversion experience.

Christ Himself,
Literally knocked Paul to the ground,
Changing his life completely.

Paul gave up everything.

What was the “everything” he lost?
Everything that he gave up?

By following Christ,
He lost his social standing,
His reputation,
The prestige of his high position.

No more banquets,
No more respectful greetings.

He went from being on top,
To being absolutely at the bottom –
Viewed by everyone he had known,
As a traitor to his religion,
And his people.

He was hated,
Persecuted,
Beaten,
Stoned,
Driven out of one town after another.

He lost his vocation –
Unable to earn a living by teaching,
He made tents for a living.

He owned no property,
Had no permanent place of residence,
No wife or children.

He was often deprived of his freedom in jail,
And his physical safety was constantly at risk.

And here he is,
Sitting in prison,
Writing this letter to the church at Philippi,
Telling them that his past life,
Was garbage,
Compared to life in Christ.

Paul had time to Regroup.
Paul had time to count the cost.
Paul considered the consequences.

And in such language,
That I would not be able to use here in church…

Paul compares, here in verse 8,
His previous esteemed life,
To human waste and/or revolting garbage.

Which many scholars believe,
He’s using a strong, possibly even vulgar word for it.

Rubbish.
The translation does no justice.
But we hopefully get the point.

As we explored last week,
We need to take some time,
Regroup,
Cost the cost.

And after we have,
Hopefully we come to the realization,
That giving it all up:
The desires of our hearts,
The praise of others,
The riches of this world,
Is well worth it.

Because nothing compares,
Nothing even comes close,
All else is “rubbish”,
Compared to a life with Christ.

(Pause)

So once we’ve had that opportunity,
To Regroup,
To reflect back,
To count the cost,
It’s time to move ahead,
With Resolve.

Philippians 3:12-20 (ESV) says:
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,
14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.
16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us.
18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.
19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Like the worker bees we discussed earlier,
Paul’s one mission,
His goal,
His purpose in life,
Was the fullness of his relationship with Christ.

His eyes were fixed.
His mind was focused.

His Resolve,
His determination in life,
Was to know Christ deeply,
Until that day of perfect fellowship for eternity.

(Pause)

If our Resolve,
Is to know Christ more deeply,
Then what does that look like,
For us as a church,
And for us individually?

Well, in the verse we just read,
Paul uses some pretty strong action words.

“Press on.”
“Straining forward.”

When I read straining forward,
I think of a runner,
Or a racehorse,
Straining ahead at the finish line.

But since no one in this room,
Has reached the finish line yet,
We’re all still in the race.

As a church,
We’re pressing on,
Moving forward.

We must Resolve,
To be the beckon of light in this community.
The example of Christ throughout Grant County.

We may have our eyes fixed on Heaven,
But we’re not just sitting here – waiting for it.

Paul urges us,
Christ urges us,
Through the Scripture we just read,
To take action,
To find determination,
To have Resolve for the Kingdom of Heaven.

Paul was NOT knocked down,
And blinded on the Damascus Road,
For him to remain dormant the rest of his years.

No,
After a period of Regroup,
Paul took hold of his mission,
And lived a life of Resolve.

From that point on,
Seeking Christ with all of his heart,
And sharing that conviction with others.

Paul was never complacent.
Paul was never content.
Paul was never satisfied.

And neither should we.

(Pause)

Almost three years ago,
When Liam was 2,
He decided it would be fun,
To run around the house.

Now, previous to running around,
He had been looking at books,
While sitting on the floor.

Needless to say,
He didn’t clean up the books first.

Unfortunately,
Liam chose to step on a book,
While running,
Which caused him to slip and fall.

He landed awkwardly,
With one of his legs trapped under him,
And cried out in pain.

He cried for longer than a typical fall,
And refused to put any weight,
On his leg.

We took him to the hospital,
And realized he had a tiny fracture.

Liam was given a cast,
And told he needed a month or so to heal.

(Pause)

Now, don’t get me wrong,
I love my son,
But he can be a bit dramatic.

The entire time he was in a cast,
He refused to walk.

Okay, that’s fine,
I understand that.

But he also refused to crawl.

He just sat.
He had no Resolve to try.
He was scared to give anything a chance.

(Pause)

The time came to get the cast removed,
And Keri and I were so happy,
To finally have Liam walk again.

The doctor removed the cast,
And guess what,
Liam still refused to walk.
Refused to stand.

His fear of the pain,
That he remembered from the accident,
Crippled him from moving forward,
Erased his Resolve to walk.

(Pause)

Church,
This is why Resolve is an important,
Next step,
On The Road Ahead.

Because it’s easy,
In times of change,
To be afraid of the next step.

It’s difficult,
In times of change,
To move ahead,
Because of the fear of what’s to come.

It’s tough,
To step out in faith,
Because we fear the stinging pain,
That we might have experienced,
During times of failure,
Defeat,
Temptation,
Or what have you.

2 Timothy 1:6-9 (ESV) says:
6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,
7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God,
9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

We can step out unashamed.
We can step out with boldness.

We have a purpose as a church.
We have been given a holy calling.
We have been given Resolve.

Christ Himself,
Has focused our determination,
Has set firm, the course of our action.

As Williamstown Christian Church,
Our Resolve,
Is laid out clearly in Matthew 28.

Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

More action words:
Go!

Go make disciples.
Go tell others.
Go share your faith.

As a corporate body,
We must have the Resolve,
To share Christ Jesus,
In everything we do here.

It must be evident.

Evident in our service.
Evident in our finances.
Evident in our programs.
Evident in our outreach.
Evident in ALL that we do.

If Williamstown Christian Church,
Is going to faithfully serve Christ,
And follow His commission,
Years from now,
On The Road Ahead,
We must never steer off this course.

Everything we do as a church,
Must ultimately come back,
To making disciples.

Sharing the gospel of Jesus.

(Pause)

As individual believers,
The goals are similar.

However,
It’s important that you seek Christ,
Personally,
Daily,
And with your own heart.

If the only time you seek Christ,
Is on Sunday morning,
Here at church,
Then we need to change that.

If that’s you,
And you do want more,
Then I ask you to commit,
To the Resolve that I presented earlier.

The determination,
To seek Christ more deeply,
In your daily lives.

In prayer,
In fasting,
In service,
In reading the Bible,
In worship and praise.

Whatever works best for you,
To simply restart,
Your passion for Christ.

To get back on track.
To reenergize.

Ultimately,
And the focus of next week,
To Reignite.

I urge you individually,
And us as a body of believers,
To never be content,
To never slack,
To never plateau.

I want to encourage you this morning,
To press on,
Strain forward,
Grow stronger in your relationship with Christ.

Maybe you’ve been a Christian for years.

Let’s find refreshing ways to seek after Christ.
Let’s realign our beliefs with our actions.
Let’s recapture our spiritual disciplines.
Let’s gain some Resolve.

Again,
I Resolve that we seek to know Christ more deeply. (REPEAT)

If you agree with that,
Will you repeat that with me?

(I Resolve that we seek to know Christ more deeply.)

But maybe you’ve never accepted Christ.
Maybe you’ve never known the life-changing Savior,
Who asks you into a fellowship with Him.

Jesus says in Revelation 3:20-21 (ESV) says:
20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.

A promise greater than all others,
Has been offered to you.

The Lord Himself,
Offers eternity with Him,
Beginning the very moment,
You submit to Him…

With the fullness to come,
In time,
In Heaven.

Jesus is knocking.
Will you answer?

The decision is yours this morning.

If you claim Christ as Savior,
Declaring Him as Lord of your Life,
Will you please come forward now?

 

The Road Ahead: Regroup (Sermon)

The Road Ahead Title Regroup.jpg

The Road Ahead (Regroup)
Preached at Williamstown Christian Church on August 7th 2016
(Sorry for the odd formatting, but this is how I write my manuscript sermons)

While in school,
Back in 1998,
I was given an assignment,
To pick any book, (Within reason)
Read it,
And write a paper on it.

Since I was a bit of a sci-fi nerd,
When it came to movies and reading,
I chose 2001: A Space Odyssey.

I read the book,
Enjoyed it,
And got an A on my paper.

What made the book,
And the movie,
So good,
Especially back in 1968, when they both came out,
Was their realism.

Its ability to actually look like the future.

And oddly enough,
Its ability to actually be right in many areas.

Not to sound too nerdy, but,
Many of the world’s greatest creations,
Have been foretold by science fiction.

Everything from submarines to space travel,
Have been predicted by sci-fi authors,
But few writers have reached the level of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

A few of the things predicted that came true include:
-Digital screens and readouts
-Tablet computers or iPads
-In flight personal TV screens in the back of seats
-Robotic space exploration
-Skype/Facetime (or other video phones)
-Space stations
-And space tourism companies (though not commonplace yet)

The amount that 2001: A Space Odyssey predicted is rare.
It doesn’t happen often.

But the authors of 2001,
Went above and beyond,
In research and planning,
To properly predict the future of technology.

(Pause)

For most of us,
It’s difficult to figure out the future,
It’s tough to know what tomorrow might bring.

It’s close to impossible to see how things are going to be,
10, 20, or 30 years from now.
But we do wonder.
And we still must plan for it.
And plan it well.

Usually about the time one graduates high school they wonder,
“What does the future hold for me?”

A couple who comes home with a new baby wonders,
“What does the future hold for our child?”

Those who are older,
Facing life-changing decisions,
Also wonder: “What does the future hold for me?”

And here we all sit, this morning, wondering,
On our first Sunday without Gary,
Our first Sunday without a senior minister:
“What does the future hold for Williamstown Christian Church?”

Hebrews 11:1 (ESV) says:
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

We have hope for the future.
We have conviction for the future.

But to us,
Here in the present,
The future is largely unknown.

The unknown can be scary.
The unknown can be stressful.
The unknown can also be exciting.
The unknown can be awakening.

Williamstown Christian Church has stepped out into the unknown.

When ministers move to different churches,
When major changes occur in a church,
Our familiarity gets shaken up,
The routine gets broken.

We naturally wonder: “What’s the future here going to look like?”

So for the next three weeks,
I would like us to consider the question:
“What is to come on The Road Ahead?”

And to answer that,
I’m going to suggest three things,
That we, as a church, must do.

Three objectives,
That will ensure The Road Ahead,
Meets our goals, hopes, and predictions,
And especially meets God’s will for this church.

The future may be unknown,
But proper action now,
Will ensure it arrives in the right location years from now.

(Pause)

The Road Ahead
Each of the three weeks of this series,
We will deal with just one,
Of the three actions we need to take,
In light of our current situation as a church.

Let me quickly lay out all three,
Then we will focus on the first one this morning.

And because I’m weird like that,
They all start with the letter “R”.

On The Road Ahead,
And the point we’ll explore today,
We must first Regroup.

Next week,
We’ll explore that we must Resolve.

To decide firmly on our course,
Or a firm determination to do something.

And finally,
Two weeks from now,
We’ll see the need for us to Reignite.

Reignite our passion for Christ,
Our passion for our church body,
And our passion for the community.

So, hopefully,
By the end of August,
We’ll have a firm grasp of our direction,
And strongly press on toward the future,
As we plan to move ahead as Williamstown Christian Church.

Let me go back to all those “R” words for a moment,
You might be thinking,
That’s not that creative,
They’re all simply “Re” words.

Yes, you are correct,
They all begin with the prefix: “Re”.

By using that prefix,
It signifies that whatever word follows,
Is something that is to be done again.

So, ultimately,
All three of our series points,
Are things we’ve done before,
But now that we’re facing change,
We’re going to start doing them again.

(Pause)

Alright, let’s get to it.

From what I’ve read,
Williamstown Christian Church,
Has existed since around 1827.

In the past 189 years,
God has been working through our church.

We’ve had multiple buildings since then,
And the one we’re currently sitting in,
Was built in 1923 for 30 thousand dollars.

We’ve had at least 40 different ministers over the years.

And although the current departure is fresh,
We still press on,
We still plan for the future.

You might be sad.
You might be mad.
You might be glad.
You might be thinking about attending another church.
You might have a world of feelings right now.
That’s okay.

But I’m here this morning to say:
We’re in this together.

God is at work in this situation.
He has a plan.

Will I be your next senior minister?
I don’t know.

But while I have the opportunity,
To present God’s word to you each Sunday,
I am going to be genuine and upfront with you.

I don’t plan on holding back…
I’m not going to preach “filler messages”.

My plan is to follow God’s leading,
And preach according to His guidance.

Because although we’re experiencing change,
We still need to move ahead,
Strong and laser-focused.

So for me to simply “prepare a message”
Without a relevant, Biblical issue,
That we are currently facing as a congregation,
Would be a disservice to all of us.

But a huge part of our focus,
These next couple months,
Need to be getting back to the basics.

Back to what Barton Stone envisioned,
As he rolled into Grant County back in 1827.

Perfecting what we’re good at,
Here at Williamstown Christian Church.

Evaluating ourselves,
As we set goals and plans for the future.

But before we move forward,
What do we need to do?

(Pause)

To get where we’re planning on The Road Ahead,
We must first Regroup.

A simple definition would be:

“For us to stop for a short time,
And prepare ourselves before we continue doing something.
To stop and think,
Reorganize before continuing on.”

From our perspective as a church,
Our definition would look more like:

“For us to stop and pray,
And prepare ourselves spiritually,
Before we continue doing something.
To stop and seek God’s will,
Reorganize before continuing on.”

During this time of change,
The best way for us to Regroup for the future,
Is to seek God’s will.

Corporately,
As a church,
And individually,
Each one of you.

With everything up in the air right now,
Now is the perfect time for us,
To get back to the basics.

To Regroup,
To wait a minute,
To call a timeout.

To organize our thoughts,
To organize our mission,
To align what we believe,
With what we are doing,
Here as a church.

The problem with change, sometimes,
Is that we get so bogged down,
That we let our head get ahead of our feet,
Or our feet ahead of our heads,
And we end up slipping and tripping,
In areas we shouldn’t.

(Pause)

Years ago,
When Keri and I moved into our first house,
I was hanging new doors,
In all of the bedrooms.

To keep a long story short,
Let’s just say I had to make an extra trip,
To Lowe’s that afternoon.

I learned the hard way,
“Measure twice, cut once.”

I had so many different projects,
Everything going at the same time,
That I didn’t take the time,
To make sure my measurements were correct.

“Measure twice, cut once.”

Regroup.
Take a moment,
To make assure we’re all going the same direction.

Make sure we have a clear cut mission.
Make sure we have everything right inside,
Before we take it outside.
We need to make sure our priorities are straight,
Before we move forward,
Toward The Road Ahead.

Luke 14:27-32 (ESV) says:
27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?
29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,
30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’
31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?
32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.

Here we have Jesus doing something,
That He does quite often:
Using two parables back to back,
Twin parables,
To explain a concept,
And really drive the point home.

These two parables,
One about building,
And another about going to war,
Both speak on discipleship.

But not only discipleship,
But also,
And the reason I am using this, this morning,
Perseverance.

If we, as a church,
Are to persevere,
Into the future,
Onto The Road Ahead,
We must take some time to count the cost,
Organize our plans,
Set some goals,
Regroup.

Counting the cost is important.

In verse 29,
Imagine the mockery,
That Jesus mentions,
You would receive from your neighbors,
If you were to begin building a tower,
A Greek word used for,
A watch tower or a Farm building,
Only to run out of money after the foundation was built.

“This man began to build and was not able to finish.”

(Pause)

Is everyone aware,
That there is a Subway underneath Cincinnati?

No, not the sandwich shop,
An underground train system!

The underground subway system was started,
And half built,
During the 1920’s.

Unfortunately, it was a casualty,
Of The Great Depression.

Today I’m told that you can visit the unused tunnels,
To witness for yourself,
What had been described for many years as:
‘One of the city’s biggest embarrassments’.

(Pause)

A quick Google search,
And you can find example after example,
Of buildings and projects,
That were started,
Worldwide,
But never were seen to completion.

All of them made a mockery,
Just like Jesus’ parable.

(Pause)

Church,
That cannot happen here.

If someone were to invent a time machine,
And I was to show up 50 years from now,
It’s my hope and prayer,
That Williamstown Christian Church,
Is still alive and well,
Making disciples for Christ,
On The Road Ahead.

(Pause)

Jesus’ second parable,
That drives this same point home,
Involves a king,
And his preparation for battle.

Have you ever heard the quote:
“Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.”

It simply means:
To enter into a confrontation,
Or other challenging situation,
Without being adequately equipped or prepared.

The king in Jesus’ parable is met by an opposing king,
Who has double the amount of men.

This king obviously needs to retreat,
Regroup.

Jesus says that a wise king must:
“Sit down first and deliberate whether he is able.”

A king in such a situation,
Must think hard.

Must consult advisors,
Consult experts,
Count his costs.

If he cannot see his way through the problem,
He must arrange for another option,
While the opposing force is “a great way off”,
Which Jesus reveals in verse 32:
Is arranging a peace treaty.

(Pause)

I believe that the lesson here is clear.

And I believe it’s two-fold.
For us as a church.
And for you individually.

Whether you’re a follower of Christ,
Or you’re not yet a Christian.

Let me address the church first.

As we look toward The Road Ahead,
We must take careful,
Yet concise steps,
Toward leading this church into the future.

You and I,
Have the ability,
To either point it in the right direction,
Or lead it astray.

I’ve witnessed churches,
Close their doors for good,
Because of poor decision made,
In their pasts.

We must take this opportunity before us,
And Regroup.

To stop and pray,
To prepare ourselves spiritually,
To stop and seek God’s will,
To reorganize before continuing on,
To count the cost.

Fortunately,
Your leaders here,
Your elders,
Your deacons, etc.
Are doing just that.

And if one of you, who I just listed, is listening,
And you’re not,
Then please start.

(Pause)

Now for you,
The individual,
Sitting here this morning.

Jesus’ parable is speaking to you too.

Jesus wants disciples.
Jesus wants you to follow Him.

However,
Jesus does not half-hearted disciples,
Half-hearted followers.

Jesus wants all of you.

Let’s quickly look at the verse,
That preceded our parables from earlier.

Luke 14:26-27 (ESV) says:
26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

Woah!
Hold on a second Jesus!
Hate my father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters,
And even my own life?!

While some of those might be easier than others (JOKE),
Calm down,
That’s not exactly what that means.

There is no literal hatred,
Anywhere in Jesus’ teaching, None!

So rid that from your minds completely.

Jesus’ meaning,
In the purest sense of the original language,
Is that the love you have for Christ,
Is beyond comparison to earthly love.

Your devotion to Christ,
Must be whole hearted.

Christianity is not church attendance.
Christianity is not periodic volunteer work.
Christianity is not simply “being a good person”.

Christianity is being wholly devoted to Christ.
Following His commands.
Fully loving Him,
And fully loving EVERYONE too.

Jesus listed our nearest and dearest,
In our families,
To compare to our love of Him,
For a reason.

Because it’s no joke,
How much we need to devote to Him.

Everything.

And if this morning,
You’re sitting here,
Half-hearted,
Lackadaisical,
Or just checking the box on the attendance roster,
I’m asking you to take some time to Regroup.

Take some time this week,
To seek after God’s own heart.

Take some time this week,
To spend alone in prayer.

Take some time this week,
To count the cost of discipleship.

The Road Ahead may seem far off,
But the future will be here and now,
In the blink of an eye.

Now, Luke close this section of parables with Jesus’ words.

Luke 14:33 (ESV) says:
33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Ill-considered,
Faint-hearted attachments,
And fake relationships,
Are worthless.

Why?

Because they’re not the real thing.

Jesus isn’t trying to scare anyone with condemnation here.

Rather,
He invites you this morning,
Into the exhilaration of whole-hearted,
Full-blooded,
All-out,
Life-giving discipleship.

And that’s what I want in this church.

Pews full of passionate,
Zealous,
Enthusiastic,
All-out-crazy-for-Jesus,
Christians!

I want that now,
And I want that for the future of this church!

Is God pulling at you?

To lay down the other desires of your heart,
And give it all up for Him?

To set aside the lusts of this world,
And devote your heart to Jesus?

If you feel led towards Christ this morning,
Will you please come forward now?

Neighborly Love is Difficult

 

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When the Pharisee, who was a lawyer, inquired upon Jesus the question concerning the greatest commandment, Jesus boiled down all the laws into, first, loving God, and second, loving our neighbor. Although “the law and the prophets” have been condensed down into these two simple commands, they really aren’t simple at all; and considering our command to love our neighbor, sometimes it’s even quite difficult.

Loving our neighbor takes willing, active, conscious determination. It’s a journey of deliberate and intentional benevolence and love. The first major step in becoming one of those who love their neighbors as themselves is to decide to live in compassion. Now let’s be clear: this is a decision to receive the abundance of the kingdom of the heavens as the basis for your life and allow it to permeate and influence our thoughts, behavior, and interactions.

Matthew 6:33 describes what we are to be and do.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt 6:33 ESV).

We must understand this practically and applicably in order to be free of our selfishness, our tendency to become legalistic, and our natural inclination to build our own self-kingdom. This explains why neighbor-love is not the first but the second commandment. They are not two separate commandments, but one commandment with two aspects.

So, are you struggling to love your neighbor? Then stop trying so hard. Then stop trying to do it all on your own. These commandments work together. Seek first the kingdom of God. Seek first Christ Jesus. Allow the abundance of your prayer time, the overflow of your study of Scripture, the joy of your worship, all the results of seeking God, be the very fuel from which you love your neighbor and show compassion upon the world.

What I Learned From My Viral Video

Viral

Just over one year ago, my pregnant wife and I decided to put together a baby gender reveal activity for our young boys. We had acquired some old, out-of-date cupcake mix that was being discarded, and decided to bake them anyway. We put colored icing inside of one of the cupcakes, and proceeded to allow my five year old and three year old boys smash them (while our one year old watched from his high chair), until one of them found it. The color of the icing inside revealed the gender of their upcoming new sibling.

You can watch our video HERE.

I uploaded the video onto YouTube, so that our family and friends could watch it, not thinking much more about it. But a few hours later I received a message from an agency wanting to purchase the rights. I was very surprised, and quite hesitant at first, but decided to go ahead with it. It wasn’t much money, but it was more than the zero that I ever planned on receiving when uploading the video.

A few days later, while out with the family, I started receiving Facebook notifications from friends who I am not really close with; people who wouldn’t have originally watched our YouTube. A few Facebook pages (LAD Bible and Daily Mail) had picked up our video, added captions, and posted it on their site. Within hours the views were in the millions. But then I read the comment section…

I’m pretty thick skinned, so the comment section didn’t bother me much. I actually found much of it to be quite amusing, and some of it to be rather a sad reflection on society. Many comments attacked and demeaned our parenting skills, accused us of being wasteful and disrespectful of hunger and starvation across the globe, and many made rude remarks about my children in various ways. But nonetheless, people are entitled to their opinions and comments, especially when videos are posted in open social avenues.

To us, the gender reveal was fun. The boys enjoyed it, and we saw an unexpected reaction by our typically sweet and most kindhearted son. But that week, when our video went viral, amassing over 12 million views in a such a short time (and even appeared on a daytime television show called Right This Minute), we learned a few things.

First, the world can be a cruel place. People will disagree with you. People will be rude to you. No matter what your intentions, whether good or bad, people will say words that will surprisingly cut deep.

Second, don’t let it bother you. (Easier said than done in many cases) If you can, let it slide. Don’t be offended. Don’t get mad. Don’t respond to negative comments. It’s not worth your time, your effort, or your wasted emotions.

Third, continue to be you. Have fun. Remain adventurous. Be silly. Create memories. Savor the moments. Laugh. Love.

But now, fast forward to today. My daughter is one year old already. Time flies. But let me tell you something wonderful. If you watched our video, my son, the one who reacts with the most negative emotion, he’s the one who today, and day by day, shows the most affection and love to his baby sister.

One day, when my daughter is old enough to understand, she will watch our video. And in the end, her comment and her reaction is all that will matter to me.

Seeking Solitude in the Busy Season

busy

The busy time of the year is on the horizon. The holiday season is within sight, and with it comes a calendar full of parties, events, and get-to-togethers. Although it’s certainly wonderful to spend time with family and friends, sometimes our schedules become so full, that we rarely have time for ourselves, and sadly, rarely make time for God.

Solitude and prayer played a vital and important role in the life of Christ Jesus. As His ministry grew and expanded, and as people flocked to hear Him and be healed by Him, Jesus still made a point to seek solitude.

“But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray” (Luke 5:15-16 ESV).

Consider these reasons Jesus sought solitude: to prepare for a major task (Luke 4:1-2, 14-15), to recharge after challenging work (Mark 6:30-32), to work through grief and sorrow (Matthew 14:1-13), before making important decisions (Luke 6:12-13), in times of difficulty and distress (Luke 22:39-44), and to focus on prayer (Luke 5:16).

In solitude, we purposefully abstain from interaction with other human beings, denying ourselves companionship and all that comes from our conscious interaction and distraction with others. We close ourselves away; we spend time alone in our favorite chair, we go for a walk, we go to mountains, the ocean, to the desert, the wilderness, or to the anonymity of the crowd as we stroll through the mall alone. Solitude is choosing to be alone, for the sole purpose of being with and dwelling upon God.

Although solitude may be foreign to many of us, and sound a bit odd, you will find that solitude frees us. The normal course of day-to-day human interactions locks us into patterns of feeling, thought, and action that are geared to a world set against God. Whether you call it solitude, or quiet time, or alone time, or prayer time; seeking this intimate one-on-one setting with God will bring much value and benefit into your relationship with Him.

30 Days to Understanding the Bible (30th Anniversary Edition) by Max Anders – Book Review

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This month, as a part of a launch team, I took thirty day to read this revised and expanded thirtieth anniversary edition of 30 Days to Understanding the Bible by Max Anders.

Now, I certainly appreciated the broad overview of Scripture, gaining a wholistic perspective of the Bible, through bite sized chapters and sections.  This thick book (385 pages) is what it claims to be, just by looking at the cover, a way of understanding the Bible by memorization of themes and the study of characters.

This is not a devotional or commentary, but rather functions more like a study guide or introductory packet of structural and thematic worksheets.  Each chapter begins with a semi-relevant story to help get the reader thinking in the right direction, then the author ties that theme in with the broader theme of the section or specific chapter.  Anders divides his book into Old Testament, New Testament, Ten Great Doctrines, Nano Summaries, Mastering the Bible, Teaching the Bible, and Bonus Chapters (miscellaneous topics).

A certainly well organized and thorough exploration of the Bible.  However, not a substitute for actually reading Scripture.

Although I appreciate Anders aim and goal for the project, personally this book did not suit my style; both my learning style and for means of keeping my attention.  I found the book to be incredibly boring, tedious, and repetitious.  If it were not for my commitment to the launch team, this book would have lost me well before Ander’s introduction to the New Testament.

In my opinion (take that as you will) I would highly advise against giving or recommending this book to a new Christian or someone early on in their faith.  Unless someone is a huge fan of workbooks and study guides, this daunting school-like project may leave them frustrated and overwhelmed.  However, if someone is looking for a extensive study tool, to supplement their current Bible study time, by all means, give it a shot.

The target audience for this book, in my assessment, is quite small.  It’s geared towards someone with a knack for study, who believes that gobbling up as much information in 30 days will be a formative process for them to endeavor.  If you’re one of those people who must read the Bible from cover to cover each year, or attempt to read certain sections in 30, 60, or 90 days, then you’ll love this.

But to reiterate, if you’re reading this, please be careful about giving this to a new Christian, as their goal should be slowly and devotionally getting to know God through Scripture; not trying to cram as much as they can in a short period of time.  Our desire to “understand the Bible” is not race, but rather a slow-paced walk with Christ Jesus as He reveals Himself to us through it.

I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Things Above Podcast – James Bryan Smith

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One of my favorite authors, James Bryan Smith, recently released a new podcast, entitled the Things Above Podcast (Apprentice Institute). The name is inspired by the apostle Paul’s words to the church at Colossae, to set their minds on “things above” (Col. 3:2).

The podcast page can be found HERE.

(https://apprenticeinstitute.org/things-above-podcast/)

So far, there have been ten episodes published; and I must say, not one of them has been a disappointment. The episodes are brief, typically around ten to fifteen minutes, but the perfect length for the content that Smith provides. Not only is the content relevant and beneficial, but the way in which it is presented is thoughtful and intelligent. And it’s also worth nothing, Smith has a wonderfully calming tone to his voice.

I strongly recommend adding this to your weekly podcast subscription list. Well worth the time to listen!

Side note: James Bryan Smith’s new book, The Magnificent Journey: Living Deep in the Kingdom (InterVarsity) is scheduled to release next month! This is the second in the “Magnificent” trilogy, preceded by The Magnificent Story, released last year. To get a glimpse at Smith’s upcoming release, check out IVP’s website for it here.