Fellowship of the Unashamed

This morning I rediscovered something in my study that blessed and challenged me. The source is debated, but most argue that this originated with a young African man. It was found among his papers after he was martyred for his Christian faith. Let it move you as you read.

The autumn colors in the valley provide striking contrast to the The Great White Throne in Zion National Park, Utah.

“I’m part of the fellowship of the unashamed.  I have Holy Spirit power.  The die has been cast.  I have stepped over the line.  The decision has been made.  I’m a disciple of Jesus.  I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.

“My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure.  I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living, and dwarfed goals.

“I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity.  I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded.  I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power.

“My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way rough, my companions few, my guide reliable, my mission clear.  I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed.  I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

“I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ.  I am a disciple of Jesus.  I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops me.  And when He comes for His own, He will have no problems recognizing me – my banner will be clear!”

 

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” – Acts 1:8

What God is teaching me about my personal time in His Word

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

For most of my life, I have believed that Bible study is critical for spiritual growth. However, I didn’t know how to get started. The thought of opening the Bible felt overwhelming to me and at times even felt boring. As a result, I missed out on the incredible blessing of hearing God speak directly into my life through the Scripture.

Today I am jumping into a new Bible reading plan with First McKinney. Last year I did the plan with four other men in our church. This year, that group of five (counting me) has multiplied into five groups of five or six guys. As we dive in again, I’m reflecting on what God is teaching me about how to be transformed through my time in His Word.

Schedule Bible Reading Into Your Day

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed.”- Mark 1:35

Years ago, a mentor taught me the importance of scheduling quiet times into my week. In order to have a successful personal Bible study, you should set a time, a place and a plan. Schedule your meeting with God before your day even starts.  Look at your calendar a week at a time. Prioritize this meeting and honor it like you would a meeting with the most important person in your life.

  • Time – When are you most alert?
  • Place– Where will you be distraction free?
  • Plan– What will you do?

 Choose a Reading Plan

Blessed is the man… whose delight is in the Law of the Lord, And on His Law he meditates day and night.  – Psalm 1:1-2

Maybe you are like me and have tried to start in Genesis and read the Bible straight through. Multiple times I found myself getting bogged down after a few weeks. It was my incredible wife, Rebecca, that showed me how a Bible reading plan (we used the One Year Bible for many years) helps to engage different parts of scripture and keep each day’s reading dynamic. One year we did a chronological plan. You can look for all kinds of plans online and through the outstanding free Bible app, You Version. This year I will be doing the Read the Bible For Life 4 + 1 plan and focusing on the New Testament and Psalms.

If you are a new believer, consider reading John and Romans first.  These books will give you a good picture of the climax of all of the scripture: Jesus.

Set goals. Seek accountability. If you are consistent in your personal Bible study, you will see your time move from a duty to a delight. You Version is a great tool to do your Bible reading with others.

 Meditate on God’s Word

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12

Consider starting a spiritual journal so that you can see God direct your life.  Begin your time in prayer. Ask God to speak to you through His Word. As you read the Bible, note a verse or verses that stand out to you. Then pick one verse to write out and ask and answer these questions in response:

  • What is God saying to me? Summarize what God is saying through the verse or passage in your own words. What does this say about you? What does it say about God?
  • How will I obey? Is there a command to obey?  Is there an example to follow?  How can you apply this truth to your life today? Be specific. So many times I have stopped with something like: “I need to love better.” Instead of listening to How God wants me to obey like: “I need to stop right now and send an encouraging text to…”
  • Who will I tell? We are called to be Jesus’ witnesses not lawyer. A witness shares what they have seen and heard. Who can you share with what God is teaching you?

Title the journal entry, date it and create a contents page in your journal so you can quickly reference what God has been teaching you during your personal Bible studies.

Example:

  • 2/18 – Wisdom Promised
  • James1:5“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”
  • What is God saying to me?:(My own words) Are you desperate for God’s guidance? Request it from the benevolent King… and He is going to dump it on your life.
  • How will I obey?: (Be specific) I’m driving to my parent’s camp to do future planning for the ministry I lead. I will block 30 minutes in my drive to just ask God to give me wisdom… How awesome that He promises that “he will give it to me!”
  • Who will I tell?: My parents

Obedience Matures and Motivates

 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”  James 1:22

The Bible is the Word of God, but the power of God is not released in our lives until we apply it! When we apply the Bible through the power of the Holy Spirit, it becomes a life-transforming book. Nothing is more exciting than seeing the God of the universe actively leading our actions. Nothing is more difficult and discouraging than reading the Bible when we are not applying it.

Note: You must be saved through faith in Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit in order to understand and apply the Bible. Obedience follows faith. If you have questions about how to follow Jesus by grace through faith, click here.

 Resources

Recommended Books:

30 Days to Understanding the Bible(by Max Anders) Understand in a basic way how the Bible is put together.  Awesome foundation for everyone’s personal Bible study.

Living By the Book(by Howard Hendricks) Gives an inductive approach to studying scripture along with unique procedures for observation that will lead to rich time with Jesus in His Word.

Bible Reading Plans and Websites: 

One Year Bible: http://www.oneyearbibleonline.com: Print this plan and keep it in your Bible as you read with PCBC in 2013.

YouVersion.com: Many diverse reading plan options that can also be pulled up on your smart phone or tablet.

ESV Bible Reading Plans: http://www.esv.org/resources/reading-plans-devotions/Find a plan that fits you.  Easy to print out these plans to keep in your Bible.

Project345.com: Basic reading plan through the New Testament that takes approximately three minutes and 45 seconds each day for a year.

Going Further

First McKinney seeks to base our teaching on God’s Word.  Join a Connect Group and dive into scripture with other believers.

Jesus Changes Everything

As a kid, I heard the story of Jesus often. For me Jesus was like Abraham Lincoln. He was a historic figure that did good things to help people. Then one morning the realization of my evil heart overwhelmed me. I felt shame and guilt for my lies and my lusts. I remember walking into my parent’s room before it was light outside and waking them up to talk. That morning Jesus moved from being a historic figure to my Savior and Lord. My parents helped me to understand and believe that Jesus changes everything. This is the Good News:

  1. All have sinned.

Romans 3:23 tells us that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Every person that had ever lived has done evil things. We rebel against God. We live with selfish motives behind even our selfless actions.

  1. The penalty for sin is death.

Romans 6:23 says that “The wages of sin is death.” Wages are what one earns for their actions. Because God is good, He must act justly in the face of the evil in the world. Our sin must be judged by a good God.

  1. Christ died for you.

Romans 5:8 explains that a “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This is why Good Friday is Good News. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). Jesus took our sin on himself and died for us. In addition, on Easter Sunday, Jesus overcame death by rising again. Jesus then appeared in resurrected form to hundreds of people. Their lives were radically changed and most died because they knew, shared and wouldn’t deny that Jesus was the Savior of the world.

  1. You can be saved by grace through faith Jesus.

Ephesians 2:8–9 summarizes the Good News: “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Grace is undeserved favor. We deserve death. Jesus gives life. How? We are saved or rescued through faith in what Jesus has done.

Faith is believing. Faith is trusting. Faith is transformational. Jesus changes everything.

If you were honest, are you trusting in your own doing or in what Jesus has done? Do you believe getting into heaven is the result of your works or the work of Jesus? When you pray do you find yourself boasting or praising with a heart of thankfulness?

If you are afraid to approach God because you know the evil in your heart… If you are ashamed and feel guilty because of your lies and your lusts… I want to invite you to read the bolded points above again. It is true. Jesus changes everything. He has transformed my life and the lives of billions of people.

I’ve got good news! You can be saved (rescued, delivered) right now by grace (undeserved favor, one-way love) through faith (believing, trusting) in Jesus. Talk with God like you would a loving father and thank him for Jesus.

Should Christian’s Celebrate Halloween?

As a Christian dad, I’m often asked, “Are you going to take your kids trick-or-treating?”

Yes, our Christian family does the Halloween thing. Here are three reasons why:

  1. It gives our family opportunity to talk about Spiritual heroes.

Many Christians have run from the holiday because they see it as focusing on demons and witches. Interestingly, the history of the holiday is the opposite. Halloween is a conjunction of the words “Hallowed Eve.” In 835, Pope Gregory decided to take a Romanized Celtic holiday to honor the dead and connect it to a three day festival to honor martyrs on November 1st and all who have died on November 2nd.

At Halloween, talk as a family about the many martyrs who have given their lives for the Gospel. How can someone say? “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). Then talk about death and the hope we have in Jesus. “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” (2 Cor 5:6–9)

  1. It gives our family an opportunity to love our neighbors.

On Halloween, many will turn their lights off and pretend not to be home. Going door-to-door to collect treats is a tradition that began in Ireland hundreds of years ago. Farmers would knock on doors to collect food for a village feast and bonfire. It was a community event. During the 1800s, many people migrated from Ireland to the United States and they brought the activity with them.

Christians go out of the way to show love to our neighbors. Halloween is the holiday on the calendar that most encourages our culture to knock on our neighbor’s doors. It also gives us an easy way to show love to our neighbors’ kids by putting candy in their hands. At Halloween, talk about how Jesus taught that all Old Testament could be summarized in the Great Commandment to love God and love your neighbor. If you want to go further, In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan to elaborate on how we should go out of our way to love our neighbors.

  1. It gives our family an opportunity to have fun.

OK, so maybe that isn’t a “spiritual” reason, but I’m serious. We look for opportunities to laugh together. Getting dressed up is fun. Serving our neighbors is really fun… It is better to give than receive. Our kids love handing out candy and watching mom and dad get into it.

What will your family do tonight? If you have a thoughtful response, please share it below.

Note: Today, is also the 500 year anniversary of Luther’s Ninety-five Theses that helped to launch the Great Reformation. Take some time to read my friend, Jeff Warren’s outstanding blog on it here: http://www.pcbc.org/jeffsblog/

Did not our hearts burn?

Luke 24:32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?”

What is God saying to me? Two disciples spend the afternoon on the road to Emmaus with the unrecognized Jesus. At dinner Jesus reveals himself to them by blessing and breaking the bread and then vanishes. As they reflect on their lesson from Scripture with Jesus, they share how their hearts were kindled. Literally, their emotions were on fire.

How will I obey? I am wary of emotionalism. However, like the 80’s worship song “Light the Fire” expresses, there is nothing that compares to the passion that God can give (specifically here through seeing Jesus in Scripture). I often go to my marriage, my job, my hobbies, my kids, sports, exercise, etc. to excite and satisfy my heart. Today, I am going to pray “Lord, light the fire in my heart again” and then go to Scripture for the kindling.

Who will I tell? Clint

Finding Freedom Through Forgiveness.

Psalms 32:1–2 “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”

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What is God saying to me? I have two people in my life who have recently shared the burden of guilt they are shouldering. I am reminded of the many times I have sinned and battled shame. Psalms 32:3-4 describes that feeling: “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.”

How will I obey? Confession… Psalms 32:5 David tells us how he found freedom: “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.”

Who will I tell? The two people in my life who have recently shared with me the guilt they are shouldering.

Why A Bible Reading Plan Will Change Your Year.

I had been a Christian for 18 years. I had grown up in a home that showed me how to have a personal Bible study, attended Bible teaching churches, gone to a Christian university and was most of my way through my Masters in Divinity… and I had never read the Bible cover to cover. Yep, I had tried many times and gotten bogged down in Leviticus or in better years in the 2 Chronicles range. I loved Jesus and loved the Bible, but could not figure out how to get through it.

Bible Reading Plan

In 2005, I was engaged to Rebecca and had been watching as she used The One Year Bible as her devotional book. I liked that her devotional was not someone’s interpretation of scripture but was scripture itself. She shared with me how it divided the Bible into 15 minute a day sections of OT, NT, Psalms and Proverbs. In a year you would read through the entire bible once and Psalms and Proverbs twice.

I decided to try it. I loved it. I read through the Bible in a year… and have done it every year since.

My second year through it, I had a mentor, Jim Leggett, encourage me to take a nugget each day and journal on it using the SOAP format. S – Scripture (one verse) O – Observation (what does it say) A – Application (how can I live it out) and P – Prayer. This was HUGE. I was now seeing the Word of God direct my life.

A few years ago, I tweaked the above journaling format to my church‘s three questions. Each day I still watch for a verse that jumps out to me. I write the verse down and then I ask: What is God saying to me? How will I obey? Who will I tell?

I cannot overstate the impact it has had on my life. I can now say that I have read through the Bible, cover to cover, ten times. But just saying I have done it is not the benefit. It is watching God direct my life through His Word. It is incredible to look back at my journals and see how my Bible Reading has guided me. Daily, God is speaking into my life and showing me how I can follow Jesus.

Several years ago a friend of mine was touring Israel. He asked his Jewish tour guide if he believed in a historical Jesus. The man answered: “Yes.” He then asked if he believed if Jesus was the Messiah. The man answered: “No.” My friend then followed by asking how he could believe in Jesus but not that Jesus was the Messiah. The tour guide answered with words that I have never forgotten. He said: “If Jesus was a true Rabbi, his followers would live like him. I have never seen a Christian that is living like Jesus.”

We are called to follow Jesus everyday. That is what it means to be disciples. How do you know the way Jesus wants you to live? You know because He tells you through His Word. I want to invite you to follow Jesus everyday by starting a Bible Reading plan.

Last year I tried a new plan, the Chronological Bible. It was good, but the first nine months were more difficult because they were all Old Testament. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Old Testament, but holding all New Testament reading until the end was hard at times.

I invited many yesterday at our church to join us in reading through The One Year Bible in 2017. I’ve been encouraged to see so many jump in already. Some are reading with me on You Version – The Bible App. The One Year Bible is one of You Version’s free reading plans. You can highlight verses and make notes that friends can see. You can pick it up at any time during the day. You can even have the app read you your plan as you drive to work or workout.

Are you trying to live like Jesus? Have you struggled to read through the Bible. I want to challenge you to start a Bible reading plan and begin to ask yourself these three questions everyday: What is God saying to you? How will you obey? Who will you tell?

If you do, it will change your year… your life… and your eternity.