Jesus is the Head of the Church

Last week, Debbie and I were blessed to attend a conference called Replenish, hosted by the North American Mission Board. We have attended similar conferences before and have always enjoyed the time of worship, encouragement and refocusing on the call of God on our lives.

However, we noticed that something was different with this conference. And as we processed the sessions of teaching, we realized that none of the speakers were pastors of large churches or had authored best-selling Christian books. In fact, you would probably have never heard of their names. But the content of their talks was life giving and real. Filled with, “in the trenches” stories of real life and ministry in a small to medium church environment. This is something I was longing for in our age of celebrity Christianity.

The Apostle Paul made a similar point to the church in Corinth, when he wrote, “So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, all you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s”, 1 Corinthians 3:21-23.

Apparently at that time in the early church, there was division between groups of people who had been baptized by different church leaders. The church members were prideful in their association with the leader who had baptized them and this was causing painful disunity in the Body of Christ. The root concern is people who follow man rather than following the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church. And sadly, this still occurs today, and even on a greater scale than the first century church.

The greatest tragedy in following man is that everyone is a sinner saved by grace and flawed. The more we set our eyes on a fallible leader, the more likely we are to be disappointed by them in the future.

Most of you have heard about the challenges that Forerunner Church and IHOP are facing currently. My goal is not to make any judgment since we don’t know the outcome of the investigation.

In a situation like this, we are often tempted to point fingers and jump to conclusions, maybe even posting our opinions of the church on social media. I would suggest that we refrain from any such activity, as it will produce no life-giving fruit.

In preceding verses of 1 Corinthians 3 we read, “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God,” 1 Corinthians 3:18-19.

I would suggest that the wisdom we need to apply is to grieve with those who grieve, love them and care for them as we are invited to do so. Most of all, we should be praying for the church, praying that the Body of Christ in South Kansas City will become known for proclaiming and demonstrating the hope of the Gospel. And as a church we would always set our eyes on Jesus as we are encouraged to do in Hebrews 12:2.

Elders and Congregation in Concert

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Pastors and churches don’t always have healthy relationships. Sometimes leaders fail to lead, and other times congregations do not follow. The author of Hebrews writes clearly about this as he closes the letter (see Hebrews 13:17-19). 

Let’s look at what he says to the leaders first.

Leaders are People Who Lead

There is no shortage of training, books, and seminars on leadership, but sadly there is a lack of godly leaders in the church—leaders who lead humbly and selflessly like Christ. 

The author points out three characteristics of a godly church leader: 


Hebrews 13:17 says church leaders keep watch over their congregation’s souls. 

The picture here is of a shepherd who is vigilant as he sacrificially watches over the flock. The elders/pastors of the church are to primarily focus on the spiritual growth of the church. 

What does that look like practically?

  • Watch against false doctrine.

This is more than teaching the truth; it is also ensuring that people are not veering off into false doctrines (See Acts 20:28-30). 

The enemy has always tried to twist the truth and infect the church with false teachers. The elders are to stand united in the truth as they proactively guard it. 

  • Watch against deceitful behavior.

In 3 John, John warns the church about a man called Diotrephes (3 John 9).  Evidently, he was a man who loved the power of leadership and was full of pride. The church has always been susceptible to men and women who take advantage of position. The elders are called to expose and root out such behavior. 

  • Watch against divisive behavior.

Splits and factions in the church caused by divisive people will always be a challenge for leaders to identify and confront (see Titus 3:10-11). This divisiveness doesn’t just affect one or two people, it affects the whole church. 

  •  Watch for spiritual growth.

The elders are to keep alert and diligent for the spiritual development of the church. We all have a responsibility to be growing in our faith and knowledge of the Word. The elders’ role is to keep people moving forward. 


Hebrews 13:17 says that Christian leaders will be called to give an account for how they performed their duties (see Hebrews 13:17). This is a sobering reminder for anyone in Christian leadership. 

This accountability is two-fold: 

  1. To the church.

Churches should expect that the pastor/elder maintains a Christian walk that sets an example for the believers. 

2. To the Lord. 

One day we will all stand before the Lord, and he will judge us based on our calling and the gifts that he has given us (see James 3:1). Church leaders should expect to give account for their leadership of the flock. 


Hebrews 13:18 reminds us that the behavior of the leader must set an example for the church. 

Pastors are ranked based on their skills in preaching, administration, counseling, and others.  But how highly do we rank their character?

The way a spiritual leader behaves in private and public must never waiver from his Christian convictions (see 1 Timothy 3:2). The history of the church is littered with men who have lived double lives and brought shame and destruction on the church. Character matters more than skills. A Christian leader whose character matches their convictions should be commended. 

Congregations are People Who Follow

What is the response of the congregation?

Faithful leaders need faithful congregations who are committed to the mission of the church. 

Sadly, in our entertainment saturated and individualistic society, we have many people who view the church as simply a convenient societal construct that we can attend or participate in as it suits us.  

But the gathering of the Body of Christ is powerful and vital for all believers. This was tested during the COVID season in 2020 (see Hebrews 10:24-25). 

We are called to stir one another up, holding each other accountable in areas of spiritual disciplines. This cannot happen if one attends church once a month. 

As we come closer to Christ’s return, we must regularly encourage one another by meeting together. The days of passive church semi-attendance are over. We don’t value church because it has become too much of a convenience and not an essential priority when in fact we should prioritize gathering together over sports, schoolwork, family events, etc. 

What characterizes a faithful congregation?


Hebrews 13:17a tells us that obedience is required. This phrase conjures up pictures of authoritarian leaders forcing their subjects into submission, but this is not at all what is taught here. 

The church is to obey and submit to the leaders as they see the leaders taking the responsibility seriously for caring for their souls. Servant leadership compels people to submit out of love. It is the model Jesus gave us. 


Hebrews 13:17b tells us that it is to our advantage when we follow our leaders in unity.How we respond to leadership in the church affects the whole church. We are a family that is sometimes messy and sometimes challenging, but we are a family drawn together by the Spirit of God. We labor, learn, and share joy and grief together (see 1 Corinthians 12:26-27). 

When the church walks together in unity, despite differences, it produces fruit that is profitable for the whole church. 


Hebrews 13:18 tells us to pray for our leaders. As leaders pray for the church, the church should pray for them. What if, instead of focusing on our leaders’ deficiencies, we prayed for the Lord to bless them? 

Kent Hughes writes, “How different the modern church would be if the majority of its people prayed for its pastors and lay leadership. There would be supernatural suspensions of business-as-usual worship. There would be more times of inexplicable visitations from the Holy Spirit. More lay people would come to grips with the deeper issues of life. The leadership vacuum would evaporate. There would be more conversions.”

If we are to move forward in health as a church, it begins with the prayer meetings. The gathering of the church to pray is the most important meeting of the week.

 Will you commit to follow our church’s leaders in unity and pray for us?

Be Joyful

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I believe that one  disservice that churches throughout the centuries have committed is confusing solemnity for holiness. A grim attitude and hushed silence is appropriate for a funeral, but a person who acts this way in church is not more holy than the next person. 

Now, I am not in favor of gross disorder, but we could do with a bit more joy in our church services—and here is why: we are a chosen and redeemed people who have been set free from the bonds of sin and death. Why then are most churches filled with seemingly emotionless people? Of all people in the world, Christians have the most reason to be joyful.

Joy and Happiness

There is a difference between joy and happiness. 

Happiness is dependent on external factors. We experience happiness because of things that happen to us, things outside of us that we see or experience. Thus, happiness is not really a choice we make.

Joy, on the other hand, is a purposeful choice, and it is much deeper and more significant than happiness. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit that flows out of a relationship with Christ Jesus as Lord of our lives (see Galatians 5:22-23). 

In Matthew 13, Jesus tells a one-verse parable in verse 44. This parable is about a man finding the treasure of the kingdom of God. He finds the Gospel and realizes that in order to gain the reward of the kingdom of heaven, it will cost nothing and everything at the same time. He goes joyfully to sell all he has. As followers of Jesus, we are called to sacrifice by dying to ourselves, giving up our dreams and submitting our lives to the lordship of Jesus. But it is not a burden, because as Jesus taught in this parable, there is greater joy in the kingdom of heaven than the earth. This world is not a joyful place. But the joy of the Lord is a joy that no one can take away. It is a deep-seated peace with God, founded on faith in God and His eternal promises. 

Joy and Fruit

During the last meal that Jesus shared with his disciples, he shared many things, including the call of God on his followers to be joyful. Being joyful is directly connected to bearing fruit. In John 15, Jesus describes himself as the vine, the Father as the vinedresser, and his followers as the branches that are pruned and called to produce fruit. According to verse 5, this fruit comes from abiding in Jesus.  

Abiding in Jesus is walking with Jesus. It impacts and incorporates our whole lives. Abiding in Christ affects where we go, what we do, and what we think about. We are called to abide in Christ and bear fruit in every dimension and aspect of our lives. We cannot expect to abide with Jesus for one hour a week and then produce fruit!

So what fruit are we to bear for Christ? Our minds might immediately go to the task of soul winning and discipleship. But what if that kind of fruit is really the byproduct of the real fruit? I would suggest that the fruit that Jesus is talking about in John 15 is the fruit of the Spirit, which Galatians 5:22-23 tells us is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. What if people were drawn to Christ and to Christlikeness because of the fruit of the Spirit we display, specifically the joy we exude?

Joy and Prayer

In John 15:7, Jesus makes a promise that has been grossly misused by believers all over the world, saying, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” In fact, Jesus repeats a similar phrase six times in chapter 14,15, and 16.  

When Jesus said, “whatever you ask for in my name”, he’s not giving us a formula for getting whatever we want; rather, he’s laying down a principle of aligning our desires with God’s. As we pray in Jesus’ name for the kinds of things Jesus himself would pray for, things that will honor God and bring glory to His name, God will give us what we ask so that He receives the glory (see John 16:24). 

James explains this in James 4:3, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

As you abide in Jesus and pray in his name, you will be filled with joy (see John 15:11). 

Joy and Sin

How many times have you heard in church that joy is the key to overcoming sin? Unfortunately, probably not very many. Sadly, we are given the impression that the best way to overcome sin is to live a monastic lifestyle and never enjoy any of the blessings that God gives us. That is willpower religion, and it does not produce life or fruit. Trying to live the Christian life separated from the vine, hoping to be good enough to produce fruit on our own, is dead religion, and the result is what we read in verse 6—it leads to being cut off from Christ. 

In truth, the joy that comes from abiding in Christ is what gives us victory over sin and temptation in our lives. As we taste and see that the Lord and His ways are good (see Psalm 34:8), our affection for lesser things will fade.

Losing and Choosing Joy

This is a difficult conversation with Jesus because we so easily lose our joy. We are too easily pleased by the happy things of this world. God designed you and I to rejoice in Him. That is what we were made for; do not settle for a lesser joy. 

In order to have joy, we must be born again. Without Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we will have fleeting moments of happiness but lack the deep-seated peace with God that allows us to experience joy. 

But even after we are saved and filled with the Holy Spirit, there are circumstances that cause us to lose our joy. We might lose our joy through sickness, suffering, and depression, or by being overcome by the cares of the world. Psalm 55:22 is a great promise for these times, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

We can also lose our joy through unforgiveness, unrepented sin, anxiety, and fear. When we bring these to the cross of Jesus in repentance, we can once again know the fullness of joy that Jesus promised. 

Where have you lost your joy today? You can regain it by abiding in Christ.

Finding God in the Mundane

The past weekend we had a wonderful church retreat. The theme of the retreat was, “Walking with God.” One of the sessions we looked at a topic called, “finding God in the mundane”.

The original meaning of the word, “mundane”, refers to something that is of the world or common. And the antonym of mundane is extraordinary or supernatural.
Most of our days are lived in the mundane activities of life, so how do we find God in the mundane, or the ordinary day to day life? How do we experience God in the shopping runs, the post office lines or the busy highway?

We are really good at compartmentalizing our lives.  We create “God” times and then we have mundane times, where we live the “real” life. The “God” times are the personal devotionals, the church or prayer meeting attendance and the ministry times. Whereas the “real” times are the times spent behind a desk or workbench, exercising, eating, doing chores and the like.

We experience special moments with God in different worship settings or times alone with God, but what happens on Monday morning when God feels far off, and you don’t have those exciting feelings of being in His presence? Does it mean that God is not there when we don’t feel Him?

We know that God is always there.  He is always near and as a believer we have the presence of the Holy Spirit within us whether we feel it or not. Our feelings do not determine the nearness of God.
Paul Tripp writes, “If God doesn’t rule your mundane, then He doesn’t rule you. Because that’s where you live.”

Dramatic, life-altering moments come only a few times during our lifetime, and the rest of our lives are lived in the common, ordinary, the mundane. We must always remember that it is our faith that overcomes the world and not our feelings (1 John 5:4).
The Bible is filled with promises of God’s presence with us, (for example, Psalm 16:8, Psalm 145:18, Jeremiah 23:23, and John 15:15).
What if we were able to change the way we view our mundane activities? What if we viewed everything we did from an eternal perspective?
Mother Teresa once said, “Wash the plate, not because it’s dirty, nor because you’re told to wash it, but because you love the person who’ll use it next.”

We must be careful of the “next big thing” mentality. Attending conferences, going on mission trips, or hosting big church events, as the way we gauge the health of our Christian life. But what if the next big thing in your life was serving someone by sweeping the room?

While we often encounter the Lord in special times, sometimes it is in the monotony and the mundane that God shows up. God can speak to you while you are doing the fifth load of laundry or sweeping the kitchen floor.

Jesus said in John 15, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5.
Abiding is living day-in and day-out in the presence of the Lord, whether it is a routine day or an extraordinary day. As you love those around you by folding laundry, scrubbing dishes, and searching for mismatched socks, remember that there He is with you.

When we live with an eternal perspective, we will always live in the supernatural and extraordinary.

Sin is Serious

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Jesus spoke frequently about money, hell, and sin. In Mark 9:42-50, he speaks about sin in a way that many churches today would prefer to overlook. We could sum up Jesus’ point in three words: sin is serious.

Leading Others to Sin

It is possible that Jesus was holding a child in his arms while speaking in verse 42, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”

Jesus is not simply talking about little children; he is talking about all of his disciples. Woe to anyone who misleads a fellow Christian, causing them to sin. We must be constantly on our guard to be careful not to cause anyone to sin. We can be guilty of misleading someone unintentionally. What we condone and what we talk about can easily be a stumbling block for someone else.

Leading Ourselves to Sin

Jesus then highlights three body parts as avenues for sin. Using shocking language of amputation and disfigurement, Jesus calls his followers to respond radically to the presence of sin in their lives.  

Hands (v. 43)

Our hands can be used for theft, fighting, and murder. With our hands we can make dishonest trades or give and receive bribes. We can be guilty of withholding help by keeping our hands closed. Our hands need to be consecrated to the Lord, using them for good works, diligent work, and life-giving activities.

Feet (v. 45)

Our feet can also be used to sin. With our feet we can walk towards an argument when we should walk the other way. Like the Levite and the priest in the parable of the Good Samaritan (see Luke 10:25-37), we can sin by walking away from a need. Our feet can lead us into sin by going to establishments where a child of God should not be. Our feet must be consecrated to the Lord. Walking with God is not a theological concept; it is a way of life.

Eyes (v. 47)

Jesus teaches in Luke 11:34-36 that the health of the eye has an effect on the whole person. If your eye is good—if you look at and dwell on pure and holy things—then your body will be filled with light. But when you look at impure and unholy things, your body will be full of darkness.

Psychologists are beginning to study and document the terrible effects of pornography on the human body and brain. It leads to darkness. There is a brain fog and a darkness that comes over someone addicted to pornography. In the same way, mindlessly watching social media videos can lead to depression and a dull mind.

What we see can also lead to covetousness. When we covet something, we are expressing that what God has given us is not enough. Covetousness is an ever-hungry idol.

Eyes consecrated to the Lord can witness and dwell on beauty and worship the Creator. A good eye sees things the way God designed them to be. Consecrated eyes bring light and life to our bodies and lives.

A Radical Response to Sin

What does Jesus tell us to do with our hands, feet, and eyes when they cause us to sin? Cut them off and gouge them out!

While Jesus never intended for this teaching to be applied literally, it gives us a dramatic picture of how seriously we need to view sin. The verses have a sense of surgical removal; there is a finality to it.

Remove It

When we identify the sin in our lives, we need to be aggressive in removing the temptation to sin.  We can be tempted to grade sins in order of destructiveness. We all agree that murder and violence are bad, but we domesticate other sins, cultural and “acceptable” sins that we allow room in our lives. No sin should have any part in our lives. Jesus wants us to aggressively remove them all.  

Hate It

The problem is that we don’t value holiness and purity enough to be aggressive with the sin in our lives. We accommodate, we compromise, we justify, all the while living in darkness, far from the joy and the peace that Jesus has for us.

We wonder why there is no answer to our prayers and no victory in our lives, but we are compromising with the world.

Do we hate sin enough to remove the thing that enables us to sin? It might be our cable service, our smart phone, or our shopping habits. It may be our job or our friends. Whatever is tempting us to sin needs to be cut off and permanently removed. Hate sin enough to take drastic action.

Sacrifice It

The Christian life inevitably involves sacrifice (see Romans 12:1. Jesus is talking about this sacrifice when he discusses saltiness in verses 49-50. In ancient times, salt had impurities that could cause it to lose its flavor, thus rendering it useless. Once a Christian loses the character of Christ, because of impurity, we become useless in the kingdom.

This is not about losing one’s salvation but one’s effectiveness. A Christian who compromises with the world has lost the ability to impact the world for the kingdom of God. Compromise creeps in slowly and infects the body.

There is no corner of our lives that we should not invite the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit to inspect and to convict us of sin. Ambition, pride, lust, greed, covetousness, gossip, slander, laziness, an angry temper, and more must be exposed and brought into the light if we are to live fully alive and effective for Jesus Christ.

Confess It

But there is incredibly good news. Jesus took our sins and paid the price that enables us to live in the light. When Jesus went to the cross, he went to be the perfect and final sacrifice for our sins.

Romans 2:4 reminds us that it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance and for all who repent of their sins, we are promised forgiveness and cleansing from all our sins (see 1 John 1:9).

Confession is the key. Confession needs to be part of our daily spiritual disciplines.

Sin is serious, but forgiveness, freedom and peace are available through Jesus Christ.

Do Not Worry

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Are you anxious? What worry keeps you up at night?

Worry hurts us, and it is a sin. Jesus dealt with the sin of anxiety in Matthew 6, speaking about the most basic human needs; food, water, and clothing.

In modern day America we can miss the impact of these verses. For people living in the 1st century, they didn’t have refrigerators, or a grocery store on every corner. They would have to wake up every day concerned about fresh food and water. Most people only had two articles of clothing and wore them until they were unusable. A far cry from the clothing store app on our phones.

Most of us don’t have anxiety about food and water, but we do worry about safety, job security, and unexpected illnesses.  

It doesn’t matter what we find to be anxious about, we are prone to anxiety and Jesus gives us eight reasons not to be anxious in these verses.

We need to view these as commands from Jesus for our own good.

1. Matthew 6:25, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”

If we are worried about the need for the most basic human necessities, we are missing out on the greatness of life as God intends for us. Missing out on the reason why God created us.

Jesus said in Luke 12:21, “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

When we are focused on necessities, we miss the glory of God in the world around us.

2. Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

This is not an encouragement to carelessness or laziness. Birds are constantly busy, scratching and digging for food. But God feeds the birds, they are not anxious about their next meal. God provides it, but they must work for it. We too, trust God for provision, but we must work diligently trusting God for tomorrow.

3. Matthew 6:27, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 

By worrying, you won’t be able to add a single hour or day to your life. On the contrary, it may shorten your life and make you miserable.

4. Matthew 6:28-30,And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Obviously, we are not all dressed like Solomon, but Jesus isn’t saying that we will have extravagant clothing, rather that we will have the clothing that we need.

God doesn’t promise us riches here on earth, but the one who follows the Lord and fulfills the call of God on their life will never lack basic provision at a minimum (see Psalm 37:25).

5 and 6. Matthew 6:32,For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”

In other words, by worrying you are acting as if God doesn’t exist, you are acting like an unbeliever. We might believe that God exists, but we don’t believe that He sees or can provide for our needs. Perhaps we doubt the goodness of God, we doubt that He is a good father. When it comes to the day-to-day needs of this life, we can be guilty of being practical atheists.

“Anxiety shows that we are too close to the world and too far from God”. John Piper

This world has nothing lasting to offer and our Heavenly Father has, and always will, prove Himself faithful.

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

This is not a formula for obtaining wealth, it is a description of how the kingdom of God works. Jesus taught that our focus should be turned away from this world and towards the things of God’s kingdom.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t diligently work at a job, rather it means that we put the things of God above the things of this world.

This is an encouragement by Jesus to avoid idolatry. An idol is anything that we value more than the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Worry and anxiety is an idol.

8. Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

The Lord provides for us today, but we are frequently guilty of taking tomorrow’s uncertainties and bringing them into today as a worry. Jesus desires his followers to be free from fear and anxiety.

Worry is a sin, because deep down, we do not trust that God is able to provide for us.

We worship what we value, and frequently we value our worries in our day-to-day decision making. The root cause of anxiety is misplaced worship.

So how do we avoid worry? Psalm 119:11 has the answer, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

Meditating on the promises of God’s word is the antidote for worry. Psalm 46 is a great place to start.

When we sit in the presence of God and encounter His omnipotence, goodness, and glory, our tomorrow fears crumble. That is what it means to, “Seek He first the kingdom of God…”

What is the worry that you are carrying today?

Love Your Enemies

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Of all the teachings of Jesus, this is one of the hardest to obey. How do we love our enemies? Perhaps Matthew made a mistake when he wrote down the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount?

However, deep down we know that these words of Jesus align with the truth and the heart of the Gospel. Jesus did say these words and meant them to be the authoritative word of God for every generation, including ours.

So, what did Jesus mean and how do we apply these truths to our life today?

We must understand that this instruction from Jesus is not a way for us to get God’s approval, we are not saved because we are able to love our enemies (see Ephesians 2:8-9).

These teachings of Jesus are not meant to be rules for actions, rather they are instructions for behavior. These aren’t a list of specific responses to specific scenarios, rather they are principles for a way of life.

Turning the other cheek and going the second mile doesn’t mean resigning yourself to the evil plans of others. That is not what Jesus is teaching here.

In order to understand this teaching, we have to ask; who is my enemy?

The legal expert came to Jesus in Luke 10 and asked the telling question, “who is my neighbor?” To which Jesus responds by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan.

The Jews hated the Samaritans and to the hearers, when Jesus told this parable, he was saying, “love your enemies, even the Samaritans, for they are your brothers.”

In Matthew 5:43, Jesus quoted the teachings of the Pharisees and Scribes, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’”

But you will not find this statement in the Pentateuch or the first five books of the Bible containing the law of Moses, in fact you will find the opposite (see Exodus 23:3-4).

The religious leaders had twisted the word of God for centuries and taught their fellow Israelites to hate any foreigner. There were many devout Jews and pharisees who firmly believed that they were honoring God by hating all Gentiles.

But before we judge the first century Jews too harshly, we don’t have to look very far to see that we are guilty of the same sin. Throughout modern history and particularly in the advent of the mass news media, we are constantly told who to hate, and we do it pretty well as a culture.

As human beings, we don’t think much of hating someone we have never met. It is a side effect of the fall in the garden of Eden.

But when we see people as created in the image of God, fellow image bearers of our heavenly Father, people that Jesus died for, we can, by the power of the Holy Spirit begin to love them.

The challenge comes when our rights are violated, when we are the victim of persecution or crime, we want swift justice, we want to see our rights upheld.

But what is the greatest act of injustice that the world has ever seen? Without a doubt, the greatest act of injustice was when the Son of God was nailed to a Roman cross. The sinless creator of the universe was persecuted and killed by his creation.

And in the height of the injustice, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34.

That is the standard. So how do we love our enemies like Jesus loved those who were nailing him to the cross?

Do we pray for those who spitefully use us?

Do we ask God to have mercy on them and not to punish them?

Do we ask God to save their souls, to open their eyes to the Gospel message before it is too late?

Because that is the mind of Christ (see Romans 5:8).

We must note that there is a difference between loving someone and liking them. Jesus said, “love your enemies”, he didn’t say, “like your enemies”.

People who hurt us and treat us unfairly are probably people that we don’t like. But we are called to love them, praying for them, praying that God may work in their lives and we find that we begin to like them, because we see in them the renewed character of Christ.

Loving your enemies is a display of spiritual maturity and it is the same language the we see in the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.

How do we do this? Here are three points to pray through.

1: Loving your enemy does not display how good you are, rather it displays Who’s you are.

By loving our enemies, we show that we are a child of God. As His children we don’t have to fear being cheated or “short changed”.

John Piper wrote, “the intimate knowledge and tender, sovereign care of our omnipotent, all-wise, heavenly Father frees us for the radical kind of risks and losses that enemy-love demands.”

2: In loving our enemies, there is great reward.

In Matthew 5:11-12, Jesus taught about the rewards of enduring persecution.

The sustaining joy that carries us through persecution and slander from others is not the temporal gain we get out of enduring suffering, rather it is the certain knowledge that we will be receiving a reward in the age to come. Do we live with an eternal perspective?

3: Give what you have received.

We can love, because we have been loved by God (see Luke 6:36).  

Sometimes we need to be reminded of what it took for us to be reconciled with God. Before we became followers of Jesus, we were God’s enemies (See Romans 5:10).

We did nothing to save ourselves. The mercy that we are called on to show others is nothing compared to the mercy that we have already received.

Will you take the courageous step to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you?

The Armor of God

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As Christians, we need a daily reminder that we are in a war, a spiritual war as Paul writes in Ephesians 6:10-12. But here is the great truth that Watchman Nee writes, “We don’t fight for victory, we fight from victory”.

We stand in victory that Jesus completed when he died and rose again.

I have found that the armor of God which we find in Ephesians 6:13-18, to be extremely important on mission trips, and for everyday life.

There is a reason verse 13 says, “take up the whole armor of God”, every piece is vital for our Christian walk. Satan and his demons are looking for a weak point in our defenses where they can attack us.

1 The first is the Belt of Truth.

We know that Satan is a liar and John says that he is the father of lies (John 8:44). The belt is the piece that holds all the suit of armor together, truth is foundational to standing firm.

The Belt also holds the sword, without the truth, the sword of the spirit will be ineffective in the life of the follower of Jesus.

2 The Breastplate of righteousness.

The breastplate was a metallic covering that covered the front and the back of the soldier, from the neck to the waist.

This breastplate is not of our righteousness, it is the righteousness of Christ. This is the only righteousness that we have (2 Corinthians 5:21). What a blessing to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

3 The shoes of the Gospel.

The Gospel of peace is that Jesus, who was fully God and fully man, lived a perfect sinless life, died in our place on a roman cross, taking the punishment that we deserved. He rose from the dead, appeared to hundreds, before ascending into heaven where he is now interceding for us. The Gospel is like spikes in our shoes, allow us to stand firm in the face of any enemy attack.

But more than standing firm, we have the blessing and the calling to share the Gospel with the world around us, as the prophet Isaiah writes:

How beautiful upon the mountains
    are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
    who publishes salvation,
    who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

Isaiah 52:7

4 The Shield of Faith.

Satan is firing darts at us all the time. These darts are aimed at our hearts and our minds. Lies, evil thoughts, hateful thoughts about others, and temptation, these are all darts with flaming points that Satan wants to penetrate the Christians armor. We must constantly hold up the shield of faith.

One of the features of the shields in the Roman times was that they could lock together and form a near impenetrable barrier. This is why we are safer together in the body of Christ. Never attempt to go into a battle alone, we need the support of other believers in the Body of Christ.

5 The Helmet of Salvation

Satan wants to attack the mind;  planting seeds of doubt, envy, lust, greed and the like.

It is how he caused Adam and Eve to sin, by sowing a seed of doubt about the goodness of God.

What we think about, dwell on, meditate in is really important. Our thoughts need to be submitted to God (2 Corinthians 10:5-6).

Paul writes in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

The Helmet of salvation is put on with diligent reading and studying the Word of God. Don’t neglect the study of the word of God. In order to recognize the lies of the enemy, we need to know the truth.

6 The Sword of the Spirit.

Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

The Word of God brings conviction of sin, piercing to the heart.  Have you noticed how aggressive some unbelievers become when Scripture is quoted? The reason is that the Bible is inspired and empowered by the very spirit of God.

When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, he used the sword of the Spirit, he used the word of God to defeat Satan. The better you know the word of God, the better you will be able to discern the lies of the enemy.

The Armor of God is also picture of Jesus:

  • He is the truth.
  • He is our righteousness.
  • He is our peace.
  • He is our salvation.
  • He is the word of God.

Daily we should be in the habit of putting on the armor of God. Satan never stops his attacks; we must never be defenseless.

We need to have a paradigm shift in our approach to the attacks of the enemy of our souls. Usually, we ask God to help us to defeat Satan in a certain area of our lives, but may I suggest a different way of praying. We need to pray thanking God for the victory that Jesus has already won and ask Him for the strength to stand firm. This requires faith. That is why Paul wrote in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

If we are a church that is about missions, fulfilling the Great Commission, spiritual warfare should be normal. And putting on the armor of God should be a way of life.

Why Missions?

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Why does the church do missions?

The term missions conveys the idea of a military campaign and the truth is that when we go out to share the Gospel, we are going out into enemy territory, with the goal and purpose of winning souls for Christ. It is spiritual warfare. The enemy is real, and the warfare is real, particularly in regions where there is prevalent witchcraft and demonic worship.

Some people argue that the church focuses too much on mission and not enough on the discipleship and nurturing of our own church family. We have this tension between mission and discipleship.  

The truth is that the church is called to do both. One without the other is disobedience to the instructions of Jesus. Jesus instructed Peter in John 21 to, “feed my sheep”, to instruct and feed the followers of Jesus with the Word of God. The apostle Paul also instructed Timothy to preach the word patiently to those in the church (2 Timothy 4:2).

The church needs discipleship, and the church is a place where believers can come and be fed the word of God. But the church also needs to be obedient to the command of Jesus to go and preach the Gospel.

We all know the Great Commission found in Matthew 28, but we can sometimes forget that the Great Commission is found in each of the four Gospels, and also in Acts 1:8.

Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:14–18, Luke 24:44–49, John 20:19-23, and Acts 1:4–8.

The Gospel of Luke has a different perspective on the Great Commission and each of the Gospels give us a different view of the Gospel account. It’s like turning a diamond around in the light and seeing the beauty of the Gospel from different angles.

Luke recalls that after his resurrection, Jesus explained the Scriptures to the disciples (Luke 24:44-45). Jesus reminded them of all the prophecy’s that had been fulfilled in his life up to that point and how the Old Testament was a prophetic revelation of Jesus. It was probably a very gentle “I told you so” moment.

And then in verse 47 we read, “and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

Luke, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, highlights that salvation comes through repentance and turning from our old way of life. Sadly, the message of repentance is not preached enough today.

Luke continues in verse 49, “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Luke recalls that Jesus told his disciples to wait, not to go anywhere until they had been filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit coming on the gathering in the upper room in Acts 2, is the fire of God that was and is the catalytic power of the church.

Luke records that Jesus told them about a promise that was made long ago, the promise of the Father to send the Spirit. Jesus was referring to Isaiah 32:15 and Joel 2 for a couple of examples.  

This is crucial for the mission of the church; we must never think that we can do anything for God in our own strength.

The disciples before Pentecost were a group hiding behind locked doors, fearing for their lives and not a very effective group at all. But then, the Holy Spirit comes on them and they run out into the streets proclaiming Jesus as the risen Son of God, the Messiah. Their boldness was staggering, and the effectiveness of their witness changed the world. They were used by God the Holy Spirit.

They had courage as they went with the Power of the Holy Spirit.

Boldness like this is not restricted to the early church or to the disciples who walked with Jesus. This boldness accompanies and characterizes any believer who, against opposition, boldly proclaims the truth of God’s word.

None of the people who are heading out on mission trips from Grace Point this summer are under any illusion that they have some unique ability that qualifies them to go and preach the Gospel with power. Rather, they are humbly saying yes to the Lord and then inviting the Holy Spirit to empower, lead, and use them for the Glory of God.

So Why missions?

Because it builds the church. Not only are new converts added to the church, but it also builds the faith of the church as we hear stories of God moving in power.

Missions is a double-edged sword.  It grows the people going by stretching them in their faith and accomplishes much more in discipleship than any classroom environment could ever do. And then there is the blessing of seeing people saved and entering into the kingdom, helping other churches to grow in health and welcome new converts.

Missions is not only the instruction that Jesus gave the church, but it is the fuel and the impetus that ensures the church stays healthy.

Why Elders?

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As the disciples preached the Gospel, the early church grew rapidly and as the church grew, so did the need for godly men to lead the churches. Jesus is the head of the church, but he calls under-shepherds to tend to the flock of individual churches. The Bible uses the terms; overseer or elder to define what we call pastors today.

The role of church elder or overseer is described in 1 Timothy 3:2–7 and Titus 1:6–9.

The primary role of the elder is to tend to the sheep. It is in the preaching of the Word that the church is led. A church grows in spiritual health as the truth of God’s word is declared from the pulpit week after week. There are no shortcuts, God has chosen this means to instruct his people.

One of the key attributes of a candidate elder is humility and this is where a plurality or group of elders is necessary to hold one another accountable and to encourage one another in life and in doctrine.

A church that is led by a group of elders allows the ministry staff (team leaders in the church), to focus and maximize their gifts and talents. Team leaders make practical decisions on how to implement and carry out the direction provided by the Elders. 

The elder is to fulfill the roles of teaching and prayer. Prayer for and with the members of the church. The elder is called to guard the doctrine and unity of the church. The elder is called to care for the spiritual needs of the church, providing Biblical counsel and discipleship. The elders are also called to train and equip deacons, preparing them for ministry.

So, what are the qualifications of an elder?

The New Testament places more stress on the character of the Spiritual leader than on the gifting of the spiritual leader. Looking at the list of characteristics of an elder in 1 Timothy 3, only one of them refers to a particular gift, “being able to teach”.

Sadly, the 21st century church has lost their way in this regard, as we are programmed for entertainment, and teaching skill is our primary focus when selecting a church family. But the Bible calls for the leader’s character to be the benchmark. And it is true that the church of Jesus Christ will not progress beyond the spiritual strength of its leaders.

Christian leaders are not perfect, but the primary requirement is one of character rather than giftedness according to the Bible. There are men who are gifted communicators but their character does not match their gifting.

1 Timothy 3:2, begins the list of qualities required of an elder, “Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,”

To be above reproach; this is not perfection, but what it means is that no one inside or outside the church should be able to point out a flagrant sin in the elder’s life and character. A sin that the elder is unrepentant about and refuses to acknowledge. 

To be the husband of one wife; the elder must be devoted to their spouse.  It means having eyes only for your wife, purity in thought. Being devoted to one woman.  

Temperate; elders must be self-controlled, enslaved to nothing.

Sober-minded; elders must be sober, sensible, wise, balanced in judgment, not given to quick, superficial decisions based on immature thinking. 

Respectable; elders must demonstrate a well-ordered life and honorable behavior. 

Hospitable; elders must be unselfish with personal resources, willing to share blessings with others. 

Able to teach; (see Titus 1:9 and 2 Timothy 2:24). The elder’s leadership is to be under and by the Word of God. This is the authority. It’s not the power of personality. It is the power of the Word of God. Elders shepherd people by the instruction of God’s Word.

And then in verse 3 Paul writes about some vices or character deficiencies that should not be found in an elder, “not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.”

Elders must be free from addictions and willing to limit their liberty for the sake of others. He must not be aggressive or quarrelsome and not a lover of money (see Matthew 6:21). An elder should be an example of someone who is content whether he has a lot or a little, not constantly reaching for more.

Verse 4 continues, “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive,”

Elders must have a well-ordered household and a healthy family life. This is the responsibility of the husband in the home. Verse 5 continues that if an elder cannot manage his own household, how can he be expected to oversee the church.

Verse 6 says that he must not be a new believer. An elder must have a track record of walking with the Lord, demonstrating spiritual disciplines that have been developed over years of practice.  

If a new believer, who doesn’t have a solid foundation of discipline, is placed too quickly in leadership, pride becomes the number one enemy as verse 6 says, and that has been the downfall of many gifted but immature young leaders.

And finally verse 7, the elder must have a good reputation in the community.

So that is what the Bible says about the character of the elder, it is an extremely high bar, but we must never forget the importance of the church and the price that Jesus paid for his bride. Nothing less than excellence and commitment is demanded.

I believe that the Lord always builds his church and as long as we are faithful to the call of Jesus for his church, we will see growth. As with the early church, growth requires leadership.

May the Lord lead us as a church in growing, developing and recognizing leaders.