Four Non-Negotiables of Christ’s Church

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). That word “devoted” is the key word. Everything that happened in the rest of this paragraph came from these non-negotiables. But what undergirded everything was this one thing: “Love.”

  1. The preaching and teaching of Scripture. They devoted themselves to “the apostles’ teaching,” that is, the Scriptures. The Bible contains 66 books (39 in the OT and 27 in the New Testament) that contains books that are historical, poetical, and apocalyptic. We have books called “gospels,” which are selective biographies of Jesus’ life, epistles (letters), and such. All written over a course of 1500 years, from Moses to the Apostle John. The Old Testament is about the promises made regarding Jesus and His rescue. The New Testament is about the promises kept. Jesus spent 40 days not only showing that He was alive, but showing from the OT Scriptures how this would happen. The apostles taught from the OT as shown by the Holy Spirit.The point of the Bible is, as Peter preached, was “this Jesus.” Jesus is the point of the Scriptures. Spirit moved forward in not only opening hearts to rescue those from their brokenness, but also to help them understand the Word of God. You see, when we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we have the mind of Christ and our hearts are opened to understand spiritual matters that we couldn’t understand before. It’s here we see in verse 43 that “awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.” At this point, these wonders accompanied and provided authority to the teaching–since the NT had not been written. Hearts were opened to hear and understand His Word, and that brought a sense of awe. Dear Christian, does reading about and hearing about God’s work and promises leave you in awe? Are you hungry and thirsty for His Word? Do you crave to hear His Word preached?
  2. Christ-centered fellowship. “And all who believed were together and had all things in common.” Fellowship is based on the gospel as taught by the apostles teaching! By connecting with Jesus and being part of His family makes us brothers and sisters. We are brothers and sisters. It’s what Tozer mentioned that 100 pianos tuned to the same tuning fork are tuned to each other. The apostle Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 1:9: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” The apostle John adds to this aspect of fellowship: “[t]hat which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). Our fellowship with each other is fueled by fellowship we have with God through His Son! Does our fellowship simply look like hanging out, or is there a piece to our fellowship where we are strengthening others in Christ?
  3. Monday-through-Saturday community. Breaking bread deals with generosity and hospitality among believers, as well as having favor with the people (v. 46).  Something has happened. Why does it seem we do not have as much favor with all the people? I’ve been watching a lot of Billy Graham videos over the last few years, and seeing him on talk shows such as Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, Woody Allen, and Donahue. He never compromised on the gospel. He called sin sin. He preached on hell and judgment. Yes, it was a different day, but we don’t seem to have much favor. “Day to day, attending the Temple together … received food with glad and generous hearts” (v. 45). Robert Louis Wilken wrote, “A society that has no place for God will disintegrate into an amoral aggregate of competing, self-aggrandizing interests that are destructive of the commonweal. In the end it will be enveloped in darkness.”  Do they see Jesus in how we live? Do we spend more time gossipping or gospelling? Does the awe and wonder we have for Jesus affect us Monday through Saturday? (Samuel. Jesus. Us?) Do we see this place as a haven from the world or as a hub to fuel up?
  4. Christ-pursuing prayer.  They were praising God, with awe coming on every soul.  By adoration, confession of sin, thanksgiving, supplication/requests, they maintained a connection to God by the Spirit after Jesus ascended!  Why the prayers?
    • Because there was a desperation.
    • They were new. They had never done this before.
    • They did not have protections from the government like we in the States are used to, so they relied more on Christ to sustain them.
    • They went from 120 to 3000 to even more every day– logistical and administrative challenge!
    • They were thankful for what God has done in their own hearts and in seeing lives changed.
    • Most of all, they were zealous to know God and His heart!
    • Are we zealous to connect with God in prayer? Or do we feel little need for relying on Him because we feel experienced enough?

May God help us be devoted to that for which He is zealous!


Throwback Thursday: A Closer Look at Southern Baptists

[Throwback Thursday reproduces blogposts either from this blog or other blogs I’ve had over the years that may be helpful today. This was originally posted back in 2013 at my previous blog.]

The Southern Baptist Convention (a denomination of which I’m proudly a part) has updated their website. I encourage you to take a look around, especially at the page, “A Closer Look: What It Means to Be a Southern Baptist,” which goes into some detail about what we’re all about. One of the things I like best about the SBC is the Cooperative Program. They have a very cool graphic on that page, which is reproduced below:

It’s always good to cooperate, knowing that the funds given by the churches’ members, who are part of local, autonomous churches who give and cooperate at a level they see fit.

Take time not only to read up on this page, but to peruse around the sparkly new site.

Take that next step!

What’s Up Wednesday: First RC, Now Billy Graham–Two Great Life Influences Now with Jesus

grahamAs you know, evangelist Billy Graham (1918-2018) is now with Jesus, dying this morning at the age of 99. His influence in my life regarding his preaching from the Word, his desire to win many to Christ, his moral code while traveling, and the doors that God opened all over the world (even preaching in Communist parts of the world during the 1970s and 1980s) left an indelible mark on my life.

One book I read during seminary was by William Martin called A Prophet with Honor that chronicled his forty-year ministry, outlining both the successes and the failures that happened in his ministry. At a husky 830+ pages, I was glad to read this to show that even Billy Graham himself  learned from his mistakes in dealing with politicians and the media. His humility, more than his preaching, stuck out to me.

Before moving on, I’ll leave you with this quote he said many years ago:

“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”

rc-sproulGraham’s passing comes two months after the passing of another man who enriched my life with his teaching on the holiness of God, R.C. Sproul (1939-2017). I came across Dr. Sproul about twenty years ago on the radio (yes, radio, where you’d have to wait for a program to come on at a designated time, as opposed to podcasts to which one can listen to any program released at any time).  While many preach the Scriptures, few preached with a passion like Sproul.

Granted, I did not agree with everything on which he taught, such as his support of infant baptism. This, though, helped me in my growth! I grew up in a church culture where any disagreement on any subject would mean we would refuse to listen to any other subject that person addressed.

So imagine my surprise when on Sproul’s radio program, Renewing Your Mind, that he aired a debate that he (a paedobaptism–infant baptizer) and John MacArthur (a credobaptist–baptising only professing believers) over this topic of baptism. Sproul and MacArthur debated passionately and civilly, but still walked away from that calling themselves ‘brothers in Christ,’ even as they disagreed on this topic.

While Graham helped me to see the wideness of God’s mercy among the nations in calling all to repent from their sin, Sproul helped me to see the bigness and holiness of God and how our lives should bow in worship to Him Sunday to Sunday.

Thank you, Lord, for Billy Graham and R.C. Sproul.

*For extra reading, check out Albert Mohler’s article on A Call for Theological Triage which outlines first, second and third tier theological issues.

A discipline of theological triage would require Christians to determine a scale of theological urgency that would correspond to the medical world’s framework for medical priority. With this in mind, I would suggest three different levels of theological urgency, each corresponding to a set of issues and theological priorities found in current doctrinal debates.

What Makes a Christian Unstable?


2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:2-8, ESV).


We as Americans tend to think that the trials are what cause our instability as believers–but that’s not the case. The trials are what test out our faith. God sends the trials to see if Jesus is enough, or whether we believe Jesus is there to keep our lives comfortable and safe. As a result, any trial that comes along is seen a sign of God’s disfavor. We hear this from prosperity preachers on a regular basis.

Yet, trials are how God makes us stable (steadfast); it’s the mechanism by which God brings about our maturity! But what if we struggle in the midst of this? What if, as we are experiencing these trials, we do not know what to do or which way to go?

Ask God for wisdom. The fact that we can ask Him is amazing, but what’s more amazing is that, as we trust and believe Him, we can not only ask but He will give it generously.

So you see, the instability does come in our trials, but in our lack of trust in the One who promises wisdom in the midst of trials. We risk only loving and trusting Jesus when our lives are smooth, but hating him or running from Him when trials come. Thus, the accusation of being double-minded. Thus, the instability.

Trust Christ! When trials comes, He sends them or permits them in order to strengthen us. Look to the cross where the greatest of all trials happened–and how God used that to strengthen and perfect all who follow His Son!

Thoughts and Prayers and School Shootings–What’s the Missing Piece?

Parents on Wednesday afternoon wait for news after a report of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)

14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead (James 2:14-17).

I committed to doing a Friday Funny each Friday here at the blog to help us end our week with a smile, but that’s hard given all that happened in Broward County this past week.  An Uber dropped off Nicholas Cruz, 19, off at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, packing a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle. He confessed to shooting students in the hallways and on the school grounds, according to a police report.

Immediately on social media, politicians and pastors, Republicans and Democrats, old and young began to express their “thoughts and prayers” for the victims and their families. Others began to take umbrage with this, saying that this is either not enough or it’s a copout and an excuse for inaction.

As usual, communication broke down. Eric Metaxas expressed what many are feeling right now in how we are communicating with each other:

We live in a culture now where we are talking at each other or past each other and not talking to and with each other.

The Epistle to James is all about a Christian living out their faith and brings together both prayer and action. Yes, James uses the phrase, “faith without works is dead,” which seems to go against what the Apostle Paul told the Ephesians: “By grace are you saved through faith; it is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). James is not talking about a faith-plus-works salvation but a faith-that-works lifestyle of the believer.

Is giving your thoughts and prayers a ‘copout?”  James indicates by the passage up top that seeing the need, praying, and wishing them well without taking the necessary steps to help the one in need is a copout.

Should Christians stop sending ‘thoughts and prayers’ to God on behalf of the victims? Of course not! Hebrews 4:14-16 says:

14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

One of the many benefits for Christians is that we have access to the throne of God. Wickedness has run rampant in this world as we turn more to solving our own brokenness rather than running to the One who can heal our brokenness through the gospel of Jesus.

But as James warns, that’s not enough! God has put us as His church to help our fellow imagebearers in every area of life (Genesis 1:26-31).

Memes abound regarding the cycle here in America:

Let’s cut to the chase:

  1. Our world is broken. Not just those who possess AR-15s and unload their chambers on defenseless school children, but anytime we end up wanting our way over others, and our way over God’s. Proverbs 16:5 says, “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.” We all want our own way at times apart from what is right. Think of what would happen to us if all societal and religious restraint were gone? What would we do if we could get away with it?
  2. Prayers and thoughts are needed… As the meme above us rightly notes, we forget quickly. If the issue and the victims are in our thoughts and prayers, we are less likely to forget.
  3. … but action is needed more. Talk to your kids about what happened. Talk to your schools about what’s being done to help. Contact your state and federal representatives. Ask, “Are we doing all we can to protect those that are around us?” If we have different answers to these questions, then can we talk about them without the political inflammatory rhetoric?  Something needs to be done!
  4. Christ is the answer to our brokenness.  As our Creator (Colossians 1:15-17) and our Rescuer (Luke 19:10), Jesus knows how we are wired and how we’ve moved away from the intention of our creation.  We were made for a reason and a purpose, and that purpose needs recovering! Followers of Christ recognize that we are all of value and are made in God’s image (Psalm 139:13-16) and therefore we do all we can to help the defenseless (the unborn, orphans, widows, homeless, and those dead in sin–Psalm 139, James 1:27, Ephesians 2:1-6).

Pray, yes, and don’t be ashamed to say so. But let’s take avenues necessary to do what’s next in loving our neighbor, shall we?



Telling JW’s about the deity of Christ from their own Scriptures


[Throwback Thursday reproduces blogposts either from this blog or other blogs I’ve had over the years that may be helpful today. This was originally posted August 23, 2011 at my previous blog.]

One of the more difficult things for orthodox Christians to do is speak with Jehovah’s Witnesses (also known as the Watchtower Society). Their Awake! magazines have a total worldwide printing of 39 million per year. Why do we struggle? For one, we often do not know how to approach them or what to say to many of their presentations (they are very studious, studying hours per day on their own beliefs and countering the beliefs of orthodox Christians). They get more converts from Southern Baptists than any other religious group.

They use a different version of the Scriptures (the New World Translation), have different meanings of salvation, heaven, eternal life, forgiveness. More importantly, they view the Trinity, and especially the person and work of Jesus far differently. To the JWs, Jesus is merely the Archangel Michael in human form—a created being, not the creator and sustainer of all (Colossians 1:15-17).

Options are available as to how to treat them. You can:

  • Slam the door in their faces—not knowing that they believe they have suffered for Jesus in this mode of persecution;
  • You can engage them on the front doorstep with your Bible and them using theirs;
  • You can bring them in, almost assuring they will continue to come back for the next few weeks or so.

A member of my church has engaged in speaking with JWs at her home. They have come back three weeks in a row and are now back for Week 4. Here is some information I shared with her on how to deal with JWs on this particular issue of the deity of Christ from their own Scriptures!

In regards to the deity of Christ, the Jehovah’s Witnesses removed every connection between Jesus and Him being worshiped, since only Jehovah can be worshiped. But even so, you can use their Bible (as deviant and perverted as it is) to show them that Jesus is fully God. The following is something very simple you can do with them when they come by… but first, some ground rules.

  1. They study hours per day not only to help them know what they believe, but to counter any arguments from orthodox Christians, so you will have a hard time (as do I, to be honest) fighting them on their ground. They will bog you down in particulars and get you confused. So going through this stuff with them line by line will not change their minds nor yours.
  2. If you go in there trying to win and be right like I used to, you will risk the opportunity like I did to share the gospel. There’s a difference between proving someone wrong for the win and winning them to Christ.
  3. Keep it simple. Here are some steps using ‘their’ Bible (the New World Translation) that can be used to show them the key to the whole thing: Jesus. They believe he is the incarnation of the archangel Michael rather than the second person of the Trinity.

Let’s begin. First, start with Hebrews 1:5-6 from their version:

“For example, to which one of the angels did he ever say: “You are my son; I, today, I have become your father”? And again: “I myself shall become his father, and he himself will become my son”? 6 But when he again brings his Firstborn into the inhabited earth, he says: “And let all God’s angels do obeisance to him.”

[NOTE: the word obeisance in our Scriptures is worship… this is a passage that says Jesus is to be ‘worshipped’ as God, not simply respected or paid obeisance. They changed the word, but don’t bring that up. Even with this, you can make your case.]

Then go to Luke 4:5-8:

5 So he brought him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the inhabited earth in an instant of time; 6 and the Devil said to him: “I will give you all this authority and the glory of them, because it has been delivered to me, and to whomever I wish I give it. 7 You, therefore, if you do an act of worship before me, it will all be yours.” 8In reply Jesus said to him: “It is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’”

[NOTE: Jehovah God you must worship. Emphasize that. Tell them they are correct in that. Yes!]

Then go to John 20:25-28:

25 Consequently the other disciples would say to him: “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them: “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails and stick my finger into the print of the nails and stick my hand into his side, I will certainly not believe.”
26 Well, eight days later his disciples were again indoors, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and he stood in their midst and said: “May YOU have peace.” 27 Next he said to Thomas: “Put your finger here, and see my hands, and take your hand and stick it into my side, and stop being unbelieving but become believing.” 28 In answer Thomas said to him: “My Lord and my God!”

[NOTE: They will say that Thomas is not worshiping Jesus, but merely exclaiming an expression like we all do. But note to them that Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for taking His name in vain. He called him ‘blessed’ in verse 29. But keep going…]

Next, go to Isaiah 44:6:

“6 “This is what Jehovah has said, the King of Israel and the Repurchaser of him, Jehovah of armies, ‘I am the first and I am the last, and besides me there is no God.”

[Emphasis there is no God besides Jehovah–the one who is the First and the Last. Now go in for the true point to all this.

Lastly, go to Revelation 1:17-18:

17 And when I saw him, I fell as dead at his feet.
And he laid his right hand upon me and said: “Do not be fearful. I am the First and the Last, 18 and the living one; and I became dead, but, look! I am living forever and ever, and I have the keys of death and of Ha´des.

[NOTE: Ask them, if it’s true that Jehovah is the first and last and besides him there is no other, tell me: when did God die? Likely, they may stumble for an answer, but they will have none. It is there that you share that Jesus is the Son of God and God the Son who died for our sins. It’s not by what we do to earn favor, it’s by God the Son dying for the forgiveness of sins.]

If they continue to ask questions about this, great. If God is moving, lead them to Christ. Otherwise, I would respectfully suggest that you share the gospel with them as best you can, then say that there is nothing they can say that will convince you to turn from the the gospel you know to be true and ask them not to come back.

What have you used in the past to engage JWs?

What’s Up Wednesday: The Nations Coming to our Cities is an Opportunity–Not a Drudgery

“Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.’ And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, ‘They are filled with new wine'”
(Acts 2:5‭-‬13 ESV

We come to the point in the book of Acts and see what, to us in 2018, looks like just a very interesting event. But let’s not understate this. Should this rate higher as just ‘interesting’? Yes! Aside from creation and the resurrection, what happened here at Pentecost ranks up there with both of those events in their impact on world history. It is here that a harvest was brought in.

Did God intend this to happen during Pentecost?

Yes. Leviticus 23:15-22 speaks of the Festival of Weeks that took place seven weeks after the “Sabbath,” or after the Passover (or for us in the Christian tradition, Easter). As we see from the map up top, all the nations would come together to celebrate and observe this, making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

It’s in verse 22 that’s interesting: “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.”

So even in the OT, which was geared primarily to the people of Israel, God also gives a glimpse for his heart for those outside of God’s covenant people. But they were to take care of the poor and disenfranchised and those who were not part of the people of Israel.

That’s Pentecost. Hold that thought. Let’s go back to Acts 2. Where the disciples of Jesus “were all together in one place” (v.1) Why? They were waiting for God to fulfill the promise of the Holy Spirit’s arrival (Acts 1:4). But God was about to fulfill that promise by unleashing something (Someone?). A sound like a rushing wind, filling the place. Tongues of fire rested on them.

In Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist, the one who prepared the way for when Jesus would soon show up on the scene, told the crowd, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11).

Fire! This passage has brought about a lot of confusion. I’ve had very dear friends who have said to me, “The way you know you have a deep walk with Christ is speaking in tongues.” And they reference this passage. But 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 speak of tongues as one gift among many. Even when spoken of in 1 Corinthians 14, the goal is to build up the church, not simply build up ourselves.

So how does this fit here? Simply put, the purpose here was not for their own personal edification, but to build the church. Jesus made this promise that he would build his church. Do you see?

Go back to Acts 1:8: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” I imagine them sitting there saying, “Jerusalem? Sure. We live here. Judea? Our province–yes, I could see us going there. Samaria? We’ve never gone there, but it’s close by. Ends of the earth? How will we do this? We don’t know any other language. No Duolingo or Rosetta Stone existed. No airplanes or automobiles. It will take us years to get there!

We’ve all had bosses give us projects that seemed impossible to finish on a deadline. But we would work hard and make it happen, or decide to walk away. But this seemed like an impossible task, no matter how much time you would have. But they had faith, God provided the ‘fire,’ and now what.

This baptism of fire is just that. And do you see what happens? They began to think about and move forward toward those who had never heard. Acts 2:5-8 shows the purpose of the tongues and the purpose of this happening at Pentecost: Harvest not of crops, but of souls, right to the edge of God’s field–all the world!

Take a look at the map up top again.

What are we seeing? We are seeing that, as Peter will preach in the verses that come up, they will take the name of Jesus back to their homeland. How amazing is this? This would show that God would empower them to preach, and that He is active in bringing about his own promises and purposes. Yes, they came together. Yes, it may have been unbearable waiting. Yes they may have been scared because Jesus ascended back to His Father and were left alone. They did not know what was around the corner, but they had His power and His promises.

We have lessons for us here, don’t we?

God cares about those who are not here yet, and so should we. When churches start looking at signs and websites and greeter ministries and learning how to share the gospel, it’s a way for us to remember we are caring desperately and urgently for those who are not yet among the people of God yet. The Festival of Weeks brought that to mind. Pentecost in Acts 2 brought that to mind. It needs to be in our minds as well.

God cares about not just our nation, but every nation, and so should we. On whatever side of the political aisle you are when it comes to immigrants and refugees to our cities, remember God brought the nations to Jerusalem for a reason, just like he’s bringing the nations to our cities–as an opportunity to share God’s message of rescue so they could take it to their hearts and then possibly take that back to their people.

This happening at Pentecost was not a coincidence, but a fulfillment of the original intention of that Festival–a harvest of souls into the Kingdom. May that be our heart as well!