What’s Your Church’s Posture Right Now?

This illustration fascinates me. I do not know where this originated, but I’m glad this illustration exists because it puts the groceries on the bottom shelf.

The top half obviously is an inward perspective of church. Notice the words used: protecting, collecting, building, competing. Assets, community, organization, and culture are inward and building-centric. Resources the primary way to find security in facing the future. The risk is that people are valued only as far as they help sustain the organization. Infrastructure is king. The wheels of a church runs administratively. There is a very business-y, bureaucratic systematization about church.

The bottom half is outward is an outward perspective of church. Notice the words used: releasing, mobilizing, building, collaborating. Assets, community, organization, and culture are outward and ministry/mission-centric. Resources are the primary way to invest in the Kingdom and the future. The recognition is that the organization is valued as a tool to help people know and grow in Christ. The wheels of a church run toward ministry and discipleship. There is a very missionary movement about church.

I’ll take the bottom half, thanks!

Theology Tuesday: The Neglected Discipline of Prayer

Photo by Binti Malu on Pexels.com

Prayer is a spiritual discipline that most every Christian recognizes as a foundational and necessary practice. Yet, the actions of many professing Christ run counter to that conviction. Both personally and in our corporate times of worship, prayer is either ignored (personally) or utilizes the same phraseology passed down from generation to generation without a connection to heart and mind and soul. We in church world know the words, the timing, the pacing—we now how to do this without knowing how to do this.

The American church struggles with prayer as a body. Why? Why, when such deep conviction is known and even defended, do we struggle personally and corporately with prayer? Many will provide the answers, but I believe the reason is pride that manifests itself in a lot of ways that the apostle Paul addresses in Ephesians 3:14-21. We believe we are strong enough, smart enough, full enough, and great enough on our own. The plague that devastates Christians and churches is not COVID 19 or SARS or any other disease, but the plague of self-sufficiency, and as such is not worth the work. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, pointedly noted, “Prayer is difficult. Like anything of great value, prayer takes great effort, tremendous care, and Spirit-filled discipline.”[1]

The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus to remind them that there is not a Gentile race or a Jew race when it comes to the Kingdom of God. Kent Hughes calls the Church the “third race” that is neither Jew or Gentile as a primary identity. Yet, as he ended the first half of this letter with a call to prayer. In fact, 3:1 is where Paul started the call to prayer before he moved on to other matters that the Spirit brought to his mind to make sure the Gentiles knew about how God had moved in Paul and the church. (It must be said that Paul ended the second half of this letter with a call to prayer in Ephesians 6:18-20.)

Paul warned the Ephesian church and the Spirit through Paul warns us today that Christians are not strong enough, smart enough, full enough, nor great enough to accomplish anything of any eternal significance on our own. Bring together this “third race” can only happen through a posture of humility. Erik Thoennes rightly noted, “Paul’s preaching turns to prayer in recognition that only God is able to bring the heart transformation needed in the lives of the Ephesians. Any ministry not grounded in prayer will have a shaky foundation.” Prayer here is not merely for the individuals but seeks to unify these individuals with their varying backgrounds into one cohesive Spiritual unit.

[This is the excerpt from a sermon from April 26, 2020.]


[1]Albert Mohler, The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down…

How Pentecost Reversed the Tower of Babel: The True Point of Acts 2:1-13

Jesus’ last words outlined his strategy for the generations of churches that would follow. In the Great Commission, He establishes authority over all things—and by that authority He says to ‘Go and make disciples.’ He called the apostles to be witnesses from their neighbors to the nations! And with all this, how would they accomplish this? Empowered and fueled by the Holy Spirit of Christ.

Those of you who have driven and suddenly run out of gas understand how important fuel is to any vehicle. It doesn’t matter if you have a moped or a $150,000 Lambourghini, if you run out of fuel, little matters how sweet the design of the car or the engine is—you’re not going anywhere. That car turns into an overweight, beautifully designed paperweight.

Fuel makes the engine go. The Father sent the Holy Spirit as a promise to the church to make it ‘go’ and make disciples. As we will see, the Holy Spirit fuels by the power of the gospel and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

[2:1] When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. [2] And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. [3] And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. [4] And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

[5] Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. [6] And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. [7] And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? [8] And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? [9] Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, [10] Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, [11] both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” [12] And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” [13] But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” (Acts 2:1-13 ESV)

See how the Holy Spirit fuels by fulfilling God’s plans from of old

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:1-4).

For ten days, the disciples and followers of Jesus (120 in total) sat in the upper room in Jerusalem in one accord, staying continuously in prayer. While they were not sure of what this “promise of the Father” would look like, they did know that they needed to fulfill Christ’s demand and desire for there to be 12 apostles, not eleven. Jesus chose one to take Judas Iscariot’s place by the name of Matthias.

Now Pentecost had arrived! Luke is always thorough in giving the reader milemarkers to help them track the timeline. Jesus stayed with the disciples for 40 days. When is Pentecost in relation to this? And is there any importance to why God chose Pentecost to send His Spirit down?

Turn with me to Leviticus 23:15-22.

You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present your grain offering of new grain to the LORD. You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made to two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leven, as firstfruits to the LORD. And you shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bull from the herd and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. And you shall offer one male goal for a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings. And the priests shall wave them with the bread of the first fruits as a wave offering before the LORD, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the LORD for the priest. And you shall make proclamation on the same day. You shall hold a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a statute forever in all your dwelling places throughout your generations. 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 the sojourner: I am the LORD your God.

In the Old Testament Feast of Weeks would soon be known in NT times as Pentecost, a derivative of the word ‘fifty.’ So God instructed the people of Israel to could seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath—seven weeks from the beginning of their year, which marked the Passover when God delivered His people from Egypt, and spared them from the sentencing of the angel of death that destroyed the firstborn of all Egypt—not even sparing Pharaoh’s son. God’s people were spared by the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of their dwellings.

This second harvest festival was set aside to recognize and remember the LORD as the provider of all the harvest that God brought in by His power—and as such to bring back to him the firstfruits of that crop. How does God make this happen? Just go back to Genesis 1 and the pattern of “And God said … and it was so… and it was good.” He created all things by the word of his mouth.

How does this connect? As God would use His people to bring in the harvest of crops, He would use His people here in Acts to bring in a grand harvest—not of crops, but of souls—by the Word of His mouth. More on this later.

How Would the Harvest Be Brought In?

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Luke tells of an event that happened “suddenly”: “And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:2-4).

Rushing wind? Tongues of fire? Speaking in other tongues? In some ways, it sounds like a trailer for a scary movie. And to be honest, it may have been scary a bit—this was certainly outside the norm of usual activity.

Yet we are seeing that God would operate like this in order to bring about a revelation from him—using these times to reveal something extraordinary about His nature. Consider in Ezekiel 1 when the prophet Ezekiel was approached by the living God, who was getting ready to show him in the wonders of heaven. In verse 4, Ezekiel says, “As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal.”

More recognizable to some of you in Job 38 when, after Job and his three friends spent a considerable amount of time pontificating about God and why Job was suffering such calamity, verse 1 says, “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind.”

What about these tongues of fire? Great confusion exists. Churches have split and been created over this issue. Friendships have formed and been broken over this issue. What are these tongues? Do they still exist, or are they truly still in place? Is it un-Baptistic to believe it? Are they simply a heavenly language, or is it something more?

The issues I’ve raised are not new. Even the apostle Paul dealt with them in 1 Corinthians 14, which we will deal with more tonight. But for now, let’s take a look at 1 Corinthians 14:1-6:

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up (1 Cor 14:1-6).

Verses 4 and 6 make it clear what the purpose of speaking is in the church: to build up the church—that is, to build up Christians! He says this again in verse 12, 17, and 26.

So as we return to Acts 2, what’s the significance of tongues here? Fire in the OT was meant to purify, but also signified the presence of God—as did the fire by night when God led His people in the wilderness. But remember in Isaiah 6 this passage:

And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for” (Isaiah 6:5-7).

Isaiah had seen the thrice-holy God whose glory filled the earth and whose hem of the robe filled the entire Temple. Isaiah recognized his sin and his shortcomings, and expressed it. He could tell he was doomed because he recognized the condition of his heart (“lost”) but also that his condition came out in his actions (“I am a man of unclean lips”). The seraphim took the coal from the altar of sacrifices and touched his mouth.

Fire purifies, but also shows the presence of God. Isaiah began to preach. And soon, the disciples would begin to preach. For, dear friends, in preaching the Word of God is bringing in the presence of God. The tongues as of fire landed on them, which represented the presence and purity of God and the message He would have them to preach.

So these tongues show that God is present and ready to bring in the harvest of Pentecost to build up the church with tongues of languages already established and existing on earth.

It must be asked, how did all of these languages come about? To answer this question, we must return all the way back to Genesis 11. In this chapter, we see a monumental turn in history.

[11:1] Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. [2] And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. [3] And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. [4] Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” [5] And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. [6] And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. [7] Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” [8] So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. [9] Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth. (Genesis 11:1-9 ESV)

Do you see what is happening? Look again at Acts 2:5-13:

[5] Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. [6] And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. [7] And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? [8] And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? [9] Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, [10] Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, [11] both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” [12] And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” [13] But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

The parallels are striking:

First, all the world came into one place for a specific reason;

God came down in both instances (Acts 2:2-3).

The reversals are just as striking: The peoples of the earth came to Babel with one language; the peoples in Israel during Pentecost heard the gospel with one language.

Everyone left the Tower of Babel not being able to “understand one another’s speech” (Genesis 11:7); but they left the Temple understanding the disciple’s speech;

The Lord dispersed those in Shinar in confusion, but dispersed those at Babel with a unified message to their own peoples.

They sought to build their own building, but only Jesus can built a true building, “not built with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).

Dear friends, please understand the role of not only the tongues mentioned in Acts 2, but also of the feasts, the Tower of Babel and everything else God revealed in the Old Testament: God aims to present Christ clearly, and thus this should be our aim as well.  Sure, there may be the hard work of seeing why God decided to include the feasts, dietary laws, and many of the other civil rituals and laws in the OT.  But they all foreshadowed one who would ultimately fulfill the purpose of these things.  God through Christ is moving things back to the way He began it all. 

Love’s Redeeming Work is Done: A New Holy Week Devotional

As Holy Week approaches, we wanted to provide you with a resource to help you deepen your walk with Christ during this central week of our Christian year.

With that in mind, we provide you with a new Holy Week Devotional called “Love’s Redeeming Work is Done” (available in pdf form) which walks us through the last week of Jesus’ life from Palm Sunday until the Resurrection. 

What makes this so special is that the contributors are members of Arapahoe Road. Seeing how God has moved in their hearts and minds to bring home such wonderful truths–well, what an encouragement that is! 

So, thank you to Ken Dillender, Gar Hoover, Sam Huckaby, Nicole Martens, Scott Morter II, and Bob Scott for their work in helping us become more hopeful, joyful disciples of Jesus. 

Table of Contents

Day One: Rejoice the Lord is King!  (Dr. Matthew Perry)

Day Two: Jesus Clears More than the Temple by Ken Dillender

Day Three: The King is Coming by Scott Morter II

Day Four: Do You Love God? by Sam Huckaby

Day Five: Anticipation of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb by Bob Scott

Day Six: The Light of the World is Jesus by Nicole Martens

Day Seven: Low in the Grave He Lay by Gar Hoover

Day Eight: The Resurrection Reality by Dr. Matthew Perry

For Such a Time as This: Christ, COVID19 and You

Never in my wildest imaginings did I see us being in such a season as this. The terms “social distancing” and  “flattening curves” have become a regular part of our vocabulary. The nightly news and our social media feeds bring not only the happenings of the day (complete with statistics and new directives) but also all sorts of experts (real or imagined) telling us how to cope with what’s coming next.

As for us pastors, no classes existed in the seminary curriculum entitled, “Pastoring Through a Pandemic.” We’re all on a learning curve to communicate and connect with our people and how to give appropriate care in the midst of the physical distancing. And now, as one meme on the internet noted, “And just like that, our pastors are televangelists” (thank you, Suzan) where now our main way to execute a service is online. We’ve become reliant on technology for most every facet of communication and connection. Person-to-person is now out. We are learning how to be both high-touch and high tech. (Did I mention that this is a learning curve? It’s such a curve it’s almost a circle!)

Yet, it’s in times like this that Christians find a way to be creative, innovative, and solution-finders rather than give in to fear, panic, and isolation. This season is proving to be most difficult, but this season also provides an opportunity for God to use us and to have a front row seat at seeing Him work.

We’re reminded of Esther who, after being taken in as the wife of the King of Persia, heard about Haman’s plan to eliminate all of the Jews in Persia after the slight of Mordecia (Esther’s cousin and one who refused to bow down to Haman). Though Haman was second in command to King Ahasuerus (that’s uh-has-you-WEAR-us), Mordecai encouraged Esther to speak up for her people. “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14)?

God made no mistake—He put you here in this season for such a time as this. Now what?

First, pray. Pray for strength. Pray for wisdom. Pray for guidance. Pray for health. Pray for the medical community! Pray for your neighbor. Pray for your fellow believers. Pray for your family. Pray for your church. Pray for your pastors. Pray for… Pray for… Pray! Pray! Pray!

Second, dig into the Scriptures! On March 29, we learned much about the person of Apollos who was confident in Christ and confident in the Scriptures (Acts 18:24-25). We need to rely on Christ and His promises, His purpose, His path—Him! This isolation provides you an opportunity to realize that you may be isolated from people, but in Christ we are never isolated from Him!

Third, write that email/letter/text to (1) a fellow believer who needs encouraging, (2) an unbeliever who needs to know about Christ. If you need some help, go to http://www.arbc.net/how-to-become-a-christian/. Here, I go through the 3 Circles. Stay connected! This is a frantic time for so many.

Fourth, be smart and safe! The litany of “stay at home, wash your hands” is the thing to do right now until we know better.

Fifth, let your family, friends, or church know if you need prayer or help in some way. We worry about being a bother. Well, be that bother! Give people the opportunity and the blessing to bless you!

Sixth, treasure your family. Many of you are working from home. Our kids just started online classes through LPS. Our routines are messed up. But you know what? That’s OK. Treasure the family that God has given to you.

We made our plans at the beginning of 2020. Goodness, we made our plans at the beginning of March. But remember Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”

Here are some passages to read in the meantime:

James 1:2-8

Psalm 29

Psalm 25:4-5

John 10:27-29

Matthew 22:34-40

Ephesians 3:14-21

Revelation 22:6-21