Learning and Living the God-centered life

One Biblical Doctrine at a time…
Jan 2011

Review for January 30

This morning we got back to the communicable attributes of God. And our focus was on the holiness of God. I really enjoy studying and teaching on this particular subject. In the 1700s the main emphasis of the preaching included the attributes of holiness and justice. Of course we need a healthy balance between the holiness of God and the love of God. But today we are in danger of having a God presented to congregations that is defanged and tame. I encourage you to read through these notes and study along with us as we take a close look at the holiness of God.
SBS Class January 30, 2011

If you would like to listen to the audio from Sunday’s class simply CLICK ON THIS LINK

Love is War

David Paul Tripp from his book and DVD series on marriage “What Did You Expect.”

Look what I did...


Quotes for the Day

In my email this morning were the following quotes from two different members of our class. I post these in hope that as we learn and live the gospel together that we will continue to dig deeper.

Quote 1
"The vague and tenuous hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly has become a deadly opiate for the consciences of millions. It hushes their fears and allows them to practice all pleasant forms of iniquity while death draws every day nearer and the command to repent goes unregarded. As responsible moral beings we dare not so trifle with our eternal future." -- A.W. Tozer

Quote 2
Modern Christianity is crucially weak at three vital points.
  • The first is its compromised, deficient understanding of revelation. Without Biblical historicity and veracity behind the Word of God, theology can only grow closer to Hinduism.
  • Second, the modern Christian is drastically weak in an unmediated, personal, experiential knowledge of God. Often, what passes for religious experience is a communal emotion felt in church services, in meetings, in singing or contrived fellowship. Few Christians would know God on their own.
  • Third, the modern church is often pathetically feeble in the expression of its focal principle of community. It has become an adult social club, preaching shop, or minister-dominated group. With these weaknesses, modern Christianity cannot hope to understand why people have turned to the East, let alone stand against the trend and offer an alternative. -- Os Guinness in The Dust of Death

Review for January 23

On January 9 we discussed three of our REFLECT and RENEW points:
  • Knowing Christ
  • Faith in Christ
  • Fruit from Christ
And as part of the teaching lesson for that week I wanted to show the importance of God's word as it relates to know, faith and fruit in our Christian lives.

January 16th we continued with two more REFLECT and RENEW points.
  • Preaching the gospel to yourself
  • A look at a Martha and Mary type ministry
I started the class with a devotion time in Genesis 17. The point was to show “how” to have a devotion and its importance for our everyday Christian living.

This past Sunday I decided to do something a little bit different based on a discussion with Pat mid week. As many of you know we have a men’s Bible study that meets on Tuesday nights. Presently we are learning “How to Study” a book in the Bible. In our first week we talked about the importance of the AUTHOR’S BACKGROUND as we study the book of Philemon. It hit me that the apostle Paul was willing to use any method necessary to bring about reconciliation between Onesimus (slave) and Philemon (slave owner). Therefore I presented what we went over Tuesday night at the men’s study, and then made a strong appeal for those in the class to join us for Retreat 2011.

I also gave some snippets in class about the importance of preaching the gospel.
  • The gospel is "Jesus has done", not "you must do."
  • The gospel frees you from your addiction to be liked.
  • The banner under which Christians live reads “It is finished.”"Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God." Martin Luther
  • If you spend your time and energy criticizing others, you will become a slave to always having to be right. Only the gospel can set you free
  • The way a non-Christian becomes a Christian and the way we grow as Christians are actually the same – believing the gospel more and more.
  • Because Jesus was strong for me, I’m free to be weak; because He won for me, I’m free to lose; because He succeeded for me, I'm free to fail
  • The gospel frees me from the bondage of spending time and energy trying to control what others think about me.
  • The gospel frees you from the pressure to pretend that you're better than you are!
  • The only way to teach people about the unconditional love of God is to love people unconditionally.
If you would like to review the notes from Sunday then simply CLICK ON THIS LINK.

If you would like to listen to the audio from Sunday then CLICK ON THIS LINK.

Protecting the environment

Occasionally I take Pat fishing as part of my own “protect the environment” project. In Charleston when there are too many red fish in the water, the tides rise to unusual levels and cause major eroding of the coast line. Hmmm....you don’t believe that one? How about some ocean front property in Iowa? Anyway during the summer months we have been known to wet a hook. As they say a picture is worth a thousand words. And If you call today you can order our new video “How to wear stylish sunglasses and hats while catching the big ones”, operators are standing by. PatandBertFishing

We need small churches

“Many young people have been drawn into an ‘entertainment’ view of Sunday worship by what I will call ‘big church culture.’ They are attracted to the services by the ‘performances’ of a spectacular music group or a big name preacher with his superbly crafted sermon. Such things are simply not to be had in the majority of small churches. Sadly, even unwittingly, many large churches are thereby fostering a culture which, as it stands, probably guarantees the demise of small churches. Will the large churches be prepared to change this? The rising generation of young Christians are often groomed (unintentionally?) to become religious consumers who treat churches like spiritual supermarkets, not to become humble servants willing to take on uncomfortable situations or the wider needs of Christ’s kingdom. But if small churches close, our land will be even more spiritually impoverished than it already is” - John Benton

God's love

This is from Of First Importance website

When we think of Christ dying on the cross we are shown the lengths to which God’s love goes in order to win us back to Himself. We would almost think that God loved us more than He loves His son. We cannot measure His love by any other standard. He is saying to us, ‘I love you this much.’

The cross is the heart of the gospel; it makes the gospel good news. Christ died for us; He has stood in our place before God’s judgment seat; He has borne our sins. God had done something on the cross which we could never do for ourselves. But God does something to us as well as for us through the cross. He persuades us that He loves us.

— Sinclair Ferguson, quoted by C. J. Mahaney in Living the Cross Centered Life

Review for January 16

On Sunday our class was divided into two main sections:
Part 1 - Devotion time in Genesis 17
Part 2 - Reflect and Renew Questions

My constant admonishment and appeal for this community has been “get back into God’s word so that God’s word can get back into you.” Therefore on Sunday I wanted to take some time to talk about “HOW” to have a devotion. As I have said in the past and I reemphasized again on Sunday, the key element in Bible devotion is the preparation of the heart. So instead of talking about heart preparation I led us in a prayer of preparation prior to the devotion time in Genesis. I also started the men’s Bible study on Tuesday night with the same encouragement and even posted this prayer online for your edification.

Then with hearts prepared I simply read Genesis 17 and made some comments of observation as we collectively had a time of Bible devotion. I have found over the years that my devotion time is also prayer time. As God speaks to me through His word, I in turn speak to God. But I constantly find myself asking for a measure of faith that I understand is given by grace, in order that through the Spirit I might be able to know Christ, be transformed into His likeness unto the glory of God. As I pointed out on Sunday Genesis 17 reminds me of my spiritual rebirth. There is no way that Sarah could produce a child in her barren womb, just like there was no way for me to get born again through my efforts. As a matter of fact God was very displeased with Abraham for producing a child of the flesh (Ishmael) instead of waiting on the child of promise (Isaac). My correlation is today in many churches there are attempts in the flesh to get people converted. The only person that can save you is Jesus Christ. And Genesis 17 points me to the fact that only God can bring life into existence where before there was nothing. Check out this statement from Romans 4:17 “... God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. “ And this is exactly how God worked in the life of each person who was once lost and now is saved. He brought life into existence through the Spirit who takes out the heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh. We call this rebirth or what it means to be born again. And isn’t it wonderful that we can see the pointer to this Biblical truth in Genesis 17.

In the REFLECT and RENEW part of our class we looked more closely at the following questions:
  • Have you made it a practice to preach the gospel to yourself daily?
  • If one of the pastors or elders did a spiritual CAT scan on your 2010 would it reveal a Martha or Mary type of ministry?
Continue reading…

Learn to prepare your heart with prayer

The key to Spirit filled Bible reading, study and devotion time is to prepare the heart. This is a non-negotiable when it comes to getting back to God’s word in order for God’s word to get back into you. Many times in our study time we just launch into the word of God with little to no thought about heart preparation. Therefore I thought it might help to teach by example. This is a prayer of preparation from our Tuesday night men’s Bible study.

Are you sick on your sins?

I know not what you may have been in your past life – it matters nothing. You may have broken every commandment under heaven; you may have sinned with a high hand against light and knowledge; you may have despised a father’s warnings and a mother’s tears; you may have run greedily into every excess of riot, and plunged into every kind of abominable behavior – you may have turned your back entirely on God, His day, His house, His ministers, His word. I say again it matters nothing. Do you feel your sins? Are you sick of them? Are you ashamed of them? Are you weary of them? Then come to Christ just as you are, and Christ’s blood shall make you clean. - J.C. Ryle

Getting back to God's word

The name of our class is “learning and living the God-centered life.” One of the things I have consistently taught, going on three years is this, what we believe is manifested in how we behave. Therefore one of my main focuses in ministry over the past 13 years has been to ask "WHY" Christians don't read, study nor have devotions on a regular basis. As you read this email do a quick survey of your own Bible reading, study and devotion time in the last 3 years. Each of us has 10,080 minutes every week. Most Christians I have taught over the years understand the command that we are to love the Lord God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. However, when they do an honest review of minutes available as opposed to minutes actually committed to study, reading and devotion time, there seems to be a gap between what they know and what they do.

Therefore, one of the goals of this class is to get each of you into the word in order that the word can get into you! This point needs some further clarification. We live in the culture of America. Many live by a motto that goes something like this "if it's to be then it's up to me". Therefore when you tell an American Christian to get back to the Bible they think "I can do it, I will do and if you don't think I can then watch me". All that produces is a group of people that have a "DUTY" mentality and that is NOT my goal for you in our class this year. Instead my goal is that you would "DELIGHT" in picking up your Bibles each morning, to have a meeting with the living Lord Jesus as He explains His word to you.

I have found it helpful to look at several aspects of the "why" as it relates to Bible reading, study and devotion time. The first category I want to share with you are the main reasons I continue to hear as to "why" people don't study their Bibles. As you read would simply make a mental note if any of these reasons apply to you specifically. Now please don't be offended at my next statement. But Vance Havner, one of the great all time Baptist preachers, used to say "An excuse is the skin of a lie stuffed with a reason". So with all that said here we go.
1. The Bible doesn't seem relevant to my life
2. The Bible is confusing and hard to understand
3. I end up always feeling guilty when I read the Bible
4. I rely on my pastors and leadership to teach me what the Bible says
5. The Bible is boring to me
6. My life is hectic and I simply don't have time to read the Bible
7. The Bible is full of contradictions and therefore lacks credibility
8. I don't read period, not just the Bible but I don't read anything

From time to time I have dealt with each of these objections but let me go straight to the bottom line. ALL OF US MAKE TIME TO DO THAT WHICH IS IMPORTANT TO US, RIGHT? Therefore I am asking each of you to honestly evaluate what priority does God's word have in your life right now. This is one of the most, if not the most important question that you will every ask yourself. Because as we will see your answer to that very question will have eternal consequences. A pastor once said that when his mother gave him his first Bible she wrote on the inside cover "sin will keep you from this book or this book will keep you from sin". How true is that statement in light of Romans 6:23 that plainly tells us that the wages of sin is death. Continue reading…

The "consumer" gospel

I have mentioned on more than one occasion the consumer mentality that exists in America. How easily that has invaded the church today in which we have a "Burger King" (have it your way) Jesus. In this sense we market the gospel to be a self help program, a gospel that can develop better leaders, fix a bad marriage, keep our children from rebelling, give better health, and even secure our 401 K plans. So think about this for a minute, if Jesus can do all of that, plus I don't have to go to hell where I suffer for an eternity, and my sins can be forgiven so I don't go to bed with a guilty conscience, and you can convince me that God does have a wonderful plan for my life, then sure I will take Jesus - do you have more than one?

We have created in our consumerism a gospel of felt needs and we sell Jesus as the One who can fill the need. The Christian life becomes in essence an off shoot of going to the local Jiffy Lube where they roll out the red carpet and give you service in 15 minutes and you are on your way. I go into Christian book stores and see devotion books that are labeled a "5 minute time with God daily." And in my mind I am thinking "love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul and strength." Folks there are 1,440 minutes in every day which means 1% of our day would be 14 minutes with God in the morning or evening for prayer and Bible. And yet for the American consumer who has little time for Christ other than Sunday, holidays and emergencies, we market a 5 minute devotion book. This is the day of "fast food" religious activity but it is not the gospel spoken of in the Bible. Something is wrong, desperately wrong and every fiber of my being wants to cry out REPENT AND BELIEVE!

I am drawn to the language in the Bible that the Lord Jesus Himself spoke when it comes to being a "genuine" Christian. Look closely at these words and compare them to the consumeristic gospel that exists for us so that we can have our "BEST LIFE NOW!"

Mark 8:34 And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. The context of these words are when Jesus first tells His disciples in plain language that He must go to cross and die and then 3 days later be raised from the dead.

The Christian life is about:
1. Denying self - in the day and time in which we live this is something I rarely hear talked about or preached. This is about us denying everything in our lives that could be a distraction from the real treasure and prize which is Christ Himself. As C.S. Lewis once stated "we have been so happy for years playing with mud pies in the streets and we have no idea what it would be like to enjoy a day on the shores of the Mediterranean.
Do you see how this statement of "deny yourself" plays out in a day of consumerism? Tell the people in church, it is not about what you can get from Jesus but what you are willing to give up in order to follow Jesus. Let me ask you a question - what are the things in your life right now that take your time and attention away from Christ? Is there something or are there things that you value here on planet earth that you value more than Him?

2. Take up your cross - Every day you must go to the electric chair, the hanging gallows, the lethal injection chamber and die. You are dying daily to everything that would keep you from the main thing and the main thing is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Check out this verse Romans 8:13 "for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live." The only way this can be done as you read carefully through this section of Scripture is via the Spirit by the very word of God! Are you in the word daily, consistently and getting saturated to the point that when others bump into you throughout the day you bleed Jesus. Please don't confuse DUTY with DELIGHT. Is Christ the passion and treasure of your life so that you are a man or a woman after God's own heart? 2Chronciles 16:9 “For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.Continue reading…

Are you desperate for God?

Devotion time in God's word should start with the preparation of the heart and preparation of the heart should start with prayer. Are you desperate to hear from the living God through His living word?
Romans 10:17 says So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

I want to recommend that from this day forward you start every Bible reading, devotion and study with a sincere and desperate plea for God to open your eyes and ears. Learn to pray in order to prepare the heart. Two verses that I covered yesterday and there are many were:
Psalm 119:18 Open my eyes, that I may behold
Wonderful things from Your law.

Jeremiah 33:3 ‘Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’

Haven't we come to understand from the Bible that faith is a gift of God? And there is a connection between faith and hearing the word of God based on what we read in Romans 10:17. So doesn't it make sense to ask God if by His grace He might increase our faith as we are able to hear His word? And the word of God tells us in the book of James that the reason we don't have it is because we don't ask for it!

I have heard many comments about King Solomon over the years and the fact that he asked God for wisdom. You remember the story that God comes to Solomon in a dream and says that he may ask for whatever he wants. Here is what Solomon actually asked for; 1Kings 3:9 “So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil." As a side note, the Hebrew word for understanding is "shama" which means to hear. So King Solomon, of all the things he could have asked of God, asked for a hearing heart! As you continue to read it says that this pleased the Lord.

Do we understand that God wants to grant that request for us as we come to His word? Continue reading…

Take Comfort in Christ

Let all who trust in Christ take comfort in the thought that they build on a sure foundation. It is true that we are sinners, but Christ has borne our sins. It is true that we are poor helpless debtors, but Christ has paid our debts. It is true that we deserve to be shut up forever in the prison of hell. But thanks be to God, Christ has paid a full and complete ransom for us. The door is wide open. The prisoners may go free. May we all know this privilege by heartfelt experience, and walk in the blessed liberty of the children of God. ~ J.C. Ryle


Do you remember the days of going on a car trip with no GPS device of any kind? There was a time you could actually head to somewhere like Hartford Connecticut and get lost along the way. Believe it or not Nancy and I honeymooned in Hartford, long story but I got lost along the way. What if I after getting turned around, I was headed straight to Florida and but thought all the time I was going to Hartford Connecticut? Yes, I knew exactly where I was going but now am driving at 70 mph in exactly the opposite direction. The problem isn't that I don't know where I am going, the problem is that I don't know where I am. This coming Sunday, Lord willing, we continue to reflect upon 18 questions in order to ask "WHERE AM I RIGHT NOW" in my Christian life. Again this is NOT for you to ask where you THINK you are but rather where you REALLY are.

Last Sunday I covered the first three "REFLECT AND RENEW" points;
1. Knowing Christ
2. Faith in Christ
3. Fruit from Christ

In each of these categories on Sunday I listed a number of Scriptures for you to study. One point that I wanted each of you to see was the importance of God's word as it relates to "WHERE YOU ARE" in your walk with Christ. I have been by God's grace married to Nancy for 34 years. This is a woman that I know better than any woman on planet earth. I don't just know about Nancy that she is a native of Charlotte, her mother is Dabney, and her father is Bill. But I know her favorite songs, restaurants. places to travel, friends and yes, even her love for shoes. I really know this woman and enjoy spending time with her. If we can understand this at the husband/wife level, then certainly it makes since in our relationship with Christ. The absolute best way for me to know Jesus Christ is to know His word. If I love Christ I will love to pursue Him as I read, devote and study the word of God because this is the revelation of Christ! Over the years in Bible teaching others have asked me in private conversations regarding the assurance of salvation. The conversation normally starts with I have a friend...and it concludes with what is the best way to know if they are a genuine believer. It seems that I always go back to two basics; what is the person's relationship to sin and what is the person's relationship with God's word. We learned on Sunday that eternal life in knowing Christ and no disciple can truly know Him without knowing His word. Continue reading…

Emerging Church


Test Yourself


Review for January 9

Launch 2011 - Reflect and Renew

If you want to listen to the audio from today’s class simply CLICK ON THIS LINK.

The year 2011 - Comfortable or Convicted?

Normally I start out the first two weeks of January the same way every year. For lack of a better term you can call it "Bible 101." It simply exhorts the people of God back to the word of God, until the word of God gets back into the people of God. Therefore on Sunday I will cover two main components that I think are most needed for our community.

First, I am going to go over the Bible reading plan that we have in place for the 2011 year. As many of you may already know this is the Robert Murray M'Cheyne Plan. In this plan there are four chapters to be read daily. Two of the chapters are designed to be read and commented on as part of family devotions, while the other two chapters are designated for personal devotion time. At the beginning of my discipleship training in the late 90's I was introduced to Buck Hatch, a former professor at Columbia Bible College. This is what Hatch writes regarding the Bible;
What is more important to man than God? He is everything. To know God is the primary, pre‑eminent pursuit of any human. And how is he, man, to study, to know God? God has shut Himself up, as it were, or limited Himself in His revelation to mankind through the channel of the written Word of God ‑ The Bible. This is the only authentic, true text to which we may turn. Anything God has of Himself or His blessings comes from Himself immediately, directly, and only to a human being through this book, God's Word. Consequently, to know God is to know the Bible; to know the Bible is to know God. If God is all important, then His Word is all important. In other words, The Word of God is as important as God Himself. As far as mankind is concerned, this is true. A hunger for God will mean, must mean, a hunger for the Word of God. Therefore, one must immediately realize if God's Word is as important as God Himself (for by it we can know and understand God), then how we interpret God's Word is just as important as God's Word. We must know exactly what it says so that we may know exactly what God says!

My first Bible mentor pulled me aside on more than one occasion to remind me that a person can be no closer to Christ than they are to His word. We live in a very dangerous day in regard to the American Evangelical Church. The word of God in many churches gets only a topical or marginal treatment week in and week out. There is very little substantial feeding of the sheep and therefore the people of God are weak and malnourished. Let me use one small example among many that I have found in recent years.

In 2007 Granger Community Church lead by Pastor Mark Beeson reported that in a survey almost 60% of those attending thought there was more than one way to God other than Jesus.

Can you read John 14:6 (Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me) and interpret any other way to get to God? The point is the people of God have gotten away from the word of God. By the way in 2007 this was the 7th most influential in America with over 10,000 members. Even Bill Hybels the senior pastor at Willow Creek Community with 20,000 members agreed that after 30 years of ministry he had the biggest wake up call of his adult life. The wake up call was essentially that the Christians needing to grow and mature at Willow Creek, simply left the church do to a LACK OF BEING FED the word of God. Pastor Hybels solution, that he stated at their leadership conference was to get the people of God back to the Bible and prayer. Continue reading…

Basic Bible 101

If you go to our website on a regular basis you will notice the scroll banner at the top. In the next few days it will be about the upcoming class for Sunday. I am calling the next two weeks Basic Bible 101. At the start of each new calendar year I like to encourage people in a fresh way to get back in God’s word.

This class could be called back to the basics of the Bible. During the past two years we have touched on doctrines such as:
Holy Spirit

Doctrine simply means what does all of Scripture say about any particular subject. The Greek word for doctrine in the New Testament is didaskalia. If one does a word search for the various words in the New Testament related to doctrine (Strong’s numbers 1319-1322) it reveals that they occur over 200 times. For example as it relates to doctrine, reflect on the epistles of the apostle Paul. One can see how he often starts by addressing the doctrine and then moves to the application. In the book of Ephesians the first three chapters describes the doctrine of who we are in Christ. In the last three chapters we are then exhorted to act in a way consistent with who we are in Christ. The book of Romans gives us eleven chapters on the doctrine of salvation. And then starting with chapter 12 we enter into application of the very doctrine that Paul has been teaching in the first eleven chapters. My point is this, if we don’t learn Biblical truth correctly then how can we expect to live it our correctly. The answer to that question is we won’t and we can’t.

So our class is a roll up your sleeves, grab up your Bibles and let’s get back to the basics. This is just good old fashion Bible reading, study and devotion with no short cuts or quick fix solutions. The one requirement that is non-negotiable is a heart prepared to hear, receive and be obedient to God’s word. In September of 2008 we first studied Mark 4 and the parable of the sower. Do you remember the main point of that parable? The success of the seed is dependent upon the condition of the soil. Also when king Solomon was given that one request by God we determined that in looking at Scripture he actually asked for a hearing heart. I often wonder about those I have taught as to whether or not this principle has made a significant impact in their Bible study. My recommendation is to never start Bible reading, study and devotion without a prepared heart.

So this Sunday is called Basic Bible 101 but you who have been with us could say it will be heart preparation as we head into the 2011 year.

Hope to see each of you this Sunday!