The world needs Genesis right now

Genesis_slideWe began our series on the first 11 chapters of Genesis this week.  I am becoming more and more convinced that the Book of Genesis is probably the most important book ever written.  There are 66 books in the Bible and few, if any of them, make sense without a basic understanding of Genesis.  Yet, I find a growing number of Christians unfamiliar with the story of God.  They wrongly believe that they can jump in the middle of God’s novel and expect to understand what HAS happened, what WILL happen, and WHY.  Genesis is the beginning of the beginning.    In many ways, it is the beginning of everything we know—the BEDROCK of our faith.

Our culture desperately needs Genesis right now.  Our world is struggling with truths that everyone, believer or non, once held as absolute.   Our questions have changed.  We are asking different ones that many people, believer or not, never though we’d be asking.  We’ve gone from questions like: What is life about TO what is a life?  From who should I marry TO what is a marriage?  From how I can mature as a man or woman TO do I want to be a man or a woman?  And while pastors of churches could preach countless topical sermons to address these kinds of topics, the church should go back and study the book of beginnings.  Said another way, Genesis is a missional book—it has answers for the many of today’s most difficult questions and hope for the world.

The first 11 chapters give us God’s answers, God’s definitions, and God’s designs for how life is supposed to be.   It also provides us understanding as to why things are not the way they are supposed to be right now.  In Proverbs 22.28, King Solomon writes: Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set. Today, the chaos in and around creation is evidence that mankind has foolishly done just.  Men have rejected God’s Word as their foundation.  Instead of thanking God, they have denied Him.  Instead of worshiping the Creator, they have worshiped creation.  Instead of embracing a loving Father’s design for life, they created their own. And even though EVERYONE knows that there is something “wrong” with the world, they refuse to return to the only one who can make it right.

I recently spoke with an Atheist friend of mine who expressed his own concern over the brokenness of the world.  As he watched the same news reports and heard the same court decisions, he felt disgusted over what the world had become and even more fearful about where it was headed.  I affirmed his perspective, but proceeded to explain the difference between us.  Even though we may have felt the same way about the world, he didn’t know why he did?  More than that, he really had no basis to be upset with a world that is functioning according to its nature.  According to his worldview, being upset about the “wrongness” of the universe didn’t make much sense–the universe doesn’t give a %&#@.  Unless that is, there is a designer who does…and everything from monsoons to immorality is evidence that we have rebelled against His perfection.

Our study in Genesis is important and timely.  We need to dig down through all of the dirt piled up on God’s foundation, God’s bedrock, in order to learn both the origin AND the meaning of all things.

Sermon on Genesis 1.1-2 | The God Who Creates

Genesis 1.1-2_Week 1_Road Group Questions


Donkey Corralling is God’s Work

This past week we preached through the not-so-triumphal entry in Matthew 21.1-11.  This is the well-known passage where Jesus rides a donkey into Jerusalem.  God on a Donkey3

I find the first verses of this passage, preparing to enter, the most moving.  The disciples were curious as to why Jesus would ask them to go impress a donkey from a stranger.   What is even more curious is that they obeyed!  The disciples did not know why Jesus asked them to get a donkey.  John’s record of this event says it plainly: His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had to be done to Him. John 12.10. 

For all of the things the disciples say and do wrong, they did get a few things right–even if unintentionally.  There is much to learn from their commitment to follow Jesus commands when they didn’t understand:

The disciples trust His commands more than their power to understand of them.

The disciples did not understand why Jesus asked for a Donkey.  Jesus did not quote Zechariah to them, and they didn’t remember it until after He was glorified.  It was strange for a man who had hiked hundreds of miles over three years to ask for a “ride” over the last two miles.   It is easy to obey the commands that “make sense” to us intellectually or “feel” right emotionally.  The disciples trust Jesus command even when it makes zero sense and feels weird.  Why? Because Jesus had said so.

The disciples trust His promise to overcome any hindrance to what he asks us to do.

We can imagine what the disciples were thinking when they heard Jesus’ command.  Jesus wanted them to go and “steal” a donkey (most likely a man’s livelihood) from a stranger in a strange village.  Their minds immediately began to formulate of list of reasons for why this would not work out.   Before they could voice their concerns, Jesus preemptively instructs them to say, “The Lord needs it” if there are any questions.  Basically, they are to go and take the keys of a man’s Ford F-250 work truck and drive off; if anyone questions them…say Jesus needs it.   I find myself impressed that the disciples obeyed and did so immediately.  Despite the myriad of problems with the plan, they trusted that Jesus would remove any barrier to do what He asked.

The disciples trust that their obedience contributes to fulfilling his mission.

Our obedience is not about our righteousness.  Once we come to understand the gospel, we realize that our obedience does little to produce righteousness.  At the same time, it does accomplish something .  First, it glorifies God and reflects His goodness in us.  Second, it is loving.  God’s commands are not only a means to demonstrate our love for Him, but also a guide to know how to love others.  But third, and often ignored, is the fact that our obedience contributes to fulfilling His mission.  This makes the smallest of Jesus commands big; and the most insignificant tasks important.  From their limited perspective, these men were just getting a Donkey.  In the eyes of God, they were confirming his prophetic promises and helping to identify the King.

Everyday is Sunday

Whether you are irreligious or religious—you must respond to Jesus.Easter_a To paraphrase John Stott, you cannot have a moderate response to Jesus. In the Bible no one ever had a so so…”Hmmphh”…response to Jesus. If after today you understand the WHOLE story, who Jesus is and what He did, you better hate Him, hide from Him, or run to Him. And don’t stop short in the story…

Those who are IRRELIGIOUS stop on FRIDAY with JESUS DEAD.

Whether Jesus was who He said He was who knows; but you’d be a fool not to AGREE that the death of Jesus of Nazareth was a horrible unjust tragedy. A 30 year old carpenter name Jesus, who did nothing but serve and love people, is accused falsely, tried illegally, and murdered brutally. If nothing else, this tragedy proves that there is something wrong with the world and you know it. But the irreligious wrongly believe that men can avoid such abuses, ensure justice, or otherwise save themselves from these kinds of mistakes, through better laws, better leaders, better schools, better jobs, better health, better pills, anything but a better heart.

Those who are RELIGIOUS stop on SATURDAY with JESUS BURIED.

Saturday was depressing—there is no hope there. Imagine how the disciples felt with their hero still lying in the tomb. Dwelling on Saturday is a recipe for a joyless Christian faith, also known as religion. The religious are obsessed with the sin of the world, overcome by the sin of others, or overwhelmed by their own. Like the disciples, they sit in despair, angry, joyless, without hope because Jesus only paid. Without Sunday, I can’t be sure the price was accepted by God—so I’ll live in fear of sin, without hope for the world or hope for myself. And I’ll work real hard to fix all the sin in the world and to fix the sin in myself—and I’ll fail.

Those who believe GOSPEL, live the joy of SUNDAY with JESUS ALIVE.

We trust the tomb is empty. We live knowing that, in the darkest of moments, there is always hope because Jesus has conquered sin, Satan, and death. We live knowing that my debt has been canceled, paid in fully, my sin set aside, my record cleared forever. I WAS never good enough but I have been MADE perfect AND I HAVE SOMETHING TO DO. Faith in the Crucifixion means believing that our old life is gone. Faith in the Resurrection means believing there is a new life to live now in Christ, by Christ for Christ. I am not my own. It is not MY body. It is not MY money. It is not MY decision, MY plan, or MY will because this is not MY life.

A word for our men…

Men, I want to thank you for attending our PUSHBACK retreat this Pushback_mensretreat15bpast weekend.  As several men shared, God is doing something powerful at Restoration Road Church.  Our church is not perfect; we are never perfectly balanced; we are never wise enough to not be desperate. Despite our insufficiencies and weaknesses, God has blessed us with an amazing church full of amazing people. With every passing day, God reveals more leaders who are willing to serve and servants who are willing to lead. God has done all of this by His grace.  He has brought us all together onto the same field to be friends, brothers, and co-laborers for His glory and our joy.   Below are a few of my personal reflections from this weekend’s instruction. They are more like reminders of who we are in Christ…

We are not selfish consumers.  We are selfless worshipers. 

Jesus said it is better to give than receive.  Consumers take.  Consumers complain. Consumers are passive and only participate when they benefit personally. Consumers only ask what others can do for them, not what they can do for others.  Consumers are selfish.  We must be worshippers who contribute.  Motivated by Jesus’ service to us, we do not wait for the pastor or a program to meet our needs-we work to meet the needs of others.  Our living, our loving, our serving, and our sacrificing are all our spiritual worship.

We are not abandoned orphans.  We are a kingdom family.

Jesus said we are his brothers. The church, community centered on the gospel, is not an addendum to our Christian life. Jesus did not merely die for individuals; he died for His church.  The Bible says the church is his family and his body. As a family, the love we have for one another is our greatest evangelistic tool.  We need to be known and to know.  We need to be encouraged and encourage.  We need to admonish and be admonished.  We need to love and be loved.  As a body, we are healed with, guarded by, built up in this love together—we need each other to grow, to heal, and to succeed.

We are not sentimental believers.  We are disciples of the way.

Jesus said to follow Him.  Jesus did not merely call us to ascent to certain truths but to live a certain WAY. Faith in the gospel transforms us into new creatures with a different identity, a different mentality, and a different trajectory. We have, therefore, lives foreign to the world because, even though we live in one kingdom, we are governed by another.  We become who we are supposed to be in Christ as we endeavor to live out who Jesus says we are.

We are not worldly citizens.  We are exiled ambassadors.

Jesus said to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach.  We have a job to do, a hill to charge, a mission to complete. This I not our home, we are exiles.  More than that, we are sojourners, aliens, and ambassadors in a foreign land.  As exiles, we must fight becoming too attached to the things of this world, the things that won’t last—positions, power, prosperity, and even particular people.  All of these things will fight to distract us from our primary purpose to work for God until He returns or calls us home.  Until then, even though we are living in one kingdom, we are governed by another.

From who are WE to who am I

The spirit of this retreat tempts us to spend our time examining our church.  Ironically, we are tempted toward a reflective consumerism.   How quickly we forget that the church is not an impersonal organization; it is a gathering of disciples.  In other words, we are the church.  As we unavoidably consider where our church is “weak”, let us obey the apostle Paul’s command to do the hard and humbling work of examining ourselves (2Corinthians 13.5).  How do you to this?

Step 1 | Consider that the Bible calls you to mature spiritually.  Spiritual maturity is unlike physical maturity—it doesn’t happen naturally.  Stated simply, spiritual maturity is the growth of a personal love for Jesus and an increased devotion to Jesus. Jesus is the motivation, the means, and the model for this maturity.

Step 2 | Evaluate your level of satisfaction as a follower of Christ—someone who intends to live like Christ.  Some helpful categories to use (certainly not comprehensive) are a worshipper, family member, disciple, and ambassador.  Where are you as a worshipper (relationship to God), a family member (relationship to church), a disciple (relationship to self), and ambassador (relationship to the world).  If you must make comparisons, compare yourself with Jesus so as to avoid self-delusion.

Step 3 | Make a plan.  Paul tells Timothy to “train yourself for Godliness” (1Timothy 4.7-8). Motivated, empowered, and guided by the person and work of Jesus, we are to be intentional about our maturity.   Training intending to impress God is sinful.   Training because God is already impressed with you is joyful. As I have often said, God will delight but not love you more for your commitment to read, pray, serve or witness more than you have.  But, undoubtedly, you will end up loving Him.


RE:sermon | Who Jesus Receives and Rejects

RE:sermon is an effort to share the best thoughts from the most recent sermons.  resermonToo often, some of the “nuggets” of truth get lost in the noise and length of the sermon.  Some of these need to be forgotten while others need to be repeated.  As Doug Wilson once told me, “If it is good enough to say once, it is good enough to say twice.”  With that in view, the following quotes were taken from two sermons preached in early March 2015.  Both sermons come from our series in the Gospel of Matthew (Book 3).  One sermon is titled WHO JESUS RECEIVES and the other is titled WHO JESUS REJECTS.

If we are going to love children, then we they must be SOUGHT for, BROUGHT to, and TAUGHT about Jesus.Twitter-Button

We have a responsibility to care for our family, our church, and the world…We all have a tendency to focus on caring for ONE of these areas, often at the EXPENSE of the others.  We need to balance the competing tensions that exist between the three in order to avoid idolatry of any one.

All children need to be taught even though you come to Jesus with nothing, by grace through faith, you get everything from Him.Twitter-Button

Few of us hinder the children by actively stopping them from coming to Jesus; many of us hinder them through our PASSIVITY and INDIFFERENCETwitter-Button

The greatest hindrance to eternal life is a heart that wants to DO for Jesus versus a heart that wants to BE with Jesus.Twitter-Button

No amount of your goodness will get you into heaven, because no amount of your goodness is actually good. Twitter-Button

Jesus says, in order to enter heaven, you must perfectly satisfy the law or have it perfectly satisfied for you by someone else.Twitter-Button

The Road of life is the Road of God’s commandments. But the way to get on this road is THROUGH Christ.  The way to walk this road is IN Christ.  And the way to stay on this road is BY Christ.

Whatever you are least willing to surrender for Jesus is what you are most apt to idolize.Twitter-Button

Jesus does not offer something to do, he offers something to believe. Twitter-Button

Hula Dancing and Jesus

I found this in an old sermon back from 2008. It made me laugh. I thought I’d post it for kicks…

One Hula Dancing Boy
The other day, my oldest son Fischer came home with a special flyer cjghdf_editedfrom this school. Apparently, a local group was offering Hula Dancing Lessons to boys and girls. For $120, my son, my one day going to be a man son, could experience 8 weeks of grass skirt hip gyrating exercise that would be the envy of manly Dad’s everywhere. Not Karate or Kung Fun, not hammering nails or building forts, not skateboards or video games…no, hula dancing. It took me all of three seconds to decide that my son would not be doing it, although Caylin had said he was really excited about it.

So I had to tell him…

ME:   “Fischer, you will not be doing hula lessons.”
FISCHER: “Ohhhh…why?”
ME:  “Hula dancing, well, it’s, um, it’s for girls. You’ve already mastered the art of twisting and shaking your bottom. Go put some grass clippings in your pocket and there you have it.”
FISCHER: “Well Dad, it was originally just for boys.”
ME:  “So you say.”
FISCHER: “Yeah…” And Fischer proceeded to give me a detailed explanation as to the history of hula dancing.

I did a little research of my own. Hula dancing basically began as a religious ritual rather than entertainment. There were a number of rules about how to do it, when, etc. It had been around for thousands of years until the Christians showed us as missionaries in the 1800s. They believed the dance was of the devil, against God, and it almost disappeared as a result. Eventually, a king made sure it didn’t all but disappear and revived the art underground.

Now, there are some of you probably thinking, what does this have to do with the gospel of John AND what kind of freakish Dad thinks his son will be damaged by gyrating around in a grass skirt. Did you listen to what you just said? Your talking to a Dad whose took his boys for some man-therapy the other night by going to Joe’s and looking at punching bags, knives, and guns to feel normal again. Sorry, I want my boys to be manly and grass skirts appear to be a step in the wrong direction.

So what does this have to do with John or Christianity—everything! See, I realize that a lot of people will view me as some man-o-maniac who is trying to make their son some sort of Chuck-Norris He-man hybrid. But, I have a plan for what I want to teach my son and it’s not to be a hula dancer. There is nothing wrong with hula dancing in itself, but it feels like today’s world refuses to draw any lines on anything. Perhaps they would understand if Fischer had requested to starting using a purse or wearing a dress. At some point the answer is simply NO…you’re a boy. They are hesitant for fear of what people say to declare I believe this, this is right, and/or this is wrong. All in the name of tolerance.

What happens when this extends into Jesus and Christianity? There has to be some lines drawn from Scripture about who Jesus is, who we are, and how we are supposed to live. All too often, people have started to declare who Jesus is or what the faith in him looks like without any basis in Scripture. In fact, most of them have abandoned Scripture all together. It seems like EVERYTHING is up for grabs these days. If you start changing Jesus, say, he’s not born of a virgin, it will never stop there. Suddenly, you’re not certain if Hell is a real place and whether homosexuality is in fact a sin. That is exactly what Satan did in the beginning when he showed up and started having an “innocent” conversation with our first parents Adam and Eve asking, “Did God really say that?” There is nothing wrong with questions—BUT WHERE ARE THE ANSWERS COMING FROM? At some point, if you haven’t taken a stand, even on the SMALL THINGS, you’ve changed something enough that he’s NO LONGER Jesus of the Bible, it’s no longer Christianity!

Re:Sermon | Are you killing it?

Taken from Mystery of the Mind of Christbekillingsin

Your fight against sin begins with believing there is a fight to be had. Sin will either tempt you to not fight, to fight the wrong things, or to fight the wrong way. I’ve heard it said, ‘Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent. You can get very good at fighting the wrong thing the wrong way. Here is the right way:

1. Fight honorably – the fight for the glory of God (Right motivation)

2. Fight intentionally- the fight is strategic (Right battle plan)

3. Fight ruthlessly – the fight is painful. (Right and Radical Sacrifice)

4. Fight relentlessly – the fight is never over (Right disposition)

5. Fight skillfully – the fight is biblical (Right weapon)

6. Fight communally- the fight is together (Right Community)

7. Fight faithfully – the fight is Christ-centered (Right means)

Our fight is not just one of defense, it is one of offense. Repentance is both walking away from and walking toward—it is not standing still.

Jeremiah 2.1 13 for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.