Transformed in community

Imagine a man who read the Bible for an hour a day.

Imagine he spent another hour a day memorizing scripture.

Imagine he listened to sound Christian teaching on the way to and from work.

Imagine he listened to sound Christian teaching on TV at home in the evening instead of watching sit-coms and the news.

Now, imagine he never talked to another Christian. He never went to church. He was not a part of a small group. He spent his life alone. He was never encouraged, never admonished, never corrected. He never spoke the truth in love. No one ever spoke into his life. He was never loved by another human being. He was alone.

Question: how much would he grow spiritually?

Biblical answer: not much.

We are transformed one at a time, but we are not transformed alone. We are transformed in groups.


The book and study guide are both available on Amazon. The study guide is also avail as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Plans to give you Shalom

SHALOM A Hebrew term for peace which describes comprehensive well-being. Shalom, while used in a daily greeting among the Hebrews, is a weighty theological term in the Old Testament. Shalom embraces concepts of harmony, security, serenity, right relationships, wholeness, health, prosperity, and even success. The term may refer to a condition or a relationship, and in the latter designates a right relationship to God.

God is the source of shalom and offers shalom to those who trust him (Ps. 29:11; Isa. 26:3). Shalom has a social dimension; it is understandably linked with righteousness (Isa. 32:17). “The prophets’ positive call for justice (see Amos 5:15, 24) is not a call of individual charity but to establish the structures of justice—the prerequisites for shalom” (Yoder: 47).

Shalom is a repeated theme in Jeremiah. A group of prophets, whom Jeremiah branded as deceitful, promised shalom or peace (14:13f.; 23:17). This promise for shalom was made in the face of gross unrighteousness in Judah and despite the approach of an enemy power, the Babylonians. But shalom was not in store for God’s people because of their social injustices and their disregard for, even defiance of, God. With society so thoroughly characterized by evil, the prophetic word could not be one of peace (28:9). God had withdrawn his shalom from his people. To make that point memorable, Jeremiah was not to socialize by attending funerals or joyous celebrations (16:5).

Yet God desired to bless his people with shalom. Following judgment on his people, he declares, “For I know the plans that I have for you … plans for welfare [shalom] and not calamity to give you a future and a hope” (29:11, NASB). In the book of comfort is included the promise, “I will bring health [shalom] and healing to it.…” (33:6). — E. A. Martens, Jeremiah, Believers Church Bible Commentary (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1986), 308–309.


I have just completed a seven-part Bible Study called Ancient Words. It explores seven key Hebrew words we need to understand in order to really understand the gospel. This article is an excerpt from this Bible study. The Bible Study is available on Amazon. It is also avail as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Chris Tomlin leads worship in my living room

Chris Tomlin often leads me in worship during my morning Quiet Time. And, when Chris Tomlin is leading, it is normally glorious. There are a number of ways to get Chris Tomlin on your TV, including:

Pretty much anything that can get the Internet onto your TV will work. Do a search for “Chris Tomlin live worship” within the YouTube app and Voilà! Chris Tomlin leads you in worship. What a time to be alive!


The book and study guide are both available on Amazon. The study guide is also avail as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Jehovah Shalom

Jehovah Shalom. We find this name mentioned in the book of Judges, where the Lord revealed Himself to Gideon in the form of an angel (see Judges 6:22–24). What does this name, Jehovah Shalom, mean exactly?

As a noun, the Hebrew word shalom means “completeness, health, welfare.” It implies being whole, in harmony with God and man, having wholesome relationships. It also indicates a state of being at ease—not restless, but having peace both inwardly and outwardly, being at rest spiritually and emotionally. In short, shalom signifies wholeness in a life or work. As a verb, shalom means to be completed or finished, or to make peace.

Once more, I am driven to ask, “What does this particular name of God have to do with me and with the Church today?” Simply this: Shalom cannot be earned. We will never receive the Lord’s shalom until we realize, “This is very serious business. This is God Almighty I am dealing with, the Creator and sustainer of the universe. How can I continue taking Him for granted? Why do I still test His grace, living as if He is deaf and blind to my secret acts and doubts?”

Do you tremble at God’s Word? Are you ready to obey everything it says? If so, you will receive the revelation of Jehovah Shalom. He will come to you personally as “the Lord, your peace,” filling your spirit with supernatural strength against every enemy. You cannot earn this kind of peace—it is a gift from God, to be sought from Him.

David Wilkerson, God Is Faithful: A Daily Invitation into the Father Heart of God (Minneapolis, MN: Chosen, 2012), 108.


I have just completed a seven-part Bible Study called Ancient Words. It explores seven key Hebrew words we need to understand in order to really understand the gospel. This article is an excerpt from this Bible study. The Bible Study is available on Amazon. It is also avail as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

 

Five ways to make worship a part of your daily life

There are a number of ways to worship:

  • Psalms. Many of the Psalms were designed for worship. Read them and adore God. Read them and change. Read them and be transformed.
  • Attributes of God. Meditate on the bigness of God, the goodness of God, the everywhereness of God. Think about the idea that God knows everything. If you put a nail through this book He would know what word and what letter the nail touched on every page. He could tell you the etymology of every word. He could translate every word into any language.
  • Names of God. El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty); El Elyon (The Most High God); Adonai (Lord, Master); Yahweh (Lord, Jehovah); Jehovah Nissi (The Lord My Banner); Jehovah-Raah (The Lord My Shepherd); Jehovah Rapha (The Lord That Heals); Jehovah Shammah (The Lord Is There); Jehovah Tsidkenu (The Lord Our Righteousness); Jehovah Mekoddishkem (The Lord Who Sanctifies You); El Olam (The Everlasting God); Elohim (God); Qanna (Jealous); Jehovah Jireh (The Lord Will Provide); Jehovah Shalom (The Lord Is Peace); Jehovah Sabaoth (The Lord of Hosts)[1]
  • I can’t prove it, but I believe Jacob was looking at a sunset in this verse: “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.” Hebrews 11:21 (NIV2011) I picture Jacob looking out at a sunset and thinking about the bigness and beauty of God. I nearly always do that when I look at a sunset. I can’t help myself.
  • More than all of the above, nothing tunes my heart to worship like music.

[1] https://www.blueletterbible.org/study/misc/name_god.cfm


The book and study guide are both available on Amazon. The study guide is also avail as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Shalom

This world can be a better place. God wants everyday people like you and me to make this world just a bit more like heaven.

In one small corner of His grand creation, God created a place that was a lot like heaven. He named it Eden. The Garden State was not just beautiful, it was perfect—a piece of heaven on earth. Pain was absent, poverty was unheard of, food was everywhere, and disease was nowhere … and best of all, everybody (well, all two of them) walked close to God.

However, being the humans we are, things went sideways. We tried to deceive God. This one act, this one moment changed everything. This wrongness called sin began to spread and multiply and reproduce like a mutating virus.1

But here’s the good news in all of this—life can still be beautiful. God is still present, and He’s doing good today through people who love Him and want to love others in the same way His Son loved you and me.

We all have this feeling deep in our souls that life can be different, that life can be so much more beautiful than it is. Families are not supposed to be broken. Children are not supposed to be abandoned when their mothers die from AIDS. Fathers are not supposed to lose their jobs. Women are not supposed to be held back because of their gender. And people should never experience prejudice because of their race.

God has a more beautiful way.

John Ortberg, in his deeply insightful way, explains the rich meaning behind the ancient Hebrew word shalom.2 The Old Testament prophets spoke about a coming day when God would change the way things are and make this world beautiful again; to describe this, the Jews used the word shalom.3 The word literally means “to be perfect or complete.” When the Jews dream about peace they use the word shalom. When King David wrote about peace, he used the word shalom. The word can mean safe. Or maybe this says it best—when life is just right. — Palmer Chinchen, True Religion (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2010).


I have just completed a seven-part Bible Study called Ancient Words. It explores seven key Hebrew words we need to understand in order to really understand the gospel. This article is an excerpt from this Bible study. The Bible Study is available on Amazon. It is also avail as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

 

Worship reminds me that our Big God has it all in control

One of my favorite verses is Revelation 4:2:

At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. Revelation 4:2 (NIV2011)

Sitting.

Not pacing. Not surprised. Not wringing His hands. Not wondering. Not worrying. Large and in charge.

From my worms-eye view, it sometimes looks like the world is running recklessly out of control. It is not. There is a throne in Heaven. Someone is sitting.

One of my favorite old hymns speaks to this:

Be still, my soul
the Lord is on thy side
Bear patiently the cross
of grief or pain
Leave to thy God
to order and provide
In every change
He faithful will remain
Be still, my soul
thy best, thy heav’nly Friend
Thro’ thorny ways
leads to a joyful end

Be still, my soul
thy God doth undertake
To guide the future
as He has the past
Thy hope, thy confidence
let nothing shake
All now mysterious
shall be bright at last
Be still, my soul
the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them
while He dwelt below

Be still, my soul
the hour is hast’ning on
When we shall be forever
with the Lord
When disappointment
grief, and fear are gone
Sorrow forgot
love’s purest joys restored
Be still, my soul
when change and tears are past
All safe and blessed
we shall meet at last

It is impossible for me to sing that song and worry. You don’t overcome worry by trying really hard not to worry. You overcome worry by worship. If you have a big God, you have small problems and you worry little. If you have a small God, you have big problems and you worry much. Nothing gets that straight like worship.


The book and study guide are both available on Amazon. The study guide is also avail as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Worship reminds me who is Boss

What is discipleship, anyway? There could be a number of answers to this question, but central to what it means is that Jesus becomes Lord of my life in daily practice. James Smith defines it this way:

In short, if you are what you love, and love is a habit, then discipleship is a rehabituation of your loves. This means that discipleship is more a matter of reformation than of acquiring information. The learning that is fundamental to Christian formation is affective and erotic, a matter of “aiming” our loves, of orienting our desires to God and what God desires for his creation.[1]

When I worship, this process is almost automatic. When I sing, “He is Lord!” He becomes Lord in my daily decisions. I come to realize He is God and I am not; He is boss, I am slave; He is King, I am servant. Hours and hours of complicated Greek Bible studies won’t get that in your head and heart like a good hour of worship.

A church I was a member of at one stage in life did a night of worship once in a while. We called it T.G.O.F. — Thank God on Friday. The service consisted of about two and a half hours of uninterrupted worship. Uninterrupted, with the exception of an intermission about half-way through. (The heart cannot absorb what the seat cannot endure.)

It was glorious. I was telling a friend once that I thought that is what Heaven will be like—unending adoration of our glorious God. Hands lifted. Voice raised. We will all be able to sing like Chris Tomlin. We will sing loud. We will jump and shout and dance in the presence of the Lord. Even Baptists will dance. Wow. Hour after hour, day after day. My friend surprised me with his response. “I think that sounds awful.” It was at that moment that I began to wonder if he were the Christian he professed to be.

Another odd thought occurred to me. If God were to allow everyone into Heaven, it would only be heavenly for those whose hearts have been changed. For my friend, Heaven would be Hell for him, by his own admission. It occurs to me that Heaven and Hell could be the same place—the place of manifest, inescapable, palpable presence of God. For those who have come to love God, having Him so real we can touch Him will be Heaven. For those who spend their life running from God, there will be no place to run. No place to hide. They can’t get away. It will be hell.

Worship gets it clear in my head and heart who is Boss. It does at least one other thing.

[1] James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2016).


The book and study guide are both available on Amazon. The study guide is also avail as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

Help Kirby Kennedy

If you are a friend of Kirby Kennedy, I’d like to invite you to join me in helping Kirby paying for expenses related to his recent kidney transplant that are not covered by insurance. It is estimated that these expenses could exceed $40,000.

To make donation, go to www.transplants.org (National Foundation for Transplant’s website). To ensure your donation goes to Kirby and not to the NFT’s general account be sure to do the following:

  • Go to the top right and click on the green tab that says Find a NFT Patient;
  • On the next screen enter the name Kirby Kennedy and hit the search button;
  • Once you see Kirby’s appeal letter, look on the right side where it says “Donate.”
  • Click that link and follow the instructions to make your donation.

Alternatively, you can call 1-800-489-3863 or mail your donation to:

National Foundation for Transplants
5350 Poplar Avenue, Suite 430
Memphis, TN 38119

In addition to giving, I’d invite you to help spread the word:

  • Make an announcement in your church, small group, or Sunday School class. We did this at our small church recently, and a donation was collected of several hundred dollars.
  • Copy this post on Facebook. Tag any friends that know Kirby.
  • If you have a blog, create a blog post like this one.

I think it would be great if we could all pitch in. Few of us have a lot of money, but if all of us can do what we can, we can get this taken care of. Wouldn’t it be great if he could get all these bill paid for by July 4!

1 John 3:17 (NIV2011) If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?

Josh Hunt

 

Transformed by beholding

Romans 12:2 is the most iconic and perhaps important verse on how we are transformed. Transformed by the renewing of our mind. Never forget that. But, it is not the only thing the Bible says about how we are transformed. This verse is equally important:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. 2 Corinthians 3:18a (ESV)

We become what we behold. We wind up like what we worship. We advance toward what we adore.

It is true in many arenas in life. Again, an example from tennis. Research shows that people who watch great tennis players become better. This is especially true if they imagine themselves moving like the pros.

Many amateurs report that seeing tennis played at the highest level improves their own games.

Watching tennis and playing it can be mutually helpful activities, dialectically entwined.

Jon Levey, a writer and avid player said: “I always play better after watching the pros. Their form shows you that less is more. They move their body weight into the ball much better than I do. Everything seems to work in symmetry. After the Open, I suddenly know how to hit ‘up’ on my serve, like they do.[1]

This is part of what makes idolatry so dangerous. Not only is it a slap in God’s face, it is damaging to us. Idolatry hurts the idolater.

What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration.

God has made humans to reflect him, but if they do not commit themselves to him, they will not reflect him but something else in creation. At the core of our beings we are imaging creatures. It is not possible to be neutral on this issue: we either reflect the Creator or something in creation.[2]

What exactly does worship do? How does it change us? I can think of at least two ways.

[1] http://straightsets.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/09/watching-tennis-can-improve-the-games-of-pros-and-amateurs/?_r=0

[2] We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry by G. K. Beale


The book and study guide are both available on Amazon. The study guide is also avail as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as David Jeremiah, Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.

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