May 2010

Christ gathers his disciples and takes them up to a hill.  It has been about 40 days since the resurrection. The disciples want to know if Christ will now restore the kingdom to Israel. His answer is that it is not for them to know the times and seasons established by the Father, but they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them and they will be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

When I first read this I thought Christ was taking mercy upon their misunderstanding of who he was, why he came, and what he did by not answering their question. After reading through it and meditating on it I realized that he did answer them.  At this point they don’t have much understanding of the Holy Spirit and what will happen when the Spirit shows up. We have carried on this tradition today. We don’t know the role of the Holy Spirit and we either overemphasize the work of the Spirit or avoid speaking about the Spirit.  That may be overly harsh for some of you but I come from a Baptist background where we mainly speak of the spirit when we are baptizing someone. And we don’t mean the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

What Jesus tells the disciples is that he is going away and he is sending the Spirit. The Spirit will give them power to be witnesses of gospel. The kingdom will be restored using the church powered by the Holy Spirit to witness to the world about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ will restore his kingdom but not like they were thinking.

We are like the disciples a lot of time when we want Christ to just take over the world and give us comfort and peace. We want the kingdom of God to be restored because of what we will get or who we will be not because He will be glorified. If His kingdom is restored we get God, He is the good news, not what we might get along with Him.

So Christ tells them the Spirit is coming, they will be powerful when they have the Spirit, and it will lead to them witnessing to the world. The story is the same for believers today. Today Christ is restoring the kingdom of God using the church. Today Christ desires to empower us with the Spirit. Today Christ desires for us to be His witnesses in Dallas, Texas, the U.S. and the ends of the earth.

At the end of the passage after Christ ascends the disciples are greeted by angels. They are told not to continue looking into heaven for Christ, but that Christ will return just as He ascended. We are not to look into the heavens for Christ, but to trust that one day He will return just as He ascended. We are to be busy about the kingdom of God. We are to ask for the Spirit to empower us so that we may boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ throughout the world.

Christ left, but He did not leave us alone. He sent us the Spirit. Let that reality resonate in your soul this week.


The Ichthus men started a new study 2 weeks ago on the book of Acts. I have never taught through the book of Acts, but I am really excited to take it on for the next 6 months or so. I prefer to teach through books of the Bible rather than do topical studies. We usually go back and forth with a short topical study in between books of the Bible. It’s not an original idea, I stole it from my pastor, Matt Chandler, who stole it from some other preacher in church history.

I like going through books of the Bible because it forces me to tackle texts or subjects that I don’t always choose on my own. Going through the book of Acts we will be forced to talk through issues like the work of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, and race relations. We also get a good look at how God built the church using men and women of God.

Acts begins by Luke writing to Theophilus and telling him this is the follow-up to the book of Luke. The bridge between the books is the forty days Christ spent on earth after resurrection and before his ascension. Luke points out the importance of recognizing that Jesus presented himself alive after the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus was a human being with a body when he was resurrected. He was not a phantom or ghost. Many people saw him, heard him, and touched him after the resurrection. Jesus fully conquered death. If Jesus does not fully conquer death then there is no victory over sin and death for us.

Jesus also did not stay around long. He was back long enough to tell us the Holy Spirit was coming. Jesus emphasizes in John 16:7 that it is better for him to send the Holy Spirit to us as a helper. It is very intriguing to me that I am better off with the Holy Spirit here than Christ in the flesh. Further Jesus says we will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. The word picture is that of immersion. It’s too early to get into a discussion about the role of the Spirit, being full of the Spirit, and baptism of the Holy Spirit. But one of the main reasons I am excited about this study is that it will cause us to think about the Holy Spirit and what it means to walk in the power of the Spirit.

Guys come join us Monday nights at 7:30pm. Everyone is invited to read and interact here on the blog. I hope God will challenge us and transform our hearts as we pursue this study.

We wrapped up our fear series by talking about the fear of man.  The fear of man in its most simple form is a worship of man instead of a worship of God.  People become our gods and they greatly affect us. Jeremiah 17:5-10 paints a picture of the difference in the man that trusts in flesh and the one who trusts in God.

The picture of the man that fears man is one of a bush in the middle of the dessert. It is alone and dry.  But the man who trusts in God is described as a tree with roots that reach to the stream and it continually bears fruit. So how do you know if you suffer fear of man?

I would recommend that you read “When People are Big and God is Small” by Ed Welch.  The whole book unpacks fear of man and I would recommend anyone and everyone to read it.   Welch writes, “Scripture gives three basic reasons why we fear other people…1) We fear people because they can expose and humiliate us. 2) We fear people because they can reject, ridicule, or despise us. 3) We fear people because they can attack, oppress, or threaten us. These three reasons have one thing in common: they see people as ‘bigger’ (that is, more powerful and significant) than God, and, out of the fear that creates in us, we give other people the power and right to tell us what to feel, think, and do.”

I think all of us behave out of fear of people more than we want to admit. We think about things through the lens of what people will think and say more often than what does God think or say. Stop and think about your life. Its most visible in the lives of teens and college students. What they wear and what they do is constantly affected by those around them. A neat idea was invented around it called peer pressure. The problem is that we don’t grow out of it, we just learn to mask our fear of man and pretend it doesn’t exist. 

You should also think about sin patterns in your life. Do those patterns have a string of fear of man connecting them? One pattern that is consistent is if you suffer from being a people pleaser. Do you struggle to say no? Does it devastate you if you disappoint someone? People pleasing reveals a tendency in us to seek the approval and affirmation of people over and above the approval and affirmation of God.

I think almost every human struggles with fear of man in some way. I highly recommend “When People Are Big and God Is Small”.  Click the link at the bottom to go to Amazon and buy it today. It is also a great book for a small group or for couples to go through. You may not recognize how it all plays out in your life and God has graciously placed people in your life that can help you.

When People Are Big and God Is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man (Resources for Changing Lives)

Watch this video from Francis Chan. He speaks against the idea that we can love Jesus and then not do what He calls us to. There is no middle road.

This past Thursday marked 3 years since Tom beat us all to heaven.  I remember the day and the phone call like it just happened.  Much has changed in those 3 years but more has remained the same.

I was 23 when I met Tom, in seminary and working at a big church. I thought I knew a lot about ministry or everything for that matter. I remember thinking Tom and Brenda’s ministry out of their house was a little weird. Then I went to a bible study. Angels did not flap around the room and I don’t have any idea what Tom talked about. But God graciously placed a man in my life that day who loved Jesus and loved people. I can say honestly that I learned more about ministry and my calling from Tom than my time at seminary and working at churches.

At Tom’s funeral our pastor Matt Chandler remarked how rare men like Tom Bailey are. Matt also said that he was rare because it wasn’t that he was especially gifted or talented as much as he was biblical. Tom was obedient to God’s word and God’s call on his life. I have yet to meet another person as focused on who God has called him to be and what God has called him to do.

Tom was a mentor to me in a critical time of my life. God graciously placed him in my life when ministry was difficult. There were days when I had ministry questions and he always took my phone call. The last time I talked to him I just stopped by and we talked ministry and what God was doing.

Then one day God graciously took Tom home. I remember not being shocked or surprised. I did not get angry at God. Somehow that day in God’s sovereign plan it was time. Tom had taught every bible study he needed to teach. Tom had done every counseling session God had required of him.  

I knew 3 years ago God was calling me to step up. I had no idea what that looked like then and even today I am still not completely sure. Tom had spent time with me, not teaching me to be like him, but to be like Jesus. God is still trying to teach me a lot of the lessons Tom taught. God was calling me to be what I read in Scripture and what I had seen modeled for me. God was calling me to be obedient. To take scripture, live it out, and teach others to do the same thing. I want to say it’s not a revolutionary concept except that I don’t see it happen very often. 

Ichthus has changed in the past three years. Different teachers, different faces, different opportunities. God has not changed. Scripture is the same and is still sufficient. God’s call on our lives is the same. We are to be busy about the Lord’s work. That will never change until Jesus comes back.

Today there are passages of scripture that every time I read them I think about Tom teaching them. I have great memories and funny stories from that time. Tom wanted to be like Jesus and wanted others to be like Jesus. The lasting impact that Tom and Ichthus have had on me is that I need to be like Jesus and to teach others to be like him.