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.

Everyone is committed to something. Even if your goal was to commit to nothing, you have a commitment to that end. Society today likes to point out the lack of commitment by the newer generations. They may point to people waiting longer to marry or the rise of divorce. I don’t know that we have a commitment problem.  We have a problem in that we too easily commit to that which can never sustain or uphold us.

Our sins of selfishness and pride lead to an unbridled commitment to self and preservation of our happiness. If the weight of our commitment is to self then we will center our lives on self and make decisions accordingly. A commitment to self will cause us to pursue anything that feeds our glorification of self and to destroy anything that dares compete with that pursuit. Friendship will be pursued with a commitment to building self and once that friendship stops serving the purpose of building our own ego we will unfriend them.

Just as there is no salvation apart from Jesus Christ, we can have no true commitment apart from Him either. Nothing in this world can make us clean. Nothing can reconcile us to God, but Christ. Therefore a commitment to anything not held by a commitment to Christ is in jeopardy. When we are saved Christ calls us to a commitment to Him alone. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 6 that we are bought with a price and to glorify God with our body. In the same way once we are saved we are called to filter all commitment through the lens of our commitment to Christ or rather His commitment to us.

In Genesis 15 God cuts a covenant with Abram. Animals are slaughtered and God promises Abram blessings. God himself comes down and walks between the slaughtered animals symbolizing that God be slaughtered if He fails to uphold His covenant to him. Fast forward to the new testament and we see the new covenant of Christ whose body is broken and blood is spilt for our sins. Christ became the perfect sacrifice, becoming sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God.

Our commitment is built and molded in the commitment of our God to provide a way of reconciliation. The way of reconciliation was the sacrifice of the Son. He committed His life to us and we are in turn to commit ours to Him.

We do not fear commitment because we have a faithful God who began a good work in us and will bring it to completion.  Evaluate your life today and ask yourself where your commitment is. Find out where you are committed to self and ask God to destroy those commitments to self and give you an undying commitment to Him alone. Ask God today to reengineer your life in such a way that you are committed to Him and what He calls you to commit to. Our God is a covenant God and He has called us to be a covenant people.

I found this video on Michael Hyatt’s blog. It’s a story about a man born with disabilities who does not see them as disabilities and his father’s care. My words fail to adequately describe the story.  Trust me and watch it. 

Failure is probably one of the great fears of people.  We fear not measuring up.  We fear trying with all of our strength and it not be enough.  The fear of failure can cause us to do many things like running from responsibility, overcompensating with our strengths, or a sheer reliance on self. 

In Romans 3:23 Paul shatters our understanding of human achievement.  He writes, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  All human beings are failures. I don’t say this to depress you but so that we can think rightly about failure. All of us are born sinful and cannot live up to God’s standard. We will all try and fail. We will all seek to glorify self over God. 

I think it’s helpful for us to think of failure in the overall context of our lives and what the gospel says about us.  In Romans 3:24 Paul further explains the good news of our failures that we “are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” We have all fallen short. Our sin leads to death. But we are justified not by the works of our hands or the efforts of our hearts.  We are justified by grace, the unmerited favor of God. We are justified by grace through the redemption that is in Christ, that He died for our sins.  Or as 2 Corinthians 5:21 explains that Jesus who knew no sin, became sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. The good news about our failure is that we have an Almighty God that accomplished the impossible through the Son who was the perfect sacrifice.

So how should the gospel demolish our fear of failure? First recognizing we are all failures should cause us to stop comparing ourselves to one another. In the gospel none of us are better than another. The question is not how we measure up to other people. The question is whether we measure up to God’s standard. None of us measure up to God’s standard. The gospel levels that playing field so that we no longer strive to impress one another or prove ourselves base on our own merit.

The gospel also demolishes our fear of failure because it redirects our hope from the accolades and recognition of man to redemption in Christ. We will never be perfect in the eyes of man. Our perfection is in the hands of God and will not happen this side of heaven. We must then ask if our acknowledgement of our propensity to fail should lead to apathy or indifference?

No we should not be indifferent to failures. If we hope in God we recognize our inability and His infinite ability. Our hearts should turn from performing to fear of God and obedience. Grace should lead us to worship and glorify the Lord.  Paul further encourages us in Philippians 1:6 by proclaiming that, “He who began a good work will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Christ does not fail and what He started in our salvation will be completed.  The gospel says that apart from Him we are all failures, but in Him we are not failures.