Attendance at churches in America is in a downward spiral. Religious critics increasingly malign and belittle people of faith in Christ who do attend. More and more professed Christians have essentially joined them by abandoning their participation in “church.” Why? Did God make a mistake in creating the church? Has the gathering together of believers become optional as public attendance seems to indicate? While I may not be able to answer these and other questions to everyone’s satisfaction, I would like to share with you today why I have neither abandoned nor given up on the church. Here is why I go to church. Click here to listen.
Here are four messages I delivered in 2010 exalting the Bible’s view of the Church. It was originally planned as a 7-lesson series, but was shortened to four. Following this series I will post two additional sermons I delivered in 2012 and 2013 as follow-ups to this series.
1. The Church in God’s Eternal Plan – “His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ephesians 3:10-11) This morning we begin a seven lesson series we call, “7 Things to Know about the Church!” Our first message focuses on the role of the church in God’s eternal purpose. Some religious groups teach that the church is simply a “stop gap measure” by God until He can bring in the Kingdom at Christ’s second coming. Many groups and individuals seem to believe the church should be whatever they want it to be – in organization, worship, practice, finances, and purpose. Paul’s statement in Ephesians 3 (above) says that “through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known.” The church reflects God’s planning, wisdom and purpose! It is not an afterthought or temporary measure. Continue Reading
The video of this lesson can be viewed on the Sunset International Bible Institute YouTube channel by clicking on this link.
- Our passage is called the “Sh’ma” (pronounced She-MAH, and meaning “Listen” or “hear”). It has been used as a prayer by devout Jewish people since before the time of Jesus.
- It is the first verse in the Torah every Jewish child memorizes.
- It is still the first prayer in the morning and last prayer at night a religious Jewish person offers.
- Moses is speaking to those ready to enter the Land of Canaan under Joshua.
- They and their parents have spent almost 40 years after leaving Egypt learning to fully believe in, trust, and obey the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
- They had to learn that the core of their Law and their obedience was that YHWH was the only God there is!
- “I am YHWH your God, who brought you out of Egypt”
- “You shall have no other gods other than me”
- “You shall not make a carved image… you shall not bow down to them or serve them”
- They had learned many hard lessons in the desert, and a whole generation had died there, because of their idolatry, rebellion, disobedience and grumbling.
- In chapter 4, YHWH says, “Hear… follow… keep… observe” – Deut. 4:1-6
- Again in chapter 5, “Hear, O Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them.” – Deut. 5:1
The Privilege of Prayer
- Part of the unique nature of humankind, God’s highest creation, is language
- Language allows both the expressing and transferring of knowledge, feelings, thoughts, dreams, and history
- It also allows – through similes, metaphors, parables, and other forms of symbolic expression – the describing of otherwise unknowable things using comparisons to those things that are known
- The Bible has many descriptions of spiritual realities by means of this symbolic imagery. Examples: Jesus’ parables and the amazing “pictures” in the Book of Revelation
- This imagery is also used to reveal spiritual realities involving prayer
- Here we will look at just two aspects of prayer through these images:
- Prayer: The Awesome Privilege
- Prayer: The Intimate Privilege
The “Jesus Documents” is a study of the writings we call the New Testament, but which are, in fact, the “Jesus Documents,” because they are the primary sources of our information and knowledge concerning Jesus. In this 8-lesson sermon series, we look at the criticism and challenges to these documents, and the reasons I believe we can trust in their reliability. Click here to access these messages, or find our title, The “Jesus Documents” in the Series list in the right-hand column of this page.
TEXTS: John 3:1-21; 7:50-52; 19:38-42
- In this Preaching Series, we are focusing on people with whom Jesus had relatively brief contact, but which were chosen by the Gospel writers to appear in the records about Jesus. We hope these studies illustrate the use of Biblical research resources to help assemble a coherent and appealing story about each person.
- We don’t see Jesus spending much time with people in “high places,” and most of those important people He did encounter produced negative results:
- Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas and Annas the High Priests, and King Herod
- Sadducees, Pharisees, lawyers, scribes, teachers of the Law, and priests
- To the contrary, He was criticized for those He did often keep company with:
- Tax collectors (publicans) and “sinners” (outcasts) – Matthew 9:10; 11:19
- Prostitutes and sinful women – Matthew 21:31; Luke 7:37; John 4 (Samaritan woman at a well)
- Fishermen, common people, and the poor
- Non-Jews like Samaritans, a Canaanite woman, and possibly a Roman centurion (Luke 7:1-10)
One of the best known fixtures of any church today is the “preacher.” He (or she!) often has a special education, special attire, special titles, special authority, and special tasks. Probably most think that is the way it is supposed to be. But is it? The Apostle Paul in Romans 10:14-15 said that people can believe when they hear, and they can hear if they have a preacher. What were these first preachers like? Would we recognize them today? Would preachers of today have been recognized “back then?” This is a 9 message study we are making together of “Preaching: Messenger, Message, and Method.”
Our image is of Paul with the church in Philippi, from the movie, “To the Ends of the Earth,” by BT Media, and provided through www.FreeBibleImages.org.
TEXT: Mark 2:1-12
- We have more events and miracles of Jesus recorded in Capernaum than any other place… even Jerusalem
- We have already looked at two of those miracles: “Jairus” and “The Woman with Bleeding.” This lesson will look at a third miracle: “The Paralyzed Man.”
- Sadly, these miracles and others by Jesus did not lead to faith for many in Capernaum, and the city was eventually condemned by Jesus – Matthew 11:23
- Pete Souza was the Chief Official White House Photographer for President Ronald Reagan (from 1983-1989) and President Barak Obama (2009-2017). Many of us would recognize numerous photos of his which have appeared in the news media.
- Souza estimated he and his staff took about 2,000,000 photos during President Obama’s two terms! This included those in the Oval Office, and during official functions, international trips, disasters, plus private family moments.
- In the Gospels we have many such “snapshots” of Jesus, most of them when He was with people. These images are word pictures rather than photographic, but they are graphic and well focused all the same.
- In these various photogenic moments with the Lord, teachers and preachers have usually focused on Him. But in this series we are trying to do what Jesus did – look at the people in the picture!
- When we are reading the Gospels we notice many people with whom Jesus had contact only briefly. Most of those we never hear about after that initial contact.
- For some of these people, the records we have are so brief we can know almost nothing about them. But for others, enough is recorded for us to learn from them.
- This series I am calling, “Snapshots with Jesus.” It is almost as if a camera captured a picture of Jesus with each of these people. True, the image is verbal instead photographic; but the picture has been preserved for the ages through the Gospel narratives.
- We begin by looking through our “photo album” of snapshots in Capernaum.
We are discussing how to do a series of sermons or lessons on lesser-known Biblical characters. This allows our audience or class to learn about people and stories they have probably never known about before. At the same time, making good application should provides a fresh and memorable way to grasp the Biblical lessons from the text.
Here are a few of the book resources I have found especially helpful as I have prepared these biographical lesson series over the years. Note that EBS may earn a small commission off any merchandise purchased through links on this page.
One wonderful way of preaching or teaching a series from Scripture is through presenting “mini-biographies” of lesser known Biblical characters. Now, doing extended studies on the major characters – Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, Paul, and such – is certainly rewarding as well. But the major characters have many chapters in the Scriptures devoted to them and are usually already well-known to our hearers.
Mini-biographies take characters which get little attention in the Biblical text and yet are in the story for a reason. It requires the preacher/teacher to dig into the context, background, meaning of the text and why the Holy Spirit and the Biblical writer saw the importance of including this person in the story. Here are a few “series” that could be done on people in Scripture: Continue Reading