On Thursday of this past week, over two weeks into our month-long visit, we visited five churches and one of the Bible training centers. These particular churches were in villages, outside of major towns. They serve the poorest of the poor. This is the focus of Grace Christian Ministry.

The training centers are a means for the surrounding people and those studying to be Pastors to receive biblical training.

So let me give you the setting: Its after sundown and there is only a lightbulb to light the front yard. There is a table set up with chairs of “honor” for us to sit in front of the gathering, and then seating for those who are attending. There is an order to how people are seated, with pastors up front followed by all others behind them. All are eagerly anticipating the teaching of the Word.

Continue reading “Open Air Gospel”

I’m amazed by the how God’s word, through his Spirit, moves his people to repentance.  Hopefully you can relate to the profound effect of the reading of the word can have on a person. God’s word has power. It shows us who God is and who we are in comparison to him. Through the reading of his word we see our sinfulness exposed and it should drive us to repentance and humility. Hebrews gives us a great picture of the power of the Word to change man.

Continue reading “Reading of God’s Word”

Do you ever feel the call of the Lord stretching you until it feels uncomfortable – pushing you out of your comfort zone?  I am experiencing it now and it is probably the first time in my life as a follower of Christ. So why does he do this?  Why does he stretch us beyond our comfort and ability? Ultimately, for his glory.

Let’s look at a couple biblical examples of how God stretches those whom he calls his children.

Continue reading “Are You Being Stretched?”

As Christians prayer should be second nature. It plays an important part of our walk and is our way of communicating with our heavenly Father. As his children, we should always be desiring to lift our praise and requests to our Father. He is a good Father who will give his children what they need (Matthew 7:11; Luke 11:11-13). Throughout the New Testament, we see Jesus serving as our example of how and when we should pray. The disciples didn’t miss this and asked him how they should pray (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-13). Because of their question, we can now read his instructions on how to come before the Lord in prayer. In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 we see Paul saying we should pray without ceasing.

So why do we make it so hard on ourselves?

Continue reading “Pray Without Ceasing”

The mission team is preparing for our upcoming trip to India in February – whether for some of us it is a return trip, or for others the very first time – either way it is an answer to the call that Christ puts on our lives as disciples. That call is the same that Jesus commands us in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The call is clear.

Continue reading “The Call”

Today we had a full day at the convention. This morning, I (Phil) preached to the Pastors of GCM. Approximately 40 of them sat before me, warriors of Christ. It was somewhat intimidating. These men are not beginners. They are seasoned laborers. They have been in the trenches in ways that I cannot fathom. Each Bible tattered and torn. Obviously used against the schemes of Satan. What can I tell these men?

Nothing.

This is the cold hard truth. I have absolutely nothing to offer these men. I have no right to stand before them and tell them how to be a Pastor. Nor do I have anything of value. My wisdom is not worth more than the paper my sermon would be written on.

However, God does have something to tell these men. They work at God’s pleasure with God’s Power and therefore they must hear from God’s Word. My only option as I stood before these men was to give them the only thing that would benefit them. The Word of God.

It is the Word of God that will revive the soul. It is the Word of God that reminds them of God’s abundant provisions. It is the Word of God that pierces a man’s heart and convicts him of his Sin. It is the Word of God that speaks like into their dry bones. Therefore, I was compelled to give them what they need most.

As I did, I reminded myself that the Word of God always has power. Whether it comes for a novice preacher like myself or from John Piper, it accomplishes what it sets out to do.

‘”For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV)

It is only because of God’s Word that I, a sinner, can stand before other sinners and have confidence that God’s will will be done in their lives.

Sermon Given at Woolson Church – March 11, 2012

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” – John 21:15-19

Do you love me? These were the stinging words that Jesus used to restore Peter. These simple, yet powerful words were used by Christ to pierce the heart of Peter (Hebrews 4:12) and to bring Peter back into a right relationship with his Master. These are the words that launched Peter into a radical life for Christ.

Today, we are going to look at these four words: Do you love me? We are going to unpackaged these versus. We are going to go to the banks of the Sea of Tiberius and sit around the fire and feel its warmth. We are going to look upon Jesus as Peter looked upon Jesus and experience the anguish Peter felt after denying Christ and the joy Peter felt after being restored by Christ.

My prayer and hope for this message is that all of you will hear the words “Do you love me” straight from the mouth of Christ and that they would penetrate your heart. That these words would be alive in you. And that they would ring in your ears and grieve you until you answer yes, you know that I love you. And that this love would be the catalyst to a sold out life to Christ.

Now, let us first start by taking a look at context. First of all let us look at the timing of this conversation. This conversation took place after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but before the anointing of the Holy Spirit. This was an in between time for the followers of Christ. In a way, it was a spiritual no man’s land. You can get a sense of this by what the disciples were doing. In verse 3, we see Peter say, “I am going fishing”. It appears that the disciples were slipping back into the common, into what was familiar. Into the rut of life. At this time they had been given the Great Commission to go to the ends of the Earth, but instead they went fishing.

Secondly, I think we need to understand the two parties involved in this conversation. Jesus and Peter. These two had an interesting relationship. If you recall Peter’s name originally was Simon, son of John. And it was Jesus who changed his name to Peter. He was also one of the few, if not only, person in existence that Jesus said, “Get behind me Satan.” It was a tumultuous relationship. Not because of Christ, but because of Peter. He was all over the board. Peter wreaked of his flesh.

Now this conversation between Peter and Jesus was a crucial conversation. Have you ever heard that phrase before, crucial conversation? It was a name of a book written several years ago and it sold over 2 million copies. It was a book about having conversations that are life changing. Conversations that lead to a turning point in your life. I am sure you have experienced one or two of these in your life. Perhaps had one between you and your father, or mother, a teacher, or a pastor. For Peter this was definitely a life changing conversation. This was one of the last conversation that launched Peter forward into a radical following of Jesus Christ. After this he was preaching Christ to the same Jews that killed Christ, raising people from the dead, walking out of prisons. Eventually it led to Peter’s murder. And I believe that this conversation was fundamental to this surrendered life. So let us unpackaged this conversation.

First, what I find so interesting is that this conversation was merely a simple question. There was not a lot of moving parts. It was about one topic. “Do you love me?” That was it. Nothing more, nothing less. Do you love me? It was simple examination of Peter. A pop quiz of sorts. He wasn’t preaching, he was posing. Now, it is important to realize that this question, was not for Jesus. The reason for asking this question was not so Jesus would know the answer. This question was for Peter. It was for him to reflect upon. I wonder how often Peter did this? I wonder how often he sat down and reflected about his walk with Christ. Remember, Peter was the guy who would shot first and aimed second. He was a man of action. In fact, his clothes were probably still damp from jumping into the sea to swim to shore. Jesus was forcing Peter to come to a time of examination. A simple examination, but still a powerful one.

Now the next thing I want us to think about is that Jesus was requesting him to examine the relationship between him and Peter. He said Simon do YOU love ME. Recently I read a book called Not a Fan, and in this book the author was talking about the common conversation that couples have. He called it the Define the Relationship conversation, or DTR. This is when the guy and the girl sit down and try to figure out where there this is going. If they are on the same page. I am sure that all of you have been a part of a DTR before. It probably came up on your fourth of fifth date. You and your date were sitting down to eat, she was still eating salad and you were chomping down on a steak, and then the female asks out of the blue, “Where do you see this going?” The guy is totally confused. Then the question hits him like a ton of bricks. “Oh, you mean this? Where do you see this going?” What they girl is curious is about is where does she stand with him. How does the other person feel about her. This is exactly what Jesus was asking of Peter. Peter, how to you feel about me? Peter, do we have a future? Peter, are you committed to this relationship? Peter, define what I mean to you.

Next, we need to understand that this relationship that Jesus wanted Peter to reflect on was a relationship of love. Love. Jesus was point blank asking, do you love me. He wasn’t pulling punches or dancing around the bush. He was direct, and was getting, literally, to the heart of the matter.

Love is one of the most misunderstood words in the world. If I were to ask, what does love mean. I am guessing that all of you would have an answer. And I am guessing that all of your answers would be somewhat different. But in this passage, it is Christ who is posing this question, so we need to know what does Christ mean by love? How are we going to find out what Christ meant by love? How about His Word? What does Christ say that love is?

Turn to John 15:13 – “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

When Jesus used the word love, he used it in a way that means this kind of love. He used the word love as He knows the word love. How did Christ love? He loved by dieing. He left the Glory that he had with his father and walked amongst the stench of humanity. The Light of the world came down into darkness and the darkness hated the light. He then laid down his life and died for us while we were still sinners. That is love. That is what Christ is talking about. That is what Jesus means when he asks Peter do you love me? Do you treasure me more than life itself. He is asking Peter, will you die for me?

This words pieced the heart of Peter. In verse 17 it says Peter was grieved. He had sorrow in his heart. The words of Christ hit him like a ton of bricks, crashing down upon his soul. At this moment he was broken and contrite. He was on his knees before the cross. He was on his knees before the King. This is the place Jesus wanted Peter to be. He wanted Peter with tears in his eyes, pain in his heart, sold out for Jesus Christ. If Peter was going to be used by Jesus, he had to love him. He had to love him. Bottom line, no exception. And this love can’t be a lukewarm love. It is a soulful, complete, authentic, reeking of truth and obedience kind of love. His love was crucial.

This is where Jesus wanted Peter, and this is where Jesus wants you. Phil, son of Tim, do you love me? John, son of Bob, do you love me. Mary, daughter of Richard, do you love me?

Have you allowed Jesus to sit on the shores of your life and pear into your heart and ask the simple question “Do you love me?” Have those words broken you down, stripped you of everything else. Have you examined your life and asked if you love a net full of fish, or do you love Jesus Christ. Do you love your job, or do you love Jesus. Do you love your health, or do you love Jesus. Do you love your life, or do you love Jesus.

Psalm 42:1 says, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.” Honestly, is that you? Can you say in your heart, to live is Christ and to die is gain? Do you treasure Christ above all things?

We have a choice to make, do you love Christ, or do you love something else. You cannot serve mammon and God. You cannot be lukewarm. You cannot be a dead branch attached to the Vine. Either you are a tree that bears fruit, or you don’t.

It is time for the Church to wake up and be willing to die for its King. It is willing for Woolson to say I love you Lord, take me where I don’t want to go. Take me to N. Korea, to India, to China, to Ottumwa, to Pekin, to my family, to my friends. Help me to love you more than life itself.

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” – Habakkuk 3:17-18

I was reading from the book “The Holiness of God” by RC Sproul last night and I ran across the above verse. I had read the verse before (however, not often. Habakkuk is not on my monthly read list.) but this time it took on a new flavor due to my trip to India.

When reading, I couldn’t help but remember the joy on the faces of the believers in Kerala, India. They had so little when it came to treasures on earth, but they had so much when it came to treasures in Heaven, and they new it. And not only did the know it, but they showed it.

While on the trip, I was reading “God is the Gospel” by John Piper. Piper’s book was attempting to show that God should be our greatest treasure, not God’s blessings (over simplified, but you get the idea). I didn’t realize it at the time, but this is exactly what I saw in the faces of the believers in India. They were not rejoicing because they were blessed with comforts of this world, they were rejoicing because they were adopted into God’s family and they had the presence of God within them and a promise that they would some day be in God’s presence forever.

This is a lesson all of us could learn. Too often we complain because the fig tree has no blossom (long winter), nor fruit be on the vines (bank account low), the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food (lost our job), the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls (car broke down)…this almost sounds like a country song. We, too often, fail to remember that God has given us the greatest treasure of all…Himself. Compared to the unsearchable riches of being with God, our struggles are insignificant. I pray that our life would reflect that. We need to stop complaining and start rejoicing.

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” – Psalm 16:11

Time is interesting. It has this uncanny ability to smooth the edges of life. Usually we recognize it as it relates to pain in our lives. You know the phrase, “Time heals all wounds.” Unfortunately, time cuts both ways. As the days pass, I can already feel the pull of the World: bills, job, meetings, you name it.

A friend at Church who has gone on several mission trips mentioned this reality to me. She encouraged me to spend time going back and looking at pictures, reading journal entries, and just reflecting on how God was working in India. This is good advice. It almost sounds Biblical.

If you look in the Bible, especially the Old Testament, you see time and time again God reminding people about the great things He has done for them. The sad thing is that no matter how often the people were reminded, they tended to drift away.

Perhaps you can relate to this. I am guessing that at some point in your life God has worked in an amazing way. Maybe today is a good day to reflect on how great our God is and how he has pursued you and loved you. A good place to start is to dwell upon the cross and the work that Jesus Christ did on Calvary so that you had the opportunity to spend eternity with God.

Today we got to participate in a service for the pastors. New Life Church assisted in purchasing Bibles for them and we got to hand them out. It was pretty cool.

The Bible is not as available here in India and the people are very poor, so they treasure the Word of God very much. The Bibles they have had for a number of years are pretty beaten up from hours and hours of reading. The truly believe that Jesus is the Word and the Word gives life.

Today Javan preached about the importance of God’s Word. It was also very good.

Now we are spending time with Babu and his family at his house. They are very hospitable. It almost makes you feel guilty. It is there custom to have the guests eat first and they stand behind and watch until you are done. Once you are done, they eat the left overs. It is hard to get use to.

There is also an open door policy at Babu’s house, both figuratively and literally. People seem to be coming and going at all times. Babu has told us stories of people possessed that are brought to his house in the middle of the night. Crazy.