Problems are free. Solutions are expensive.
Problems have been around since sin entered the world. Problems surface quickly, while solutions take time.
Stay the Course is a series of short videos that will address a variety of topics encouraging believers to “stay the course” as we walk joyfully with Jesus during difficult times.
“And now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” (Acts 20:32)
I referenced this booklet in my sermon on January 10. It is about my own journey in studying God’s Word, and I trust it will be an encouragement to yours.
For purposes of bragging rights, many Christians often toss out the fact that the Bible is the best-selling book of all time. As uplifting as this makes might sound, the wind is taken out of our sails, when we discovered that very few read it regularly, and even fewer have read it in its entirety. Bibles are given as gifts at graduations, weddings, and other special occasions he finds its place on the family bookshelf wedge between Moby Dick and Huckleberry Finn. The spine of its black leather binding, says HOLY BIBLE. It is viewed by many as a good luck charm to keep demons away. So why do so few read it? Could it be that we don’t know the author and are therefore fearful about taking advice from a stranger?
The study before us is about the Word of God. Paul commends the Scriptures to us so that we might be built up. Believers have an invitation to drink deeply from God’s eternal truth and to feast at His banquet to their hearts’ content I selected this study’s title because grace is our instructor, mentor, and friend—“Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:12). We don’t read the Bible so we can master it; we read it so it will master us. To discover its truth is to discover who I am and why I exist. We will never know all about the Word, but the Word will forever know all about us.
The following thoughts about the Word of God, have been collected two years of study and meditation. The personal, I trust the truce will go beyond the bounds of my own life and benefit others. I believe that these expressions about his divine revelation are from his spirit, who promises to guide us into truth.Download “The Word of His Grace”
In this video, Pastor Mike shares his thoughts on the past year.
Visit annualreport.restonbible.org to see the rest of the 2020 Annual Report!
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. Romans 14:1
All of us are the weaker or stronger brother in different areas. Let’s not be dogmatic where there is no dog, but pursue unity as a fruit of corporate humility.
As your pastor, I feel the need to offer an encouragement to all of you. Yet my encouragement may feel like a rebuke. I realize that COVID has made church attendance and engagement difficult. It is uncomfortable to sing with masks on. It is awkward to worship at home. With restrictions in place when gathering on campus and distractions around us when gathering in homes, it may seem like the easiest route is to simply disengage. While neither option to gather is fully preferable or ideal, we can still gather. And we must.
Sometimes people will ask me or one of the church staff a question that has been covered in our services for several weeks, which is a clear indication they are neither present nor engaged in our Sunday worship gathering. Have we let social distance become spiritual apathy? There was a time when the day of worship was set aside and called the Sabbath or The Lord’s Day. These loftier terms eventually became known as simply “Sunday,” which has now given way to merely “the weekend.” In this season where one day blends blandly into the next, I know how easy it is to just sleep in, veg out, or binge-watch the latest Netflix series—but these are serious times that require more engagement, not less. This is not the time to put God on the backburner by becoming spiritually lax in gathering as the church.
We sometimes speak of church in terms of the “gathered church” (what the Scriptures refer to as the ekklesia, the gathering of “called out” localized Christ-followers) and the “scattered church” (believers beyond walls, on mission in their local communities and around the world). Both are important aspects of God’s design for the church, and these days we may be feeling more “scattered” than “gathered.” So here are a few reasons to not give up engaging regularly and faithfully with our local church, particularly in these difficult days. These apply both to gathering in our building for those who are able, and gathering at home for those who are not.
- Don’t disobey! The gathered church is commanded by God. The church is no mere human institution, but a God-ordained one. From tent to temple, house church to mega-church, jungle clearing to video venue, iterations of God’s gathered people are as varied as history and culture. But we must not forget—this is His idea. Regardless of our preferences and thoughts as to what it should look like, God still commands His people to gather. Because of the faithfulness of Jesus to His bride, we are told in Hebrews 10 to obediently “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.” One of the hallmarks that we are doing so is that we are “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Meeting together looks different these days than we’re used to, but let’s not kick the habit. The Word of the Lord still stands, and we are to follow and obey the One who “gave Himself up” for the sake of the church. God is clear that engaging together as the church is not optional, so don’t fall into the trap of disobedience. (Hebrews 10:23-25, Ephesians 5:22-32, Colossians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 5:4, John 14:15)
- Don’t disengage! The gathered church ties your gifts to God’s purpose. As I’ve said many times, church is who we are, not a place we go—we are the church, 24/7. That didn’t become any less true when COVID showed up. Facemasks and screen fatigue may make it more challenging to engage, but it doesn’t change the fundamental reality that “you yourselves, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house.” As part of this building process, God has given each and every one of us gifts and abilities to steward that are specifically “for the common good,” which is to say, for the good of His church. So if you disengage, it matters. “If one member suffers, all suffer together…” Not only do you miss out on how God created you, you deprive the body of something significant He means to share through you. There may be some obstacles in your way, but don’t let those keep you from being a good steward of what God has entrusted to you. Ask Him for creativity, perseverance and wisdom, but don’t disengage. (1 Corinthians 12; 1 Peter 2:5, 4:10, Romans 12:3-8)
- Don’t despair! The gathered church is a kingdom outpost. If you’ve ever been to a U.S. embassy while in another country, that embassy is considered U.S. territory, just as if it were on U.S. soil. It is under our country’s authority and protection, even though the space it occupies is in a foreign land. An embassy is an outpost, a “home away from home” that serves as a beacon of hope for any citizens of our nation who find themselves lost or in trouble in a foreign land. In a similar way, the gathering of God’s people serves as our spiritual “home away from home.” The church is our outpost as we navigate this earth as aliens, pilgrims and sojourners, yearning for “a better country, that is a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:6). Whether we are gathering for worship and the Word in our living rooms or in our sanctuary, we as the church are under the authority and protection of King Jesus. Let your faithful engagement in our kingdom outpost serve as a beacon of hope to your own soul and a light to those still stumbling lost through this dark, broken world. Our kingdom outpost gives us hope for today and also points us to the future fulfillment of God’s coming kingdom, when “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” will stand before our King and confess that Jesus is Lord of all. That day will be sweet, and it will come. In the meantime, stay tethered to the outpost so you don’t wander off in despair. (Hebrews 11:6, Philippians 3:20, 1 Peter 2:11, Psalm 119:54, 2 Corinthians 4:8, Revelation 7:9-12)
Gathering looks different these days, but this is no time to put our sovereign Lord on hold or put him on the backburner. Keep Him at the forefront. I am thankful to see so many continuing to faithfully engage each week despite the many challenges. As one watching over you who will give an account (Hebrews 13:7), it is a deep joy to watch many steadfastly holding to Christ and honoring His bride, the church. Yet our hearts remain burdened for those of you who are struggling to engage. So whether you are doing really well, struggling greatly, or somewhere in the middle, my plea is for all of us to be in prayer hourly, in the Word daily, and joining our services weekly. Let me encourage you to faithfully engage with God and God’s people, whether in person or online for a season. Don’t disobey, disengage, or despair. Don’t give up, tune out, or put God on the backburner. Hold fast. Dig in. Press on. Keep God at the forefront.
We’re all in this together.
Love all of you,
(with Pastor Jason)
We live in a fractured world filled with violence and hatred. The last place these evil traits should manifest themselves is the church, but sadly the world often has more influence on the church than the church has on the world.
During the presidential campaign in 2016, many family relationships were strained and many friendships were broken, even among Christians. People became enraged that those close to them were thinking about voting for him—or that they were not voting for him—or that they were going to vote for her.
Four years later, a lot of folks still have brooding resentment over how votes were cast in that election. Yet here we are again, facing a similar situation in an even more tense social environment. A divided nation is preparing to make a decision that is going to bring heated anger to half the populace, however the election goes. The pot is boiling over, people are taking sides and launching assaults online and in the streets. We in the church are not immune. Many followers of Christ, whomever they are voting for, feel vindicated in their wrath because they are certain that Scripture is on their side. And many of us seem to have traded our hope in the gospel of Jesus for hope in the gospel of politics.
Am I saying that we should not exercise our right to vote? Of course not. Are there social and moral issues at stake in this election (and every election)? Yes, most assuredly. But we have to keep things in perspective, and humility and love must be at the helm if we are to navigate these turbulent waters.
Abandoning the gospel for politics is a horrible idea. Here are just a few reasons why.
- We lose sight of the fact that the human heart is depraved. No national leader or political party is immune from the fallenness of humanity. One party or president may do a better job than another, but at the end of the day—or at the end of the century—life remains pretty much as it has through the course of human history, and the human heart is still “deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9).
The gospel tells us that we are in a helpless state and that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). But in His great mercy, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
- We see our party as “the power of God that brings salvation,” which is only true of the gospel itself (Romans 1:16). It is tempting to believe that if our guy gets elected, then he will fix all of the problems in society and bring prosperity, safety, and peace to all. That’s not going to happen, and that’s not what government was designed to do. It simply does not have the power to bring lasting change.
On the other hand, the gospel is powerful enough to take dead men and make them alive “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).
- We forget which kingdom demands our total allegiance. While we are called to obey our governmental authorities, our ultimate allegiance does not belong to a political leader, a party, or even a nation. Jesus said in John 18 that His kingdom is “not of this world.” The kingdom of God is greater than any earthly kingdom, and it operates on a completely different value system. The kingdoms of earth say, “Blessed are the rich and powerful”; the kingdom of heaven says, “Blessed are you who are poor” (Luke 6:20).
- We allow our heavenly citizenship to be eclipsed by our earthly citizenship. When that happens, we can find ourselves sucked into the political vortex and filled with anger, vitriol, hatred for the other side. We become consumed with what happens here and now and forget that we are only on earth for a short time. This is not the way of Christ. The gospel says that we are but “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11) and that “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).
- We focus on the temporal instead of the eternal. Politics, campaigns, and cultural issues are all significant parts of our lives on earth, but they won’t last forever. Scripture reminds us that life is but a vapor, “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). The gospel, however, will be relevant for all of eternity. So we must not lose sight of what matters the most—namely, our relationship with Christ and telling others about Him.
- We underestimate the sovereignty of the God who raises up kings and brings them down (Daniel 2:21). We can be tempted to think that “we the people” determine the fate of the nation when we go to the ballot box. Yet God is ultimately the one who calls our leaders and grants them authority to govern. So should we even bother to vote? By all means, yes, for the same reason we pray even though God has marked out the future. There is great mystery and tension in between the sovereignty of God and the moral responsibility of man. But Scripture is clear that God is the one who “makes nations great, and destroys them; He enlarges nations, and disperses them” (Job 12:23).
- We set aside humility and love, and pick up pride and anger. We can hold so tightly to our own views on a candidate or an issue that we lash out against those who see things differently. Believe it or not, it is possible to disagree with someone without hating them. The gospel calls us to “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). Since we are in Jesus’ kingdom, we need to refrain from vitriolic rhetoric and dialogue, “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
- We view our candidate as a messiah. Most followers of Christ would not actually believe that a presidential hopeful is the Messiah, but it can sure seem that way sometimes. We can act as though we are electing someone who will lead our nation into an age of glory and righteousness. But no mere human could ever attain such heights.
The gospel says that the true Messiah has already come. “We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true. And we are in Him who is true by being in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).
And it says that He is coming again. “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:10).
- We forget who the ruler of this present evil age is. If it seems like politics can be filled with lies and vitriol, there is a reason for that. Jesus refers to Satan as the “prince of this world” (John 14:30), and he is a master of division and deception. There is actually “no truth in him,” Jesus says, “for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). No wonder the Internet and airwaves are filled with political ads that slander and defame.
The Scriptures tell us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). Christians must be careful not to partake in such divisive and vicious assaults, for in so doing, we employ the worldly tactics of our enemy.
- We want a “fixer” rather than a Redeemer. We look to our political leaders to provide perfect solutions for the problems of our day, but even the most effective politician can only put Band-Aids on societal wounds. A fixer provides temporary solutions to temporary issues. A redeemer, on the other hand, lays down his very life to bring complete restoration. Jesus did not come to “fix” us; rather, He “gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own” (Titus 2:14). Because of this great redemption, “you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:18).
At the end of the day, my greatest concern is not so much whom you vote for, important as that is, but rather that you keep a proper perspective on the purpose and limits of politics, and the power and glory of the gospel. Do not abandon the gospel for politics. Rather, let us be humble and loving toward others, even those with whom we adamantly disagree, because “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). We must not allow temporal struggles to distract us from our eternal joy, “so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). We must trust in the sovereign power and will of Almighty God, remembering that “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Do not exchange the infinite beauty of the gospel for temporary political fixes. If you find yourself placing more hope in politics than in the gospel, know that you will find no rest there. Instead, regardless of the outcome of this and future elections, rest in the promise and hope that the gospel brings. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).