A Gentle Critique

As a general rule, I try my best to not speak into political issues. The reason for this is that I recognize the moment that I do, I instantly bring division into a group of people. Nevertheless, I do think it is wise (and keeping with church history) to offer gentle critiques of government and governmental leaders. I want to emphasize the word “gentle” – this is not to win an argument or to prove a point but instead to help readers understand how to view social issues through the lens of Scripture.

The President recently made this tweet:

Even a few months ago, I would not have known why this sentiment is so troubling – that is the reason I want to share a different perspective. A few months ago, I reached out to a good friend of mine who is an African-American who lives in Minneapolis and asked him for book recommendations that I can read to better understand what African-Americans and other minorities have to deal with on a regular basis so that I have a fuller understanding of what is going on.

One of the books he recommend was The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. The book describes the historic injustices that have been committed against minority groups using the exact type of policy the President promises to uphold. I encourage you to purchase and read this book for a fuller understanding that I am not able to convey in a blog post.

Second, the other thing I want to encourage my readers to do is to reflect on James 2:1-7 and consider how the principles in this passage apply to fair housing – including low income housing in middle-class neighborhoods. Of course, the context of the passage in James has to do with a church setting but I believe the principles are universal for holding a Christian worldview. Here is that passage:

James 2:1-7
My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?

For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?

Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear?


What are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree? I fully recognize I may be missing something so, if I am, please let me know by leaving a comment as I would love to hear from you!

NT Literature: The Johannine Corpus

As I shared in a previous post, I am hoping to provide a high school level class for students who will be doing virtual learning or homeschooling as a result of COVID-19. I am waiting to make this class official until I have at least 5 students signed up but am spending the bulk of today creating the course overview and curriculum. In my search online, I could not find any classes that I felt were adequate so I am creating one on my own.

Below is the course description. If you know of any high school students who would like to be part of this class, please have them reach out to me via e-mail – tyler@renovationchurchsd.com

TITLE:
NT Literature: The Johannine Corpus

DESCRIPTION:
This is a one-semester course which will meet once a week for 15 weeks for an in-depth study of the Gospel of John as well as overviews of the rest of the Johannine Corpus (i.e. 1st John, 2nd John, 3rd John, and Revelation). We will consider the authorship, structure, historical background, and 1st century setting to grasp a fuller and deeper understanding of this ancient text. The class will meet on Thursdays at 9am via Zoom (beginning on Thursday, September 3rd). Class sessions will be around 2 hours long and the student should expect to complete 1 – 3 hours of homework per week for this class. This will be more academic than a regular Bible Study but the goal remains the same: to help the student connect with God in a deeper and more authentic way.

REQUIRED TEXTBOOKS:
ESV Study Bible (ISBN – 978-1433502415)
N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides: John (ISBN – 978-0830821846)

New Testament Survey/Church History Class

Hi everyone,

I know that many parents have adopted homeschooling or virtual schooling for this year. If you would like your kids to take some type of religious education class, I would be more than willing to organize some classes via Zoom – possibly a New Testament Survey class with some church history mixed in. I have a Master of Divinity degree from Sioux Falls Seminary, have been in pastoral ministry for 8 years, and served as a teaching assistant for graduate level courses on similar subjects.

If interested, send me an e-mail – tyler@renovationchurchsd.com. The only thing I ask is that you make a donation to Renovation Church in any amount you are able to give. We will use the money that you give to help our local teachers purchase extra supplies that they need for COVID-19.

(If you are an adult and would be interested in something similar, let me know. If there is enough interest, I can try to to teach an adult class as well.)

Prison Break (Acts 12:1-17)

This past Sunday I had the honor of teaching through the Book of Acts by studying Acts 12:1-17. In this passage, we looked at two major events of history – the first is the death of the Apostle James and the second is the deliverance of Peter from prison at the hands of an angel.

This passage poses many questions that we still wrestle with today:

– Why does God allow good people who love him to die at a young age while others are delivered from death?

– If God already knows what is going to happen – what is the point of prayer? Does prayer actually change anything?

– We may not be in a physical prison but so many of us are imprisoned to alcohol, drugs, sex, consumerism, comfort, or entertainment. How can we ourselves experience deliverance from these prisons?

The full message is below and below the message you can find the Sermon Discussion Guide to help you go deeper in your faith. We will be meeting this Wednesday at 8pm via Zoom to talk through the Sermon Discussion Guide and all are invited to join us. The connection information is here: https://renovationchurchsd.com/online-service-information/

Book of Acts – Week 29 – Acts 12:1-17
Discussion Guide

Before working on this discussion guide, please do the following:

1. Watch the message from this past Sunday if you were unable to attend the online service. You can find the message on our Facebook Page and on our website (renovationchurchsd.com).

2. Spend 5 minutes or so in prayer. You can either pray through the “Lord’s Prayer” or simply share what is on your heart. It is also good to spend at least 1 full minute in silence so that God can quiet your heart and mind as you prepare to study the Scriptures.

Discussion Questions

1. Read slowly and prayerfully through Acts 12:1-17. What stands out to you? What questions do you still have after reading through the text?

2. In the beginning of this chapter, we are introduced to three major people: King Herod, Peter, and James. Explain briefly who each of these people are and their relation to Jesus.

3. The most troubling contrast in this chapter is the difference between the outcomes of James imprisonment and that of Peter. Why did God rescue Peter out of prison but allow James to be executed? Bringing it to our own day – why does God heal some people and not others? Why does he save some people from death but not others – when He loves both people?

4. During Peter’s imprisonment, the church was marked by “fervent prayer.” There was a time when Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them how to pray. He replied by giving us the “model prayer” known as the “Lord’s Prayer.” Read Matthew 6:5-15 – what stands out to you? What questions do you have?

5. One of the remarkable things about Peter is that he was sound asleep hours before his execution – he seemed to not have any anxiety or worry about his impending death. How was this possible? Are there any Scriptures that come to mind that have helped you in the midst of anxiety or worry?

6. As soon as Peter realized that God, through the angel, rescued him from prison – he immediately went to the church to share his testimony with God’s people. One of the best things we can do is regularly share with those around us how God has worked in our lives. As you look over the past few months, what are some specific ways God has delivered you out of various “prisons”?

Thank You!!!

I wanted to take a minute to say THANK YOU to all of you who support Renovation Church financially. This past week, I took some time to personally send a message to every teacher in the Garretson School District to let them know that we are praying for them and to offer to help purchasing anything needed for their classrooms this year.

So far, we have been able to purchase clear face masks for ALL of the first graders and their teachers (per their request). This will allow these young kids to better see – and respond to – nonverbal communication. We have also been able to come alongside of a local family to purchase backpacks and school supplies for the new year.

We are a small church with limited finances but we want to do everything we can to make this school year successful for our community, teachers, and staff. If you work for the district and are in need of help purchasing extra supplies due to COVID-19, send us a message.

(On a side-note, I also read in the paper that the district is having a difficult time finding substitute teachers since many of them are over the age of 60. As a result, I spoke to Supt. Johnson and signed up to become a substitute teacher this year to help with this burden.)

The Church God Blesses (Acts 11:19-26)

This past Sunday I had the honor of teaching about the most influential church plant in the first century – the church in Antioch. I walk through the text and share four characteristics about the type of church (and Christian) that God blesses. Below the video you can find the Sermon Discussion Guide to go deeper into the text. This Wednesday at 8pm I will be hosting an online small group where we will discuss the Sermon Discussion Guide. The connection info is here: https://renovationchurchsd.com/online-service-information/

Book of Acts – Week 28 – Acts 11:19-26
Discussion Guide

Before working on this discussion guide, please do the following:

1. Watch the message from this past Sunday if you were unable to attend the online service. You can find the message on our Facebook Page and on our website (renovationchurchsd.com).

2. Spend 5 minutes or so in prayer. You can either pray through the “Lord’s Prayer” or simply share what is on your heart. It is also good to spend at least 1 full minute in silence so that God can quiet your heart and mind as you prepare to study the Scriptures.

Discussion Questions

1. Read slowly and prayerfully through Acts 11:19-26. What stands out to you? What questions do you still have after reading through the text?

2. The Church of Antioch was founded in the crucible of suffering. One of the themes of Scripture we conveniently ignore is the dominant theme of suffering in the life of a Christian. Read the following passages and share what stands out to you: James 1:2-8 and 1 Peter 2:19-25

3. The Church in Antioch was started when followers of Jesus were willing to “proclaim the good news about the Lord Jesus” to the non-Jews in that city. If someone were to ask you – what is this “good news” that these early Christians proclaimed – how would you answer it? Do you have a certain passage of Scripture you can point to that contains this good news?

4. When Barnabas arrived in Antioch to check out what was going on, Luke says that he saw the “grace of God.” What does this mean? When the average person walks into most churches today, do they see the grace of God? What are some steps we can take as individuals and as a church so that others see God’s grace in and through us?

5. Another thing that the Church in Antioch prioritized was sound teaching and doctrine. Take a few minutes to carefully read Hebrews 5:11-14 – what stands out to you? Practically speaking, how do we adjust from milk to solid food in the Christian faith?

6. Overall, the key to the success of the church in Antioch is found in verse 21 – the Lord’s hand was with them. This is something all of us want to experience but very few of us do. If someone were to ask you, “How do I experience the blessing of God” – how would you respond?

Unmasking the Mask Debate.

This past Sunday, I did a special online service that consisted of answering questions that were submitted both ahead of time and while I was doing the service. One of these questions asked if there were any guidelines or principles to consider for the current debate over masks.

Here is a short clip from the full service where I seek to answer this question while remaining faithful to the Scriptures.

(If you are reading this in your e-mail, you may need to go to the actual page to see the video).

God Has No Favorites (Acts 10:1-48)

Unfortunately the Christian church throughout history has been one of the main proponents of prejudice, racism, and ethnocentrism. This is not a new problem in the church; instead, it was even propagated by the great Apostle Peter. In this message, I teach through Acts 10:1-48 and we see how Peter’s prejudice & ethnocentrism is challenged and transformed by the Gospel (and how all of it applies to the church today as well).

The sermon discussion guide can be found below the message. We will be meeting on Wednesday evening at 8pm to discuss these questions and all are invited to join us. The connection info is here: Online Service Information

Book of Acts – Week 27 – Acts 10:1-48
Discussion Guide

Before working on this discussion guide, please do the following:

1. Watch the message from this past Sunday if you were unable to attend the online service. You can find the message on our Facebook Page and on our website (renovationchurchsd.com).

2. Spend 5 minutes or so in prayer. You can either pray through the “Lord’s Prayer” or simply share what is on your heart. It is also good to spend at least 1 full minute in silence so that God can quiet your heart and mind as you prepare to study the Scriptures.

Discussion Questions

1. Read slowly and prayerfully through Acts 10:1-48. What stands out to you? What questions do you still have after reading through the text?

2. One of the tensions we need to understand to fully appreciate this text is the tension between Jew and Gentile. Can you think of any Old Testament Scriptures or stories that would have led to this tension in the early church?

3. Prejudice and even racism can still be found in the church today. We may not be prejudice towards Gentiles (since we are all Gentiles) but there is no shortage of other groups we are prejudice towards. What are some groups of people that tend to be rejected or mistreated by the Church? What are some practical steps we can take to offer them the love of God?

4. In this passage, we see God go through a lot of effort to get Peter in front of Cornelius. It would have been way easier to just have the angel that appeared to Cornelius share the Gospel with him. Why didn’t this happen? Why was it so important for Peter to show up?

5. After God shows Peter the vision about the different animals and God commands Peter to eat them, Peter responds by saying, “No, Lord!” which is an oxymoron – if you say no then Jesus clearly isn’t Lord. What are some ways that Christians today say, “No, Lord!” to clear teaching in Scripture?

6. Although God taught Peter in this passage that he must not call any person impure or unclean, he falls into this same trap again and is rebuke by the Apostle Paul. Read through Galatians 2:11-21 – what stands out to you?

7. Finally, what is at least one way you are seeking to apply this text to your life?  

How To “Achieve” Sainthood

What comes to mind when you think of the word “saint”? For many of us, we tend to think of a super spiritual person who seems to be closer to Jesus than the rest of us – the Mother Theresas of the world. Others of you likely think of your grandmother (let’s be honest, our grandmothers really do seem to know Jesus better than the rest of the world). Of, if you have a Roman Catholic background, you may think of certain Christians throughout history who have been canonized as “Saints” by the Catholic Church.

This past Sunday I had the honor of teaching through Acts 9:32-43 at Renovation Church. This passage begins by describing Peter as visiting “the saints who lived in Lydda.” When we read passages such as this one we need to ask good questions; namely, who are the “saints” being visited by Peter? Are these super holy Christians who have been canonized by the early church for their acts of charity and devotion? Are they all the grandmas who seem to know Jesus better than the rest of us? Who are they?

If you continue to read through this passage you will begin to understand that the word “saint” is being used to describe normal and every-day followers of Jesus. Matter of fact, whenever the word “saint” is used in Scripture, it is referring to regular followers of Jesus. One notorious example of this is when Paul writes a letter to the church in Corinth. Corinth was far from being a haven of godliness and holiness; in one case there was a man sleeping with his step-mom and, rather than rebuking him, the church celebrated how tolerant they were (see 1 Cor. 5:1). In addition, as the church gathered to celebrate communion, some of the Christians were actually getting intoxicated by the communion wine (1 Cor. 11:21). This isn’t to mention the division, spiritual abuse, and quarreling going on in the church!

Nevertheless, Paul refers to these very messed-up Christians as “saints” in 1 Corinthians 1:2. The English word “saints” comes from the Greek word hagios. The term literally means to be set apart for the purposes of God. According to the New Testament, sainthood is not something we achieve but instead an identity we receive through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In other words, the moment you become a follower of Jesus regardless of how screwed up you are, you have now become a saint.

So… why does this matter?

On September 22nd, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War. This executive order instantly changed the identity of all slaves to freedmen in the northern and southern states. Unfortunately, many of these now freedmen continued to live their lives as slaves because the news of the Emancipation Proclamation was kept away from them by their cruel “owners.” Although they were no longer legally enslaved to these former owners, they continued in their slavery because they did not understand that they had received a new identity.

As Union Troops pushed into the southern states, they distributed leaflets and other material to spread the good news that slavery had been demolished through the Emancipation Proclamation. As these former slaves received the good news that their identity had been changed, they were empowered to leave their life of slavery and pursue life with a brand new freedom.

Likewise, I would argue that many Christians today are paralyzed and enslaved by sin because we do not understand our new identity in Christ. Before a person becomes a Christian, the Scriptures describe them as being “enslaved to sin” (Rom. 6:15-23). This is what Martin Luther referred to as the bondage of the will. The human will has become so twisted, corrupt, and depraved through sin that humanity has become spiritually dead – unable to even respond to God on our own (Eph. 2:1). Nevertheless, the moment God causes a person to be born again, their identity changes from being an object of God’s wrath, to an object of God’s love; from a child of Satan, to a child of God; from being without hope, to experiencing the fullness of hope; from being enslaved to sin, to experience the glorious freedom made available through Christ.

Unfortunately, we forget our identity in Christ because our minds are assaulted by accusations from the enemy who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). In the same way that the wicked slave owners of the south kept their former slaves from hearing the good news of the Emancipation Proclamation so our even more wicked slave owner seeks to deafen us to the Emancipation Proclamation heralded through the Gospel.

The way we combat these accusations and false identities is to regularly remind ourselves of our true identity in Christ – including the Sainthood that we have received not on the basis of our works but on the basis of Jesus’ perfect work. Neil Anderson, an author, pastor, and professor has helped me understand this concept in a much greater degree. His book “Victory Over the Darkness” is a must-read for every Christian who desires to conquer sinful habits that choke out our spiritual lives. In the book, he has numerous lists that are meant to be read out loud because faith comes through hearing the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17).

Below is one of these lists. I want you to honestly read this list out loud so you can hear it being spoken over you. Each of these things are true about you not because of what you have done but because of what Jesus has done for you.

I AM ACCEPTED…
John 1:12 I am God’s child.
John 15:15 As a disciple, I am a friend of Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:1 I have been justified (declared righteous).
1 Corinthians 6:17 I am united with the Lord, and I am one with Him in spirit.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 I have been bought with a price and I belong to God.
1 Corinthians 12:27 I am a member of Christ’s body.
Ephesians 1:3-8 I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child.
Colossians 1:13-14 I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins.
Colossians 2:9-10 I am complete in Christ.
Hebrews 4:14-16 I have direct access to the throne of grace through Jesus Christ.

I AM SECURE…
Romans 8:1-2 I am free from condemnation.
Romans 8:28 I am assured that God works for my good in all circumstances.
Romans 8:31-39 I am free from any condemnation brought against me and I cannot be
separated from the love of God.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22 I have been established, anointed and sealed by God.
Colossians 3:1-4 I am hidden with Christ in God.
Philippians 1:6 I am confident that God will complete the good work He started in me.
Philippians 3:20 I am a citizen of heaven.
2 Timothy 1:7 I have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.
1 John 5:18 I am born of God and the evil one cannot touch me.

I AM SIGNIFICANT…
John 15:5 I am a branch of Jesus Christ, the true vine, and a channel of His life.
John 15:16 I have been chosen and appointed to bear fruit.
1 Corinthians 3:16 I am God’s temple.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 I am a minister of reconciliation for God.
Ephesians 2:6 I am seated with Jesus Christ in the heavenly realm.
Ephesians 2:10 I am God’s workmanship.
Ephesians 3:12 I may approach God with freedom and confidence.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

Which of the statements above is the most difficult for you to believe? Why? What are some steps you can take or Scripture you can meditate on this week so that you realize your new identity in Christ and experience freedom from the bondage of sin?

Plundering Satan (Acts 9:32-43)

This past Sunday I had the honor of teaching through two incredible miracles in the Book of Acts – the healing of a paralyzed man and the raising of a dead woman. In this message, I teach verse-by-verse through this passage and explain how it applies to our lives today. The sermon discussion guide can be found below the message.

Book of Acts – Week 26 – Acts 9:32-43
Discussion Guide

Before working on this discussion guide, please do the following:

1. Watch the message from this past Sunday if you were unable to attend the online service. You can find the message on our Facebook Page and on our website (renovationchurchsd.com).

2. Spend 5 minutes or so in prayer. You can either pray through the “Lord’s Prayer” or simply share what is on your heart. It is also good to spend at least 1 full minute in silence so that God can quiet your heart and mind as you prepare to study the Scriptures.

Discussion Questions

1. Read slowly and prayerfully through Acts 9:32-43. What stands out to you? What questions do you still have after reading through the text?

2. In Acts 9:32, Luke refers to the Christians in Lydda as “saints.” Why does he do this? Are the Christians in Lydda especially holy? How should Luke’s use of this phrase change the way we view ourselves and our relationship to God?

3. What we see Peter doing in this passage is in fulfillment of Jesus’ words in John 14:12-14. Read through this passage and explain it in your own words – what are the things you notice?

4. In the sermon, I (Tyler) made the claim that miracles are possible but are not normative for the Christian life. First, what does this mean? Second, in what ways have miracles been abused in the Christian church by so-called teachers? Third, do you agree or disagree with what I said and why? (be honest!)

5. Many people refer to passages such as Tabitha rising from the dead and Lazarus coming from the tomb as “Resurrections.” The only Resurrection we have in Scripture is Jesus. What is the difference between Resurrection and what happened to Tabitha & Lazarus?

6. Miracle accounts in Scripture are always true and almost always have a deeper meaning beneath the surface. As you consider Aeneas being healed from paralysis and Tabitha being brought back to life – do you notice any deeper meaning in this text that we should apply to our lives?

7. Every person who is a Christian is truly a walking miracle. For many people, your life is the only Bible they will read. What are some characteristics you want those around you to recognize about Jesus – write them down. Considering this list, what are some changes we can make to our lives so people see these things in us?