Month: May 2020

Office is CLOSED!


Beginning today (after preaching for the online service of Renovation Church) I will be taking a 2 week vacation before we start up in-person services on Sunday, June 7th at Split Rock Park.

So, until June 1st, I will be taking a break from e-mail, phone, and social media. I will occasionally check my Facebook messages.

For those part of Renovation Church – if you are in need of prayer or someone to talk to, please reach out to one of our Elders:
Dave Greenlee (
Chuck Jones (

(We will still have online services via Zoom as normal. Connection info is on our website –

Not All Faith Saves


Jesus once taught His followers that there is a wide path that leads to destruction and many are on it; there is also a narrow way that leads to life and very few are able to find it (Matt. 7:13-14). In another insightful teaching from Jesus in the same gospel, Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a man who goes out into his field to plant grain with good seeds. At the same time, an enemy of the man sneaks into the garden and maliciously sows weeds among the grain.

The “grain” is a metaphor for those who have “been born again—not of perishable seed but of imperishable—through the living and enduring word of God (1 Peter 1:23).” The weeds, on the other hand, are a metaphor for false converts. Those who have had the same experiences as other Christians but whose faith is fraudulent in nature and will eventually condemn them to a Christ-less eternity.

In other words, there is a faith that saves and a faith that damns.

On the outside, it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference. This reality is highlighted in Acts 8:9-24 where we are introduced to the first false convert in the church named Simon. At this point of time in the Book of Acts, there is a massive revival happening in a city of Samaria at the leadership of Philip. Before Philip arrived in the city, Simon practiced sorcery and was likely a worker of (false) miracles. The difference is that Simon’s empowerment came from Satan and emphasized self while Philip’s empowerment was from the Holy Spirit and elevated Christ.

Here’s what Luke describes for us in Acts 8:12-13 –

12 But when they believed Philip, as he proclaimed the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. 13 Even Simon himself believed. And after he was baptized, he followed Philip everywhere and was amazed as he observed the signs and great miracles that were being performed.

Everything seems to be going well. Philip is preaching the Gospel, casting demons out of people, and healing the sick. As a result, many in the city put their faith in Jesus. In verse 13, it says that even Simon – this former sorcerer – has “believed.” Not only as he believed, but he has followed through by getting baptized and becoming a member of the early church. By all outside indicators, Simon is a converted Christian and is well on his way to having a powerful testimony as to how God rescued him from Satanic deception through the light of the Gospel.

All is not well.

Simon, infatuated with spiritual power, seeks to buy the Holy Spirit from the Apostles. Peter’s response to Simon indicates the true condition of Simon’s heart. Here’s what he says in Acts 8:20-23:

20 But Peter told him, “May your silver be destroyed with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this matter, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, your heart’s intent may be forgiven. 23 For I see you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by wickedness.”

The beginning of Peter’s statement for Simon’s money to be destroyed with him is “fishermen’s language.” Our English translations are far too gentle in translating this phrase from Peter. It would better be translated as, “To hell with your and your money!” – This is strong language. He then describes Simon with the following characteristics:

  • Peter proclaims that Simon has “no part or share in this matter” – this is referring to the Christian faith and the life of the church.
  • Peter tells Simon that his heart is not right before God.
  • Peter refers to Simon as being “poisoned by bitterness” and “bound by wickedness.”

Taking all of these descriptions together, we can safely assume that Simon has not truly been converted to the faith. According to church tradition, Simon goes on to found a heretical sect known as “Simonianism” which flourished in the 2nd century (Google it).

Finally, let’s wrestle with this question – how do we tell the difference between a faith that saves and a faith that damns? How do we examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith? The key to discovering if you have a faith that saves or a faith that damns is by asking yourself one question: what or who is the object of your faith?

Let’s look slowly once again at Simon’s conversion in Acts 8:13. After “believing” and being baptized, Luke describes Simon as following “Philip everywhere and was amazed as he observed the signs and great miracles that were being performed (Acts 8:13).” This entire passage makes clear that the object of Simon’s faith was not Jesus or the Gospel but instead the supernatural power that would flow from Jesus. In other words, for Simon, Jesus was merely a means to spiritual power.

Friends, Jesus is not a means to an end. He IS the means and he IS the end. The goal of the Gospel is not supernatural power but instead more Jesus. Let me make this uncomfortable clear.

  • If Jesus is a means to a better marriage, you are not worshiping Jesus but instead your marriage.
  • If Jesus is a means to helpful parenting tips, you are not worshiping Jesus but instead your children.
  • If Jesus is a means to make friends, you are not worshiping Jesus but instead human community.
  • If Jesus is a means to health/wealth, you are not worshiping Jesus but the false god of success.
  • If Jesus is a means to enter “heaven”, you are not worshiping Jesus but instead a vague (and unbiblical) understanding of heaven.

What say you? Is the object of your faith the person and work of Jesus Christ? Or has Jesus merely become a means to something else? If you are honest enough to admit that Jesus has become a means to an end, follow the instruction Peter gives Simon:

Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, your heart’s intent may be forgiven.

If you have questions about the Christian faith or would like to grow in your understanding of the Bible, please reach out! You can either leave a comment or send me an e-mail ( 





Sermon Discussion Guide (May 10th)

Book of Acts – Week 21 – Acts 8:9-24
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 (


  1. 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 8:9-24. What stands out to you? What questions do you still have after reading through the text?




  1. We receive five warnings from this passage for the Christian faith. Which one resonates the most with you? Which one(s) do you think the American Church really needs to listen to in this season? The five warnings are below –

(Warning #1: What God Creates, Satan Counterfeits
Warning #2: Not All Faith Saves

Warning #3: All ministry – even good ministry – must be tested by the Apostles

Warning #4: Human nature seeks to manipulate God for our own purposes

Warning #5: You cannot be saved by second-hand faith)



  1. In this passage we are introduced to Simon who is a false convert. What separates faith that saves from faith that damns is the object of the faith. What was the object of Simon’s faith? In what ways do people in our culture commit the same mistake as Simon but in different ways? Have you even been guilty of this? (hint – we all have at various times)



  1. The Apostle Paul speaks on the subject of demons leading people astray in 1 Timothy 4:1-5. Read through this passage – what stands out to you? What are some teachings you think fall into the category of “the teaching of demons” spoken of by Paul?



  1. One of the smallest letters in the New Testament is the letter of Jude. It is written to instruct the church to be on their guard against false teachers who operate under the power of Satan to lead the church astray. Read this entire letter (it’s only 25 verses). What stands out to you?



  1. One of the ways we prevent the church from becoming full of false converts is through discipleship. The purpose of receiving teaching from the Bible in the church is to that you pass on this teaching to others. Are you currently discipling someone in the faith? If not, why not? Who is someone you can start meeting with for this purpose?



  1. Finally, what is at least one way you are planning on applying this message to your life this week?





COVID-19 Is GOOD for the Church


Okay. I admit the title probably qualifies as click-bait.

Before you leave a comment full of rage and expletives, let me explain. As many of you know, I have the honor of pastoring a small church called Renovation Church in the small town of Garretson. From the beginning of Renovation Church, I have committed myself to preaching verse-by-verse through Books of the Bible.

We are currently studying the Book of Acts. This is a fascinating book written by a guy named Luke. Luke was a medical doctor, historian, and leader in the early church. He has written two books that have been included in our New Testaments; the first is the Gospel of Luke which is about what Jesus began to do and teach through His earthly ministry. The second is the Book of Acts which is about what Jesus continues to do and teach through His Church by the power of the Holy Spirit.

In the very beginning of the Book of Acts, Jesus gives the church their marching orders. Before ascending to the Father, Jesus commands them to be his “witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” For the first 7 chapters, the church has limited virtually all of its activity to the city of Jerusalem. Although God is clearly at work in the church, they have not been fully obedient to Jesus’ marching orders. The church, from the very beginning, was never meant to be limited to one city or one people group. The church is to be comprised of all nations, ethnic groups, and nationalities united under the person and work of Jesus Christ.

In Acts 7, tragedy strikes the church. A young and promising leader named Stephen is brutally murdered by a religious mob after a botched trial. It was a day that plunged the church into a time of incredible darkness and uncertainty. Here is how Luke describes what happened on the day Stephen was murdered:

And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.” – Acts 8:1-3

Three terrible things happen “on that day” –

  1. The church, which valued physical proximity and community far more than any of us, was scattered “throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria.”
  2. Great lamentation was made over the death of Stephen – it was a time of unrelenting mourning.
  3. Saul, a sadistic religious extremist, was “ravaging” the church. In the Greek, this gives the picture of a wild boar entering into a vineyard and literally destroying everything in it’s path. Saul was breathing threats and murder against the Church and was quite successful in his destruction of the church.

If we ended the story here, it would seem as if Satan was finally winning a battle against the church. Nevertheless, we must keep in our mind the words of the famous military strategist Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon, while speaking on the importance of understanding counterattacks, once said, “The greatest danger occurs at the moment of victory.”

In the very next verse – Acts 8:4 – we are given a glimpse into God’s counterattack – “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.”

Remember where the church was scattered to – according to Acts 8:1 they were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria. The exact places Jesus commanded the church to go to in the beginning of the Book of Acts. What Satan meant for harm, God used for the good of His church and the surrounding people groups. Satan can never thwart the plans of God; even in his apparent victory, Satan was used to advance the Church into further revival and missionary expansion.

Back to the title of this post – COVID-19 is GOOD for the church. I think COVID-19 is the greatest thing that has happened to the church in the past 50 years. Now, let me be very careful with my words. I do not think COVID-19 is good – just like I don’t think Stephen being murdered was good. COVID-19 is a horrific disease that has crippled the world economy, caused many to lose their jobs, and has taken the lives of thousands of people.

Nevertheless, COVID-19 has also caused churches everywhere to reconsider the methods we are using to make disciples. The era of consumeristic & attractional churches that view themselves as businesses trying to attract customers is (hopefully) beginning to die. As churches have been forced to move online, gather in smaller groups, and reject the “bells and whistles” that churches so often appeal to – we have been left with a much simpler model of doing church. The church is beginning to return to our original task which is to make disciples who make disciples – not make consumers who “church shop” every 2 – 3 years.

If you are part of Renovation Church, here’s my commit to you as the Lead Pastor of our church. When we return to a “new normal” my focus will not be on developing programs to make our church more attractive. My focus will not be on trying to compete with other churches in the area to steal disgruntled and immature sheep from the church down the street. My focus will not be on some vague from of vision casting as a means of appealing to our fleshly standards of success.

Instead, I will focus on carefully, slowly, and faithfully teaching the Bible verse-by-verse for the purpose of making disciples who make disciples. I have no interest in developing a religious institution so I appear successful in the eyes of the world. My desire and longing is to develop people who look more like Jesus and less like this world; this can only be done through life-on-life discipleship that is rooted in the Bible and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Finally, if anyone reading this does not have a church you are a part of and you are interested in learning what it means to be a disciple – I’d be honored to have you join me on this journey. On Sunday, June 7th (Lord willing) we will begin holding physical services outside at Split Rock Park in Garretson. For the entire summer we aren’t even going to meet in a building; the Church is the people. We will meet for worship in the original sanctuary that proclaimed the glory of God – His creation.



Sermon Discussion Guide (Sunday, May 3rd)

Book of Acts – Week 20 – Acts 8:1-8

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 (


  1. 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 8:1-8. What stands out to you? What questions do you still have after reading through the text?




  1. One of the people we are introduced to more fully in this passage is Saul (who later becomes Paul). How do you think God used Saul/Paul’s religious training and education to make him an even more effective missionary once he became a Christian? How has God used some of your “secular” experience to better prepare you to share your faith?




  1. When Luke refers to the Christians as “scattering” it reminds us of the scattering of seed (which is intentional on Luke’s part). Read Jesus parable on the “soils” in Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23. What stands out to you from Jesus’ teaching?




  1. Although much of the church is scattered due to the persecution, he makes it clear that the Apostles remained in Jerusalem. Why did the Apostles remain in Jerusalem during the persecution? It was clearly okay to leave Jerusalem as God used the persecution to spread the Gospel – so why did the Apostles remain? (I did not have time to explain this in my message so… what are your thoughts?)




  1. Those who were scattered went on their way sharing the Gospel with those why came into contact with. It’s impossible to share a message we don’t know. If someone asked you, “What is the at the core of the Christian faith – what is the ‘Gospel’” – How would you respond? What is the message of the Gospel?




  1. I (Tyler) made a claim in the message that COVID-19 is good for the church. Not that COVID-19 itself is good but it has caused the church to re-evaluate our mission and return to making disciples. Do you agree or disagree? If you agree, what are some ways COVID-19 has caused all of us as a whole to re-examine our assumptions and lives?




  1. Finally, what is at least one way you are seeking to apply this passage to your life this week?