Author: tylerramsbey

I am a Christian, Husband, Pastor, and Scholar. I desire to know Jesus and to make Him known.

Dear Church – Don’t Give People What They Want

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In our American culture we are obsessed with size and outward success. This has infiltrated the church and encouraged pastors to use any means necessary to pursue numerical growth for the church. In many ways this is a good thing – more people getting connected to the body of Christ is always positive. Unfortunately, the means that we have used for many years for this growth has caused more people to attend but less people to be disciples. I would even argue that the American way of doing church has given people a false hope of salvation for they have trusted in a false Jesus.

Before you leave an angry comment, let me explain.

This past Sunday I had the honor of teaching through the miraculous healing of a man who had been unable to walk since he was born – over four decades. His livelihood consisted of being carried to the temple each day so that he could beg for money from those coming to worship. On a seemingly ordinary day, he encounters two leaders in the early church – Peter and John.

These men have likely seen this beggar numerous times – the text says he was at the temple daily asking for alms. According to Acts 3:3, when he saw Peter and John about to enter the temple, he asked for money. This is how Peter responds to this man’s request, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!”

Peter offered the man what he needed – not what he wanted.

If we could sit down with this beggar in the first century and ask him what his greatest need on that day was, he would have said it was money. He needed money to purchase food, he needed money to pay rent, and he needed money to simply survive.

What if Peter and John simply gave this man what he wanted? What if they did a fundraiser or a GoFundMe page to raise money for the poor beggar outside of the temple? It would have been a great marketing move; displaying to the Jewish world the generosity of Jesus’ followers. It would have made the poor beggar happy – his monetary needs would have been met and he could have taken a vacation from begging outside of the temple.

But here’s the thing.

If Peter and John offered this man what he wanted, they would have missed out on the wonder-working power of God.

Might I suggest to you that our churches settle far too often for giving people what they want instead of what they need. Here’s what I mean – Most contemporary and outward-focused churches (like Renovation Church) utilize the pulpit to declare self-help messages on parenting skills, marriage tips, financial advice, as well as many other “felt need” topics. The messages generally take the pastor’s ideas or creativity as the starting point and then sprinkle in some Scripture to Christianize it – usually with a vague altar call at the end of the message.

These topics are important but they are secondary to our mission as the Church. The greatest gift we can offer the world is not corny motivational talks but Gospel-centered and expository (i.e. verse-by-verse) preaching of the Bible. If we want to see people truly transformed by the radical message of the Gospel, it begins by introducing people to the richness found in the Scriptures. Life transformation isn’t the result of a 3-week motivational talk on finances and tithing; it’s the result of the Holy Spirit working new birth through the clear exposition and proclamation of God’s Word.

On theologian said it this way, “I don’t go to church to have my needs met, I go to church to figure out what my needs are.”

Pastors, leaders, and church members – quit giving the culture what they want and instead offer them what they need. In the name of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and through the faithful exposition of God’s Word – give them Jesus in all of his beauty, glory, and majesty.

Downward Mobility (Original Song)

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Hey everyone! I decided to start out 2020 by writing, recording, and mastering an original (and free) song about Jesus’ teaching on greatness. The song is below. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. If you enjoy it, do me a favor and share it on social media!

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


Download Free


Instrumental: Sean Divine
Lyrics: Tyler Ramsbey
Vocals: Tyler Ramsbey
Mixing/Mastering: Tyler Ramsbey

[Chorus]
If you want to go up, you need to go down
Downward mobility is the way to the crown
If you want to be great, you need to be a slave
It’s the weakest in the Kingdom who are destined to reign.

If you want to go up, you need to go down
Downward mobility is the way to the crown
If you want to be great, you need to be a slave
It’s the weakest in the Kingdom who are destined to reign.

[Verse 1]
You see judgment, it begins with the church
Quit pointing fingers at the world as if your sin didn’t hurt

The reputation of the King who has given you worth
So live in my words and repent of the works

The way we idolize success is an evident curse
Because #blessed is for the poor & the hurt

Not the rich Americans who just want more of the perks
Of the radical consumerism that ruins the church

It’s like we’re drinking poison we join in our own death
And we even have the nerve to complain when it’s all a mess

I have a guess – God’s not impressed
With the popular press or the lobby that’s flexed

Or the money that’s spent to keep you running ahead
Just to have a good brand when you’re spirituallly dead

You can have the greatest band while appearing to be fed
But we need humble leaders who are fearing what He said

[Chorus]
If you want to go up, you need to go down
Downward mobility is the way to the crown
If you want to be great, you need to be a slave
It’s the weakest in the Kingdom who are destined to reign.

If you want to go up, you need to go down
Downward mobility is the way to the crown
If you want to be great, you need to be a slave
It’s the weakest in the Kingdom who are destined to reign.

[Verse 2]
Who is greatest? That’s the question that they asked
So he called a child and made him step into their path

The greatest in the Kingdom are the ones who rep the fact
That they are insignificant the ones that we’re sending back

It’s the weak whom he seeks do you believe that?
I know we all nod our heads even in the back

But our actions betray what we really think
You see the ladder of success will make you sink

But we lift it all up like it’s the greatest thing
But my Savior sings, about a servant life

Yeah you heard the Light but do you really worship right
I know that we’ve been purchased by the King, but are we blind?

Cuz we try to strive, but it’s kind of like
Holding dynamite that’s been lit by the sin inside

So we begin to die, lifting up the pride
So let’s return to the only King & lift Him high

[Chorus]
If you want to go up, you need to go down
Downward mobility is the way to the crown
If you want to be great, you need to be a slave
It’s the weakest in the Kingdom who are destined to reign.

If you want to go up, you need to go down
Downward mobility is the way to the crown
If you want to be great, you need to be a slave
It’s the weakest in the Kingdom who are destined to reign.

The God of the Ordinary

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What comes to mind when you think of the person of God?

For some, the only image that comes to mind is an angry deity determined to cast his enemies into a lake of fire. For others, God is a vague idea that is defined by a human definition of love. For others, especially Christians, God brings forth images and descriptions of supernatural power. God is transcendent, holy, and glorious; the Creator and Sustainer of all creation by the power of His Word.

As I prepare for my Christmas Eve message at Renovation Church, the Holy Spirit highlighted for me a small (but significant) part of the Christmas story – Jesus was born as a baby.

Okay.

I know you don’t find that amazing and it’s a detail you already know, but hang with me for a minute.

Many Jews in the first century were eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Jewish Savior. Before Jesus (and after him) many arose from within the ranks of the Jewish people and proclaimed themselves to be the long-awaited Messiah. The Jewish people were under the control and reign of the marvelous Roman Empire. The Jews were forced to pay extravagant taxes, honor the emperor as the son of the gods, and submit their worship of the God of Israel to the laws of Rome.

But they had hope.

They believed the ancient Scriptures promised that God would send a divine warrior-king to set His people free and set up a theocracy on earth; elevating the Jewish people to a place of power, honor, and glory allowing them to crush those who oppress them. For many ancient rabbis, the belief was that the Messiah would simply show up on the scene, fully grown. The reason for this belief is that the Jewish people in the first century, like us, viewed God as supernatural, powerful, and glorious beyond words (which is all true).

Babies don’t really fit the picture.

But God, through his own sovereign choice, chose to enter into the mess of humanity as a helpless baby born in a manger. The scene was so incredibly ordinary that even the shepherds would have missed the significance of it if the birth wasn’t accompanied by a chorus of angels proclaiming the praises of this unique yet ordinary baby boy.

So… why does all of this matter?

Many of us do not hear the voice of God or behold His glory because we are looking in the wrong places. The majority of God’s people in the first century rejected Jesus because He didn’t fit their expectations. They expected a Savior who would conquer by killing his enemies; instead, they got a Savior who conquered by allowing his enemies to kill him. They expected a warrior-king who would simply “appear” fully grown and ready for war; instead, they received a helpless baby born to two teenage parents in the small town of Bethlehem.

One of my favorite stories from the Old Testament is about the prophet Elijah (whom we named our son after). After an incredible victory over the false prophets of his day, Elijah was beyond depleted and exhausted. He was on the run and fearful of losing his life. In the midst of his spiritual depression, God instructs Elijah to stand on a mountain and wait for the glory of God to be revealed. First, an incredible wind storm shattered parts of the mountain – a terrifying sight for this prophet – but the text says God was not in the wind. After the wind, Elijah felt the earth below his feet begin to move and heave with a great violence; the foundations of the earth trembled from a mighty earth quake – but God was not in the earthquake. Suddenly, out of seemingly thin air, a terrifying and consuming fire appeared before Elijah. Surely, Elijah must have thought, God is in the fire because that’s how he appeared to Moses… but God was not in the fire.

Wind… Earthquakes… Fire… All miraculous, terrifying, and powerful signs of God’s power but God was not found in any of them. Finally, Elijah heard a still small voice – an almost silent whisper; and He discovered God.

As you prepare for Christmas my challenge for you is to wake up to the ordinary whispers of the extraordinary God in your life. Reject the commercialized busyness, slow down, and seek to hear God’s voice through Scripture, nature, family, and silence.

Renovation Church – 2019 Giving Letter!

churchlogoBelow is a copy of the letter that will go out to everyone who has given financially to the ministry of Renovation Church in 2019. If you fit that description, you will receive a physical copy of this letter with your giving statement in early January!


Dear Renovation Church Family,

I want to take a minute to thank you for your incredible generosity. In our third year as a church, we have been able to give nearly $14,000 to outreach – both locally and internationally. For context, that is roughly three months of expenses for our church. This is only possible through the generous giving of those from inside and outside of our church who believe in and support the mission God has given us.

One of the passages I have been meditating on recently is 1 Corinthians 1:26-29. In this passage, Paul exhorts the church in the famous city of Corinth to boast in Christ alone. Specifically, he reminds them of their calling and purpose by writing:

“Brothers and sisters, consider your calling: Not many were wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world—what is viewed as nothing—to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, so that no one may boast in his presence.”

In the eyes of many people, Renovation Church is foolish, weak, insignificant, despised, and viewed as nothing.

  • We are a small church in the very small town of Garretson
  • We have no church building and instead rent from the local school.
  • We have a small budget; our entire budget is less than many pastor’s total pay packages.
  • We have no paid staff outside of my role as the Lead Pastor.

Our temptation as people (and a church) is to flee from being viewed as foolish, weak, or insignificant – this is the same temptation that was facing the church in Corinth. Yet God has used our small church in our seemingly insignificant town to preach the Gospel, practice radical generosity, and make disciples who make disciples. God has used our “foolish” church to bring healing to couples in broken marriages; our “weak” church to bring freedom to those deep in addiction; and our “insignificant” church to bring grace to those enslaved by legalism and false religion.

I share all of this not because Renovation Church is awesome; instead, it is all a testimony to the awesome God whom we serve and worship. It has never been about Renovation Church or my role as the pastor – it has always been about Jesus.

As we begin a new year of ministry, if there’s anything I can personally help you with in your walk with Jesus, please reach out. You can send me an e-mail at tyler@renovationchurchsd.com or text/call me at 605-359-9486. I’d love to meet with you this year to help you study the Bible and grow in your relationship with Jesus.

Thank you!

Tyler Ramsbey

The Danger of Mission Drift

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One of the greatest dangers facing the Church today is mission drift. It is not unique to the Church but it is especially devastating when it poisons the community of God’s people.

Mission drift is something every organization experiences; it’s slowing drifting from your core mission over a period of time and through a variety of circumstances. It leaves people asking the question, “How did we get here?” – and causes many people to abandon the organization because the reality is disconnected from the vision.

Consider the Church.

We began 2,000 years ago as a small group of people following a crucified (yet risen) Savior who ascended to be with the Father in heaven. It has morphed into a religious empire that spends millions of dollars on branding, marketing, and building campaigns while people around the world die without every hearing the name of Jesus. We have forgot the reason we exist; we have lost sight of our core mission.

Unfortunately, this was already happening BEFORE the Church officially started! After Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead, he spent a period of 40 days teaching His disciples about the Kingdom of God. At the end of this time, they ask him this question –

“Lord, are you restoring the kingdom to Israel at this time?” (Acts 1:6)

Jesus, not impressed with their questions, offers them a sharp rebuke and correction –

He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.(Acts 1:7)

They make two dangerously wrong assumptions:

1. They assumed the Kingdom of God correlates with their political interests. 
In the 1st century, the Jewish people were subjected to the sovereignty of the Roman Empire. As a result, many Jews were longing for the advent of the Savior. The reason many Jewish people rejected Jesus is because they expected the Savior to be a military king (following the example of David) who would overthrow Rome through force and set up a Jewish theocracy on earth. Instead they got Jesus – a crucified king who inaugurated the Kingdom of God through his unjust death by the very empire they expected him to overthrow.

Now that Jesus has risen from the dead, the disciples thought he was going to overthrow the Roman Empire and establish them as leaders of the great Jewish nation. They wrongly assumed that the Kingdom of God was the same thing as their kingdom in this world. We do the same thing when we seek to politicize the incredible message of the Gospel. When we wield our influence in the culture to wage a war on political ideologies rather than spiritual enemies, we are falling into the same trap.

The Church’s goal is not to make American great again. Our mission is to make Jesus famous and show how following Jesus supersedes the influence of every nation on earth. The day is coming when the United States of America – as well as every other nation – will only be a footnote in the pages of history. The only Kingdom that will last into eternity is the Kingdom of God. The same Kingdom that was established through the crucifixion of Jesus; not a 1st century cultural war.

2. They assumed they could know when the end of the world would be. 
The second assumption in their question is that the timing of the end was knowledge available to them. This belief still poisons many Christians groups (especially cults). I remember one specific example from an evangelist named Harold Camping who predicted the world was going to end on May 11th, 2011. His organization spent millions of dollars on billboards and marketing to get their message out.

Guess what – he was wrong (as was every false teacher that predicted the end of the world before him).

If you are the type of Christian who carries your end-time chart around, studies the significance of so-called blood moons, and tries to identify every world leader as the anti-Christ – you are focusing on the wrong thing. To paraphrase Jesus’ teaching – it’s none of your business. Instead, seek to witness to your co-workers, neighbors, and community that God’s love has been displayed to sinners through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Do all of this from the power of the Holy Spirit; not the pseudo-power of your own wisdom.

If their assumptions are wrong, what exactly IS the mission of the church? Here’s what Jesus says in this same passage:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Jesus makes it clear – we are called to be Spirit-empowered witnesses to our community, our nation, and the entire world. A witness in a courtroom is simply a person who testifies about what he has seen, heard, or experienced as it relates to the case. Being a Spirit-empowered witness means we testify to the world about what we have seen, heard, or experienced in our time with Jesus. He does not send us into the world to win arguments – he sends us into the world to witness to the radical message of the Gospel.

Let’s put down our picket signs, end-time charts, and political bantering. Instead, join me in praying for the power of the Holy Spirit to give us an all-consuming passion to know Jesus and make Him known in every sphere of life.

 

 

What is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?

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This past Sunday we begin a brand new teaching series at Renovation Church through the Book of Acts. For the first message, I had the honor of teaching through Acts 1:1-8. In Acts 1:4-5, Jesus makes a remarkable promise to His disciples: “While he was with them, he commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father’s promise. ‘Which,’ he said, ‘you have heard me speak about; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit in a few days.’

Jesus’ promise that they would be “baptized with the Holy Spirit” has sparked considerable controversy in the Christian church. Entire denominations have split – and been born – from differing interpretations of this promise. It is clear from the immediate context that the event Jesus has in mind is Pentecost which happens in Acts 2. Nevertheless, it is also an event that continues to happen to people today (which all Christians agree on).

So, what do Christians argue about?

Mainly, is the baptism of the Holy Spirit what happens at conversion when a person calls on Jesus for salvation? Or, is it a “second blessing” that is accompanied by a sign gift (such as speaking in tongues)?

In my experience, it seems that there is a deep divide in the church between those who faithfully teach the Scriptures and those who rely too much on spiritual experiences. Those who focus on accurately expositing the text tend to downplay the experiential role of the Holy Spirit and conclude that many of the miraculous gifts ceased with the close of the apostolic era. Other Christians who emphasize the experiential aspect of the faith often veer from sound doctrine in their attempt to experience the miraculous.

What if both ways are wrong (and right)?

Let me explain.

First, we need to understand what the Bible means by “baptism.” This is the Greek work baptizo and it literally means to immerse. Picture for a moment the example of the Titanic. After striking the iceberg and when the ship was completely submerged under the water it was “baptized” in the literal sense of the word.

Keeping that in mind, when a person becomes a Christian, it is the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul makes it clear in his letter to the church in Corinth (who just happened to over-emphasize spiritual gifts) that no one can call Jesus Lord apart from the work of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3). Therefore a person truly is “baptized” or “immersed” in the Holy Spirit at the point of conversion – the evidence is their new faith in Jesus.

Yet, I think Scripture also makes it clear that we should not only seek “second blessings” but third, fourth, fifth, and more! I get this understanding from Paul’s admonition to the believers in Ephesus not to get drunk off wine but instead to be “filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18).” In the original language, this verb has the sense of “continue to be filled” with the Holy Spirit. If the word “baptism” means to be immersed, we could paraphrase Paul’s word accurately if we say that his command is that we should continually be baptized – immersed – filled – by the Holy Spirit in order to grow in spiritual maturity.

So, I agree with both the conservative Christians but also with the Pentecostals – but with one major caveat. This teaching becomes divisive because many Pentecostal churches teach that the sign of having the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues; therefore, if you do not speak in tongues you are not a truly “spiritual” Christian. Although I do believe in the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit, a litmus test such as this one breeds self-righteousness and division.

It’s the same exact problem that plagued the church in Corinth. This is what Paul had to say about all of this –

1 Corinthians 12:29-30
29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all do miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in other tongues? Do all interpret? 

One Pentecostal teacher I listened to made the claim that Paul expects the answer to each of these questions to be “yes.” That’s simply a gross misinterpretation of Scripture. In the wider context of this verse, Paul is making the point that the Church is the Body of Christ and like the human body, we all have different gifts that must be used together for the glory of God. In other words, there is no one person who has all the gifts. You need the Church and the Church needs you.

If it’s not tongues, what is the evidence that a person has been baptized by the Holy Spirit? This is what Paul says – But the fruit (i.e. evidence) of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). The baptism of the Holy Spirit should transform your character to look more like Jesus – only then will you be able to faithfully use spiritual gifts to build up the Church. 

Finally, how do we pursue this baptism of the Holy Spirit? Do we need a special teacher with a so-called “anointing” to lay his hands on us to transfer the Spirit to us like it’s a super power?

No.

We are baptized – immersed – in the Holy Spirit when we faithfully practice spiritual disciplines such as studying Scripture, gathering with your church community, remaining persistent in prayer, and partaking of the sacraments (such as communion). The Father has graciously given us these “means of grace” that we might position ourselves in such a way that we are transformed by the Holy Spirit rather than the spirit of this age.


What have you been taught about the baptism of the Holy Spirit? Do you find this helpful? What are some other questions you still have? Let me know by leaving a comment!

P.S. – If you want to watch the full message from this past Sunday, you can watch it below:

How To Interpret the Book of Acts

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This past Sunday at Renovation Church, we started a new teaching series through the Book of Acts. We will continue preaching verse-by-verse through this fascinating narrative on the early church, take a short break for a Christmas series, and then return to the book in early January.

One of the major things we must comprehend to faithfully read and apply the Book of Acts is the difference between “descriptive” and “prescriptive” when it comes to Biblical narrative. Unfortunately, time did not permit me to explain this concept on Sunday morning so I decided to write a short post to help you understand this in a way that is (hopefully) relevant and less scholarly.

First, let’s talk definitions. A “descriptive” event is, as the name implies, simply a description of something that happened without the intent of setting a new principle or practice. For example, when we see an event such as the early church choosing a new apostle through the casting of lots, it is not advocating that we should always and forever select church leaders by rolling a dice. Instead, the text is simply showing us how it was done in that particular situation.

A “prescriptive” event is a reality or principle that should remain true regardless of the circumstances. An example of a prescriptive event in the Book of Acts is the message found in Acts 4:12, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.” The “name” being spoken about is the name of Jesus. This is not simply a description of a sermon in the early church; this is the reality of the Gospel. Failure to believe this claim means you are not an orthodox Christian.

Simply stuff right?

Not really.

It gets difficult when we try to teach on the gift of tongues, baptism in the Spirit, leadership roles for women in the church, etc. – These are all topics that good and Bible-believing Christians disagree on – often due to a misunderstanding of “prescriptive” and “descriptive” texts.

Truthfully, there is not a fool-proof way to discern whether a text is descriptive or prescriptive. One helpful thing we must keep in mind when we approach the Biblical text is the genre of the writing. Acts is a history (Yes, I understand it is different than a modern history text) and the primary purpose is to provide the history and story-line of the early church. For this reason, the bulk of the text is going to be descriptive and we must prayerfully discern the principles and underlying realities the Holy Spirit wants us to understand and apply from the text. Many of the Epistles (such as Romans), on the other hand, are prescriptive. There are clear commands to do and not to do certain activities. These moral and doctrinal commands are clearly rooted in the character of God and do not change with the circumstances surrounding them.

I write all of this with the primary purpose of getting you to begin asking these kinds of questions as we study the Book of Acts. I will try to make it clear in my teaching when I am touching on topics that good Christians disagree on and why I take a certain stand on the text. Nevertheless, there is room for loving disagreement. As a church, I want to encourage us to strive for this ancient ideal: “in essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity.”

I pray and hope each of you are off to a good week. As always, if there is something I can be praying about or if you’d just like to talk, reach out to me. If you do not have my number you can send me an e-mail at tyler@renovationchurchsd.com – Have a great week!