Christian Life

Vineyards & Jesus! (Video Devotional)

Hey everyone!
I wanted to challenge you with a few thoughts from my message yesterday at Renovation Church. Check out the video below to learn what vineyards teach us about following Jesus. I pray this short devotional challenges you in your faith and helps you understand how much God loves you.

If you are ever in the area, I’d be honored to have you join us at Renovation Church. We meet on Sundays at 10am at the Garretson School.

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

Why You Should Ditch Your “Bible Reading” Plan (And Learn to Pray the Bible!)

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In my message this morning at Renovation Church, we studied the topic of prayer from John 14:12-17. The key to understanding how to pray effective & powerful prayers is praying them in Jesus’ name. Praying “in Jesus’ name” means far more than tacking it onto the end of our prayer. Praying according to Jesus’ name means praying according to Jesus’ plan, will, and Kingdom.

But there’s a problem. The Scriptures clearly teach that God’s thoughts are above our thoughts and his ways are above our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). If that’s the case, how can we possibly pray in his name?

Answer: We learn how to pray the Bible.

It is through the words of God (Bible) that we encounter the Word of God (Jesus) and experience the work of God (transformation). 

The way many of us approach the Bible is unhelpful. We often follow a Bible reading plan that focuses on QUANTITY over QUALITY. In other words, we feel that we need to read a certain amount of chapters in our devotional time in order to “complete” the plan. I challenged the people of Renovation Church to intentionally slow down and learn how to “pray” the Bible. This is so important that I wanted to follow up with a blog post and outline HOW to do this:

Step 1: Ask the Holy Spirit to be your Teacher.
None of us can understand the Bible on our own – we need the Holy Spirit to be our teacher (1 Cor. 2:14). Each time we open the Scriptures we should be asking for God to be present to us by His Spirit and to lead us into all truth – for He is the Spirit of truth (John 16:13).

Step 2: Ask for the gift of “slow reading.” 
We need to keep in mind that every word of Scripture is God’s Word. The Bible is not a book meant to be skimmed but rather a book meant to be immersed in. Before I read the Bible I ask God for the gift of “slow reading.” I seek to linger over every syllable in the text, allowing the Holy Spirit to immerse my soul into His Word.

Step 3: Look for a specific word or phrase the Holy Spirit wants you to meditate on.
As you are reading the text, you should be searching for a specific word or phrase the Holy Spirit is bringing to your attention. For example, if I am reading through John 14, I may pause after John 14:1 because Jesus commands us to not allow our hearts to be troubled. At that point, I would pray the Scriptures by confessing to God that my heart is troubled due to the demands, pressures, and stress of my upcoming week. I would continue to read and would notice the opposite of having my heart troubled is putting my faith in God. I would then ask God to grant me the gift of faith and may even write out some reflections on this particular verse.


Learning how to pray the Bible will (probably) not allow you to read the whole Bible in a year. Nevertheless, I believe it will allow you to experience the true purpose of the Scriptures: to experience and be transformed by the person & work of Jesus Christ. 

Aren’t All Religions Equal?

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While listening to a lecture on world religions (yes, I listen to lectures for fun) – The professor explained that God is like a profound and mysterious mountain. Different religions – Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, among others – are simply different paths up the same mountain. He claimed that each religion is different because each person has a different vantage point of this mountain. Some encounter trees, others experience rushing rivers, and others behold the beauty of animals. Same mountain, different perspectives.

Honestly, that makes a lot of sense. But… it’s wrong.

Let me explain.

I am preaching through the Gospel of John at Renovation Church. This Sunday we are looking at John 14:1-11. In this passage, Jesus makes one of his more startling, controversial, and offensive claims. In a conversation about how one can approach God, Jesus says the following, “Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father (God) except through me.'”

Many non-Christians (such as Ghandi) see no problem with Jesus. They view Jesus as a great religious teacher or even a prophet. The problem is that if Jesus made claims like the one above, that makes him either a false teacher (because it’s a false claim) or someone much greater than a mere prophet or religious teacher.

So, does Jesus’ statement about being THE way, THE truth, and THE life mean that every other religion is completely false? Well, not exactly… Let me try to explain by way of analogy – keeping in mind that all analogies eventually fall apart if pushed too far.

I want you to imagine for a moment what it is like to have horrible eyesight (some of you do not need to imagine this, you get the pleasure of experiencing it). When you do not have your glasses on you can still see – just very faintly. Instead of seeing people or trees you simply see foggy shapes and you are unable to make out any details. This is a picture of mankind seeking God through our own means. Through experiencing nature, our intellect, and human relationships we can begin to discern that there is Something or Someone greater than us. Nevertheless, our vision is foggy and we are unable to make out any details – we only have a partial revelation.

When we come to know, treasure, and love Jesus as the Lord and Savior of our lives, it is like receiving a new prescription for our glasses for the first time. We are suddenly in awe at the beauty of color found in the details of our world. Instead of seeing vague shapes we see the intricate details of trees and behold the beauty found in other people’s faces. Jesus is God’s self-revelation. If we want to see God it does not begin with religious practices, we see God when we fix our eyes on Jesus through His Word.

This is the glorious picture the book of Hebrews gives us when the author says:

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Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son. God has appointed him heir of all things and made the universe through him. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word…

In summary, Jesus is the only One through whom we can see God in all of His glory. It is only through knowing, loving, and treasuring Jesus that we can enter into a right relationship with God because Jesus is God’s full revelation. Other religions may offer remarkable truths but Jesus is THE truth and the only way to approach the Living God.

Application: If the only way to see God is to look at Jesus, we need to have a regular practicing of fixing our eyes on Jesus. The primary way that we see Jesus is by prayerfully studying the Bible. I challenge you to begin a regular habit of spending 15 – 30 minutes every single day reading the Scriptures. A good place to begin is in the Gospel of John. If you have questions about studying the Bible or Christianity in general, I’d love to connect with you. Send me an e-mail at tyler@renovationchurchsd.com! 

No, Your Loved One Did Not Become an Angel.

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(Warning: Rant incoming)

The vast majority of Christians – especially in the Western world – have a very flawed and unbiblical understanding of heaven. This is especially prevalent when a loved one dies and we try to comfort them by saying, “Well, I guess God needed another angel.”

Let’s consider the implications of this statement if it were true.

This would mean that God enjoys killing human beings – our loved ones – so that he can generate more angels to serve him. The same God who created everything that we see by the power of His Word needs to kill us to transform us into some spiritual being with wings who plays a harp for all eternity.

Okay, maybe your view of heaven isn’t that extreme. Instead, you have a false understanding of the physical world that concludes the physical is bad and the spiritual realm is good (p.s. that’s an ancient heresy known as Gnosticism that was rejected by the church as being anti-gospel). Due to this false belief we believe that when we die we become disembodied “spirit beings” who float around somewhere in space while babies in diapers and wings (i.e. how Americans view angels) also float around in some “light” that we think is God.

Why am I going on this rant? Well, this Sunday at Renovation Church we are going to be studying John 14:1-11. In this passage, Jesus speaks about how he is going to the Father to prepare a “place” for us. Nevertheless, this place is defined less by where it is and more by who it is.

Heaven is not (primarily) a place. Heaven is a person and His name is Jesus.

A blog post does not leave me enough room to unpack this truth. I encourage you to join me at Renovation Church this Sunday at 10am at the Garretson School. If you do not live in the area, we will be streaming the message live from our Facebook Page. See you then!

Unmet Expectations = Frustration

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Frustration is what happens when reality does not meet our expectations. All of us relate to this experience.

For some people it is the search for a job. You remember complaining about your old job but any job is better than no job. You have filled out countless applications, wrote cover letters, and even followed up with the hiring manager. Yet it seems as if your search is hopeless… you still have not found employment and are deeply anxious about the bills that continue to pile up.

For many it is the search for a spouse. Singleness is (wrongly) viewed by many people – especially Christians – as a second-class life. You understand what it’s like to go home each day and not have another person to talk through the events of the day with. At times you are overwhelmed with loneliness… at other times you are filled with anger – towards God, life, and circumstances.

For some couples, it is the expectation of having a baby. You got married and began dreaming about your first child – even picking out a room in the home for the nursery. Yet, after years of trying to have children, you are unable to conceive. Frustration is an understatement.

Still for others it’s a marriage that is falling apart… a child that has strayed from the faith… or dreams/career plans that failed to pan out.

This is an emotion and reality I have been wrestling with lately. It’s almost been a year since we launched Renovation Church. My honest expectation is that after a year we would have 80 – 100 people in attendance and the financial means to hire full-time staff.

It seems like the opposite happened. I do not know all the reasons but many people have left our church in the past year – some for good reasons… some for reasons I do not even know. It seems that the momentum and excitement that was with us in the beginning has stalled.

Here is a thought that has continually resurfaced as I have preached through the Gospel of John for the past year:

Jesus was crucified for not meeting expectations.

When Jesus arrived on the scene and many people concluded he was the long-awaited Messiah, they expected Jesus to be a military hero. They believed the Messiah would come, overthrow the Roman Empire, and set up an earthly kingdom that would bring about unparalleled prosperity.

Instead, they got a leader who had no interest in an earthly kingdom. They got a leader who constantly talked about dying and ended up being crucified at the age of 33. The religious leaders shouted, “Crucify him” because He did not meet their expectations.

We still crucify Jesus for not meeting our expectations. When a church doesn’t grow, we blame Jesus. When our marriage suffers, we blame Jesus. When we can’t find a spouse, we blame Jesus.

What if the greatest gift Jesus could give us is more of Himself? What if the Giver is far more desirable than the gifts and one of the ways he shows this to us is by stripping away the very things we thought would bring us happiness?

So what am I doing to drum up momentum in my church? Am I starting a brand new sermon series? Am I going to begin a building campaign? Am I going to try to hire more staff?

No.

I am going to faithfully follow Jesus in the way of the cross. Success in the Kingdom of God is defined by faithfulness, not Sunday morning attendance.

So what about you? Are you feeling frustrated today? How might God be using your frustrations to bring about greater holiness in your life and draw you closer to Him?

Friends, I do not know the answer to your frustration. What I do know is that God is good, God is present, and God loves you. Draw near to him today and He will draw near to you. 

The Root of Unbelief (Sunday Message!)

If there was a guy named Jesus who really lived on this earth and really did all the miracles that people claim… how come he was abandoned by his disciples and died with almost no followers?

This is the question I wrestled with this morning as we continued our Gospel of John series from John 12:37-50. I pray this message encourages you in your faith and challenges you to make the Scriptures a priority in your life.

(If you are reading this in your e-mail you will have to go to the actual page to watch the video.) 

Death & Glory (Sunday Message)

This past Sunday I had the honor of preaching on John 12:20-36 at Renovation Church. In this passage Jesus makes the remarkable claim that the hour for him to be glorified is now here. In the minds of many people in the first century, this means that Jesus was getting ready to overthrow the Roman government and set up a Jewish theocracy on earth. Yet Jesus goes on to explain that his glory is displayed in his humiliating death on a cross.

In this message, I wrestle with the implications this has for our lives today. I pray this message strengthens you in your faith and challenges you to take discipleship seriously.

(If you are reading this in your e-mail you will have to go to the actual page to see the sermon video)