The Conversion of a Terrorist (Acts 9:1-9)

This past Sunday at Renovation Church I had the honor of teaching through the conversion of Saul in Acts 9:1-9. The message is below – I pray it challenges you in your faith and gives you insight in to the depth of the Father’s love for you.

Below the message is the sermon discussion guide. I lead a small group every Wednesday night at 8pm via Zoom so all are invited to join us. Here’s the connection info: Online Service Information

Book of Acts – Week 23 – Acts 9:1-9
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 9:1-9. What stands out to you? What questions do you still have after reading through the text?

2. Luke refers to those who follow Jesus as belonging to “the Way.” This is one of the first terms that was used to describe the early church. Why do you think the church chose this as their title? What might we learn from it for our own faith journeys?

3. Saul was extremely religious and highly educated and yet he opposed the work of God (all while he thought he was doing the work of God). He was likely reflecting on his own experience when he wrote 2 Corinthians 3:12-18. Read through this passage and make note of what stands out to you.

4. One of the surprising things Jesus asks Saul is “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Truly, Saul has never actually persecuted Jesus (as far as we know). What is the significance of this question? What are some passages that come to mind in the rest of the New Testament that help explain how closely Jesus identifies with the church?

5. One of the things I emphasized in the message is that the Church does not defend Jesus, Jesus defends the Church. What are some ways we try to defend Jesus in our culture? Instead of defending Jesus, how can we better share our faith with those around us without it falling into an argument?

6. Saul was willing to travel 150 miles on foot (roughly a 6 day journey) in order to find Christians and have them placed in prison back in Jerusalem. Throughout history, many of those who oppose Christianity seem to be more passionate about their belief system than those of us who are Christians. What is one specific step you can take to grow in your passion of knowing Jesus and sharing your faith with others?

Angels, Demons, & Scripture

“Well, I guess God needed another angel…”

These are words of comfort spoken by well-meaning friends and family members after a loved one dies. If it was true that people died because God “needed” them to serve him as angels, let’s consider what this says about God. According to this understanding, God is too weak and incompetent to create angels so he murders moms, dads, sons, daughters, and other loved ones in order to build up his “army” of angels to accomplish His will.

Does that sound like the God of the Bible? No.

This past Sunday, I had the honor of teaching through Acts 8:26-40 at Renovation Church. In the beginning of this passage, Luke writes that “an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip…” – What was this experience like? For many of us, angels have been painted as chubby babies floating around the sky; or as some type of mystical being who strums a golden harp somewhere up in the clouds. All of these views are gross distortions of what the Scriptures actually teach on angels.

1. Angels are spirit beings created to worship God.

The first thing I want to make clear from the outset is that angels are distinctly different and separate from human beings. God created angels as spirit-beings; this means that they do not have physical bodies. At times, under God’s direction, angels can take on the appearance of a human being for a particular mission but they do not possess their own physical bodies.

Angels – like humans – exist primarily to glorify and worship God. In the Book of Revelation, we are given a glimpse into the mystery of angelic worship. According to Revelation 5:11-12, angels gather around Jesus and proclaim His worth, power, and glory. Angels do not draw attention to themselves but instead focus all attention on the person and work of Jesus Christ. The only “angels” that draw attention to themselves are demons (see point #4).

2. Angels are warriors engaged in an invisible war.

The second theme you will notice as you read Scripture is that angels are mighty spiritual warriors engaged in an ancient spiritual war. At some point of time in the past (we do not know when) an angel named Satan/Lucifer rebelled against God and a third of the angels followed Satan’s leadership. As a result, God cast Satan and his demons to the earth to kill, steal, and destroy until the culmination of time. At the end of the ages, Satan and his demons will be thrown into the Lake of Fire to experience torment for all eternity as a result of their rebellion. Hell was not originally created for man; instead, it was created to confine Satan and his demons in eternal bondage.

Presently, Satan and his demons seek to “wage war against the rest of her offspring – those who keep the commands of God and hold firmly to the testimony about Jesus (Rev. 12:17).” Into this warfare, God sends his angels as “ministering spirits” to protect His people and fight against the enemy. In the ancient Book of Daniel, we are given a glimpse into this hidden war. In response to Daniel’s prayer, he is met by an angel with the following message:

“Don’t be afraid, Daniel,” he said to me, “for from the first day that you purposed to understand and to humble yourself before your God, your prayers were heard. I have come because of your prayers. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia opposed me for twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me after I had been left there with the kings of Persia. – (Daniel 10:12-13)

In the text above we are introduced to four characters to highlight the interaction of humans, angels, and demons in this spiritual war:

1. Daniel (the man who had been praying).
2. The angel who came in response to the prayer.
3. The “prince of the kingdom of Persia” who is a demonic entity.
4. Michael – another angel – who came to assist in this battle.

3. Angels are messengers sent by God.

One of the most common roles angels play in the Scriptures is relaying messages from God to God’s people. The Greek word translated as “angel” in the New Testament is angelos. It literally means “a messenger.” This is the role given to the angel in Acts 8:26 when the angel relays a message to Philip. The other example that likely comes to mind for many people is the Christmas story where an angel named Gabriel relays a message to a young woman named Mary about becoming pregnant with a baby boy.

Throughout both the Old Testament and the New Testament, God, at times, relays messages to His people through angelic beings. I believe God can and still does this at times today but all spiritual experiences must be evaluated by the Scriptures. If the experience does not line up with God’s objective revelation in His Word, the experience is to be rejected.

4. We are to never seek out angels.

This point is vital to understand in tandem with the three other things I have shared above. There are some movements – especially new age spirituality – that encourage adherents to seek out guidance and communication with angelic beings. If you read through the other three points, it may seem like it would be a good idea to form some type of relationship with an angel since they are created to worship God, wage war on God’s behalf, and relay messages from God.

Nevertheless, here’s what you and I need to notice in Scripture – God’s people never seek out angelic experiences. Instead, they seek Jesus and, at times, God provides His people with an angel as a means of communication. If you choose to seek out an angelic spirit, you will have a genuine spiritual experience. The problem is that just because something is “spiritual” does not mean it is of God. We must carefully heed the warning of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:14-15, “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no great surprise if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness…” Friends, the only kind of angel who exalts himself rather than Jesus is a demon. Demons will happily disguise themselves angels of light as a means of deceiving Christians and entire religious movements.


There are many more roles that angels play than the ones I have listed above. What are some that you can think of? Do you have a question about angels? Let me know what by leaving a comment!

Thank You!!

I know that many of you who regularly read my blog are members, attenders, or supporters of Renovation Church. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we made an intentional decision to do two things. First, we lowered our expenses at the church to the absolute bare minimum. Second, rather than adding to our savings account, we have decided to operate on faith and donate everything above our fixed budget to our brothers and sisters in Kenya & Uganda through Simba Educational Ministries and AsOne Ministries.

I am excited to announce that for the month of May, we exceeded our budget by $1,800. As a result, we will be donating all of this extra to these two organizations. Through your faithful giving, we have been able to give a total of $7,000 for the past three months. To put that into perspective, that is nearly two full months of expenses for our church.

At times, those who come to our church ask me, “Tyler, when are you guys going to get a building and become a ‘real’ church?” Having a church building would make things more convenient, lower our volunteer need, and allow me (and others) to sleep in a little longer on Sunday mornings. Nevertheless, it would strip us of our ability to practice the same type of radical generosity we see in the early church (see Acts 2 in particular).

We have made the decision this summer to not rent a building worship – not until it gets colder out. Instead, we are gathering for worship in the beauty of Split Rock Park in Garretson. Rather than meeting in a building made by human hands, we are meeting in the original sanctuary that proclaims the beauty & glory of God – God’s creation.

If you live in the Garretson area, I’d be honored to have you as my guest. For more information, head to our website: www.renovationchurchsd.com

God Pursues Lost People (Acts 8:26-40)

We have officially gone back to in-person services at Renovation Church. Rather than meeting inside of a building, we are holding services at Split Rock Park in Garretson, South Dakota. Truly, this is a more beautiful worship center than any that could be created by human hands. We will be gathering for worship every Sunday at 10am in this beautiful setting – if you live near Garretson, please consider joining us!

Here’s the message for today & the sermon discussion questions. We will be meeting on Wednesday, June 10th at 8pm to pray & discuss the message. Connection info is here: https://renovationchurchsd.com/online-service-information/

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

Book of Acts – Week 22 – Acts 8:26-40

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 8:26-40. What stands out to you? What questions do you still have after reading through the text?

2. The entire message this week was about how God saves sinners. Reflect for a moment on your own salvation story. How did you come to the faith? Who are some key people or key events that God used to grow you closer to him?

3. One of the first things we see in this passage is that God pursues lost people through His people (that’s all of us). As you think through your ordinary day, who are some “Ethiopians” (so to speak) whom you come into contact with who may be open to the Gospel? Write down the names of at least three people below and spend time praying for an opportunity to share your faith with them.

4. Although all of us understand the importance of sharing our faith – very few do it. Why is this? What are some steps all of us can take to begin regularly sharing our faith with those who are not Christians?

5. The second reality we see in this passage is that God pursues lost people through His Word. Are you in a regular habit of reading the Bible? If so, how has God used the Bible to draw you closer to Himself? Are there certain passages that he has used to encourage you or grow you in your faith? If so, what are they?

6. This entire passage is the result of an ordinary Christians who loves Jesus, knows the Bible, and is sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit. What are some practices we can put into place so that each of us is more sensitive to the voice and prompting of the Holy Spirit in our own lives?

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

A Conversation with a Law Enforcement Officer

Yesterday, I had the honor of talking with my friend Omar Thornton to hear his thoughts on recent events surrounding George Floyd’s death. Today, I was able to speak with Captain Mike Walsh of the Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office.

We talk about Capt. Mike’s reaction to George Floyd’s death, his thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement, some specific ways we can seek positive change, and the variety of ways the Law Enforcement Officers in this area seek to engage with community members in a positive way.

Enjoy the show!

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

Disconnect So You Can Connect

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Friends, in view of the hatred & division being spread through social media posts rather than understanding through conversation, I have been thinking the best thing for many people (especially Christians) to do is to disconnect from social media for an indefinite period of time to seek lasting healing, true change, & real relationships.

I believe so strongly in this that I will be doing it myself. If you’d like to stay connected with me, you can do so in the following ways:

1. I will still be checking my messages.

 

2. I will continue to manage and produce content for the Renovation Church page and The Blue Light Podcast page.

 

3. I will continue to share some of my thoughts on my personal website – feel free to subscribe – (www.tylerramsbey.com)

 

4. Finally, I very much prefer real conversation so send me a message to set up a time to talk, pray, or study the Scriptures together.

 

This could last a week, a month, a year, or longer. We shall see.

 

Shalom.

A Conversation on Race, the Gospel, & the Church

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This past week I had the honor of sitting down with my good friend Omar Thornton. Omar is the head chef and co-owner of the O So Good restaurant in Garretson, SD (and soon to be in Lennox, SD). We had a very candid and open conversation on race, the Gospel, and what the (white) church needs to desperately hear from our brothers and sisters of different skin colors and ethnicities.

We talk about Black Lives Matter, the problem with seeking to be “colorblind” in regards to race, the ways Christianity has been used to bolster and support slavery/racism, and the work of Malcolm X (among many many other topics). This is a longer conversation but it is well worth your time.

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

Renovation Church – COVID-19 Update

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As many of you know, we are returning to in-person services this coming Sunday (June 7th). That being said, we are beginning to embrace a new normal. Before you attend the service this Sunday, here are a few things I urge you to keep in mind.

First, before I explain the different precautions we are taking, read the next two paragraphs slowly:

Please recognize that good Christians who love Jesus have very different (and strong) feelings about COVID-19. Regardless of where you stand on the use of face masks, social distancing, and numerous other issues – please keep in mind the instruction of the Apostle Paul, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:2-3)

If you are part of Renovation Church, I earnestly plead with you to not allow your thoughts on COVID-19 be a means of church division. If you are unable to elevate the principle of love above your views on COVID-19 – do not attend the service. I encourage all of us to read and meditate on the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 14. Although he is speaking about food offered to idols, the principles are incredibly relevant for the way we treat one another in regards to secondary issues.

With that as my disclaimer, please follow the following guidelines as a means of loving one another as we meet together for worship:


1. All of our services for the months of June, July, and August will be held outside at Split Rock Park in Garretson. We will be meeting at the picnic shelter near the bathhouse & playground. These services will be on Sundays at 10am. We are meeting outside to increase airflow, allow better social distancing, and to lessen the chance of spreading sickness to one another.

2. Since it would be difficult (impossible?) to mandate social distancing during children ministries, there will be NO nursery and NO Renovation Kids. Your children are MORE than welcome to come to the service and worship but they will be under your supervision the entire time.

3. If you (or family members) have any symptoms of being sick (i.e. fever, sore throat, cough, etc.) please stay home. It is not worth the risk of spreading the virus to other people – even if you are doubtful that you have COVID-19.

4. Please refrain from handshakes, hugs, or other physical contact during the service. Our greeters will give you a friendly smile and a wave, but for now, we are limiting all physical contact in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.

5. We will not be passing the offering around. Instead, we will put the offering plate in a specific location at the service and you are encouraged to drop your offering off in it. In addition, we encourage you to use our online giving option.

6. We will have hand sanitizer available. Our hand sanitizer is in large bottles so we encourage you to bring your own plastic container and we will fill it up for you to use.

7. We will have music but there will be not sheet music for you to follow along with the words. Instead, you are encouraged to sing if you know the words.

8. We are asking that you follow protocols for social distancing. Specifically, we are asking you to stay at least 6 feet away from those who are not immediate family members. There should be no reason that you have to be closer than 6 feet to people since we will be outside and there will be plenty of room to spread out.

9. If there is inclement weather, the service will be online via Zoom. If/When this happens, I will post the connection information to our website, our Facebook page, and here on my blog.


Friends, I understand this is difficult for all of us. I know there are feelings of anger, resentment, frustration, fear, and other emotions. I want to close this post by sharing with you the timeless wisdom of Scripture:

1 Corinthians 13:4-6
Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Office is CLOSED!

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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 (dave@tuckerswalk.com)
Chuck Jones (chuckjones@iw.net)

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

Not All Faith Saves

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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 (tyler@renovationchurchsd.com)