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?

Do Dramatic Miracles (Healings, Raising the Dead, etc.) Happen Today?

My philosophy for preaching is to go verse-by-verse through books of the Bible at Renovation Church. So far, I have had the honor of teaching all the way through the Gospel of John and 1 Peter. Now we are working our way through the Book of Acts.

One of the many benefits of this type of preaching is I am forced to deal with difficult questions I would tend to ignore on a Sunday morning. This past Sunday, we looked at the account in the Book of Acts when Peter healed a man who was paralyzed and then later raised a woman named Tabitha from the dead. Although most Christians would agree that dramatic miracles such as these DID happen during the New Testament, many Christians would say that these kinds of dramatic miracles no longer happen today. (On a side-note, I find it interesting that it tends to only be Western Christians who make this claim).

In contrast with this belief system, I believe that dramatic miracles are possible but they are not normative. In other words, I fully believe God does, at times, perform the same types of dramatic miracles we see in the Book of Acts but it is not a normative experience for every Christian. I believe the reason many Christians have come to the conclusion that these miracles no longer happen is there are many false teachers who think that these miracles should be normative for the Christian life. In other words, they teach that if you have enough faith you will never get sick, experience suffering, or endure poverty. Those who proclaim this type of message are false teachers pushing a false gospel that will damn a person to hell; as a result, many of us are leery of all miracle claims.

In this article, I want to show you from Scripture, history, and experience that God continues to use the so-called “sign” gifts that we see in the New Testament. The “sign” gifts are the more remarkable miracles such as prophecy, raising the dead, and gifts of healing.

Scripture

First, let’s begin with Scripture. All other experience and viewpoints must be evaluated by the measuring rod of Scripture. Those who believed that these types of dramatic miracles ceased with the time of the Apostles and the creation of the New Testament generally point to 1 Corinthians 13:8-13. In my study of this topic, there is virtually no other passage of Scripture that defends the viewpoint that certain miraculous gifts have ceased with the close of the apostolic age or the creation of the New Testament canon. As a result, let’s look closely at this passage and seek to discover the original intention of the author (i.e. Paul).

1 Corinthians 13:8-13
Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known. 13 Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love—but the greatest of these is love.

First, let’s begin with the context. This is a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the church in Corinth. Corinth, among other things, was known as a place of spiritual immaturity and they had a strange obsession with the gift of tongues (sounds like some Christians today, doesn’t it?). The meaning of this passage hinges on a proper understanding of verse 10 – “but when the perfect comes, the partial will come to an end.” Those who believe these types of miracles have ceased (known as Cessationism) claim that the “perfect” being spoken of by Paul refers to the completion of the New Testament. According to this line of reasoning, the New Testament allow us to see God “face to face” and to know God “fully.”

Let’s consider this for a moment.

First, Paul had no idea that there would be such a thing as the New Testament. At this time, the Bible of the early church was the Old Testament Scriptures. The Church read the Old Testament through a Christ-centered framework. According to the Apostle Paul in another letter he wrote to Corinth, it is only through Christ that the veil of the Old Testament is removed and we understand the true purpose of these Scriptures through Jesus (2 Cor. 3:16). Virtually all scholars would agree that in writing this passage, Paul did NOT have the New Testament in mind.

Second, it is clear as you read the entire passage that the “perfect” being referred to is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This fits the use of this language elsewhere in Paul’s letters (and the letters of the other New Testament authors). Even now, with the incredible benefit of the New Testament, we do not see God “fully” as we are “fully known” by Him. If this was true, there would be not disagreements throughout the church. This language of knowing God fully is the word ἐπιγνώσομαι which is a type of knowledge of God that will only be possible when we are fully and entirely in God’s presence at the end of the ages when the Kingdom of God is fully established on earth as in heaven.

Third, the best rule in understanding difficult Scripture is to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. In other words, we should use passages that are more clear to help us interpret passages that are less clear. Every other passage in the New Testament that speaks about miracles, signs, or spiritual gifts are written with the expectation that these things will continue until Jesus comes back for the Church.

Fourth, if you read Paul’s very next sentence, this is what he says, “Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, and especially that you may prophesy…” In other words, failure to desire spiritual gifts – especially the sign gift of prophesy – is in contradiction to Paul’s clear command to not only the church in Corinth but to all Christians who receive the Scriptures as God’s Word for us. The burden of proof is not on those who believe these gifts continue until the present day; it is on those who claim the gifts have ceased. The passage above is the only passage they point to in defense of their beliefs but an honest and intellectual look at this passage in its surrounding context makes it clear that the “perfect” is Jesus – not the completion of the New Testament.

History

The next place we should examine is the course of church history. If it is true that the miraculous gifts ceased with the death of the Apostles, there should be no more dramatic miracles after the death of the Apostles who wrote the New Testament. Even an extremely brief survey of the church fathers (the leaders of the church directly after the Apostles) would prove that this is a terribly false claim. Here are some quotes you will discover if you begin studying the church fathers (which I HIGHLY recommend!). For the sake of time, let me share with you the writings of two of the most famous church fathers – Irenaus and Origen

Irenaus (late 2nd century):
“the Lord raised the dead, and the apostles did so by means of prayer, and this has been frequently done in the brotherhood on account of some necessity. When the entire church in that particular locality entreated God with much fasting and prayer, the spirit of the dead man returned, and he has been bestowed in some answer to the prayers of the saints.”

“We also hear many brethren in the church who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages (!), and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men.”

Origin (late 2nd century):
“Traces of those signs and wonders are still preserved among those who regulate their lives by the teachings of the Gospel.”

“The Jews no longer have prophets or miracles. Yet, traces of those things are still found among Christians to a considerable extent. Some of those miracles are more remarkable than any that existed among the Jews. I have witnessed these myself.”

In addition, verifiable accounts of miracles at the hands of Christians have been testified to in every century from the Book of Acts until the present day. I shared one such modern account that can be verified through medical journals and other peer-reviewed literature of a dead person being raised in a previous blog post – as well as a resource that documents and verifies these many miracle claims from an academic viewpoint from the 1st century until 2015: Raising the Dead

Experience

Finally, I will share briefly from my own experience. The reason this one is last on the list is because personal experience is subjective and can be used to manipulate others. We should never establish doctrine or seek to interpret Scripture through our own experience. Instead, our experience must always be judged in light of Scripture and the teachings of Christians throughout the centuries (that’s why I begin with Scripture and then moved on to history).

When I first became a Christian, I was invited to start a Bible Study for other teenagers at the home of Lisa Hubers in Pipestone, Minnesota. We would meet one day a week, Lisa would graciously open her home and cook a meal for us, and then we would study the Bible together. At the end of the Bible Study, we would take time to pray for one another individually. It was at this Bible Study where I first witnessed the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit being in operation. Lisa, as many people know, has a prophetic gift. One of the things I love about Lisa is that she believes fully in the gifts of the Spirit but is rigorously academic – holding a Masters of Divinity degree and understanding Greek better than I do. As Lisa prays over people, the Holy Spirit often reveals to her an image, a vision, or a Scripture for that person. It’s incredible to watch Lisa pray for people she has never met and as she shares about the picture God is showing her, people tend to break down in tears because it is something from their childhood or a passage of Scripture that is especially relevant to them. After watching the example of Lisa, I used to go around Pipestone (especially the Pipestone Monument) and ask people if I could pray for them. I can recall a handful of times in prayer where the Holy Spirit also revealed to me either a picture, a word, or a passage of Scripture that seemed to be especially relevant to that person.

The reason many Christians are leery of this understanding is they think it downplays the place of Scripture. Hopefully, as you have noticed in my explanation, experience should never come before Scripture. Scripture is the only objective standard & revelation of God that we have; nevertheless, the Holy Spirit uses Scripture (and spiritual gifts) as a means of making the person of Jesus personal to those we come into contact with. Our aversion to such things as prophetic prayer is in direct contradiction to Paul’s admonition in 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21, “Don’t stifle the Spirit. Don’t despise prophecies, but test all things. Hold on to what is good.”

Finally, let me close by sharing with you one of the “pictures” Lisa Hubers shared while she was praying for me. This is from when I was 16 years old and brand new to the Christian faith. I had no idea what my future held but I had no plans on entering into pastoral ministry. As she was praying for me, she said that she saw me leaving the large cities and big churches in order to go into the “highways and byways” of a rural community and inviting people to the wedding supper of the Lamb (an allusion to Revelation 19). She shared how she saw me going to a community that is generally overlooked by big churches and shining the light of the Gospel for those in that small town.

Ten years later, I am the Lead Pastor of Renovation Church in the small town of Garretson, South Dakota. My job literally consists of inviting people in my small town – and neighboring communities – to experience the true life and hope that is found in Jesus and Jesus alone.

Finally, if you are interested in developing a thoroughly Biblical understanding of the spiritual gifts, please reach out to me. I would love to schedule a monthly Zoom meeting with you and we can go deeper into Scripture and study this topic together. This would be free of course – just reach out and we can set it up!

Raising the Dead

Hi everyone, I taught through Acts 9:32-43 this morning and in one of the miracles, we saw Peter raise a woman from the dead. I made the point of saying that we generally react to this type of miracle in one of two ways.

The first reaction is through skepticism – we just assumed it never happened. This is the reaction I tend to have with miracle accounts.

The second reaction is through fundamentalism. With this reaction we say, “I believe it happened because the Bible says so but I don’t think those types of miracles happen today.” – This is were most Christians fall into.

I argued in the service that both of these reactions are wrong. I have a two-volume work called “Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts” by Craig S. Kenner. Craig Keener holds a PhD from Duke University and is a professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary. He is the author of many academic books such as the IVP Bible Background Commentary; The Historical Jesus of the Gospels, the Gift and the Giver, as well as commentaries on Matthew, John, Romans, 1 – 2 Corinthians, and Revelations. His book on miracles is published by Baker Academic which is a major publisher of textbooks and academic resources; Craig Keener is not a charismatic or a Pentecostal – he is a researcher and a professor. This two-volume work is a tough read because it is so academic and there are literally thousands upon thousands of footnotes to back up every claim made. He documents evidence to defend the credibility of miracles beginning with the New Testament and the first few centuries of the church all the way until 2015. In his book, there are nearly 100 pages of documented healing of blindness, paralysis, and even the dead being raised in modern times – each account is backed by numerous footnotes and references to medical journals and other academic and scholarly resources that have been peer-reviewed. Here is the full account I shared about at church – feel free to take down names and look all this up on your own – don’t take my word for it – this is just one of many accounts. I meant to share this in church but forgot the book!

“Some modern writers argue that raising the dead, unlike most miracle claims, would involve a true miracle, but that no one today even claims that such events occur. This argument, however, proves severely flawed, since raising claims are in fact numerous today (though of course still extremely rare proportionate to the number of deaths). Presumably some such claims today, like some claims about many subjects, will prove deceptive, but I am fully convinced that a number of other claims reflect genuine eyewitness experience… One well-known account today is from Dr. Chauncey Crandall, and some local and national television news outlets reported on this particular raising claim. Dr. Crandall is a renowned cardiologist with world-class credentials… On Friday, October 20, 2006, fifty-three-year-old auto mechanic Jeff Markin checked himself into the hospital in West Palm Beach, Florida, and died of a heart attack there. Emergency room personnel labored for nearly forty minutes to revive him, unsuccessfully shocking the flatlined man seven times. Crandall was called in to certify the obvious: there was no point in continuing attempts to revive the man.

Crandall recounts that Markin was not merely dead but unusually obviously dead: his face, toes, and fingers had already turned black. Crandall concurred with the obvious conclusion; the patient was declared dead at 8:05am and after writing up his assessment, Crandall left to return to his scheduled patients. Very quickly, however, he felt an extraordinary compulsion from God’s Spirit to return. He initially, but only briefly, resisted this compulsion, and then returned. The nurse was disconnecting the IVs and preparing the body for the morgue by sponging it down, yet Crandall suddenly found himself praying over the corpse, “Father, God, I cry out for the soul of this man. If he does not know you as his Lord and Savior, please raise him from the dead right now in Jesus’ name.” The nurse glared at him in astonishment, but Crandall instructed the emergency room doctor, who had just walked in, to shock him with the paddle one more time. (For Crandall, prayer and medicine work ideally together; they are not mutually exclusive options.) The other doctor protested; they had all recognized that Markin was beyond resuscitation. Nevertheless, out of respect for his colleague, this doctor complied and shocked Markin’s corpse.

Suddenly the monitor, which they were all watching, moved from a flat line to a normal heartbeat, which would have been extraordinary even if the heart had stopped only briefly. “In my more than twenty years as a cardiologist,” he reported, “I have never seen a heartbeat restored so completely and suddenly.” Markin immediately began breathing unaided, and within minutes Markin’s fingers and toes began moving, and he began speaking. Perhaps recalling Frankenstein’s monster, the panicked nurse starting screaming, “Doctor Crandall, what have you done to this patient?” She did not know what they would do with him now. She could have had cause for concern; as already noted, someone dead even for six minutes would have irreparable brain damage. Markin had no brain damage, however, and even his numb, once-blackened extremities were ultimately restored. Crandall met with Markin Monday morning; sitting up, Markin talked with him, contemplating his second chance on life. Since then Crandall has grown still bolder in prayer for miracles, and some of his patients have testified to the media about these extraordinary cures (severe blood infections, multiple parasitic infections, lesions that would have otherwise led to an amputation of a leg – and more).”

Evidence of True Conversion (Acts 9:19-31)

This past Sunday I had the honor of teaching through Acts 9:19-31 at Renovation Church. In this passage, we are given a glimpse into the transformation of Saul after he encounters Jesus on his way to Damascus. By looking at Saul’s transformation, we are given a glimpse into five pieces of evidence that should be in the life of every person who claims to be a follower of Jesus.

As always, we will be meeting this Wednesday at 8pm for an online small group where we will dig deeper into this text. The sermon discussion guide is below the video and all are invited to join us. Connection info can be found here: Connection Information

(The last few minutes of the message were cut off due to a technical glitch – sorry about that!)

Book of Acts – Week 25 – Acts 9:19-31
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 9:19-31. What stands out to you? What questions do you still have after reading through the text?

2. The first evidence that a person is truly a Christian is a strong desire to be with God’s people. This is evident during Saul’s time in both Damascus and Jerusalem (Acts 9:19; 26). Unfortunately, many people who self-identity as Christians in our culture rarely – if ever – attend church. Why do you think this is?

3. Saul proclaimed two things about Jesus in his message. First, he referred to Jesus as the Son of God (Acts 9:20) and the Messiah (Acts 9:22). Both of these titles are packed with meaning – especially in the first century. Explain in your own words what each of these titles mean and how they apply to our lives today.

4. When Saul arrived in Jerusalem the church wanted nothing to do with him – they were afraid of him. Barnabas came alongside of Saul as a mentor, friend, and a bridge to the rest of the church. The reality is, all of us need a “Barnabas” in our lives. Do you have a mentor in regards to your faith? If so, what are some of the things you have learned from them? Likewise, we are called to mentor those who are new to the faith. Who are you mentoring right now? If the answer is “no one” what are some steps you can take to become a mentor? (I know – there’s a lot of questions in this question but it’s vital to consider!)

5. In Acts 9:31, Luke says that the church was living in the fear of the Lord. Throughout Scripture, fear is generally viewed as a negative thing. What does it mean to “fear the Lord”? How is this different than regular fear? How can we develop this “fear of the Lord” in our own lives?

6. Also in Acts 9:31, Luke says that the early church experienced the encouragement of the Holy Spirit. This meant a variety of things but it especially included spiritual gifts that are given by the Holy Spirit to Christians for the purpose of building one another up. What do you know about spiritual gifts? How can the church become a better environment for people to exercise their spiritual gifts rather than just one person (me) exercising the gift of teaching?

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

The Power of Discipleship (Acts 9:10-19)

This past Sunday I had the honor of teaching through Acts 9:10-19. In this passage we are given a glimpse into the power of (ordinary) discipleship through the life of Ananias. Ananias’ example leaves us with five characteristics worthy of our imitation.

The sermon discussion guide is below the message. We will be meeting on Wednesday at 8pm via Zoom to discuss this text. All are invited to join us. The connection info is here: Renovation Church – Zoom Information

Book of Acts – Week 24 – Acts 9:10-19
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 9:10-19. What stands out to you? What questions do you still have after reading through the text?

2. In the beginning of this passage we are introduced to a man named Ananias. He is described simply as being a “disciple” of Jesus. In your own words, what does it mean to be a disciple? Take a few moments to read through Jesus’ invitation to discipleship in Luke 9:23-27. What does this passage teach us about discipleship?

3. The second characteristic that we should emulate from Ananias is that he was available to God. This is evident in his response to the vision by saying, “Here I am, Lord.” First, what does it mean to be available to God? Second, what are some practices we can adopt to make ourselves more available to be used by God?

4. The third characteristic that we should emulate from Ananias is that he was obedient to God. Many Christians will nod their heads and agree with a passage in the Bible but very few of us seek to apply these passages to our lives. This was a common situation even in the early church and the letter of James was written to correct this. Read James 1:22-25 – what is some insight we should take away from this passage?

5. The fourth characteristic to emulate from Ananias is that he saw people the way God saw them. When he sees Saul, he refers to him as “Brother Saul…” This is likely the inspiration behind Saul/Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 5:16-21. Read through this passage – what stands out to you? How should this change the way we view others in the church?  

6. Finally, the fifth characteristic we see in Ananias’ life is that he was a conduit of the Holy Spirit. Have you ever met someone who seemed to be full of the Holy Spirit? What about them stood out to you? What are some steps we can take to become better “conduits” of the Holy Spirit to those around us?

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