Enjoying Our Freedom in Christ

Enjoying Our Freedom in Christ

Study Guide, May 21, 2023

Pastor Clay Olsen

Once again, we had a great time in our Men’s Advance/Retreat. We advanced in our spiritual growth, our emotional peace, and probably in our physical stature…Oh yeah, we ate really well. But we wanted to share and expand a bit on some of the teachings that are so important for all of us followers of Christ to better understand, so that we can both better know and better serve our Savior, but also so that we can better enjoy and better share the freedoms that God has granted to us by way of our being united with Him.

And so we’re going to focus in on one particular aspect of the Christian life, and that is, ‘enjoying our freedom in Christ’. So many Christians forfeit the peace and the joy that God desires His children to experience and then to share with others simply because they rely on their own reasoning or rationale or habits, which spring from their own temperament or their own demeanor and such.

One thing we must realize about ourselves is that the human nature is a very stubborn entity. It does not give up its conceptions or its misconceptions or its beliefs or even its misbeliefs very easily. Even as God’s people, we still tend to be a stubborn lot. Just as God said this about His people in the Old Testament, His people in the New Testament are being described as well.

Deut 9:6- “Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people.” NASU

Stubborn, us? Yup! We are! Yes, times change, but human nature remains the same. That’s why in our salvation God had to give us a ‘new nature’…a new spiritual nature that was united to His own nature. But still, our old nature is still active and still stubbornly influences our mind, emotions, and will…if we let it…or, if we do not choose to let God the Holy Spirit guide our mind, our emotions, and will. Remember: Our default nature is still faulty! We must choose to believe, feel, and do what God is leading us to believe, feel, and do…and choose it daily, in order to effectively follow Christ and be effectively used by Him, as well as to then experientially enjoy the freedoms He wants us to enjoy. Also remember, this joy is not just an ‘add on’, like an accessory in a Christian’s ‘options package’ for following Christ. No, this ‘joy of the Lord’ is our very strength for following Christ in a rough and deceived world. Enjoying our freedom in Christ is not a luxury…it is a necessity!

So we are just going to get right to one of the least emphasized teachings in the Scriptures that God intends to be one of the most gratifying and motivating teachings in the Scriptures. And let’s give one caveat here, because these Biblical truths are intended to be gratifying and motivating for those followers of Christ who are seeking to honor and please and follow Christ more and more in their life. As the Psalmist declared: “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope (trust) in His mercy. Ps 147:11 NKJV In other words, these teachings are meant to bless ‘conscientious Christians’. They are not intended to pacify ‘calloused Christians’, or those children of God who are not seeking to be more and more obedient to the Will and the Words of God. Paul referred to these disobedient Christians as ‘carnal Christians’. Although, they had been ‘Born Again’ they had defaulted back to being self-centered and more concerned with doing their own will rather than doing God’s Will. God, too, has disobedient children, remember. So God’s comfort is to encourage conscientious Christians, not to excuse self-centered Christians. And that is very important to differentiate. Again, God’s comforting teachings are for conscientious Christians. God’s conviction is for calloused Christians…conviction so that they will repent of their self-focused, living to please themselves first attitudes, and commit to becoming more and more Christ focused and living more and more to please Christ first.

So, let’s get right to the amazing reality of what the Substitutionary life and death of Jesus Christ provided for us. Rightly so, we glory in the Cross of Christ. We rejoice in the awesome truth that Jesus voluntarily took our place in paying the sin penalty that our sins deserved. Note the great truth of 2 Cor 5:21- “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” NASU The word ‘behalf’ in the Greek is ‘huper’, and it means ‘in place of’ or ‘instead of’. This debt of our sin requires that we be forsaken by God…separated from God, because the holiness of God requires the justice of God. And the justice of a Holy God requires separation from God because sin is rebellion against the very Person and holy moral nature of God.

That’s why God in Christ had to become Jesus in humanity in order to bear that penalty of our sins on our behalf… ‘huper’…in our place…instead of us. Jesus was forsaken by God the Father and God the Holy Spirit when He was paying our debt of sin on our behalf on the Cross. And He paid it in full! And that’s why Jesus then said: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” “Heb 13:5 NKJV

So Jesus was forsaken on our behalf…in our place…instead of us! That’s why we call His death ‘His substitutionary death’. He died as our ‘Substitute’. But the other glorious reality, that we do not thank Jesus enough about and rejoice enough in, is that Jesus also lived a substitutionary life for us. For His gift to us was not only the forgiveness that comes from His substitutionary death for us…His gift includes the righteousness of His own life since He also lived a substitutionary life for us! Christ’s righteous life makes up part of the gift of salvation right along with Christ’s sacrificial death. Rom 5:17- “For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” NASU Again, in 1 Corinthians Paul points out being united to Christ includes being granted ‘His righteousness’. “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.” 1 Cor 1:30-31 NASU

Renown Bible Teacher, R.C. Sproul, who now lives in Heaven, put it this way: “We must see that the righteousness of Christ that is transferred to us is the righteousness He achieved by living under the Law for thirty-three years without once sinning. Jesus had to live a life of obedience…He had to acquire, if you will, merit at the bar of justice. Without His life of sinless obedience, Jesus’ atonement would have had no value at all. We need to see the crucial significance of this truth; we need to see that not only did Jesus die for us, He also lived for us.

The point of the Gospel is that ‘imputation’ is real—God really laid our sins on Christ and really transferred the righteousness of Christ to us. We really possess the righteousness of Jesus Christ by imputation. He is our Savior, not merely because He died, but because He lived a sinless life before He died, as only the Son of God could do. We must see that the righteousness of Christ that is transferred to us is the righteousness He achieved by living under the Law for thirty-three years without once sinning.”1

That is so well stated by Dr. Sproul. That is why we are declared righteous in Christ’s righteousness and not ours! The Prophet Isaiah reveals that we are to think of our salvation as a garment, and that in God’s eyes, we wear Christ’s righteousness as like a robe…a robe of righteousness. Isa 61:10- “I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness.” NASU

We have pointed this passage out many times, but we need to understand it more and more if we are to understand our Savior better and better. Think about it: This garment is made up of the obedient and sinless works of Jesus’ life on Earth. Every day that Jesus lived He loved the Lord with all His heart, all His mind, and all His strength. Every day that Jesus lived on Earth He loved His neighbor like they were Him. Every day that Jesus lived He was fulfilling every requirement of the perfect and righteous Law of God on our behalf. Every day Jesus lived, from His childhood to the Cross of Calvary, Jesus obeyed every commandment, every instruction, and performed every good work perfectly…sinlessly. Every day Jesus lived on earth, the words of His mouth and the meditations of His heart were fully pleasing in God’s eyes. Every motive He ever had, every thought, every work Jesus ever did, He did it on our behalf. He worked His works so that we could be saved by His sinless works, since we could not be saved by our sinful works. He did everything in our place, instead of us, as our Substitute. That’s why even though we cannot be saved by our works, we can, and can only be saved by Christ’s works. That’s why Salvation is a free gift to us because Jesus earned our place in Heaven for us…His righteous works are credited to us!

And every one of Jesus’ perfect and righteous works went into weaving this garment of Salvation that God would one day place upon you and me when we turned to God and repented of our sin and put our trust and faith in the life and death of Jesus Christ to be our Savior and God. The very threads of what makes up this robe of righteousness is every thought, every word, every deed, every motive, and every work of obedience from every day of Jesus’ life on earth. And that is the garment of Salvation and the robe of righteousness that we are now clothed in and will wear for all eternity. That is the righteousness that the Apostle Paul said he would stand before God wearing, not a righteousness of his own, made up of the works of His life, but that righteousness of Christ that comes from God on the basis of faith in Christ, which is made up from the sinless and perfect works of Christ’s life!

We could just pause here in astonishment at the love and gift of Christ to us, but we now need to connect something very crucial to this. What we need to know now is this: Since we are saved and secure through the substitutionary life and death of Jesus on our behalf, and we now wear His robe that represents a life of complete obedience and fulfillment of the laws of God, what then is God now looking for from us? What does God now expect of us, His children? And here it is: God is certainly now not expecting perfection in the performance of our works and obedience to Him. For that was fulfilled in Christ’s gift of His righteousness to us. So what God is certainly now expecting from us…expecting from His own children, is not perfection, but perseverance! God expects us to persevere and to press on in practicing the righteous works of obedience and service to God that Jesus performed in perfection for us. And since God knows that we still stumble in doing them, that we still fall short in perfect obedience, He is not expecting perfection, but He is expecting perseverance and improvement…improvement through our practicing following His instructions and living out His commandments for our lives.

However, even as we do seek to please God more and more, because we still have this presence of sin in our lives, we will come to understand more of what Charles Spurgeon wrote: “The saints are sinners still. Our best tears need to be wept over, the strongest faith is mixed with unbelief, our most flaming love is cold compared with what Jesus deserves, and our most intense zeal still lacks the full fervor which the bleeding wounds and pierced heart of the crucified might claim at our hands. Our best things need a sin offering, or they would condemn us.” 2

We not only fell short of the standard of God’s righteousness before we were saved, we still fall short of doing perfect righteousness after we are saved. Thankfully, God credits us with our practice of righteous, not our perfection of it. But as for our position in Christ, because of this gift of Christ’s righteousness that Jesus made for us and gave to us, we are now fully accepted, completely loved, and secure as a saved child of God’s.

And so this security and freedom we now have in Christ is not only what we are to know and understand, but also what we are to daily rejoice in, and what we are to also glory about. The awesome reality is that through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ we are delivered from the penalty of our sins, and it is through the sacrificial life of Jesus Christ that we are relieved of the guilt of our sins. Note that again: Christ’s sacrificial death removed the full penalty of our sins, past, present, and future…and Christ’s sacrificial life relieves us of the present guilt that we experience because of the presence of sin in our lives, even when we are seeking to do good!

Again, we are speaking to conscientious believers who are seeking to obey God, and yet experience guilt in not performing their works of obedience as they had planned or had hoped. Point being: We need not ever carry the guilt of our attempts at righteousness that still fall short because of mixed motives or not performing those works perfectly, or even over confessed sins that still trouble us. Why? Because God is not looking for perfection in us. He already found perfection in Christ, who perfectly performed righteousness for us. So now God can delight in showing mercy to us…to all His children who are seeking to please and obey Him, in spite of our imperfections.

Jesus did each of these works unto God perfectly in our place, on our behalf, and now we are free to simply persevere in them. We will never do them perfectly as Jesus did. And we will always need to confess where we fall short in our mixed motives or in our failures because of our selfishness and pride which still need our confession. But we can also know that this guilty conscience of conscientious believers is part of that from which Jesus came to also set us free! For as the Psalmist declared: Ps 130:3-4- “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You,That You may be feared.” NASU

God wants us to know that we can freely serve Him without guilt over our failings and our imperfections in our service. He wants us to know that He is not holding our confessed sins against us, rather, He delights in being merciful to us, and invites us to enjoy receiving it as much as He enjoys granting it! And this will set us free to fear and serve our God even more!

  1. R.C. Sproul, Jesus Not Only Died for Us, He Lived for Us, ligonier.org
  2. Charles H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon at His Best, p.131

The Times They Are A Changin’

  “The Times They Are A Changin’”

Pastor Robert Kornegay

April 20, 2023

A Time for Everything –  Ecclesiastes 3 NLT

For everything there is a season,
A time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.

A Disciple’s Spiritual Fitness Course, Pt. 7

A Disciple’s Spiritual Fitness Course, Pt. 7

Study Guide, April 23, 2023

Pastor Clay Olsen

How’s your discipline of ‘sowing the seed of the Gospel’ going for you. Right, it’s a challenging exercise for sure. It would help if we could sort of ‘mechanize’ our sowing somehow to cover more ground. But sowing the Gospel usually requires a more personal touch just like with the Parable and with the Sower giving it a personal touch.

Again, one great help in our sowing of the Gospel seed exercise is to simply identify ourselves as Jesus identifies us: We are Sowers. So try to think of yourself more and more as a ‘Sower of the Gospel’ and you will likely practice the exercise or the discipline of actually sowing gospel seed more and more.

So again, Christians are Sowers of the seed of the Gospel. Some are more active Sowers than others, but each of us should have it as our goal to try to become as faithful and committed to the habit of sowing Gospel seed as we can. It’s one of the disciplines we need to practice in order to become more and more spiritually fit. As our theme passage says, we need to spend time and energy training ourselves in this discipline, as well as the other four. So let’s look again at our theme passage and then look at some helps that we’ve called: The Three C’s for the Gospel Sower.

1 Tim 4:8-9- “Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next. This is true, and everyone should accept it.” NLT You have probably noticed that we’re trying to get this stuck into our memory by repeating it so often.

And the same goes with our acrostic for our five disciplines: BIBSG Do you remember what they are? The Discipline of: Bible study training, Intercessory prayer, Body life and service, Sowing the seed of the Gospel, and Giving: Tithes and Offerings.

Let’s talk about the mindset of a Sower of Gospel seed. Again, we are calling this mindset ‘The Three C’s for the Gospel Sower’. And the first one is Compassion. In relation to sowing the gospel we are very familiar with that passage when the Lord Jesus said to the disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore, beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” Matt 9:37-38 NASU We know about that. But what’s not as well remembered is what is pointed out in the verse right before this, for verse 36 says – “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.”

To be a consistent Sower of the Gospel you need compassion for people. That’s the motivation for the praying and the working and the sowing of the gospel seed – compassion. Jesus felt compassion for people that were not yet spiritually reborn, born again into God’s family. He felt compassion for those who had not yet become spiritual family members of God’s family. Again, what was it that He felt? The word compassion comes from the Latin words – ‘com’ and ‘pati’, or ‘with’ and ‘suffer’. The word ‘passion’ comes from the word ‘pati’, and before the 16th century it was used to describe ‘suffering’. Since that time, it has sort of morphed into many ideas now, like anything from deep feelings about something to romantic love to being committed to something, and so on. But originally it was used in connection with ‘suffering’. That’s why the re-enactments about the Cross of Christ have been referred to as ‘Passion Plays’. The ‘passion of Christ’ was about the ‘suffering of Christ’.

So compassion means ‘to suffer with’. It describes the capacity a person has developed to feel another’s suffering. When Jesus looked at the people who were still dead in their sins, He recognized that they were spiritually suffering, and He felt that. He empathized with that. He sensed their suffering, even if they didn’t sense it themselves.

What are we saying? For one thing, we are saying that people around us who are without Christ’s life in their soul are spiritually suffering. You should know that reality about unsaved people around you. They may not even be aware of this suffering in their soul, but it is there. And because we now know what Jesus knew, we too know that people who are without the Spirit of Christ in their lives are spiritually suffering. And Jesus had compassion on them about that. He had compassion for their suffering soul, and compassion for both the temporal and the eternal condition of their soul if they did not come to Him for the healing of their soul.

In fact, in that very familiar and beloved verse of John 3:16 there is still a rather unfamiliar part to it. Let’s look at it in the Amplified Bible Version to get the full impact of that part. John 3:16- “For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.” AMP Jesus knew that all people without His life and forgiveness are spiritually suffering, and this condition would only get worse unless they repented and entrusted their soul to Him. If they didn’t, they would indeed…perish.

Perish? Well, that brings us to the second ‘C’: Cause. We need a clear understanding of the cause or the reason that people are perishing, a clear understanding of sin and its effects. Sin is the cause of people’s condition of perishing. The effect that sin has had on people is that all people without Christ in their life are in a condition the Bible refers to as ‘perishing’. We don’t use that word very much anymore in talking or thinking about the condition of a person’s soul; that they are perishing. Maybe that’s part of the problem. The church has adopted more cultural terminology than Biblical terminology. But that’s one of the enemy’s schemes, so that people won’t understand what God is saying to them, and thus, do something about it. If you can confuse the ‘words’ that people use you can confuse the ‘works’ they will do. But the reality is that people are in danger of ‘perishing’ and they don’t even realize it, and others aren’t warning them about it either. But here’s the reason we know it’s foremost on the mind of God.

Oftentimes people ask: Why hasn’t the Lord returned yet? How much worse can the world get before the Lord Jesus comes back? What’s preventing the Second Advent? There actually is one overall reason and essential reason why Jesus hasn’t already returned like He promised to establish His Kingdom on earth. We have pointed it out many times before, but the point is that we each need to know this so well that we can point it out to others. Plus, it’s a great ‘Gospel seed’ conversation starter. Here it is: 2 Peter 3:9- “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise to return, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so He is giving more time for everyone to repent.” NLT

Do you see what’s foremost on God’s mind? Jesus is giving more time for people around us to repent before He returns to earth. Why? Because He doesn’t want anyone to perish! There it is again: ‘PERISH’. God wants people to humbly surrender in repentance to Jesus Christ, and to, in faith, receive Christ’s pardon for their sin penalty and receive Christ’s gift to them of eternal spiritual life. But if they refuse to repent or neglect Christ’s salvation, then they are going to perish. It’s not a complicated message, but it is both profound and profoundly urgent, because it’s the difference between a person experiencing eternal life or perishing in an eternal death!

Here is the question Christians should be asking others to help them to see the real issue of the Bible. Instead of asking people what they think a person has to do to go to Heaven, we should be asking people, “What do you think a person has to do to go to Hell?” Now, if they would even be willing to talk about it, most would answer in terms of things like, “Well, probably murdering others, or being really evil, and stuff like that, right?” But the answer to the question of: “What does a person have to do to go to Hell?” is – “Nothing more!” Nothing more? Why? Because the Bible says that they already are! The Apostle Peter clearly states that unless a person repents; humbly surrenders their life in repentant-faith to God, and receives Christ as their Savior, they will perish!

But back to what God said: God doesn’t want anyone to perish. That’s why Christ came! The Cross was a rescue mission. When Christ looked at people, He knew they were in a condition of perishing, already perishing in their sins, and He felt compassion for the people. They were like sheep without a Shepherd, and if they stayed that way they would perish in Hell. The question for us is: Do we see people the way Jesus sees people? Do you see unsaved people as sheep without a Shepherd and if they stay that way they are going to perish in Hell? Jesus said to the people, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish!” (Luke 13:3)

Now look at the one of the most unfamiliar verses in the Bible, and strangely enough it comes right after the most familiar verse in the Bible. And we’ll read it again from the Amplified Version to get the full force of its claim. This is John 3:18- “He who believes in Him [who clings to, trusts in, relies on Him] is not judged [he who trusts in Him never comes up for judgment; for him there is no rejection, no condemnation — he incurs no damnation]; but he who does not believe (cleave to, rely on, trust in Him) is judged already [he has already been convicted and has already received his sentence] because he has not believed in and trusted in the name of the only begotten Son of God. [He is condemned for refusing to let his trust rest in Christ’s name.]” AMP This is as clear of a warning as could be declared by God: The unconverted soul is already condemned. It is already perishing and will ultimately perish forever.

Remember the old hymn, “Rescue the Perishing”? Who’s perishing? Everybody in your neighborhood, every person in your workplace, everybody on television, everybody in your community that has not repented unto God and received the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior.

Which brings us to the third ‘C’ – Cure. What the Scriptures clearly reveal is that the cure for sin and its effects of eternal condemnation is clearly different from what people naturally think about salvation. People naturally think that the issue of salvation is about their good works for salvation. But what we see from the Biblical revelation concerning the salvation of a person’s soul is that it is far too late to talk about good works in a person’s life as being able to merit salvation. They have already been condemned. The issue of salvation is way past the issue of good works. That’s like talking to a drowning man about helping with the beach cleanup walk that’s going on. What? He doesn’t need a good works project…what he needs is to be rescued because he’s drowning…he is perishing! He can help with lots of things after he is rescued, but until he is rescued, he’s perishing! He first needs to be rescued by someone else’s good works…by the good works of a Rescuer! And our only Rescuer from drowning in our sins is Jesus Christ!

Think about it: From God’s point of view, how strange it must be to hear so many of the teachers of false religions, even a lot of leaders in so-called Christendom, telling people that they are okay with God and with going to Heaven as long as they keep up their good works program. That would be like a Physician talking to a terminally diseased person, who is in need of life saving surgery, about some good exercises and some new recipes they would enjoy. No…the dying patient is need of rescuing…not rehabilitation. The issue now is how can this dying patient be rescued from this disease that’s killing them? What’s the cure for this disease that’s making them perish? And then, once they get rescued from this disease, then they can get into a healthy good works exercise program. But the Gospel is the ultimate “First things first” message! Jesus and the Apostles were ‘first’ – instructing people to repent in order to be rescued from their condemnation so they wouldn’t perish in Hell. We can talk about good works once they are out of their crisis of perishing.

And that bring up a question about the question to unbelievers about, “Are you going to Heaven?” Since the Bible says unbelievers aren’t going to Heaven, it’s really too late for that question with unbelievers. That’s like asking a man on death row where he plans to live once he gets out? He’s not getting out! He’s on death row. He’s going to die unless someone pardons him and rescues him from his death sentence! John 3:18 reveals to all people on Planet Earth that the sentence of eternal condemnation upon every unrepentant person has already been handed down from the courts of Heaven. The question for everyone to really consider is more like, “Have you been rescued from perishing, just like Jesus talked about in John 3:16 and 18?”

That’s a hard question to ask to a soft-minded culture, but it’s the harsh reality of what’s at stake. The Cross of Christ was not a pretty sight. It was an ugly reality of what it took for God to save us from our eternal death penalty because of our sins against our Creator and God. Christ had to come from Heaven to die on Earth because it was the only way to rescue people from going to Hell.

Again, those who have not yet repented and have not yet had their soul rescued by Jesus Christ are already going to Hell. That is a Biblical reality. The verdict is already in! That’s what the Gospel of John is warning the world about! Everyone is already perishing, but we have a Rescuer, the Lord Jesus Christ! Every person on Earth is drowning in their sins and perishing. The world really is a sea of humanity. And each one is drowning in their sins. But they don’t have to perish, because Jesus is holding out His hand offering to rescue every drowning person. It’s another way to picture Salvation, with Jesus holding out His hand to every spiritually drowning person who will hold up their hand for Jesus to rescue them from perishing.

Christians need to think Biblically, not culturally, about the condition of people’s souls. We need to see people as Jesus saw them. Jesus saw unsaved people around Him as dying in their sins, needing a soul healing, a spiritual resurrection from their deathbed of sin. These are ways to help us really see the real condition of unsaved people around us. They are on their deathbed of sin…on spiritual death row…they are drowning in their sin. And knowing that this is the condition of every person’s soul, Jesus felt compassion for them. Of course, His capacity to feel their suffering is far, far, beyond ours, but still, our capacity to feel for or to empathize with the suffering going on in the soul of an unsaved person will directly determine the motivation we feel for then sowing the seed of the Gospel, and for trying to help get the cure to them for their sin disease so that they won’t have to perish.

What we are sowing is the cure for dying souls. What we are sowing is the ‘Divine Life Preserver’ that they can use to be rescued from drowning in their sins. What we are sowing is the pardon handed down from the Judge of Heaven that can release them from their spiritual death penalty.

As much natural tension as we sometimes feel toward others, or that cultural angst we have with some people, or the disagreements or conflicts we have with others, and so on…when you look at them Biblically and see them like Jesus sees them, as sheep without a Shepherd, and as those who have already been condemned to an eternity in Hell because of their sins and are now on spiritual death row, and as people who are drowning in their sins, it gives you a sense of compassion for them, in spite of all the rest of the stuff.

Regardless of how normal or talented or happy or prosperous and so on a person looks, if he or she hasn’t humbly surrendered their life to God in repentance and received Jesus Christ’s forgiveness and gift of eternal life, then the real picture of them is that they are living their life right outside of the doorway to Hell, and they are only one step away, one breath away, one heartbeat away from stepping into an eternity in Hell. Unless they repent, they will perish. That’s what God says. That’s what the Bible says.

And so what we can do is to at least get the information to them about what God says in His Word about how they can know how to be rescued from perishing. Jesus is ready to rescue them. He is willing to rescue them. And the Gospel tells them how. Again, only they can decide, but we can sow the Gospel seed in order to give them that chance.

Make sowing the Gospel seed simply become one of the things that you do in your life, because, simply put: A ‘Sower’ is who you are, and sowing Gospel seed is what you can do to help rescue the perishing.

A Disciple’s Spiritual Fitness Course, Pt. 6

A Disciple’s Spiritual Fitness Course, Pt. 6

Study Guide, April 16, 2023

Pastor Clay Olsen


So how’s your Discipleship fitness program going? Have you been pumping some spiritual iron…lifting some spiritual dumbbells? By the way, I’ve always wondered how the word ‘dumbbells’ ever got connected to hand weights or free weights. I learned that in 17th century England, athletes trained by lifting heavy hand bells which had the metal-ringers removed. And since the ringers were gone, the bells then became noiseless, or dumb…meaning ‘without sound’. Thus, they started calling them ‘dumbbells’…and the rest is history.

Anyway, our spiritual fitness program is somewhat like a weight-training program, but it is even more so a ‘will-training program’. A ‘will-training’ program? What do we mean by that? Well, it is very interesting to discover that ‘the will’ can be trained. Our will can be trained. You that have worked with horses know all about training the will, right? Your goal is to break the horse’s will, but not the horse’s spirit. You want your horse to be bright eyed, spirited, and free to express its special personality, but with a surrendered will. You want it trained to choose your will over its own.

So guess what? Now it’s our turn to be the horse. God wants us to be bright eyed, spirited, and free to express all of that special personality that God has given to us, but with a surrendered will. God wants us to choose His will over our own. And we can, but it does require training. Our will can be trained, but it requires discipline. You can’t just choose God’s will every so often, and then think that you will have a ‘surrendered will’ to God. No, no, It has to become a daily – “Lord, not my will, but Thy will be done” kind of discipline. It has to become part of your daily disciplines in order to reap the strength and power and peace and fruit of the Holy Spirit! Do you remember the verse from Heb 12:11? “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” NASU

It sounds like physical disciplines and spiritual disciplines have a lot in common, right? Exercise is often kind of tough to fit in to the schedule and sometimes hard to get motivated to do, but afterwards there’s that payoff or reward of getting toned up or getting strengthened. It’s a similar experience with spiritual exercise. Well, let’s get right to our Spiritual Fitness theme passage. 1 Tim 4:8-9- “Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next. This is true, and everyone should accept it.” NLT

So, again, the reward for spiritual exercise is both temporal and eternal. Let’s review those five exercises or disciplines and then we’ll get into the fourth one today.

Five Disciplines of Spiritual Fitness:

The Discipline of Bible study training.

The Discipline of Intercessory prayer.

The Discipline of Body life and service.

The Discipline of Sowing the seed of the Gospel.

The Discipline of Giving: Tithes and Offerings.

So today we move into ‘The Discipline of Sowing the seed of the Gospel.” But before we talk about being Sowers of the gospel, let’s get back to what we said about training the will. How about this? The most devoted man in the Scriptures and the wisest man that ever lived both prayed that God would make them willing to obey God’s will. How fascinating is that…because it was like they both prayed that God would sort of ‘over-ride their will’ and train them to be willing and obedient. Listen to their prayers:

Ps 51:12- “Give me again the joy that comes from Your salvation, and make me willing to obey You.” TEV

1 Kings 8:57-58- May the LORD our God be with us as He was with our ancestors; may He never leave us or abandon us; may He make us obedient to Him, so that we will always live as He wants us to live, keeping all the laws and commands He gave our ancestors.” TEV

We would think; “Do you mean even the most devoted and the wisest men that ever lived wrestled with be willing to obey God’s ways to live?” Oh yeah, they did! And we bring this up, especially in relation to this fourth discipline, because of all of the five disciplines, which one do you wrestle with the most in being willing to practice? Right! In fact, both the history of the Church and our own experience has shown that ‘Witnessing’ is the toughest discipline to consistently practice for most Christians. But again, God never commands us to do what He doesn’t also enable us to do. So in relation to this fourth discipline, go ahead and ask God to make you become more and more willing to obey Him in sowing the seeds of the gospel. When you think about it, maybe David and Solomon had this particular discipline of sharing their faith in mind when they were praying this way.

But the thing is, since this discipline is clearly one of the disciplines that we have to practice in order to be spiritually fit, as well as obedient, we have to find ways to do this. So what we want to do is to give you some helps…or to give you some exercises to practice in sowing the gospel. And one of them is right in the title itself: ‘Sowing the seed of the gospel.’ As we have pointed out before, identity is everything. How you see yourself is key to how you live your life. But the key to seeing yourself for who you really are is to see yourself as who God sees who you really are. And one of the ways that God sees you is as a ‘Sower’ of the His seed of the gospel. And I praise God for helping me to understand that’s how He sees me. And I have these three reasons for that: One – because it focuses my attention on the seed; Two – because it places the responsibility on the soil; and Three – because it excites me about watching God the Holy Spirit work with both the seed and the soil.

Let’s think about it. Isn’t one of the reasons we get so discouraged about witnessing is because we put so much pressure on ourselves about what we think that we’re supposed to say and how we should defend what we are supposed to defend and how we feel about being fearful of what others will think of us, and on and on? Of course it is! But do you see what the problem is here? Where’s the focus? The focus is on us. But when the Sower went out to sow, where was his focus? The Sower’s focus was not on himself, but on just sowing the seed. His focus was on carrying out his mission of sowing the seed. And actually, and this part has always been kind of refreshing and inspiring here…and it’s this: This Sower didn’t seem all that deterred about the kind of soils his seed was falling on! Rather, his focus was on sowing the seed and thinking about all the possibilities of what could become of it all. And since his focus was on that, it was an encouraging exercise for him.

His anticipation was like that of Eccl 11:6, which tells us; “Sow your seed in the morning and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good.” NASU It’s like this Sower was thinking, ‘Let’s just get this seed sown on all of these different kinds of soils and then see what happens!’ He was enthused about the possibilities of just getting the seed connected with the soil. Making contact between the seed and soil was his mission! Do you see where we are going with this?

Never underestimate the power of what the Holy Spirit can do once the seed is in contact with the soil. Remember, Jesus said that God could raise up sons of Abraham from stones! You might be thinking, “Yeah, and I know a lot of ‘stony people’, for sure.” Well, don’t be deterred by stony people. Remember, God created the Universe ‘Ex Nihilo’, or ‘out of nothing’, so He can sure take the seed of the gospel and make it grow a son or daughter of Abraham out of one of your stony friends, or family members, or co-workers. Heaven is going to be filled with a lot of pleasant surprises over those who are there.

Now, we need to notice again something about how the Sower sowed the seed all over the place. Did you ever notice how freely he sowed the seeds on those different types of soils? Look at the passage: Matt 13:3-9- “And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” NASU

Now, just looking at this we might say, “Wait a minute…beside the road, on rocky places, among thorns…? You know, this Sower was kind of sloppy!” Why would he sow seeds beside the road and on rocky places and among thorns? That’s a bit wasteful with the seeds, don’t you think? Those seeds cost good money you know! Well, the point of the parable was not to teach thrifty farming methods, but to teach faithfulness in generously sowing the seed of the gospel in spite of the soils, not because of them. Now certainly we pray that those who receive the seeds will be good soil, and respond with a receptive heart and a life of good fruit. But we are not always able to immediately discern what kind of soil it is onto which we are sowing. Let’s repeat that part: ‘The point of the parable was to teach faithfulness in generously sowing the seed of the gospel in spite of the soils, not because of them.

Here’s the point: We tend to worry way too much about ‘soils’. We tend to evaluate which soils around us we think are good candidates for a seed or two, and which soils just don’t seem like bothering with at all. We tend to spend so much time and effort on evaluating soils that we never get around to sowing seeds. But, although that tendency is just kind of natural to us, we have to make sure to not let it become determinant in us.

Actually, The Disciples had a ‘soil-evaluating’ problem, too. In fact, the Lord told this parable soon after the parable of the Sower. Matt 13:24-30 – “Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as everyone slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat. When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew. The farmer’s servants came and told him, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds!’ ” ‘An enemy has done it!’ the farmer exclaimed.” ‘Shall we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. “He replied, ‘No, you’ll hurt the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds and burn them and to put the wheat in the barn.’ ” NLT

Now, of all the points in this story, one of the clearest ones was this: Just leave the evaluations to the experts, like the Angels at the end times. And so it is to be with our ‘sowing mission’: Instead of evaluating soils, just sow the seed! Just plant the gospel! Spend less time on soil sampling and weed examining and more time on sowing and planting the seeds. Plus, it was like saying to the Disciples, “Besides, you’re not all that good at distinguishing the wheat from the tares anyway. So just keep sowing the seed.”

But again, the Sower in the earlier Parable was focused more on spreading seeds than on evaluating soils. And that is a necessary ‘paradigm shift’ for our thinking if we are ever going to get into and get on with the exercise and the discipline of sowing the seeds of the gospel. Think about it: If Andrew had been a soil evaluator, he probably would have skipped going to Peter to tell him about the Messiah. Peter was about as rocky headed as they come. His name even meant ‘stone or rock’. And then remember the disciple’s response when they heard that Saul wanted to worship and fellowship with them? They thought, you’ve got to be kidding, Saul the persecutor?! You talk about a thorny kind of guy! But, you see, God specializes in hard cases and head cases and thorn cases. You never know what stone or thorn will turn into good soil and then become a son of daughter of Abraham. No, let God worry about the soils, we just need to sow some seeds on them, generously and consistently. They may look like ‘off the road’ or ‘rocky ground’ or ‘thorny patches’ to you, but just go ahead and sow some gospel seed on them anyway! It may be the biggest surprise of your life to watch God the Holy Spirit take that seed and turn one of those ‘stones’ into a ‘servant’ of the Lord Jesus Christ! In fact, every church fellowship has a good share of former stones and former thorns that are now servants and branches of Jesus Christ. Amen to that?

Who are we?’ ‘We are Sowers!’ And what do Sowers do? Sowers sow seeds of the gospel! That’s what we do. It’s supposed to be one of our spiritual fitness habits. And since we live in the information age, we have even greater aids…we have great tools to help us with our sowing. Sure, we are always to be trying to work on taking opportunities to talk to people about the Lord and how to have a relationship with Christ. But we also have some other ‘great helps’ for our sowing exercises, from great pamphlets to great books to social media, snail mail, and again, our conversation whenever possible. We just have to make sure that, as Sowers of the gospel seed…that we go out to sow. We have to intentionally make it a part of what we do, of what we practice…make it one of our spiritual disciplines and exercises. For if you don’t intentionally go out to sow, you probably won’t sow.

So if sowing gospel seed has not been one of the disciplines of your spiritual fitness program, make a new commitment to it. Be creative. Think of places where you could leave the gospel seeds of tracts; from restaurants to shopping malls to motels to airports and so on. Think of people to whom you could sow some gospel seed of a Gospel pamphlet or a book or an online message, and so on.

And build up a seed supply, like a Sower would have a bin full of seeds. Acquire a supply of materials that explain the New Birth…of how a person becomes a Christian, what it means to be Born Again, how a person can know for sure that he or she is going to Heaven, and so on. We have some of those materials right in our foyer. So make use of them. Be able to point to your supply and tell people, “This is my gospel seed supply. These are some of the seeds I sow onto all kinds of soil.”

What better way to spend some money than buying great materials to give to friends or co-workers or extended family members, or to neighbors and such, that explains to them how they can become born again and have a relationship with Christ. Build up your gospel seed supply and then practice getting it out…practice sowing it. It’s just one of the disciplines, one of the exercises, that we do to stay spiritually fit, and to be faithful to our Savior. Besides, you never know what God is going to do when some ‘Gospel seed’ connects with ‘somebody’s soil’.

So not only just “Let’s go”…but “Let’s Sow!” Let’s get on with ‘Sowing the Gospel seed!

The Resurrection Changed Everything!

The Resurrection Changed Everything!

Slide Guide, April 9, 2023

Matt 28:5-7- “The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.” NASU

John 10:17-18- “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” NASU

Gal 1:1- “Paul, an apostle not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead…” NASU And then God the Holy Spirit was involved in the resurrection as well: Rom 8:11- “If the Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from death, lives in you, then He who raised Christ from death will also give life to your mortal bodies by the presence of His Spirit in you.” TEV

The Resurrection proved that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life!

That is the proper response of any human being to the Incarnate Resurrected Creator and Savior of the world – “My Lord and my God!”

Have you asked the only Resurrected Savior to forgive your sins and grant you eternal life in union with Him, and that you want to follow Him as your only Lord and God?

Eph 2:4-6 – “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” NASU

If you have asked Jesus Christ into your life as your Lord and Savior, you have already been spiritually resurrected. Plus, you have also been positionally assigned a place in the heavenly places as one of God’s eternal family members.

Think about this: as you are day by day going about your plans on earth, you are also determining the plans and privileges and service assignments that you will be doing day after day in the Kingdom of God. And that means that what you do every day here on Earth affects what you will be doing every day in Heaven.

Rom 5:17- “If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” ESV

Even now, God’s children are being positioned to one day take their place in practice as ruling and reigning with Christ over all of His created world…even worlds.

The Resurrection even speaks to death…1 Cor 15:55-57- “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” NASU

Because of the Resurrection your victory over your death has already been won!

Rom 8:37-39- “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” NIV

Most ‘Once Born’ people don’t really understand who ‘Twice Born’ people really are. Do you think that they realize that one day you are going to be ruling and reigning with Christ over His New Earth and New Heavens?

Do you think that they know that the minute you leave this Planet that you will be ushered into the very presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, along with in the presence of all those who have trusted in their Lord and Messiah as their Savior and God through all the ages of mankind’s history?

They also don’t know what you know about them. You know that the minute they leave this planet in death, if they have not become Born Again in Jesus…and become a ‘Twice Born’ person…you know that they will immediately be ushered into Hades. And there they will await the judgment of the Great White Throne judgment, where their sentence in Gehenna will be determined.

That is all the more reason that we need to get the Gospel truths out to them about what they need to know in order to become Born Again, and to then be able to look forward to the resurrection unto eternal life instead of the resurrection unto eternal death.

Matt 28:18-20- “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” NASU


Abraham Kuyper: “There’s not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is Lord over all, does not exclaim, ‘Mine’!” 

Every authority anywhere on earth is now accountable to the One who has ALL AUTHORITY in Heaven and on Earth, the Lord Jesus Christ! And every authority in any position anywhere on Earth is going to stand before Christ, actually bow before Christ, and they will give an account for everything they have ever done that was done against God’s will and against God’s words.


Wisdom is to bow before Christ voluntarily now and commit your life to your Lord and Savior, rather than to bow before Christ involuntarily later and then be sentenced by the Judge of the Universe and separated from your Maker forever.

The day of Resurrection is a day for celebration, but also for a day of recommitment to sharing the message of Salvation and the truths of the Resurrection!



Palm Sunday: A Celebration of Expectations

Palm Sunday: A Celebration of Expectations

Good Friday: A Realization of Revelations

Study Guide, April 2, 2023

Pastor Clay Olsen

The Bread

In the year of 520 B.C. the Prophet Zechariah recorded this: Zech 9:9-10- “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (9) I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; And the bow of war will be cut off. And He will speak peace to the nations; And His dominion will be from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.” NASU

The book of Zechariah is heavy with revelations of the coming Messiah. In fact, Zechariah predicted more about the Messiah than any other prophet except for Isaiah. The people of Israel were called ‘People of the Book’. It was expected that these ‘People of the Book’ would understand these revelations from God about the reality of their own times and about the reality of the times to come…about the future to come…and especially about the Messiah to come. God expected them to understand His revelations, as He also expects us to understand His revelations, so as to be prepared to live in light of them and to also help others prepare to live in the light of God’s teachings and to better understand the times in which we now live and the times that are to come.

But, one of the faults of man’s fallen nature is failing to base our expectations upon God’s revelations. And when you fail to base your expectations upon the revelations of God’s Words to us, you then not only distort reality, but you also set yourself up for great personal and interpersonal conflicts. Which brings us to our example here today of Palm Sunday.

The Old Testament was filled with revelations about two advents of the Messiah, with two separate missions of the Messiah. In one of the most precise revelations of the Messiah’s first advent and first mission, God even gave Daniel a timeline that the ‘People of the Book’ were supposed to pay attention to in order to recognize the time of the Messiah’s visitation. Let’s review: Dan 9:25-26- “”So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing…” NASU And then let’s read the NLT for further clarification: “Now listen and understand! Seven sets of seven plus sixty-two sets of seven will pass from the time the command is given to rebuild Jerusalem until a ruler—the Anointed One—comes. Jerusalem will be rebuilt with streets and strong defenses, despite the perilous times. After this period of sixty-two sets of seven, the Anointed One will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing…”

So God gave His people, and the world really, a timeline for them to follow in order to know when the Messiah would come in His first advent, along with Isaiah’s revelation explaining that His first mission would be to die as a substitutionary sacrifice for us all. The seven sets of seven years plus the sixty-two sets of years from the year in which Ezra received his commission from Artaxerxes Longimanus, king of Persia, to restore and rebuild Jerusalem came to the year 29/30 A.D, the time of Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem and His sacrificial death. God gave them this timeline of both the coming of the Messiah, along with all of the proofs of His identity through His miracles and His message, and the revelation that the Messiah would then be sacrificially killed. And yet, many still did not have ears to hear what the Spirit of God was saying through His prophets. And Jesus rebuked them for it: ‘But you still did not recognize the time of your visitation.’ (Luke 19:44)

The Prophets often gave prophecies in ways that have been described as peaks of mountains right next to each other. A striking example of this is in the two verses of Isa 9:6-7, where each verse speaks of a separate mission of the messiah, of two separate advents and events of the Messiah’s purpose and works. Notice: 6- “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” This reveals the coming of our Mighty God to be our Messiah-God in His first advent. And then we have this: 7 – “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over His kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.” NASU

So now this speaks of the Messiah’s next mission of taking the throne and establishing His kingdom on Earth. It’s like we have here with Zechariah’s prophecy…two advents of the Messiah with two separate missions. And God expected His people of the Book to base their expectations of the Messiah upon His revelations about these two separate missions of the Messiah, not upon bits and pieces of the Scriptures and their own personal preferences, or their deceived notions about what they expected God to be doing.

500 years after Zechariah’s prophecy Jesus entered Jerusalem in the exact manner as the prophet foretold: Matt 21:4-9- “All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.'” So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” NKJV

This was truly a miracle of fulfilled prophecy. And thankfully, many recognized it as such. Some of these ‘People of the Book’ were even using the Messianic Psalm 118 as their praise to their King and Savior, especially those who were now trusting in their Messiah. But then, there were others…others with different expectations. But before we get to the others, let’s also join in this celebration of our Messiah, our Savior and our King, as we partake of the Bread portion of the Lord’s Supper. For we, too, have also called out “Hosanna, Lord, save us”, and He has. Jesus has saved us by His loving sacrifice of His sinless and righteous life so that we could be forgiven of our sins and given life in Him and with Him forever.

Matt 26:26- “While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” NASU

The Cup

Let’s consider some further revelations before we drink of the cup…Now, again, some of those ‘People of the Book’ and others in the crowd truly were calling out ‘Hosanna’ for the Messiah to save them from their sins as the promised Savior who had come. But we know that many others expected something different. They were calling out for Jesus to impose His kingdom now, and to save them from their oppressors and from their personal and national problems. Remember, even some of Jesus’ own followers were still basing their expectations about the Messiah’s mission on parts of prophetic revelation, all the while ignoring the whole of God’s revelation. But friends, when you only look for what you want to see in the Bible and ignore what all God wants you to see, and to then act upon what God had shown you…well then you fall into the pit of your own false expectations. And you set yourself up for troubles of your own making. One example of this was from those whom Jesus talked to on a road after His resurrection. Notice their false expectations: “…our chief priests and rulers gave Him up to be sentenced to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He Who would redeem and set Israel free. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things occurred. Luke 24:20-21 AMP They were falsely hoping and falsely expecting something of God that God had not told them nor promised them. They were not rightly dividing the words of God. And because of their false expectations, they were ruining their lives, and other’s lives, as well as distorting God’s truths.

They had ignored all that the prophets had revealed about the necessity of the Cross for the Messiah before He would return with the Crown as Messiah and King of His new kingdom. They, among many, many others, expected what God had not revealed, but they had ignored what God had revealed…particularly about what we now call ‘Good Friday’. But Isaiah had not ignored it! In fact, Isaiah’s prophecy was to be another key revelation that was intended to go along with Daniel’s timeline of the Messiah plus Zechariah’s presentation of the Messiah. In fact, later when Philip was talking with the Ethiopian Eunuch on the road to Jerusalem, this man had been reading from the prophet Isaiah…Acts 8:32-33- “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He opened not His mouth. In His humiliation His justice was taken away, And who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth.” NKJV

And then he asked Philip: Acts 8:34-35- “…of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.” NKJV Philip the evangelist, began with this Scripture from Isaiah 53 to reveal Jesus and His mission and His message. Of course, we know that Isaiah also reveals: Isa 53:5-6- “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.” NASU

This was the revelation of God about the sacrificial mission that the Suffering Messiah had to complete before He would later return in His sovereign mission to rule over all the earth as King Messiah and Lord of all Heaven and Earth. And God expected His people to know this, and to then communicate this revelation with their world around them. But most didn’t. And since they failed to listen to and follow God’s revelation, they not only suffered unnecessarily for it, but they distorted the mission of the Messiah, and they failed to communicate the message of the Messiah to others around them.

Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and then Resurrection Sunday…are not only the most significant events in the world, together, they are a powerful example to us all of how important it is to base our lives upon the Revelations of God’s Word about His mission and His message to us and to the whole world. And to remind us all, especially in our own personal lives, to be careful to make sure that ‘our present expectations are based upon God’s previous revelations’. Our present expectations must be based upon God’s previous revelations! Otherwise, we only create troubles of our own making by thinking and acting upon our faulty imaginations.

Remember: God’s revelations bless our lives and others, while our faulty expectations and imaginations harm our lives and damage others. We are not only to be called ‘People of the Book’; we are also to live out our lives knowing and doing whatever God has revealed about all of life in His Book.


Matt 26:27-29- “And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” NASU


A Disciple’s Spiritual Fitness Course, Pt. 5

A Disciple’s Spiritual Fitness Course, Pt. 5

Study Guide, March 12, 2023

Pastor Clay Olsen


You’ve got to love all the various ‘identities’ that God has given His children. We are His children, we are His temple, we are His kingdom citizens, we are His branches, we are His chosen ones, we are His soldiers, we are His farmers, and we are His….well, let’s let the Apostle Paul reveal this one to us. In 2 Tim 2:3 and 4 Paul reveals this identity: “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” So there is our ‘soldier’ identity. Then in verses 6 and 7 he says: “The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” And there is our ‘farmer’ identity. But right in between, in verse 5, he reveals this: “Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.” NASU And so now we are also identified as ‘athletes’… we are ‘athletes for God’!

How about that? How does that make you feel? You are an athlete on God’s Team! Which makes ‘Discipleship’ your ‘Sport’! Our ‘life-long sport’ is ‘Discipleship’! And even though it’s not a game, it does involve similar training and discipline, like a sport would require, because training and discipline are what ‘athletes’ do! Which leads us back to our theme passage about our spiritual fitness. 1 Tim 4:8-9- “Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next. This is true, and everyone should accept it.” NLT

And we are also reviewing the Five Disciplines in each of our studies as well. And they are:

The Discipline of Bible study training.

The Discipline of Intercessory prayer.

The Discipline of Body life and service.

The Discipline of Sowing the seed of the Gospel.

The Discipline of Giving: Tithes and Offerings.

And regardless of our physical conditioning, we can and should stay in good spiritual shape. And to help with that, as we saw and handed out in our last study, God has given us those ‘59 One Another’ exercises to help us in doing just that. And as we continue today with this Discipline of Body life and service, our emphasis is on this additional identity as ‘Athletes on God’s Kingdom Team’. Athletes for God! The Apostle Paul reminds us that we are all spiritual athletes. And as we unpack this concept, we see a fascinating picture develop in how we each fit into God’s Kingdom Team. For example: When Jesus said that He was going to build His church and the gates of Hades would not prevail against it, He was talking about His world-wide church, or His universal church. Using our ‘spiritual athletes’ analogy, we could say that Jesus is building His entire ‘Kingdom Team’, or His universal team. In our Discipleship manual that we use for our Church membership classes a very interesting statement is made about Christ’s universal church. Again, the universal church refers to all of God’s ‘Born-Again’ children, regardless of their denomination or location. They are each and all members of God’s Kingdom Church. And we rejoice with our fellow Brothers and Sisters all around our communities and all around the world, and we love and pray for them, and even support them as we are able. But the thing is, the New Testament refers to the church in this ‘universal’ sense only four times. Almost every time you see the word ‘church’ in the Bible it is used to refer to a specific group of believers that were meeting together for the purpose of corporate worship and service and in the practice and training in carrying out those ‘one another’ exercises.1

Let’s put it another way. Paul instructed Titus and other church leaders to go about doing this: “…appoint elders in every city as I directed you.” (Titus 1:5 NASU) And then to the church in Ephesus he wrote this: “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” Eph 4:11-14 NASU

In essence, Paul was enlisting ‘Coaches’ for each of these ‘local teams’ and giving them a ‘game plan’ for their spiritual training and fitness for serving together as ‘team members’ in each of these local ‘church teams’! Since these children of God were also ‘athletes for God’ we can very well think of these churches as ‘Team Ephesus’ or ‘Team Philippi’ or ‘Team Colossae’. Even the Seven Churches of Revelation were examples of real churches in real locations where believers were connected as participating members of that local team – as in, ‘Team Smyrna’, ‘Team Pergamum’, ‘Team Sardis’, and so on. And as such, we could think of our own Chapel family as ‘Team Chapel By The Sea’, along with other ‘church teams’ in the towns around us. That has a good ring to it, doesn’t it? ‘Team Chapel’ or ‘Team CBTS’!

But you see where we are going with this…God’s game plan is to build His universal Kingdom Team by building up and working through His local Kingdom Teams. Yes, each of God’s athletes are part of His global team, but they are also to play for and be a part of one of His local teams, just like we see with each of the New Testament churches, or these New Testament ‘church teams’. And certainly, there are times when God’s athletes are injured or times in life when a Christian athlete is physically unable to practice and train with the team…and that is both understandable and, of course, that is taken into account by God. So, no worries about that. Some things are beyond an athlete’s choice about their participation.

But for every athlete that can and has the opportunity, well, if you are an athlete for God, then you are to practice with a church team and play for a church team, because that’s a central part of what God’s athletes do. Hebrews 10:24-25 puts it this way: “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.” NLT

You see, a major part of our spiritual fitness depends upon practicing and training, worshipping and serving as a ‘team member’ of a local church team. And this discipline is to become even more and more central in our lives because the day of Christ’s return is drawing nearer and nearer. Christianity is a team sport, where Christians are to be working out and training with a local team in order for God to use them to compete against, not each other, but against the opponents of the world, the flesh, and the devil. And make very careful note of that, because the stakes are far higher than trophies or individual or group accolades…the stakes are souls and victories over the works of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Again, though God’s teams are not competing against each other, they are to work as a team, serve as a team, and fight the good fight of faith as a team, and in support of God’s other ‘church teams’. And remember what they say… “Teamwork makes the dream work!”

So again, you are an athlete on God’s universal Kingdom Team. But you are also an athlete that is to play for, to practice, and to train with one of God’s local teams. And that team needs you, needs your gifts, your talents, and your abilities. And you need that team in the development of your gifts, talents, and abilities, because the Christian life is a ‘team effort’, a ‘team service, and a ‘team ministry’.

Now then, this gets really fascinating when we consider that the Apostle Paul lived in the Roman world. And yes, they also had the Greek games that had gone on for hundreds of years already, but in the Roman world there was one particular emphasis on one particular kind of athlete: the Gladiator. Oh yes, Gladiators were also viewed as ‘athletes’. And although there were Gladiators that fought individually, Gladiators also oftentimes fought in teams…both men and women. In Paul’s discussion of the Resurrection with the Corinthians he makes reference to him and other brethren fighting against wild beasts in Ephesus. No doubt, he used that as an allusion to fighting against false teachings and false teachers, but also in this sense it was like a team of Gladiators fighting against wild beasts.

So here’s the deal: We are athletes for God. But we live not on a playing field…no, we live on a battlefield. And thus, we are not athletes only, but we are soldier athletes. Often Gladiators were used in the training of Roman soldiers and served as soldiers themselves. As such we are to become battle hardened, like a Soldier Gladiator, one who has trained for battle, one who has trained with fellow brother and sister Gladiators, and one who has especially trained in the use of ‘the sword’. And all of this gives even more force to what we find in Eph 6:11-17- “Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” NLT

That’s another reason we are to daily train in the study of the Word of God and to also train together in the learning and application of the Word of God, and then share the Word of God in all the ways we can with others. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Heb 4:12-13 NASU The sword of the Word both pierces through falsehoods of those who reject it and also brings peace to those souls who receive it. The goal of a soldier athlete was to become as proficient as possible in the use of ‘the sword’. The goal of the Christian soldier athlete is to also become as proficient as possible in the use of ‘the sword of the Word of God’!

And in this we also see then that Christians who are spiritually untrained or neglectful of their spiritual fitness are ill equipped to do the kind of battle against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against the mighty powers in this dark world, against the evil spirits in the heavenly places which wage war against our souls and the souls of those we love. Like a Gladiator soldier that trained individually and with his fellow Gladiators, we, too, are to train individually and together with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

And in a very real sense, we, too, live our lives in an arena, in a colosseum of not only a watching world around us, but also a watching world above us. What do we mean? Notice Heb 12:1-2- “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” NASU

Remarkable, right? And here we have an example of a primary interpretation, but also of secondary applications. We had just been told of a great cloud or crowd of witness in chapter 11 about the heroes of the faith, so certainly we are to find inspiration in these examples of the lives of the faithful works of these brothers and sisters in the faith. But as renown Pastor and Bible Teacher, Dr. Harry A. Ironside pointed out, the apostle clearly seems to indicate to us that there is a sense in which we are surrounded even now by a great crowd of spectators in Heaven who apparently are looking down upon us, while themselves witnessing to the grandeur of a life of faith. 2

How about that? And although that is not precisely stated, still we clearly know that our lives are clearly being observed by the Angels of God, the Angelic Watchers. And Luke records that Abraham certainly knew what was going on, on Earth, in the account of Lazarus and the unsaved rich man and his family. Oh yes, it would be very consistent, if not all the time, but at times if God’s children already Home would be cheering for God’s children not yet home…cheering for God’s children still on Earth as they stand firm against the strategies of the devil…as they fight against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, as they do battle against the mighty powers and evil spirits of this dark world, as they put on the belt of truth and wear the armor of God’s righteousness, as they put on the shoes of peace and share the good news of the Gospel of Christ…and as they use their shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil, all the while rejoicing under the helmet of their salvation and training with and daily using the sword of the spirit, the Word of God!

Brothers and Sisters, Earth is a Colosseum, and we are being watched and cheered on by God’s Angels for sure, and no doubt, at times by those believers who have gone before us and are cheering for you and for me as we individually train in the disciplines of discipleship and train together with our church teams in the service of discipleship. How great of motivation is that? Perhaps we need to be praying for ‘the hearing of the cheering’ by the great crowd of witnesses who are watching us in this Colosseum of Earth, this Arena of Earth! For both in our public times and even in our quiet times, our God, His Angels, and His children already Home, are cheering for us children who are still away from Home yet fighting the good fight of faith in a foreign land in front of a watching world.

Brothers and Sisters, if you haven’t heard the cheering for you, you haven’t been listening for it. We are to not only set our eyes on the things above, but our ears as well. The Heavenly cheering will motivate you for your earthly training in spiritual fitness and in godly living more than you can even think or imagine. So add ‘listening to the hearing of the cheering’ to your daily spiritual fitness program and watch what it does to your progress and your PR’s…your personal records and spiritual growth!

  1. Gleaned from Membership Classes material of the Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, CA
  2. Ironside Commentaries, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2012 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.

A Disciple’s Spiritual Fitness Course, Pt. 4

A Disciple’s Spiritual Fitness Course, Pt. 4

Study Guide, March 5, 2023

Pastor Clay Olsen


Yogi Berra…when you hear the name many will recognize it as the Baseball Hall of Fame catcher for the New York Yankees, who later served as a Manager and Coach for other teams as well. But he is also known for what is called his ‘Yogi-isms’…his memorable sayings that, well, were just ‘off of home plate’ a little bit you might say. Here are some examples: “If people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them.” Here’s another one he said: “A home opener is always exciting, no matter if it’s home or on the road.” And he said of one player, “He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious!” Or when he was out on the ballfield he said, “It gets late early out here.” Another time he said: “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” But his most famous Yogi-ism is no doubt what he said about playing the game of baseball itself. He said: “Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.”

There you go! Now, that adds up, right? But the thing is, everyone always got the gist of whatever it was he said, even though what he said oftentimes sounded a little unusual. But oftentimes when you talk to people about having a spiritual fitness program or following a spiritual fitness course, they think that sounds a little off, maybe a bit unusual, too. But that’s just because people don’t often attribute the same importance to staying spiritually fit as they do to staying physically fit. Yet, how irrational to focus on the fitness of the body without also focusing on the fitness of the soul! The human being is not body only, but body and soul…two parts – ‘dichotomous! Actually, a Born-Again follower of Christ is really body, soul, and spirit…three parts -‘trichotomous’. You could say a person who has not yet been Born-Again is also a ‘trichotomous’ being, but in a different sense, since his or her ‘spirit’ is still ‘dead’ or ‘separated’ from the life of Christ. But notice how a Christ follower, or one who has had his or her spirit brought to life in union with Christ, is described in 1 Thess. 5:23- “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” NASU And notice the order here…spirit, soul, body. Each part is to be cared for as best as we are able, but still, there is to be a priority in the ‘fitness focus’ for each…spirit, soul, and body!

But, again, the point is that it is only rational and logical that, as Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ…that we focus on the spiritual fitness of our lives just as much as on the physical fitness of our lives…even more so, as we see in our theme passage. 1 Tim 4:7-10- “Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next. This is true, and everyone should accept it.” NLT

And so this brings us back to our exercises for the third discipline of the Disciple’s Fitness Course. But let’s review the five disciplines:

The Discipline of Bible study training.

The Discipline of Intercessory prayer.

The Discipline of Body life and service.

The Discipline of Sowing the seed of the Gospel.

The Discipline of Giving; tithes and offerings.

And do you remember the acrostic? BIBSG! That’s our new spiritual fitness word: BIBSG! Okay, so let’s now identify some exercises in order to be spiritually fit in the discipline of Body life and service. And, of course, it begins with our identity in this discipline, remember? A Christian is a ‘Family Member’ of God’s Kingdom Family. And naturally, along with being a ‘Family Member’ comes responsibilities of being a member of God’s family. And certainly, we have the responsibility to represent our God and His will to all people around us, as well as to seek to do good to all people around us, but we have a particular responsibility to one particular people. What do we mean? We go to what the Apostle Paul revealed about it in Gal 6:10- “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” NASU And for even more clarification, look at how the NLT puts it: “Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters.”

So there we have it, our marching orders, or our spiritual exercise program for this Discipline of Body life and service. Now, I didn’t count them, but others have, and they have found that in the New Testament there are 59 ‘One Another’ instructions to the family of God. That’s right…59 instructions or ‘responsibilities’ of believers to act on in relation to their fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ! We have printed them out and will include them in the Study Guides. Now, in reading through them you might wonder about one of them – the curious mention of ‘greeting one another with a holy kiss’. That always sounds a bit odd to us in America. But in Middle Eastern culture and even some European countries, this expression of friendship is quite common. But in Western culture…not so much. It simply referred to a expression of friendship and fellowship, much like our handshakes or hugs. Just a little clarification there to put you at ease…

But as for these 59 instructions, for one thing, if you have ever wondered what a Follower of Christ ought to be doing with their time and life…well, here are 59 activities to get you started…and to keep you moving in your ministry to the family of God. Plus, in relation to our Spiritual Fitness Course, we could also view these as ‘59 exercises’ that are essential to our Spiritual Fitness. For these ‘One Another’ exercises…and also ‘commandments’, are given to each of us by God, who is our ultimate ‘Personal Trainer’. And remember how merciful and helpful our God is about it all, because God has not only given us this ‘spiritual work-out program’ for our lives, He has also promised to assist us as we put forth the effort to do these exercises. Remember that great encouragement of Eph 3:20- “Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” NLT

A lot of these ‘one another’s’ seem to be beyond what we think we can pull off or actually do. And we would be thinking right about that! Just saying… But, Praise God, there is more at work in you and in me than you and I often think there is! God is at work in His children and through His children, if His children will do what He is calling us to do. And here’s the thing: we do it not by our might, nor by our strength, but by His power through our faith! Amen? Which also means then that we are to act, not by how we feel about what we are to do for ‘one other’, but we are to act in faith about whatever God calls for us to do for ‘one another’! And ‘Faith’ takes us much further than our ‘feelings’ ever could or possibly can!

Interestingly enough, the Navy Seals have a rule that’s called ‘The 40% Rule’. The 40% rule states: ‘When your mind is telling you that you’re done, that you’re exhausted, that you cannot possibly go any further, you’re only actually 40% done.’ And it goes on to explain that the human mind is an amazing thing. It both propels us forward and holds us back. The 40% rule reminds us that no matter how exhausted we might feel, it is always possible to draw on an untapped reserve of energy, motivation, and drive that we all possess. Actually, many businesses also use this rule in their employee training, and sports programs use it with their athletes, and so on.

Now then, since our God so graciously created the natural man with such remarkable resources, how much more will God do and work through the spiritual man, the believer who has had his or her spirit and soul reborn and reunited to God’s own life and spirit? How much more will God help us to exercise these 59 ‘one another’s’ in our spiritual fitness workouts in serving and ministering to God’s other family members? How much more? Well, remember, like this much more: “(For our God) is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. To Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Eph 3:20-21 NKJV

How often have you heard people in the Gym say something like: “I didn’t think I could lift that amount of weight”, or “I didn’t think I could do that many reps…” Or a Marathon runner say, “I didn’t think I had anything left at 16 miles, but something helped me finish the 26th!” Again, if that happens in the natural realm, just think what can happen in the supernatural realm, where God’s athletes choose to act in faith to exercise their spiritual gifts and talents and abilities to build up the body of Christ in obedience to God and in blessings to all. Plus, as God’s people work on building up one another spiritually and physically, a watching world then sees what a Kingdom Man or a Kingdom Woman looks like as they serve their King and others around them.

But to do Kingdom works. or to do Kingdom exercises in the doing of good to all men, and especially to those in the household of faith, we must not be ‘feelings driven’ about it but be ‘faith driven’ about it. In using 40% Rule analogy, your feelings will run out at about 40%. And that’s when you need to draw upon the 60%, or to act upon your faith in the promises of God’s Word and rely upon the power of God’s Spirit to enable you to obey your God 100%!

Now, we’re just using this as an illustration of course, but you get the gist of what we’re saying: feelings alone won’t get you to obedience. And we’re using ‘feelings’ in the sense of our emotions, thoughts, personal opinions…basically, our human reasoning about things. That’s basically the human default way of dealing with life…it’s the natural way that people deal with other people. But that will only take you 40% of where you need to go, or how you need to deal with others, or even to rightly act upon your discipleship. And yet even Christians so often just do what’s natural to them in how they treat other’s around them and even those in the household of faith. It’s like they are only giving about 40% of the effort that they ought to be giving in how they are treating others, because that’s as far as their feelings and reasoning will take them. Rather, we need to go past our feelings and act upon our faith…act upon God’s revelation and God’s instructions, all the while relying upon the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to think, do, and say what we need to be thinking, doing, and saying to all people, but especially to our fellow Brothers and Sisters in Christ! Remember, Jesus never asked His disciples if they liked each other before He commanded them to love one another, meaning – to sacrificially serve one another.

In order for you to 100% obey God, the bulk of your daily spiritual exercises, at least the 60% of it, is going to have to be done by faith over and above your 40% natural feelings tendencies! Certainly, it all should be ‘by faith’, but you get what we’re saying here. Don’t let your natural feelings or attitude or opinions about others, especially about your eternal family members, determine how far you go in doing good for them and in serving them. Reach deeper into the resources of your faith, and of God’s instructions, and rely upon God’s power to do what God is holding you responsible for doing in your ‘One Another’ ministry as a Family Member of His Kingdom family!

As a Disciple of Jesus Christ and a Family Member of God’s family we each have a ‘One Another’ ministry! And God is looking for each of us to become more and more spiritually fit in practicing these 59 ‘one another’s’! And this is a life-long course, of course, but we do it by exercising in it a little bit every day. And although, some of it may seem a little daunting, here is some encouragement by another personal trainer of ours, the Apostle Paul. Look what he says to you and to me about all of this. “Personally I am satisfied about you, my brethren, that you yourselves are rich in goodness, amply filled with all [spiritual] knowledge and competent to admonish and counsel and instruct one another also.” Rom 15:14 AMP It’s like Paul is saying to us: “You got this…by the grace of God of course…but you can do this! Just one more rep…just one more mile…just one more lift of your Brother’s burden…just one more prayer for your Sister’s need…just one more message of counsel or encouragement, just one more day of devotion to your Lord and Savior…and so on. And don’t just do it when or if you feel like it, do it by faith in obedience to your God and for the sake of your Savior. Show love to one another, whether you like them or not. This is how the world will know that this is different, that you are different, that you must be a follower of Christ. (Jn 13:35) Honor one another above yourself, while most people are trying to exult themselves above others. (Rom.12:10) Be forgiving toward one another, instead of holding grudges like those in the world without God naturally do. (Eph 4:32) In humility consider others more important than yourself, and stop focusing on just your own interests, but also of the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:3)

Those are just a few examples of the exercises God has given us to do, to both develop in our spiritual fitness and to be vessels of usefulness in our service to God. And remember, it is really God Himself working through us as He seeks to accomplish these ‘one another’s’ in others around us. You see, God wants others to experience His love, but He has chosen to do that through you and me. And if we let our feelings of if we like someone or not determine how far we will go, then we have limited what God is trying to do through us. God wants others around us to experience how significant and valued they are to Him by using us to communicate that to them by how we talk to them and how we treat them. But if we only do that as far as we feel good about someone then we have denied God’s intention to get their attention through us. And God wants to show others something of the lengths that Jesus Christ went to in His sacrifice for the forgiveness of sinners by having us offering the sacrifice of forgiveness to those who sin against us. But if we simply hold grudges and harbor bitterness against them we then close the door to God in His desire to use us to show them something of His love and forgiveness which can change their life for good, perhaps forever!

The ‘One Another’ commandments for us to obey are primarily about the ‘One’ who loves us, about the ‘One’ who died for us, about the ‘One’ who saved us, and then calls us to no longer live for ourselves, but to live for Him by living out His ‘One Another’ instructions for our lives. Whatever we do for ‘one another’ we also do for the ‘One’ who is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And the more that we seek to do this, the stronger and more spiritually fit we become, the more the family of God is built up, and the more a watching world will witness God at work through His Family Members.

And remember something that will help you with your ‘one another exercises’: Behind every person…behind every ‘one’ that you serve, is thee ‘One’ who loves you and gave His life for you so that you could become His child forever. So whatever you do, and whoever it is that you are serving, do it first for Jesus, and that will push you way past the 40% rule.

A Disciples Spiritual Fitness Course, Pt. 3

A Disciples Spiritual Fitness Course, Pt. 3

Study Guide, February 19, 2023

Pastor Clay Olsen


As I was thinking about our next discipline of spiritual fitness, the discipline of intercessory prayer, I was looking at some various articles, studies, verses, and such in thinking about how to organize it. I couldn’t quite figure how to approach all the information on prayer. And then an idea came to me; Pray about it… You know, sometimes you just trip over the step you’re supposed to walk on…

Now, since this series is about how we can keep spiritually fit, it needs to be laid out in such a way that’s easy to remember and practical to do. That’s why each of the first letters of each of the 5 disciplines go together to make a word that’s easy to remember: BIBSG. That is not a word, but hopefully if you repeat it enough, it’ll get easier to remember over time. But each one is very practical to do because God created us to practice these disciplines. And we’re going to review all five in each study so as to engrain them into our thinking, along with our theme passage.

1 Tim 4:8,9- “Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next. This is true, and everyone should accept it.” NLT

And the 5 Disciplines of Spiritual Fitness are:

The Discipline of Bible study training.

The Discipline of Intercessory prayer.

The Discipline of Body life and service.

The Discipline of Sowing the seed of the Gospel.

The Discipline of Giving; tithes and offerings. BIBSG

So there is it, a new word…BIBSG! It even has a vowel. But now, let’s examine the discipline of intercessory prayer. What is intercession? Right, it’s intervening on behalf of another person. It’s like when there’s a huge spider in the kitchen and your wife calls for you to come and fellowship with it…or do something with it. Well, not exactly, but Intercession is basically being the mediator between two parties, especially acting on behalf of one party to the other. There’s actually a picture of intercessory prayer in Scripture. Look at this: Mark 2:3-4- “And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying.” NASU That’s intercession! So intercessory prayer is like carrying people on a pallet or a mat to the Lord with whatever request you are making on their behalf.

But we are getting a little ahead of ourselves here, so let’s back up the wagon. There is something very crucial here in this whole picture of intercessory prayer, and it’s this. Maybe we could put it this way; Purpose and function follow what? For a follower of Christ, purpose and function follow ‘Identity’. A key teaching in the Scriptures is that who you are determines what you do. Interestingly enough, for each of the disciplines that we are to practice there is a corresponding identity. In the Discipline of Bible study training, we are a ‘Disciple’, a learner, a student of the Word of God. We’ll explore the second in a moment, but in the third, the Discipline of Body life and service, we a ‘Family Member’, or a ‘Brother or Sister in Christ’. And we are our brother or sister’s keeper. In the Discipline of Sowing the seed of the Gospel we are ‘a Sower’. It is the function of the Sower to set out each day to sow the seed. And then in the Discipline of Giving tithes and offerings we are the ‘Cheerful Giver’. 2 Cor 9:7- “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” NIV We notice here that the percentage of our giving is not compulsory, but the discipline is mandatory. And we’ll explore more about that later. And so now, for our study today, we find that the identity the Scriptures give us for the Discipline of Intercessory Prayer is that we are a ‘New Testament Priest’. 1 Peter 2:5- “And now God is building you, as living stones, into His spiritual temple. What’s more, you are God’s holy priests, who offer the spiritual sacrifices that please Him because of Jesus Christ.” NLT

You knew that about yourself didn’t you, that you are a New Testament priest? One of the chief functions of the priest was intercessory prayer, praying on behalf of others. Samuel was both prophet and priest and remember what he said about his discipline or responsibility to pray for the people? 1 Sam 12:23- “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you.” NIV

Somehow, a lot of Christians tend to think about praying for others as something that’s optional. If they think about praying for others, or feel like praying for them, or get around to praying for others, then they do. Otherwise, they don’t. Not so for a New Testament Priest. Failing to intercede in prayer for others is sin. Intercessory prayer is not an option; it is what priests do! Intercessory praying is priestly duty. Our identity determines our function, remember?

Okay, so how do we practice intercessory prayer? How can we keep spiritually fit in intercessory prayer? Well, a main part of it is our vision. What do we mean by that? What kind of vision do you have…20/20, 20/10…? By the way, have you ever wondered what 20/20 vision means anyway? Basically, by looking at lots of people, eye doctors have determined what a “normal” human being should be able to see when standing 20 feet away from an eye chart. If you have 20/20 vision, it means that when you stand 20 feet away from the chart you can see what the ‘normal’ human being can see. In other words, your vision is ‘normal’ — most people can see what you see at 20 feet. If you had 20/40 vision what a normal person could see at 40 feet you would have to see it at 20 feet. 20/200 is the cutoff for legal blindness. But if you had 20/10 vision then what others saw at 10 feet you could see at 20 feet. And if you had 20/2 vision, then you would be a Hawk. Birds have that vision, people don’t. That would be great, though, wouldn’t it? ‘Hawkeye vision’

Anyway, the kind of vision a New Testament priest is supposed to have is ‘Prayer Vision’. You and I are supposed to see people through the eyes of prayer. That’s how the Lord Jesus saw people, remember? Matt 9:36- “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” NASU

When Jesus looked at people, He didn’t just look at them in terms of their appearance or their accomplishments or their reputation. He looked at them in terms of their ‘needs’. When He saw ‘people’, He saw ‘needs’. That’s how we are to look at people, in terms of what needs there might be in their lives. Now, certainly Jesus could see far more than we can see. But still, we can practice looking at people in terms of their needs, of what those needs might be, and then, through our prayer vision, intercede for them in prayer based upon their needs. And since we are priests, that’s what we do…priests pray!

Okay, so priests pray. Of course, we are aware of some of the needs of our family and friends and such that we know, but how are we supposed to know what the needs are of people that we don’t know very well, or don’t know at all, like people on the streets around us that we see from day to day? How can we intercede for people we don’t know? There is a help for us in thinking about what the needs of others are.

There is a way that we really can look at everyone around us through the eyes of prayer, with prayer vision. It has to do with ‘image’. And no, not ‘image’ in terms of someone’s external image or their reputation and such, but another kind of image. This is the image we are talking about: Gen 1:27- “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” NASU That’s the image we are talking about. And though that image was effaced by sin, it was not erased, as Dr. Norman Geisler often said. And so that’s the image we are to be praying about, interceding for others concerning things about that image in which God created them, as we carry out our priestly duties of intercessory prayer.

So what is the image? There are five areas of the human being that reflect the image of God, although one was still future when man was created. Did you ever stop to think about the fact that when God was creating Adam and Eve, He was creating the body that not only mankind would indwell, but He was also creating the body that He Himself would one day indwell for the rest of Eternity? Amazing! He was creating a body also for Himself, for the day when God would become flesh, incarnate in Jesus Christ, and would forever remain in the human form, resurrected, yes, but forever being both physical as well as spiritual. So that gives us five areas that make up the image of God. And they are: Mental, Emotional, Volitional, Spiritual, and Physical. Certainly, the image of God Himself in Genesis did not yet include the physical, but it sure does now in the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ!

What we are saying is this: When we see people we should see them and think of them in terms of their image, or in terms of what their needs might be in these five areas of their life. What might their needs be in the mental aspect of their life; the way they think, what they’ve learned, what kind of ‘worldview’ do they have? Do they show that they have a Biblical Worldview, or something way off from that? Does it seem they have conformed more to the world than to their Creator? How about praying that they would “…not be conformed to this world, but (would) be transformed by the renewing of (their) your mind, so that (they could discover) you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Rom 12:2 NASU

Or for your brothers and sisters in Christ you could pray what Paul prayed in Eph 1:16-18 NLT: “I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the wonderful future He has promised to those He called. I want you to realize what a rich and glorious inheritance He has given to His people.” I’d love to have people praying that for me!

Then, what might their needs be in their emotional life? What’s their emotional health like? Are they discouraged, distressed, lonely, fearful, and so on? You could pray Isaiah 61 for their emotional life: Isa 61:1-3- “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” NIV

Or then, What do you see in the volitional aspect of their life? Do they seem willing to do the Lord’s will? Do they exhibit a surrendered will to their Creator, or is there a lot of self-will on display in their life, one that needs to be broken and humble in order to be in right relationship with God and others? Like this from Phil 2:5-8 NASU: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” That’s the kind of surrendered will that you should pray about for everyone to have.

And then what needs are you aware of in this person’s physical life? This is of course the most visible, and we can pray for their healings or other physical needs, financial needs, and so on. Remember the Apostle John’s great prayerful greeting about this? 3 John 2- “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” NASU This is also a great way to start or end a letter to other believers. It’s prayer-talk!

And of course, then think of what this person’s spiritual needs might be. And I encourage you to always start with praying about a person’s spiritual needs. Pray first about their spiritual life. Pray they have been born again. Every person’s greatest need is the need to be made spiritually alive again, to be spiritually reborn. John 3:3,5- “Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God… he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” NASU So When you see someone, anyone, think and pray something like: “Lord, I wonder if this person has been spiritually reborn? I pray that this person is born again. If not, may this prayer help lead to his or her being born again into the family of God.”

This spiritual relationship with God is what was ‘lost’ in the Fall of Man in sin. And subsequently then, their holy moral nature also. The New Birth restores the eternal spiritual relationship with God at salvation. For that is a spiritual rebirth that occurs when a person turns from sin and self in repentance toward God and trusts in Jesus’ sinless life and substitutionary death for their forgiveness and their eternal life in Christ. (Turn and Trust…Turn from sin and self, trust in Christ for forgiveness and eternal life) But the other part of the ‘image of God’, the ‘holy moral nature’…and that is an ongoing, life-long pursuit. This requires a life of ‘sanctification, in which the Born-Again believer grows and develops over time in godliness and holiness, as he or she commits to allowing God the Holy Spirit to be more and more in control of their thoughts and deeds.

Let’s wrap this discipline up for today.

Again, the point of our identity as New Testament Priests is that it is our duty to practice intercessory prayer. As we see other people or think about other people, we should think of them in terms of their image, that is, their created image, the five areas of their life, and then how we can pray about those areas. Look at others through your ‘prayer vision’. Maybe that vision is not yet 20/20 prayer vision…maybe more like 20/40 or 20/80, hopefully not 20/200. But the more you use your prayer vision and practice praying for people’s mental, emotional, volitional, physical, and spiritual needs…spiritual being first of course, the better your prayer vision will be, maybe more like 20/10 or even sharper, 20/2, like a hawk’s or eagle’s vision. God says He will enable us to spiritually mount up like with the wings of an eagle for spiritual living, remember? No doubt that includes our prayer vision!

But also, the more spiritually fit you are in intercessory praying, the greater your eternal influence will be on the lives of others around you, as well as the greater the change will be in you in becoming more and more conformed to the image of Christ, Who, Himself, saw others through the eyes of prayer.

1 Tim 2:1-5- “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone, for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” NIV

A Disciple’s Spiritual Fitness Course, Pt. 2

A Disciple’s Spiritual Fitness Course, Pt. 2

Study Guide, February 12, 2023

Pastor Clay Olsen


People think about ‘fitness’ in different ways. One commented: “I just saw three people jogging outside, and it inspired me to get up and close the blinds.” Another said: “Exercise in the morning before your brain figures out what you are doing.” And one said: “Oh, did you say ‘Exercise’? I thought you said ‘Extra Fries’. Or this guy put it this way: “I’m trying to simplify my life. I condensed my six pack abs into one!” Then, you have a little more upbeat statements like: “Life is short. Lift heavy things!” And “Fall in love with the process, and the results will come.” Or, “The only bad workout is the one that didn’t happen.” Or then there’s the Marine’s take on it all: “Pain is just weakness leaving the body.” Oorah!

Either way, fitness definitely is a discipline of life. And when you think about ‘disciplines’, who should be more committed to life’s disciplines than Disciples of Jesus Christ? Particularly, committed to the disciplines that develop Spiritual Fitness.

So here we go with some more exercises in our exploration of the 5 Disciplines of Spiritual Fitness.

We were discussing the Discipline of Bible study training in our last study time together. So let’s continue on that one…But first, let’s read the theme passage again:1 Tim 4:7-9- “Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next. This is true, and everyone should accept it.” NLT

Now, it’s really interesting how the Living Bible puts it. Listen to this: 1 Tim 4:7-9- “Spend your time and energy in the exercise of keeping spiritually fit. Bodily exercise is all right, but spiritual exercise is much more important and is a tonic for all you do. So exercise yourself spiritually, and practice being a better Christian because that will help you not only now in this life, but in the next life too.” TLB

A tonic? How about that? One of the definitions of a tonic is, ‘a medicine that strengthens and invigorates’. Well, that sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Who couldn’t use some of that? Well, Paul says that there is a way to get strengthened and invigorated for all of the things you have to do in life: train yourself in Spiritual Fitness. Practice the Disciplines of Spiritual Fitness and it will be a tonic for all you do. You’ll experience spiritual endorphins.

What are endorphins? By definition an endorphin is a neurochemical occurring naturally in the brain and having analgesic properties. There’s that ‘tonic’ idea again. But what a great benefit God has built into being spiritually disciplined. When we put some spiritual effort into getting our spiritual act together, not only does it bless God and bless our family and others around us, but these spiritual endorphins are activated which then strengthen and invigorate us as well. It even acts like an analgesic, relieving the pain that comes from battling the world, the flesh, and the devil. What a deal!

We were looking at the Bible in terms of the fact that the Bible represents what God wants us to know about the Past, Present, and the Future. Just think, God spoke the world and Universe into existence in 6 days, but He took over 1,500 years to speak the Scriptures into existence through His prophets and apostles. The Scriptures, the Word of God, the Bible is the ultimate wonder of the Universe! This eternal book contains the very words of God! And it is more valuable than all the planets and galaxies in the Universe put together. And we have it right in our own hands! So our goal…or our fitness goal is – to get more and more of what is in our hands into more and more of our hearts and our minds.

So let’s dig into the treasure. Let’s consider ‘The Past’. As you grow in your spiritual fitness, your focus of Biblical study should be on learning and understanding more about what God has revealed to us in His Word about ‘The Past’. Remember history is really “His Story!” You know, many Christians need to sort of make up with the Old Testament. They don’t seem to get along very well with the Old Testament. The Old Testament is probably the least understood body of literature in print. It’s gotten a bad rap from many people. There are a lot of believers who need to fall in love afresh with the Old Testament, and for some others, to fall in love anew with it.

Here’s a clue as to how you can tell if you have come to the place where you have the right attitude toward the Old Testament. When you can embrace these next statements as your own, then you’ll be in a right relationship with the Old Testament:

Ps 119:14-16- “I delight in following your commands more than in having great wealth. I study your instructions; I examine your teachings. I take pleasure in your laws; Your commands I will not forget.” TEV

Ps 119:97-100- “Oh, how I love your law! I think about it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for your commands are my constant guide. Yes, I have more insight than my teachers, for I am always thinking of your decrees. I am even wiser than my elders, for I have kept your commandments.”

Ps 119:103- “How sweet are your words to my taste; they are sweeter than honey.

Ps 105-106 – “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path. I’ve promised it once, and I’ll promise again: I will obey your wonderful laws.” NLT

That, of course, was the Psalmist’s attitude toward the Old Testament. A man, who in fact, God called, “a man after God’s own heart.” But think about it, since David lived about 1,000 BC it means he was referring mostly to the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, and perhaps the writings of Job, as well. He loved the writings of Genesis and Numbers and even Leviticus!

Do you remember what the Apostle Paul said about the Old Testament?

Rom 15:4- “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” NASU Paul links three specific virtues or qualities to the instruction we receive from the Old Testament: perseverance, encouragement, and hope! Do you see what he is saying? When you have a diet that leaves out certain food groups, like vegetables and such, you then become deficient in some important vitamins and helps for the body. In a similar way, a spiritual diet that doesn’t include feeding on the Old Testament can be the reason for a deficiency in perseverance and encouragement and even hope!

In our quick fix, instant gratification society, most people are pretty deficient in perseverance and encouragement and hope. But if you are feeding on say, the book of Numbers, you come across a guy like Caleb, who had the promise from God to enter the Promised Land. But because of the unfaithfulness of his comrades, he had to wander around a desert serving a bunch of grumblers for 40 years before he ever tasted of the promise. But he did it, and he did it obediently, and he built up a powerful testimony of faith. Caleb’s life is a picture of perseverance and encouragement and hope.

One thing we learn from the Old Testament is that God is not in a hurry. He grows things, sometimes slowly, but eternally! The instruction of the Old Testament characters teaches us to slow down in our expectations about what we think God ought to be doing and when. And when we slow down our expectations…guess what…it revs up our perseverance, as well as our ability to be encouraged, and then to also be better able to encourage others. Plus, we grow stronger in hope because we know that God is still working on our behalf and we can trust God in that, and we can trust His promises and His timing just like Caleb did. And as we trust and obey God, God will then single you out and say to others like He did with Caleb: Num 14:24- “But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.” NIV How wonderful to hear God say that, right?

Now certainly, every child of God is special to God. But some are also different. Through their persistent faith and their disciplines of obedience, they have a different spirit. It’s a spirit that has been developed and tested and toughened because of their loyalty, their trust, their perseverance, and their love for God and for God’s Word. Could God say that about you? God has a lot of Born-Again children, and He loves them all. But not all of them are as obedient and disciplined as He desires them to be. And yet, some are striving to be that…striving to trust and obey their Savior more and more. And, you see, that is the difference that gives them a ‘different spirit’, which then delights their Savior and will be greatly rewarded by their Savior for all of their diligence and discipline.

So the Old Testament reveals what God wants us to know about things like His creation of the Universe and His plans for it all. In fact, the rest of the Bible is really the expansion of God’s purposes for the world and the development of the institutions that He created and established in the first eleven chapters of Genesis. We really need to get to know those eleven chapters. It is also from the Old Testament that we learn much about the character of God, as we see Him dealing with people and nations.

It is the strangest thing how some people think God sort of underwent a personality change in the New Testament. Like they think the God of the Old Testament was a God of judgment, but in the New Testament He somehow changed into a God of love. But the Jehovah of the Old Testament is the same Jehovah of the New Testament. Jesus said: “I tell you the truth…before Abraham was born, I am!” John 8:58 And Heb 13:8 tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” NLT God does not change. God has not changed. Certainly, His plans for the nations, for Israel, and for the Church, have developmental differences and promises specific to God’s plans for each. But as for God Himself, He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Seek to understand what God was doing in the past, what He wants you to understand about the past, and what it means for your life today. Remember the age- old proverb; ‘You cannot understand the present without understanding the past.’ And, as has been aptly stated: The New Testament is in the Old Testament concealed, and the Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed.

We also need to look at studying the Scriptures to find out everything God wants us to know about The Present. Listen to a few of the Proverbs about that:

Prov 4:7- “Getting wisdom is the most important thing you can do! And whatever else you do, get good judgment.” NLT

Prov 2:2-5- “Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight and understanding. Search for them as you would for lost money or hidden treasure. Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD, and you will gain knowledge of God.” NASU

Remember, wisdom is the application of knowledge. So when you acquire God’s knowledge about life in the present, commit also to applying that knowledge to your present life, and you’ll then acquire wisdom. Like: What kinds of things are we looking for in the Scriptures specifically about the present that we can apply? We should be looking for things such as; Is there: A promise I can call my own; A command for me to obey; A blessing I can enjoy; A failure from which I can learn; A sin I should keep away from; A victory for me to win; A new thought about the Father, the Lord Jesus, or the Holy Spirit; A new insight about human nature or our Angel allies or about Satan and his demonic forces; or A truth in the passage that has greatly affected me?

Think of it this way; Yes, the Bible is God’s revelation to mankind, but it is also, and specifically, it is God’s personal letter from God to you. In fact, it is the most personal letter you could ever receive. It is from the infinitely powerful and wonderful Creator who knows everything there is about you; every deed you have ever done, every thought you have ever thought, every feeling you have ever felt, every intention you ever had, and still He loves you more than anyone on earth or in heaven ever could. Your Creator, Redeemer, and Perfect Parent wants the ‘eternal best life’ for you; and His letter is His explanation of what that ‘eternal best life’ is all about. The Scriptures are everything God wants you to know about walking with your God in the blessing of obedience in the present tense. The key word here is – Obedience. Yes, obedience is an acquired taste. But it is one that a Disciple grows to love. Just like the Psalmist said: “Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him!” Ps 34:8 And as Dr. Warren Wiersbe often said: “Make duty your delight…for then you can find joy in everything!”

And then last for this part of the study, the Scriptures also represent everything God wants you and me to know about the Future. Actually, God really enjoys telling His people about future things. He even likes us to think about Him that way. What do we mean? Check it out…

Isa 42:9- “The things I predicted have now come true. Now I will tell you of new things even before they begin to happen.” TEV

Isa 43:12-13- “First I predicted your deliverance; I declared what I would do, and then I did it — I saved you. No foreign god has ever done this before. You are witnesses that I am the only God,” says the LORD. “From eternity to eternity I am God. No one can oppose what I do. No one can reverse my actions.” NLT

Isa 46:10- “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘ My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure…” NASU

The Scriptures are not only ‘nouthetic’, from the Greek work ‘noutheteo’, which means admonish, warn, correct, exhort, and instruct, but they are also prophetic. About one third of the Bible is Prophecy! And everything that God has prophesied in the past about the present has presently come true. And thus, everything that God has prophesied at present about the future is also going to come true. That’s why Peter said 2 Peter 3:9-13- “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise to return, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so He is giving more time for everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and everything in them will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be exposed to judgment. Since everything around us is going to melt away, what holy, godly lives you should be living! You should look forward to that day and hurry it along — the day when God will set the heavens on fire and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth He has promised, a world where everyone is right with God.” NLT

The Bible clearly reveals that the world as we know it is on the verge of an eternal change. The changes that the Earth has undergone so far are nothing compared to what it’s about to undergo, perhaps soon. It’s described as being a New Earth, with a New King, the Lord Jesus Christ over all the Earth, with New Heavens to enjoy and to even explore and develop, with new nations living upon the earth serving God and cooperating with each other, and with God’s family worshipping and working together, and finally carrying out God’s original plan for His creation! This is God’s plan, and this is our future!

We have to wrap it up here for now. The point is that God wants us to learn everything we can about what He has revealed to us in His Scriptures about this magnificent future He has planned, as well as about the past and the present. And then to share as much about it with others as we possibly can.

And as God watches us learning and living faithfully, trying to be spiritually fit for God’s service, He will then say something like this about you to others: “But my servant (and put your name here) is different from the others. He/She has a different spirit, and has remained loyal to Me, and will receive the full share of his/her inheritance.”

A Disciples’ Spiritual Fitness Course

A Disciples’ Spiritual Fitness Course

Study Guide, February 5, 2023

Pastor Clay Olsen


1 Tim 4:7-9- “Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next. This is true, and everyone should accept it.” NLT

Spiritual Fitness: What an inspiring and practical way to think about the Christian life and what we are supposed to be doing as disciples of Jesus Christ! Notice again: “Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness”. You mean like a ‘fitness course’ that a Disciple of Jesus Christ could use to train and strengthen his or her spiritual health something like they would with their physical health? “Yup!” Paul even says we are supposed to have such a plan, and he went on to say we should even be striving and laboring and faithfully exercising in our Spiritual fitness program.

Sounds like a plan, right? So let’s talk about it. I read, as of this last year of 2022, Americans spent around 264 billion dollars on physical fitness. That’s right, 264 billion dollars! And actually, we could say, “Hey, money well spent!” The Scriptures even concur that physical fitness has genuine value. God even calls us to care for and to faithfully steward, or to manage with God honoring oversight, these physical bodies for His sake. Remember, the body of a Born Again child of God is actually a ‘living temple’ in which the Holy Spirit indwells. So when you seek to take good care of your body you are also taking good care of God’s temple. Look at what the Apostle Paul said about that: 1 Cor 6:19-20- “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” NLT

Isn’t that amazing…and inspiring? Plus, God promises to reward all our stewardship over everything in our lives…everything that honors Him. So next time you take your fitness walk or run your course or swim your laps or bike your trail or lift your weights, think about God encouraging you on and promising you great returns for your efforts, not only in health benefits, but also in kingdom rewards! That ought to ‘pump you up’! Physical exercise has real value and genuine importance. But don’t stop there…rather, put that same effort and focus and energy into your spiritual strength training and spiritual conditioning because your spiritual fitness has great value and eternal importance!

Again, it is great how many people are committed to striving and laboring and training in order to be physically fit. Across the country, the Wellness Centers, and the Community Centers, and Cross Fit Centers are filled with people trying their best to stay physically fit. And we ought to say to those people, “Well done”. It’s a good thing, a noble thing. And it also shows that people can be very disciplined when they set their mind and their will to it all.

But Paul would also say, “You are half-way there to true fitness!” “Half-way there”, you say? Well, of course! Since a human being is both a physical and a spiritual being why would you strengthen one without the other? And what truly is being accomplished if one is being cared for and the other is being neglected?

Again, physical exercise is great, but why just exercise one half of your life? But even more, why just exercise the half that Paul says does have value, but neglect the other half that has the greatest value? Why not give the lion’s share of your attention to exercising the half that has the greatest value and reward for both this life and for life in the Kingdom of God? And the answer is: Yes, why not?

Now, here’s another really great thing. Certainly, there comes a time when some brothers and sisters are not physically able to have a physical fitness program. These mortal bodies just don’t hold up indefinitely, no matter how much we try to care for them or exercise them properly. (I did recently hear of a woman in Japan that lived to 119 years old. When asked about her nutrition habits she said she did enjoy her cola soft drinks and chocolate! Go figure! The chocolate’s healthy for sure though, right?) But here is the great part: Since our soul is immortal, even when we cannot carry out a physical fitness program, we can carry out a spiritual fitness program.

Okay, but some might say; “I didn’t know there was such a thing as a Spiritual fitness course for the Christian life.” Well, the Apostle Paul didn’t lay it out in one chapter, like Five Steps to Spiritual Fitness, but there really are Five Spiritual Disciplines that are laid out for Disciples of Christ to practice in order to develop strong spirits and be active players in something even more valuable than any physical discipline in life. The event is called “The Great Commission.” And every believer can participate, and is to participate in the events of the Great Commission. Matt 28:18-20- “Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” NLT And notice, that the Great Commission covers the whole of the Christian life – from becoming a Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ through the New Birth into the family of God, to living life as a Disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ in learning and obeying His words, and then passing it on to others…passing it on to all the nations of the world. How great is that? It’s not called ‘The Great Commission’ for nothing!

Now, the Great Commission can seem a little daunting, like running a Marathon race. But it really just requires a commitment to training and practicing spiritual fitness. And in one sense, it is like a Marathon in that even though Paul called it ‘the race of faith’, it’s not a sprint, nor is it a contest, rather, it’s a lifestyle of a long obedience in the same direction. And we can all take part in that!

Okay now, before we get to the Spiritual Fitness course itself, just look at some of the terminology the Scriptures use in describing the Christian life:

Heb 6:1: “…Let us press on to maturity…”

Heb 5:14: “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained…”

Heb 12:1-2: “…Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…”

Rom 15:30-31: “Now I urge you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God for me…”

1 Cor 3:8: “Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” NASU

These are ‘spiritual work-out’ words, aren’t they? And they reveal that living the Christian life involves training, effort, purpose, a focus on goals, and striving to meet those goals, much like in physical fitness training. God wants His children to spiritually exercise in such a way as to be spiritually conditioned and spiritually strong disciples of His…both for the purpose of blessing others for God and for God’s blessings for us.

Okay, so now think about this: What do coaches say to those who have not been physically training? They say something like, “You’ve gone soft!” Ouch! Athletes do not want to hear that! “You’ve gone soft?”

What would our Master Coach, God the Holy Spirit, say to you about any of the following Five Disciplines of the Christian athlete, the Christian Disciple? Here’s what you would not want to hear Him say?

“You’ve gone soft in your Bible study training.”

Or, “You’ve gone soft in your Intercessory prayer habit.”

Or, “You’ve gone soft in your Body life and service commitment.”

Or, “You’ve gone soft in your Sowing of the seed of the Gospel.”

Or, “You’ve gone soft in your Giving, of tithes and offerings.”

No, that is not what you want to hear from God the Holy Spirit. But essentially, the only way to not hear “You’ve gone soft” in any of these areas is to get spiritually fit and to then stay spiritually fit in each of these areas, these Five Disciplines of Spiritual Fitness. So let’s set up our Spiritual Fitness Course by examining what the exercises are for each of these disciplines. And let’s identify each of them again so you’ll have them. And we are then going to unpack them in the weeks ahead.

  1. The Discipline of Bible study training.
  2. The Discipline of Intercessory prayer.

  3. The Discipline of Body life and service.

  4. The Discipline of Sowing the seed of the Gospel.

  5. The Discipline of Giving; tithes and offerings.

So there we are: five areas of discipleship in which we focus and train, in order to gain spiritual fitness for the purpose of being useful and fruitful to our Lord and Savior in our worship and service for our God. Let’s discuss the first one: The Discipline of Bible study training. You know, physical exercise programs usually include ‘days off’ for recovery and muscle repair and such. But that’s not the case in the exercise of Bible study training. This is your food, your very bread of life. This is your manna for each day. The one thing you do not want to do is to try to live off of yesterday’s manna. Remember the old saying that we recently said? “One week without the Word of God makes one weak (W E A K!)” A person cannot be physically fit and strong and be physically malnourished at the same time. It’s the same spiritually: A Christian cannot be spiritually fit and strong and be spiritually malnourished at the same time. Your daily intake of Bible carbs and proteins and healthy fats are essential to building strong spiritual thoughts and emotions and character! Brothers and Sisters…feed your soul each day on the Bread of Life. It is the most important thing you eat every day!

And remember something else, the Christian life is not just about how much you know about the Bible, but about how much you do about the Bible. It’s about how much of the Bible is growing in you. Remember the Apostle Peter called for us to “…Grow in the grace (the practice) and knowledge (the insights) of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18 NASU That’s also what the Apostle James reveals to us, that Bible knowledge is not for our information, but for our transformation. It’s not just about what we know, it’s about what we do about what we know, you know? Remember James words? “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” James 1:22 NASU

But, yes, before we can do, we do have to know. So let’s talk about “Bible Study”. Did you know that you never graduate from the School of the Bible? Disciple means “Learner”. Christians are born again into the Student Body of the Church. None of us are really Bible graduates, rather we are Bible students…we are life-long learners. We are students of God’s revelation about life; about the past, the present, and the future. By the way, although in academics they break up the Bible into the categories of Law, History, Poetry, Major Prophets, Minor Prophets, Gospels, History, Epistles to Churches, Epistles to Friends, and General Epistles, you don’t need to get overwhelmed by the structure of it all. All we need to do is to just get into the Bible for the sake of learning just what the Owner’s Manual of Life says about what we need to know about life and what we need to then do about it.

What our life-long goal in Bible study is, is this: To know our Creator and Savior more and more in order to worship and serve Him better and better as we develop our relationship with Him deeper and deeper. Plus, we are to be trying to find out everything we can about what God wants us to know about the ‘Past’, His created order and His dealing with people and nations; and trying to find out everything we can about what God wants us to know about the ‘Present’, as to how life is supposed to work, and how we are supposed to then work; and then trying to find out everything we can about what God wants us to know about the ‘Future’, like what is God’s plan for us, and for other people, for this world, for His Kingdom, for the destinations and the destinies of people, and so on. What the Bible really represents is everything that God wants you to know about your God, and about the past, the present, and the future…in order to what, what is the purpose? Well, let’s let Paul answer that, too. (We looked at it last week, lets look again) 2 Tim 3:16-17- “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” NASU This God-breathed revelation of God represents what God wants you and me and everyone on Earth to know, first about our God and how to have a relationship with Him, and also about the past, the present, and the future, so that we’ll be ready to do what we need to do about it right now. That’s how we are supposed to be studying and learning about and then doing what we learned in our Bible study.

Well, guess what? we’re going to have to get into some ‘how to’ exercises in our next study on this, so we’ll have to wrap it up now and hit the showers…figuratively speaking, of course.

As we have clearly seen, the Apostle reveals that Spiritual Fitness is the great priority in our life. He calls for every Disciple to practice the disciplines that make us spiritually fit. What is also encouraging is that even when Paul was older, and his physical health had broken down, he was still spiritually fit. We have all known loved ones and friends that were spiritually fit even though their bodies were weakened over time and from the struggles of ill-health. But as for their soul and spirit – they were spiritually fit and strong.

All God is looking for from us is our commitment to prioritizing and then practicing the disciplines of His revelation and His instructions for us…as in the five disciplines that lead to Spiritual fitness. And all of these ‘disciplines’ for us are ‘do-able’ by us. If we will simply supply ‘the will’, God will supply ‘the power’. We just need to be willing, for our God is able. But it must be our highest priority.

Physical fitness is great. It is of real value. Again, being a good steward of the temple that God has given you honors our God, and your efforts will be rewarded. But Spiritual fitness is of even greater value. It is of eternal value. In fact, it is required of a steward to be found faithful, faithful to practicing the disciplines of Spiritual fitness, for the sake of being equipped and ready for every good work as a Great Commission player for God. And God has promised great rewards and privileges to His children who strive to be spiritual fit for His sake and for His use in this present world and the world to come!

In the Beginning was the Word…

In the Beginning was the Word…

Study Guide, January 29, 2023

Pastor Clay Olsen


Our family has played a lot of ‘Board Games’ over the years. I’m sure yours has too. And they all come with their own sets of rules of course. But we especially got a kick out of one of them where the creator of the game seemed to have anticipated push back on the rules. So he added this remark: ‘You no make-a the game…you no make-a the rules!’ If you create the game, you also have the right to make the rules.

You see where we are going with this, right? Gen 1:1- “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” NASU As the sole Creator of the heavens and earth, God has the sole right to make the rules of how the game of life is to be played…even though it’s not a game, but still, it does come with rules. Or, we should say, ‘Life on Planet Earth comes with clear and definite instructions for how to live life as given by its Creator!’ God has both revealed His instructions and defined the actions that have been designed for our good and for our blessings. And that is something very important to remember, since the world twists God’s commandments and so often portrays them as being more like ‘restrictions’ rather than ‘instructions. But no, all of God’s commandments and instructions are designed and defined out of God’s love for those He has created in His own image. And that’s one of the major truths that needs to be communicated and reinforced to our world around us. And ‘why’? Because one of the first schemes of the enemy of God and humanity was to seek to convince people that God was withholding ‘good’ from them through His commandments to them.

Do you remember the scheme? Gen 3:4-6- “The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” NASU

Mark it down: God’s commandments for us are not given to withhold good from us. Rather, God’s commandments for us are given to impart God’s best to us! And God’s best is always the blessed! But when we choose against God’s best, we are not choosing ‘good’ at all, rather we are choosing harm; harm to ourselves and harm to others around us. Just like when our first parents chose what they assumed was ‘good’, they discovered they had chosen harm…harm to themselves and to future generations. Prov 15:32- “If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.” NLT

One major lesson our first parents learned from their Fall into sin was the reality that they were not designed to determine nor capable of defining what is ‘good’ in life. For ‘good’ is determined and defined by the Creator of what is truly ‘good’. And what is truly good is always what God has commanded us and instructed us to pursue. Think about it: History is filled with the stories of those who, in various ways, ate poisonous fruit because it ‘looked good’ to them…or chose to pursue poisonous positions or poisonous relationships…and so on, thinking they were ‘good’, when, in reality, they were ‘destructive and damaging’. Again, one of the earliest life lessons in the history of mankind is that mankind is incapable of determining and defining what is ‘good’. That understanding of what is ‘good’ can only be revealed to us by the Creator of what is truly good. And, Praise God, He has revealed to all mankind what is truly ‘good’ and how we can choose His ‘good’ in each of our lives. Here is just one example: 2 Tim 3:16-17- “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” NASU The Scriptures both define what is good and what will be good…lasting good, both now and forever.

Another major lesson they learned from being deceived and led into sin and harm by the devil was that ‘good’ was never intended to be the goal of their choices or highest desires anyway…rather ‘godliness’ was and is to be the goal of every person created by God in His image. They had bought the lie from the devil that if they would define what is good for themselves, then they would ‘be like God’. Not at all! That was the devil’s great lie! For in sinning against God what they would be like, is that they would be like him, the devil…they would be like the little ‘g’ god…which is what the devil is called. They would be like the ‘god’ of this world, not like the God of all Creation! Satan was really saying, “You’ll be like me.” Anytime you choose against God is when you are most like Satan. Anytime you choose to trust and obey God’s Word is when you are most like God.

Be very careful of the goals you choose and the goals you set your purpose and affections upon. For your goal may ‘look good’ to you…may ‘seem good’ to you…and may even be encouraged to you by others. But if your goal is ungodly, then just like the devil had proposed…it will result in harm to you, and even like with our first parents, harm also to the generations which follow in your footsteps of your deceived and damaging choices.

Which leads us back to our exploration of the two greatest commandments for all people to know and to follow, both for God’s glory and for our good… ‘Love God supremely’ and ‘Love others sacrificially’. And once again, since God is the Creator and the Source of all things, we can only understand and then act upon ‘Loving God supremely’ and ‘Loving others sacrificially’ when we do so according to what God has determined and defined in what He has revealed about both! Which also brings us to the amazing description of God by the Apostle John in John 1:1- “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” NASU

And how fascinating that the Apostle even stated this truth in a ‘trinitarian’ format. But also, how fascinating that John identifies God in terms of ‘communication and revelation’; as being ‘the Word, the Logos of the Universe’. John is declaring to us so many things here, but one thing that he is emphasizing over and over and over again is that God is the very Logos of Life – the Great Communicator to all His creation! God is not the ‘Deist’ type of God, where He simply created a world that He would then leave alone for the creatures of Earth to determine and define how to live life however they chose or by whatever ‘seemed good’ for people. (And I mean ‘creatures’ in a good way here…) But no…to the exact contrary, in the beginning God, who is absolutely relational and communicational by nature, created the heavens and the earth, and the human family of earth, and immediately began communicating with His newly created family! Why? Because our God is by nature a ‘Relational God’! He created us for intimate relationship with Him! A relationship that would be built upon communication and His helpful instruction and our everyday fellowship. That’s why He moved over 40 authors over a period of 1500 years from every walk of life on three different continents in different times and in different places and in different languages to record and to reveal His words to all mankind so that people would know who their Creator is, the great Logos of the Universe, and be able to know Him in a Born Again relationship with Him, and to communicate with Him, and to fellowship with Him in their everyday lives, through what He has spoken and is speaking to them through His Word. A subtitle for the Bible could be: “Let’s Talk”, signed, “God”.

God is with us, and He is not silent. He wants to teach us what is His best for us, and to protect us from our own distorted thinking about what is good but may in fact be poisonous to our souls. But people have to choose whose voice they want to hear: If you want to hear from God you will choose to listen for what’s godly. You will align your affections and your desires to what is godly. You will spend time with Him in His Word to know your God better and walk with Him closer. But, just like in the Fall into sin…if you are only listening to and looking for what seems good to you, then you open yourself up to another voice…to that voice of the little ‘g’ god of this world. And if you persist on desiring what is good over what is godly, then that voice will become the loudest voice in your life, and God’s voice will fade as you fade away from Him in sin.

One of the clearest signs of what pursuing godliness looks like is when you are looking to God to determine what is truly good in life and looking to Him to define every good thing in life. What our default attitude is to be toward everything in life, from Government to Education to Medicine to Science to Marriage to family to Church to Service to Career to Culture to the Here and the Now, and to Heaven and Hell…what our greatest desire is to be is to know what God has declared about everything in life and how God has defined everything in life, because your desire is to please and follow the God who loves you most, and simply wants you to love Him back.

And isn’t it interesting that even this goes back to the question our first parents had to face. It’s basically the first and greatest commandment: Matt 22:37-38- “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.” NKJV Love God supremely…even above yourself. That’s what our first parents choice was about: who would they love first and love most: their God or themselves?

Have you ever thought much about the fact that God had told our first parents that they were free to choose from any tree in the garden, which numbered in the hundreds, at just the lowest guess! Gen 2:16-17- “The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” NASU

God essentially said to them: “This is all for you. I made all of this for you. And everything that I made for you is yours to enjoy. And every choice that you make will be pleasing to Me and be a blessing to you. Every choice will be a godly choice…except for one.” And as we know, that was the one that was ‘ungodly’. But, and here’s the point: It was also the one that ‘looked good’ to them… ‘seemed good’ for them. And when they chose what ‘seemed good’ to them, but was actually an ungodly and sinful choice for them to make, they put themselves above God in who and what they loved! They now wanted to please themselves first…not their God!

Here’s a question: Is there a way to measure what you most love? How about letting the Apostle Paul answer that? Gal 1:10- “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” NLT Who you want to please most is who it is you love most. Paul wanted to please the Lord Jesus Christ most because he loved the Lord Jesus Christ most…even above himself. His motto? “Not I, but Christ.” That’s loving God supremely.

You also measure your love toward God by learning all you can about what God has revealed and then seeking to live according to what God has revealed. Two things the Apostle John said about loving God: First:1 John 5:3- “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” NASU James said: “Show me your faith by your works. What fruit has grown from your faith?” And John says: “Show me your love for God by your obedience to God. What have you done about what God has said?” Jesus asked those around Him who were choosing their ways above His ways: “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” Luke 6:46 NASU

And Second: 1 John 4:16- “God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” NASU Oh, but you see, one of the favorite mantras of the world is: “Love is love”, and then they use that mantra as an excuse to do and to pursue anything that they love to do and pursue. But back to the source: Until a person knows ‘Who’ is love, they will never know ‘what’ is love. You cannot know or understand ‘what’ love is until you come to know and understand ‘Who’ love is. Just like with ‘Truth’. You cannot know or understand what is ‘truth’ until you come to know and understand ‘Who’ is truth. Truth is not foremost a ‘what’…truth is foremost a ‘Who’. Jesus is the source of Truth. As Jesus said: “I am the Truth!” Therefore, every belief, philosophy, or opinion by the world is to be measured by the declarations and the definition of Truth as revealed to us in Jesus Christ and through His Word, the Word of Truth. In the same way, God is Love. God is the source of Love. And therefore, every idea about love, every sentiment concerning love, every philosophy about love is to be measured by the declarations and the definition of love as revealed to us in God and through the Word of God.

Which also means that anything that the world may call love or say love is or do under the mask of love that is not in harmony with God, Who is love, and is not in agreement with God’s Word…it is not love at all, but only another form of what ‘seems good’ to people, just like it seemed good to Adam and Eve, but brought ruin to their souls. It is in reality complete disobedience to what God has commanded. It is repetition of the sin of rebelling against God’s Words just like in the Fall of Man in sin. Anything, whether it be false beliefs or ungodly behaviors, is rebellion against God, which is then the opposite of ‘love’…for God is love, and whatever is not of God is not love…God calls it ‘Sin’. And sinning against God is the opposite of loving God. Rather, following His Word, living by His Word, and seeking to please the One who is Himself ‘The Word’ is what it is to love God supremely.

Fresh Air

Fresh Air

Study Guide, January 8, 2023

Pastor Clay Olsen


Religious leaders in Jesus’ day had developed a religious system with 613 laws. They chose the number of 613 because that was how many separate letters were in the text containing the Ten Commandments. They divided the list into positive commandments and negative commandments. There were 248 affirmative commandments, one for every part of the human body, as they understood it. There were 365 negative commandments, one for each day of the year. They further divided the commandments into binding and non-binding commands. Then they spent their days debating whether the divisions were accurate and then also ranking the commands within each division.1 The rest of their time was spent imposing their cumbersome commandment structure on every around them.

Into this confusing, cluttered, and spiritually constricting atmosphere came Jesus. Arrogantly expecting to trap Jesus into having to sort through their complex web of commandments they asked Him to rank by first importance what they spent all year long debating. What was Jesus’ reply? “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matt 22:37-40 NLT From 613 down to two! Don’t you love it? That’s what you call ‘simplifying the complex’. To all who heard Jesus’ answer, it was to them like a breath of ‘fresh air’, in the midst of their stuffy society.

Along with the powerful truth that Jesus revealed in His answer is also found a profound principle. Human nature is bent toward the accumulation of cluttered beliefs, confusing habits, unrealistic expectations, emotional baggage, and so on. And since that is the natural bent of our broken human nature, what are we to do about it? We must purposefully and repeatedly simplify our lives by identifying and practicing and guarding those things that are essential and that transcend all others. Jesus simplified a complex religious culture with two eternal priorities; Love God supremely; Love others sacrificially.

There are many urgent things we must tend to in our family, church, and career responsibilities. But these urgent things must never crowd out the important things, the ultimate things. As Jesus revealed to the Pharisees, our lives are not being measured by the number of checks in a list of 613 do’s and don’ts, our lives are being measured by the temperature of our heart toward God and others. Like the readings on a thermometer, we daily display the degrees of our love toward God and others. And that’s a list that God does keep a record of…our daily temperature of our love toward God and others. What is your temperature today?

Is life really as simple as that? Or maybe we should ask; is life really as profound as that? The answer to both questions is “Yes”. What God makes simple is also the most profound. The challenge and the difficulty of it is keeping it ahead of all the ‘other things’ in our lives. “…be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God and with what He requires of you, and He will provide you with all these other things.” Matt 6:33 TEV Or we know that verse better by:“ But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” KJV

We all have a list of things calling for our attention, demanding our time, and making our lives so complex. We cannot eliminate the tyranny of these urgent things. But we can make them get in line. So, since we are still just starting off in our New Year, do yourself a favor…and others a favor…as well as make God an offering: Simplify your life. Simplify your line. Make this the first one in your line everyday: Love God supremely. And then move the next one into your line that Jesus moved into the line of the two things that He said form the foundation of all the law and the prophets: Love others sacrificially. Put these two in the front of every line in every setting from your home to your church to your job. It will not only glorify God, but it will simplify your life, and revive your spirit, like breathing fresh air.

How about this? Have you ever had the wind knocked out of you? It especially happens during contact sports, whether organized or just on the playground. Some of you may have heard Tim Hawkin’s take on that, like he said when you get the wind knocked out of you and your friends come over and start asking you questions…and you can’t even breath, like: “What happened? Are you okay? Are you hurt?” (As if you can answer them…) Do you need help getting up? What do you need? And he said, all you are thinking is… “Air! I need air!”

How amazing that our greatest needs are always the basic needs of life, like ‘air’. There is website that tracks the air quality around the world: Air Quality Index, or aqair.com Air quality is measured from 0 to 50 as Good, as opposed to 200 to 300, which is Very Unhealthy, to 300 and above, which is Hazardous to your health. Emerald Isle averages around 13! And there’s another reason right there to thank the Lord for where you get to live! Breathe deeply and thank God for it! Jerusalem also averages in the 30’s, which is good. But then you go to places like Dhaka, Bangladesh, where it’s in the 225 plus range; Very Unhealthy. And, if you go to places like Xu Chang, China, there the AQ Index can register 437…very Hazardous air quality!

So, yes, the air that you are breathing day in, and day out, has a direct effect on your health. In the very same way, the spiritual air that you are breathing day in, and day out, also has a direct effect on your spiritual health! And yet, we live in a world that is regularly averages well above the ranges of Hazardous spiritual air quality! We live in a world, and now in a culture, that daily spews off toxic beliefs, and opinions, and attitudes, and ideologies, and so on. And unless we guard against taking in this spiritually polluted air, it will even leave unguarded members of the Body of Christ spiritually confused or calloused or even weakened and spiritually ill.

Oh, that we had a filter for our mind in order to guard us against the polluted spiritual air encircling our lives all the time. Oh, but we do! We know this passage really well by now, and that’s great. We often think about it as the very steps to practice for spiritual and mental and emotional health. And it is exactly that! But it is also the very filter we need in order to breath spiritual fresh air instead of daily breathing in all of the polluted air of the false beliefs and teachings and opinions of our culture around us. It is the counter-part passage to Paul’s description of the armor of God in Ephesians 6. So as we read it through, this time think of it in terms of how to use this passage as your daily air filter that will then enable you to breath spiritual fresh air in the midst of a polluted world. Phil 4:8- “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” NLT

That’s fantastic! But before we say “Okay” and then walk away, notice again. For example: In order to ‘fix our thoughts on what is true’ we have to know ‘what is true’! And sadly enough, it is right here, right at the front of our air filter that the enemy of our souls most aggressively attacks the world and followers of Christ. For example: We just pointed out that the first two things we are to put first in our line of focus each day is to love God supremely and love others sacrificially. So what does the enemy, the counterfeiter of this world do with that? Satan seeks to replace Biblical love with worldly love and then pushes this false notion of love into every public and religious setting as possible in order to distort God’s will and to discourage God’s people and to destroy the lives of as many people as he can. The devil knows that if you can redefine one of the most powerful needs, drives, and motivations of mankind, you can then control the minds and behaviors of mankind. And Satan has sought to do just by distorting the meaning of this virtue of ‘Love’.

Satan has basically convinced the masses of mankind that ‘Love’ means letting others think and do whatever they love to think and do. In fact, in this era that is being referred to as the ‘Post Church Age’, since Church affiliation is falling by record numbers around the world, a new description is being assigned to an old sin that used to be called ‘Backsliding’. It’s now called ‘Deconstruction’. It’s the growing habit of those who professed to believe in and follow Christ to deconstruct their faith. It’s not just having normal questions about their faith, or having common doubts about the faith, but rather it’s a departure from the literal words of God in favor of the licentious will of the world, and an attachment to worldly wants and behaviors.

So, as with some Biblical teachings, such as Jesus’ warnings about not repenting and then perishing in a literal place that Jesus called ‘Hell’…well, in this world’s twisted idea of ‘love’, there is no place in a world of ‘love’ for a place like ‘Hell’. So ‘Hell’ has been ‘deleted’ by many of those who are ‘deconstructing’ their faith. But then so has John 3:16, along with all the rest of Jesus’ warnings to a sinful world that will not repent and receive Him as their only Savior and Lord so as not to perish by being eternally separated by their sin in a land called ‘Hell’.

Remember, one of the tactics of Satan is to try to present false teachings in this world in ways that appear more compassionate than those who simply love God and seek to obey His words in the Bible…why, even more so than those teachings of God Himself. As in, many say: “How could a loving God send anyone to Hell?” What a defamation of the character of God and a twisted distortion about what God said, and the purpose for which God sent His Son. Our loving God had to do this for this sinful and perishing world: John 3:16-21- “For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” NLT

No, God sent His Son to save the world from Hell. It’s the world, it’s people themselves who send themselves to Hell when they neglect or reject receiving Jesus into their life as their only Savior from their sins against God.

Speaking of judgment…the world despises God’s judgment, because they worship their own desires, which is often what God called, ‘loving the darkness more than the light.’ That’s why one of the favorite phrases from the Scriptures that Satan pushes and promotes, once again, in a twisted sense is what? Right: Matt 7:1- “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.” NLT That, brothers and sisters, is one of the most quoted passages from the Bible by both unbelievers and from many deceived believers. The devil has distorted it into becoming the ‘Summum bonum’ of life. ‘Summum bonum’ is a Latin expression introduced by the Roman philosopher, Cicero, which meant: the highest good, especially as the ultimate goal according to which values and priorities are established in an ethical system. ‘Don’t judge anyone’ has become the mantra of our society.

And does that describe to a ‘T’ the desires of much of our society to not be judged by anyone else about what they choose to think, say, or do? Remember, humans are religious by creation. So what fallen humans are driven to do is to fashion their religion in such a way that they can feel religious and yet live their lives according to how they feel at the same time. And in order to do this, they figure out a way to select or twist what is found in the Scriptures to make it so that it will support their feelings and their choices about how they want to live their lives. And Satan has been more than willing to assist them in this ‘Scripture twisting’ ploy in every way necessary to achieve their highest wants and goals. Do not forget that Satan is still seeding the question in the minds of men and women the world over of: “Oh, has God said?” He first plants the doubt about the authority and the truth of God’s Word, and then he supplies the lies that will give people what they want…basically to be like a god in their life choices and to make God be like however they want Him to be. What they do not want is a God who judges them in any way. But how ironic that the rest of what Jesus said about judging is completely ignored. For that passage goes on to say: Matt 7:2 – “For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” NLT

The point Jesus was making was for people to stop judging others by their own human standards and opinions, which are biased and prejudiced because of our fallen sin nature. Rather, Jesus said more about this in John 7:24- “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” NASU So Jesus went on to say that His followers are to judge, but they are to judge with a higher standard…with God’s righteous standard, which is the only standard for all people, including ourselves. In fact, to judge with righteous judgment, or with the divinely inspired words of God in the Bible is one of the most loving things believers can do. One of the most loving things that God did for us was to call us to repentance from our sins, so that we would not have to face the judgment for our sins but could then be forgiven and given new spiritual life in union with our God.

Again, the Devil has deceived so many in our world to think that when followers of Christ share with them; the Gospel that calls for them to repent of their sins and turn to Christ to be saved, that this is being unloving and judging of them, when in reality it is the most loving and non-judgmental truth in the world. But again, that’s one of the reasons that sharing the truths of God’s Word with a world that loves man’s word above God’s is part of what ‘sacrificial love’ is all about. It will cost Christians to both follow Christ and to speak His truths to a world that loves darkness rather than light. You will sacrifice in being misunderstood. You will sacrifice in being falsely accused. You will sacrifice for seeking to show love to others who don’t love you, just like God had to do and continues to do. You will sacrifice by being labeled narrow minded and bigoted and several other things…Just like Jesus was labeled all these things because He said that if you really love God, you will obey the words of God. Yes, it takes sacrifice to love like God loves…at least in this world, because we belong to another world; to God’s world. And God is about to impose His new world over this world, and then all of our sacrifices will be turned into eternal blessing and rewards for each of His children who sought to sacrificially love others around them just like He did.

We’ll continue to explore what ‘loving God supremely and loving others sacrificially’ Biblically means later.

1. Thom S. Rainer & Eric Geiger, Simple Church, pp. 16,17

New Year – Begin Again

New Year – Begin Again

Study Guide, January 1, 2023

Pastor Clay Olsen


One of our favorite guys over the years in our Men’s Group was Chris Vurnakes. He went Home in 2018 at the young age of 98. His wife, Frances, was the Chapel’s first Secretary, after we came to serve here. Both of them were wonderful people. Chris was a down to earth thinker with a Biblical attitude. And he is known for often saying, “You know, the one constant in life is ‘change’.”

Many people fight change. Rather, it is wise to expect change, anticipate change…even embrace change. Certainly, not all change is helpful, but some change is more than helpful, even blessed. And that’s the kind of change that is simply to be a lifestyle for followers of Christ, particularly in this: 2 Cor 3:18- “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” NASU

Change is really to be our goal, especially in being transformed into Christ’s image by the power of the Holy Spirit. And every New Year is both a reminder and an opportunity to magnify that goal in our lives. Of all the goals or resolutions, this is to be at the top…as John the Baptist put it: “He must increase, and I must decrease.” And the wonder of it all is that as we focus on making the image and character of Christ become our daily pursuit…as we become more and more like Christ, we also become more and more like the person we were created to be, along with all the blessings that grow along with that.

If you were to ask most people, “So, how would you like to experience more love, joy, peace, patience, self-control, and even more in your life?” They would say something like, “Well, who wouldn’t?!” Of course! Those are the very things our souls long for! Those are the sweet fruits our souls crave! Those are the very things that satisfy the soul that nothing else can replace. And God, as the Master Gardner of our souls, will happily grow those in our lives as we…well, let’s put it this way…

One of the most blessed titles of God that is honored and enjoyed at Christmas is the Hebrew word “Immanuel”, meaning, as we know, “God with us”. And that’s about as comforting and encouraging to know as it gets; to know that our God came to save us because He wanted to be ‘with us’…with us in a Father and child relationship, and with us in a daily personal fellowship. Just think, our Creator wants to do life together with us. Just like He walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the Garden of Eden. Just like He walked with His disciples around the roads of the regions of the Galilee…so He wants to walk with you and with me throughout the pathways of our life, and then walk us all the way Home, like He did with Chris and Harris and each of His children when it was time for them to walk Home to Heaven. He is “Immanuel”, God with us.

But there is another Hebrew phrase. It’s more than a word, it’s three words: “Othno am Alohim”. And it means “Us with God”! And that is the part that connects us to ‘Immanuel’ – ‘God with us’. ‘Us with God’ is the reciprocal and the reconciliatory part that connects us to the comfort and joy and encouragement and strength and the blessings of the fruit of the Spirit. Oh yes, God is our Immanuel, our God with us. But are we God’s ‘Othno am Alohim”… ‘Us with God?!’

Othno am Alohim’ is our response to Jesus’ call of ‘Follow Me’. It’s our ‘Yes Lord, I will.” Remember, there cannot be two Masters in our lives. And, as a child of God’s, if we still trying to be the Master, that immediately creates conflicts in our spirit, conflicts in our mind, and conflicts in our emotions. And we immediately forfeit the growth of everything our souls crave. You cannot be full of yourself and full of the Holy Spirit at the same time. The degree that you experience love, joy, peace, patience, self-control, goodness, and so forth is the degree that you are surrendering to the Lordship of Christ in your life. The degree that you experience the growth of the fruit of the Spirit is directly linked to the degree that you are living out ‘Othno am Alohim’… ‘Us with God!’ It’s like every morning Jesus calls to us, “I am with you…are you with Me?” That would make a great resolution right there, to, day by day, start your day with something like, “Lord Jesus, I know that You are with Me. And I want You to know that I am with You.”

To some, that kind of commitment sounds rather daunting. You’re not alone in that feeling. Do these words sound familiar? And the Message Bible actually portrays the point of this passage really well. The Message Bible is a paraphrase Bible and not a translation, but it does capture the struggle that Paul expresses here really well. So here it is: Rom 7:14-8:2- “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself — after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary. But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.” The Message Bible

Can you relate to that? I think we all can. Here is Paul talking as a saved man. Even as a saved man he was revealing that he couldn’t trust in himself for either salvation or for sanctification. The answer to both becoming a Christian and to then living the Christian life is not found in us! It’s only found in the Saviorhood of Christ and then living under the Lordship of Christ. This ‘something more’ that Paul was talking about is to both have trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and to then daily surrender to Christ’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, to empower you to follow Him as Lord of your life! Mark it down: The Christian life is not to be lived by our will power. No, it is to be lived by our willingness to live under another power…our willingness to live under the power of the Holy Spirit.

Maybe that’s one change you need to make for living out this New Year. Remember: To become Born Again we had to turn from trusting in our own selves, our own merit or works, and trust in the sinless life and works of Jesus alone to save us from our sins and qualify us for Heaven. Now, in order to follow Jesus as His disciples, we have to turn from trusting in our own power and surrender to and depend upon the power of the Holy Spirit. We become sort of like a glove for the Hand of the Holy Spirit to work in and through us.

You know who else could have written similar words to what Paul wrote? His Gospel follows Matthew’s Gospel. You mean Mark? Yes…Mark. Now, we remember Peter’s vows about never deserting Jesus before His arrest. But do you recall who else vowed that? Mark 14:31- “No!” Peter declared emphatically. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the others vowed the same.” NLT Actually, each of the Disciples broke their vows and deserted Jesus at His arrest. Mark 14:50– tells us: “Then everyone deserted Him and fled.” But one Disciple, in particular, even acknowledged this about his own desertion. 51 – “A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.” NIV That was Mark himself. That was pretty humble, wouldn’t you say, to include that admission about himself?

And yet it’s like with each of the Disciples…they were very open about letting everyone know that even after being with Jesus and learning from Jesus, they too, were still learning that they couldn’t trust themselves, for they too, even as born again followers, were still failed and flawed in and of themselves. Why even later during Paul’s first missionary journey, Mark had gone with them, but for some reason he left the work. And it affected Paul in such a way that he disagreed with Barnabas about having Mark go with them on the second missionary journey, because he had lost confidence in Mark’s commitment. It wasn’t until later that Paul and Mark reconciled. But then they went on and served the Lord together again, with great commitment and in great friendship.

That is another amazing and remarkable thing about our Lord! He continually calls for His born again children to not only follow Him, but He also calls for them to ‘begin again’ when or if they have not been following Him as closely as they ought. ‘Begin again’…that is the direction that God is always wanting for you and for me to take. Remember, His mercies are new each morning…so, begin again. If you have drifted in your discipleship, begin again. If you have grown lukewarm in your love for the Lord, begin again. Return to your first love and do the deeds you did at first in following your Savior. If you have grown discouraged in yourself, begin again. And yet, as is said, ‘To be discouraged in yourself is to have trusted in yourself.’ So be careful about the direction of your trust. Remember, the branch trusts in the vine, not in itself as the source for what it needs. So look away from yourself to the real source of encouragement and strength and motivation…look to your Lord Jesus, the only Savior and daily Shepherd of your life, who calls you to come to Him and begin again…and again…and again.

And what a great time to begin again with a New Year. The New Year is all about beginnings. Remember, for those who are in Christ, born again with the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, you are never a prisoner of your past, for in Christ, old things have passed away, and all things are being made new. It’s never too late to become the person God created you to be. And even when you are seeking to follow Jesus, day by day, every new day is a call to begin again today! We are called each day to live today for the One who lived each day for us, and died for us, so that we could live again in Him. And to then live for Him, as Paul states in 2 Cor 5:14-15- “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” NASU

That would make another great resolution for the New Year…to decide ‘Who’ you are going to live for, yourself or for Christ? How about, ‘Resolved: to no longer live for myself, but to live for Christ who died and rose again on my behalf.’ And then watch what kind of changes happen in your life, and in your heart, and in your emotions when that becomes your mindset. And could it be that the key to the peace that everyone seeks is found not in ‘what’ you are living for, but in ‘Who’ you are living for? The Apostle Paul found that in living his life for the Prince of Peace, he could then live each day with the presence of peace in his life, even while living in a world at war. We can find the same.

Who are you living for? Not ‘what’ will you do this New Year, but ‘Who’ will you do it for? Who will you first seek to please in your thoughts, words, and deeds? What do you want to count from this New Year of your life, and in every coming year on into eternity?

To make sure that what you are doing counts, be sure to connect it to ‘Who’ you are doing it for! Whatever you do, do all to the glory and honor of Christ, who loved you and gave up His life to save you.

Jesus is your ‘Immanuel’…God with us. And each day we can be Jesus’ ‘Othno am Alohim’…Us with God.

Christmas: God Re-introduces Himself to the World

Christmas: God Re-introduces Himself to the World

Study Guide, December 11, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


There were a lot of introductions that first Christmas. The Angels to the Shepherds… “Hark ya’ll!” Some of the Angels were from the Southern skies… I think…and then the Shepherds to Joseph and Mary… “Shalom…didn’t mean to intrude, but the Angels sent us”…or something like that. And then in this artwork we see the Wise Men still coming, which is actually what the Scriptures reveal in Matthew. By the time they arrived Joseph and Mary and Jesus were now staying in a house in Bethlehem. Notice: Matt 2:9-11- “After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him.” NASU

So there was a period of time between Jesus’ birth and the visit from the Wise Men. That’s where the tradition of Epiphany, meaning ‘the Appearance’ or ‘Manifestation’, got its start. It was an assumption that it was twelve days later, January 6, that the Wise Men introduced themselves. And there’s the song, the Twelve Days of Christmas… Of course, the timing is not certain, but their meeting with Joseph and Mary and the newborn Christ child is certain. So they came to the house and said, “Salam”…that’s ‘Hello’ in Persian, since that’s from where the Wise Men are believed to have come. And we know that one of the Wise Men brought a gift of gold, the other a gift of frankincense, and then the other Wise Man said, “But wait…there’s myrhh!” No, I’m sure he didn’t say that!

Anyway, there were a lot of introductions that first Christmas. Back to the Angels…Luke 2:8-11- “In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” NASU

Not only is this an amazing introduction, but it is also a world changing revelation about ‘Who’ God is, and what we now are to know about Him, and what we are to understand about Him, since our God has re-introduced Himself to the world!

Let’s think about that: God first introduced Himself to the world at the very beginning.

Gen 1:1- “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” NASU So at the very beginning of our world God was already there. In fact, when Moses later asked God who he should say sent him to free the people God said this in: Ex 3:13-15- “Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM“; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM’ has sent me to you.'” NASU That is God’s eternal name – ‘I AM’. God is eternally existent, ever present, all knowing, all powerful, as well as the Creator of all things.

And here’s something else very wonderful about God. God not only openly tells the world ‘Who He is’…He also tells the world ‘what He is like’! He revealed that, too, to Moses: Ex 34:5-7- “The Lord descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the Lord. Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished…” NASU

Throughout the Old Testament God reveals more and more about both ‘Who’ our God is and ‘What’ He is like. What is ironic is that God wants the people of this world to know and understand Him even more than most people want to know and understand God. He is seeking them, but they are not seeking Him! Creation alone should be enough to cause all in creation to seek their Creator, especially those who have been created in the very image of God Himself…the people of Earth.

So, again, God introduced Himself to the world at Creation. And now, He re-introduces Himself to the world at the Incarnation. As in the lyrics of the song ‘Mary did you know?’… ‘Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation? Mary, did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations? Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb; that sleeping child you’re holding is the great, I AM?’ Now, God not only reveals to the world that their God can be seen in His works, but now God reveals to the world that their God can be seen in the flesh…God now has skin on Him!

As the Apostle John was trying to tell the Christians all over Asia Minor about these wonderful things about their Incarnate God in his letter to them, he says this: 1 John 1:1-4- “We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw Him with our own eyes and touched Him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen Him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that He is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then He was revealed to us. We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.” NLT

John says, “We saw God Himself! We heard Him speak! We even touched God with our own hands!” John is writing to us as well. One day you are going to touch God with your own hands! And although you can’t see Him yet, as John did, or touch Him yet, as John did, you can hear Him speak to you every day through His words to you in His Scriptures. The Scriptures are the ‘living words of God’ you know. Plus, God can hear you speak to Him. He hears you in your prayers to Him. You can speak to God every day and He hears you. So, yes, we can also have this depth of ‘fellowship’ with the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ, just like those John was writing to…and, of course, He was also writing to us!

Yet oftentimes people still don’t realize just ‘Who’ Jesus really is! Many in the world still view Jesus as just a man, or just a prophet, or just a priest…and so on. But Jesus is far from ‘just a – anything’…for even though Jesus became a man, all mankind still needs to realize ‘Who’ He really is! The Apostle Paul described it this way: Col 1:15-18- “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through Him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through Him and for Him. He existed before anything else, and He holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is His body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So He is first in everything.” NLT

It’s like Paul saying, “Remember those first words from our Creator?” “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”. Well, Guess what? That was Jesus, Jesus Christ! ‘He made the things we can see and even the things we can’t see – the unseen world.’ Jesus is not only our Savior…He is our Creator, who both made us and has now re-made us – first in raising up our dead spirit to new spiritual life in union with Himself, and soon He will also raise up our mortal bodies into new immortal bodies to live in fellowship with Him forever! That’s ‘Who’ Jesus is!”

And in Hebrews we see that God used the prophets to introduce and reveal God to the world, but in these days, or more precise, ‘in these last days’, God re-introduced Himself and revealed even more about Himself through Jesus. Heb 1:1-3- “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…”NASU

So now, in Jesus, we more clearly see ‘the exact representation of God’s nature’! Do you want to know what God is like? Do you want to know what God’s nature is like? Do you want to both better know and better understand what God is like in His thoughts about you and in His plans for you and in His treatment of you and so on? Then get to know better and to understand better all of this in Jesus, because Jesus is the exact representation of the nature and character of God! The Christ of the Incarnation is the re-introduction of the God of all creation.

We can better know and better understand God because Jesus was God made manifest to us. Jesus was the living demonstration of Who our Creator and our Savior really is. We can know the God of the Universe because we know the Savior of the world…for He is one and the same.

Which brings us to another introduction…perhaps one of the most overlooked in Scripture. For God not only introduces Himself to us through the revelation of His words, but He also introduces us to our own selves through the revelation of His words. That’s right! It’s one of the greatest needs for people to understand, yet one of the least understood, and that is: You cannot know who you are until you know what God knows about who you are. Until you know what God knows about who you are, you will always be deceived about it, and your understanding will always be distorted in your thinking about who you are…and that always leads to the destruction of who you really are and were meant to be.

God is the Great Introducer! God introduced Himself at Creation. Then He re-introduced Himself through the Incarnation. And until you let God introduce you to yourself, you will never come to the realization of who you really are! Until you come to understand that you were personally created by God in the very image of God, and what that means, you will never have a right self-image. Your self-image will be distorted and deceived by the world, your own flesh, and even the devil.

Until you come to know and understand that you do not own yourself…that you are not the owner of your life, but that only your Creator is the sole Owner and rightful Master of your life, you will then be deceived about that, and your life will also be damaged by the world, your own flesh, and even the devil, especially concerning your purpose in this world.

Until you come to know God’s intended plan for your life in following His words and will, you will be deceived and damaged by the world, your own flesh, and even the devil in your thinking about who you are, why you are here, what is your place in this world, and so on. Plus, if you do not then choose to live by God’s plan for your life, you naturally default to living by the devil’s plan for your life, for know this: no human is a master of his or her own life. Every person is a servant of either the Creator and Savior of life or he or she will default to serving the plans of the devil, since he holds captive every person who has not been set free by the salvation found in Christ alone.

So no wonder people the world over are so confused about their self-image, their self-identity, their place in this world, their part in this world, and so on. No one can know who they are until they know Who their God is and Who their Savior is…Who will then help them know who they are! Again, God is the Great Introducer of Life! God introduced Himself at Creation. God re-introduced Himself at the Incarnation. And God introduces people to themselves through His revelation about who they really are and what their real place and purpose is, or is supposed to be, in this world.

But God also introduces each person to what their real needs are…especially what their greatest need is, for although God made them in His own image, that image was marred by their sin, and their spirit was killed by their sins. But they can have their spirit restored to life and God’s image remade when they repent of their sins and receive Jesus as their own personal Savior and God. Every person’s greatest need is to become Born Again, by coming to Jesus in repentance and faith.

God introduced Himself at the Creation…re-introduced Himself at the Incarnation…and introduces you to yourself in the realization of everything you need to know for salvation and fellowship with your God forever!

Christmas Is …

Christmas Is …

Study Guide, December 4, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


So, here we are, on the cusp of Christmas…cusp of Christmas? ‘Cusp’? You know, there is a whole lot of meaning in that little word of ‘cusp’. It means: An event marking a unique or important historical change of course or one on which important developments depend. How about that? Does that describe Christmas or what? The first Christmas was definitely a unique and important historical change on which important developments depended all right! That first Christmas changed everything!

But people think about Christmas in a lot of different ways. If we were to say Christmas is…, there would be a lot of different responses. Like Christmas is…a Winter Wonderland; or Christmas is… a time for special get togethers of family and friends; or Christmas is… a time for giving gifts; or Christmas is… a time for focusing on the first Advent, the coming of our Savior Jesus.

There are lot of ways to think about Christmas. Here’s one that we need to add: Christmas is…a ‘Rescue for the perishing’. That’s right, a rescue…like in ‘a rescue mission’! There is a song that you don’t hear when you think about all the great Christmas carols that are sung, but it could be one of them, because, of all the things that Christmas is about, this is certainly central to it all. The song is called ‘Rescue the Perishing’. And how surprising would it be if in one of the many Christmas programs showing this time of year, if, all of a sudden you heard the singers singing – “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, snatch them in pity from sin and the grave; weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen, tell them of Jesus the mighty to save.”

People might look at each other and say, “I didn’t know that was a Christmas Carol!” Well, it’s never been included in a Christmas Caroling songbook, but it could…because it is the real reason for the season in the first place! Remember, John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” NASU

What if you were to ask people on the streets to fill in the rest of this: The World is…what? How many would fill that in with what God revealed in John 3:16…The World is… perishing!? Probably not many people would say that. How strange that people the world over will celebrate Christmas again this year, and year after year, and not even know what Christmas is even about! Christmas is the realization of John 3:16! Jesus is the reason for the season because the reason Jesus came was because the world was and is perishing. But fortunately, and thankfully, and amazingly, God so loved the world that He made a way for all those in the world that were perishing to not have to perish. And that was through the gift of His Son, in that first ‘Mass’, Christ’s Mass. And although the word ‘Mass’ is used in different ways in different religious settings, the Latin word ‘Missa’ was also used to denote a ‘Mission’. And Jesus was definitely on a ‘mission’! He was coming to rescue the perishing!

The crazy thing is, so many people will be celebrating Christmas again this year, but they don’t even realize that, unless they have turned to Christ in repentance and faith in order to be rescued from perishing… they are still perishing and will perish. Anyone who has not been ‘born again’ in their spirit is still perishing in their soul. But Christmas comes around each year with the same offer from a loving God to a perishing world. And every year they’ll sing the songs, and they’ll celebrate the season, but they still will not repent and receive the greatest gift that will rescue them from their greatest problem…they are perishing. That’s not celebrating Christmas…that’s celebrating their ‘madness’.

Madness’? Sometimes you hear about the frenzy of shopping or the rushing around from all the festivities described as ‘madness’. And it can certainly feel that way. But another surprising thing is that ‘madness’ not only describes the condition of someone who is frantically doing this thing or that thing, no, ‘madness’ describes the condition of anyone who is still in his or her position of perishing. ‘Madness’ is a human disorder. It’s a disorder of the mind and heart that is caused by the neglect or refusal of a person to allow God to have His proper place as Lord in their lives. ‘Madness’ is the condition of the mind and heart of anyone who is living in direct opposition to the authority of God and not ordering their lives according to God’s instructions for their life.

In the wisdom literature of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes even things such as living in self-pride instead of humility before God is described as ‘madness’. In other Scriptures even by failing to live by God’s moral standards, that behavior is charged as ‘madness’. And so, even Christians can be vulnerable to these destructive sins with various degrees of ‘madness’, like ‘leftover madness’ from their old sin nature. That’s why we have to be careful to order our lives by God’s instructions. Otherwise, sin will infect and damage our thinking and feelings as well. And we know that even from the example of nature, like when sheep try to go their own way apart from their Shepherd, that is simply a display of ‘madness’ on their part. It’s self-destructive. Sin is self-destructive. Sin damages a person’s thinking and perception and decision making and feelings. Unresolved sin is a form of ‘madness’.

In fact, any created human being that seeks to plan, make choices, and live their life apart from their Creator’s control is living under this self-inflicted condition of ‘madness’. Unconfessed sin and unforgiven sin causes a sickness in the mind and in the heart of created beings. And since so many in the world are still living unrepentant lives toward their Creator and only Savior, not only are they still perishing in their sin… they are also infected and afflicted by their sin, and it has caused a condition of ‘madness’ in their minds and hearts.

And people wonder why the world around us in such a mess. It’s not an educational problem…it’s not an environmental problem…it’s not a governmental problem…no it’s a sin problem. And because of sin, this world has a perishing problem! The world is perishing because the world has a sin problem. And their sin problem is because so many in this world have not surrendered in repentance to their Creator and God and have not in faith received their only Savior who came to Earth that first Christmas so that they would not have to perish but could be rescued from perishing.

Which leads us back to this new addition to the Caroling songbooks…or could. The song says – “Rescue the perishing, duty demands it – Strength for your labor the Lord will provide; Back to the narrow way patiently win them, Tell the poor wan-d’rer a Savior has died. Rescue the perishing, Care for the dying, Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.”

This leads us to another ‘fill in the blank’ or ‘blanks’, as in ‘Jesus came to Earth to…’ what? Some would say ‘Jesus came to Earth to be an example of how to live’, or ‘Jesus came to Earth to show us how to love and treat one another’, or, ‘Jesus came to Earth to show us what God is like’, and so on. Well, in part, but how about this? ‘Jesus came to Earth… to die.’ Jesus is the only Person who was born for the purpose of dying. “Tell the poor wan-d’rer a Savior has died”, says the song.

In Isaiah we marvel at the prophecy of Jesus’ coming birth into the world – “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” Isa 7:14 NASU And then we rejoice at the other titles given to Jesus – “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Isa 9:6 NASU But then in John we are struck by both the identity and the purpose of His coming – “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29 NASU

Jesus was laid in a manger in the place where the sacrificial lambs were laid in preparation for the sacrifices at the Temple. Why? Because He was the final sacrifice as the Lamb of God who came to Earth to be sacrificed on an altar of the Cross so that our sins could be taken away from us. Jesus’ gift of eternal life to us is because of the gift of His death on a Cross for us. Jesus perished in our place. He perished on the Cross for us…or even more…because of us. For another passage in Isaiah is also connected to Christmas…Isa 53:5-6- “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” NASU

That’s why we call Him – ‘Savior’! Jesus is the Lamb of God who is the Savior of the world! Speaking of the world, let’s add another ‘fill in the blank’. How would people on the streets fill this in – Jesus is…? Some would say – ‘Jesus is the Savior of the world’. Some would say – ‘Jesus is a great teacher sent from God’. Some would say – ‘Jesus is a great prophet of God’. But how many would say – ‘Jesus is mankind’s only Savior and only hope for sharing eternal life with God.’

In many countries around the world Christmas is more of a public holiday than a celebration of the Incarnation of God Himself and the only Savior of mankind. Like in many countries, Christmas is known as more of a time to spread happiness rather than a religious celebration. Christmas Eve is often celebrated more than Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is thought of as a romantic day, in which couples spend together and exchange presents. Many countries add their own traditional religious beliefs to that of the Christmas story. As you know, in many parts of the world, including our own country, religious beliefs are becoming more and more ‘syncretistic’. This means that whatever religious beliefs people had before, they are now allowing for other beliefs to be joined to them or added to their own. And part of the reason for this is that there is a growing pressure in many cultures for disbelieving that there is such a thing as ‘absolute truth’ when it comes to revelation about one God, one Creator, one Lord and one Savior. So now, in much of the world, there is more of a ‘union’ or even a ‘fusion’ of religious beliefs that allow for pretty much anyone to decide what is true for them concerning life and faith and beliefs about the First Advent of Jesus Christ, as well as His Second Advent.

And in other countries, like in the Middle East and its surroundings, Christmas is not even allowed to be recognized as a public holiday, since Jesus is taught to be not God Himself nor the Savior of the World, but only a prophet of God, only a man. Which brings us back to how many around the world would fill in – ‘Jesus is…’ with: ‘Jesus is mankind’s only Savior and only hope for sharing eternal life with God.’ As we are witnessing in our world’s syncretism of beliefs and apostasy concerning reality, fewer and fewer people now believe in their heart and mind that Jesus is mankind’s only Savior and only hope for sharing eternal life with God.

Oh, Christmas is still being celebrated around the world, as in the many traditions and public festivities, but Christ, the Biblical and Historical and Prophetical Christ, is being left out of it all. Many are celebrating the Season, but they are ignoring the Reason… especially the fact that regardless of what people think or imagine the reality is: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:16-18 NASU

People around the world and across our country who have not believed, who have not received Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior have already been judged and are still perishing. What they believe or accept about this information is secondary to what God has already announced to the world in His revelation about it all. People without Jesus as their Savior are perishing.

But Jesus came to rescue the perishing…we call it ‘Christmas’. And we are called to ‘Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave; Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen, Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.’

So, in this Christmas season, let’s each try to share the Gospel in as many ways as we can with this perishing world around us, either in spoken form or written form. For remember, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His great salvation is the best gift we could ever give anyone!


Questions God Asks, Pt. 6 (b)

Questions God Asks, Pt. 6 (b)

Study Guide, November 13, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


One of the most overlooked realities in life has to do with the Biblical fact that justice continues after this life, both for unbelievers and for believers. Now, this is more recognized when it comes to justice for unbelievers. Most Christians understand that there is a coming day of judgment for all who rejected or neglected the great salvation offered to them by Jesus Christ. Without repenting unto salvation, as Jesus said, “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:5 NASU So, oh yes, justice continues beyond this life. Jesus also declared a powerful truth that persecutors of God’s people ought to especially heed. Note this: Luke 12:4-5- “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!” NASU That’s the Person persecutors should fear!

A lot of people world-wide don’t believe in Hell anymore. But they are foolishly gambling against reality, because Jesus did believe in Hell. In fact, Jesus talked about Hell more than He did about Heaven, because Jesus doesn’t want anyone to perish in Hell, but for all to come to repentance. Hell was intended for the Devil and Demons, but if those dead in their sins will not repent and receive Jesus’ forgiveness and His eternal life, there is no other place for them to spend eternity. But most will not repent unto salvation. As Jesus said: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matt 7:13-14 NASU That narrow way is Jesus Himself, as Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

So again, a judgment is coming for all who will not repent and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. In fact, their sin of unrepentance has already condemned them. They are already dead in their spirit because of their trespasses and sin. What awaits them is the Great White Throne judgment where they will receive their ‘just sentencing’ in this place of Gehenna Hell, based upon their deeds. Then they will be separated from the presence of God and assigned their place in Hell, which is called ‘the second death’.

Most people have an aversion to death…even a fear of death. But for the unsaved, the ‘death’ that they really need to fear is this ‘second death’. For anyone who has not been spiritually ‘Born Again’, well…they will not only die once…they will die twice. But it’s this ‘second death’ that is the one they ought to fear…for that is where they will be eternally confined in a real place called “Hell”. As the true saying states: “Born once, die twice…born twice, die once.”

We are certainly disturbed by the unrighteous ways and deeds of so many of the unsaved, but we still need to be praying for them and helping them come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ…because what awaits them otherwise is this ‘just judgment’ for their sins, and an eternal existence in this land of regret and remorse called “Hell”.

So, again, most Bible believing Christians understand the reality of this judgment that awaits unbelievers and the justice that requires it. What many believers don’t understand is the judgment that awaits believers, the Judgment Seat of Christ, for the evaluation of their lives to determine their service assignments and privileges in the Millennial and the Eternal Kingdoms, or essentially – “Heaven”. And we have covered many teachings on the rewards or the loss of rewards for believers, based upon the motives and deeds of their lives as children of God who are accountable to God for how they lived their lives after becoming Born Again into the family of God. But what we need to expand upon and expound upon is what we stated that is often overlooked by God’s children about their accountability before God. And that is, that God’s promise for His justice to be done on their behalf does not stop at physical death…no, God’s justice is an eternal virtue and exists beyond physical death, both for the unbeliever, as we pointed out, and for believers…for His children’s sake. Just like with Jesus’ question that we began exploring last time: “…will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night…? Luke 18:7 NASU The resounding answer to this rhetorical question is: “Of course God will bring about justice for His children!”

Again, physical death does not remove our accountability before God for how we lived our life, no, it actually reveals it! For as Paul said to the believers in Rome: Rom 14:12- “So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” NASU So we will each give an account of our lives concerning our faithfulness or unfaithfulness as children of God. And we know that this account is not concerning our salvation, for our salvation is God’s gift to us based upon Christ’s deeds of fulfilling the Law for us and also for sacrificing His life for our sins, to remove the spiritual death penalty from us. This judgment for believers is not about our salvation, it’s about our sanctification, or our progress or neglect of it, our works of faithfulness or unfaithfulness, our obedience or disobedience in living as God commanded us to live in relation to our God…and…and…in relation to God’s other children, our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Mark it down: we are accountable for not only how we have treated our Heavenly Father, but we are also accountable for how we have treated our Heavenly Father’s other children. And this accountability for how we have treated other brothers and sisters in God’s family is perhaps the most overlooked aspect of the Judgment Seat of Christ. For many, it’s as though, regardless of how they have mistreated, offended, slandered, or harmed their brother or sister in Christ, they somehow think that physical death somehow stops God’s justice from being done, and somehow erases all their offenses and removes their accountability to both God and to those they wronged.

But that kind of thinking not only defies all reason, logic, and common sense, but it also denies the clear teachings and the strong warnings of God to His children that He will do justice and will repay any wrong ever done to them, either by unbelievers or by fellow believers. Note the rest of what Paul told the believers in Rome, told fellow Christians about their accountability toward their fellow believers: “So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.'” Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God.” Rom 14:10-13 NASB

Paul clearly tells these Roman believers, and all believers, that the Judgment Seat of Christ will also be a time for the finishing of any unfinished business with their fellow believers. It will be part of their giving of their personal account to God to reconcile with their fellow brothers and sisters concerning any offense or any injustice that was done, which they had not made right with God and with the one they had wronged. Now remember, Paul is not talking about our redemption before God here. Our redemption before God is complete. What Paul is talking about here is our reconciliation with other believers due to offenses or injustices that had not been resolved before they left Earth.

Again, justice for God’s people does not stop at physical death. Certainly, what stops is the sinning of God’s people, since the sin nature cannot enter Heaven. Which means that the sin nature that caused the offending brother or sister to mistreat or offend another believer will be removed from them. Which also means that they will be more than willing and ready to confess and apologize and make right any wrong that they ever did to another brother or sister in Christ. They will be more than ready to reconcile any past wrongs. And thus, God’s promise to do justice on behalf of His children will be fulfilled just like God has promised. And God’s children’s sense of justice will be satisfied because their offender has made right the wrong that they had said or done against them.

This ‘reconciliation process’ between believers at the Judgment Seat of Christ is rarely taught and thus is little understood. But when better understood, it is one of the most liberating and satisfying teachings in the Scriptures for God’s children who have been mistreated, slandered, or have had any wrong done to them by other believers who have not repented, confessed, and sought forgiveness for their wrongdoing. Justice not only springs eternal, it also satisfies eternally!

So now it’s time to bring in some guest speakers, some prominent Bible Teachers to share with us what they have learned in the Scriptures through the years that will help us better understand this reconciliation between believers that is to come when we give an account of our lives before God at this ‘family judgment’ of Christ. I wish we could literally have them here with us, but since some of them already live in Heaven, we’ll just have to let them speak to us through what they left us. Let’s hear from Dr. Theodore Epp, former President of Back to the Bible radio program. He said: “At the Judgment Seat of Christ, difficulties and inequalities among the saints will be ironed out. We have so many of these in our present day. All the injustices and misunderstandings of God’s people among themselves will then be settled. Those of the saints who were humble, and who endured meekly and unresistingly accusation and malicious gossip for Christ’s sake, even from fellow believers, will be manifested in their true light. They will then be vindicated in the eyes of all and cleared of all false charges.”

He then goes on to say, “We must not overlook the fact that those who in their pride have done and said wrong things, unless they have confessed these things to God and renounced them, will face the consequences of such conduct at the Judgment Seat of Christ by losing rewards.”1

And we have this from Dr. M.R. DeHann, former President of Radio Bible Class and founder of Our Daily Bread devotionals that we receive and enjoy here at the Chapel. Dr. DeHann said: “Before they can reign in righteousness with Jesus, a lot of things which are all wrong among believers now will have to be made right first. If we do not make them right now, they will be made right at the Judgment Seat of Christ, and it will not be a pleasant experience for many to see their works burned up and they themselves saved as by fire, and then consigned to a lower place in the Kingdom with loss of rewards and with many sad regrets.”2

And now from Dr. Donald Barnhouse, one of the most profound Bible Teachers and Commentators in recent history. He said: “All our dealings with fellow Christians must be brought out at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. The innuendo, slander, backbiting, envy, jealousy, gossiping and lying among Christians is a first-class scandal…Can we remain careless when we realize that all our deeds will be reviewed there? Unsettled accounts will be fully opened and settled. What we have done as Christians will face us there.”3

We only have time for one more guest speaker today, and then we’ll continue our convocation next time. But now let’s hear from Dr. Erwin Lutzer, honored Pastor of Moody Church and Nationwide Bible Conference Speaker. Dr. Lutzer was teaching on the fact that God reveals that He will not only judge our deeds, but also our motives, and that we are to be assured that God will vindicate His children that were wronged by others. Notice the passage where Paul reveals this: 1 Cor 4:3-5- “As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord Himself who will examine me and decide. So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For He will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.” NLT

It’s important to notice here that Paul is speaking about God evaluating and judging God’s people after His return for His people. So this is a judgment going on not only about our works and deeds, but even our motives, as well as how we treated one another. So now Dr. Lutzer says this: “…unresolved disputes among believers will be adjudicated at the Bema (the Judgment Seat of Christ). There the injustices among God’s children will be brought to light, truth will triumph, and the righteous will be vindicated.”

Then he goes on to say: “It might be tempting to think that Christians will walk through heaven’s gates hand in hand, with old animosities forgotten. Yes, of course, at that time all believers will have new natures and will not be subject to grudges and bitterness. But this does not mean that what happened on Earth will be hidden. Paul taught that the believers in Corinth should not think that they have to settle every issue but wait for Christ to do it. What is the purpose of exposing the secrets of the hearts if it is not to bring final reconciliation to unresolved disputes?…If you have ever had your reputation ruined by a vindictive believer, take comfort in the fact that the truth shall one day be revealed. Is not this why Paul said we should not take revenge but leave the matter with God?”

And then one more statement from Dr. Lutzer: “Christ will untangle the disputes that baffled us on earth. He will bring to light ‘the things hidden in darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts. Justice can only triumph if the participants see injustices addressed and resolved. The Judgment Seat of Christ will be the place where God will satisfy our craving to have masks torn away, lies exposed, and reality prevail. The wrongdoers will finally admit the truth, and the victims will be vindicated; forgiveness among believers will be both given and accepted. Only then will justice prevail.”4

Our Heaven Father is completely just and fair. And because He is completely just and fair, how like our Heavenly Father to assure us all that He will justly and fairly deal with each of His children, especially in this area of how they have treated one another. He will not allow any injustice against any of His children to go unresolved and unreconciled. That is why He will meet with each one, and every wrong done by one of His children to another one of His children that was not resolved when they were together on Earth will be resolved when they are together at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Again, this is one of the most important Bible teachings for believers to understand about their Heavenly Father and about their relationships with other believers. We don’t have to fix or fuss or fume about every wrong that another believer has ever said or done to us. God is recording everything, and He will fix it for us. If you have been wronged in some way by another believer who has not yet made it right with God and with you…just know this; one day they will! God is going to see to that for you.

We certainly pray that they will repent and confess and apologize for their wrongdoing while we are still together here on Earth, and then we can be reconciled and at peace about it while we serve God before we leave Earth. However, what we do know is that if this doesn’t happen before we meet God in person, when we do, our Heavenly Father will make sure that they make it right with us when we are each standing right in front of Him. And, again, the wrongdoer will want to make it right, because they will completely agree with God and you about their need to confess and apologize for their wrongdoing against you, just like they should have done on Earth…but in their disobedience they didn’t. They will want to make it right with the brother or sister with whom are about to spend eternity together, now completely reconciled, and now will forevermore love their brother or sister in Christ just as Christ loves them.

And that’s just one more thing that will make Heaven be ‘Heaven’.

  1. Carl C. Johnson, The Account Which We Must Give, Studies on the Judgment Seat of Christ p. 37
  2. Ibid., pp. 36,37
  3. Ibid., pp. 38,39
  4. Erwin Lutzer, Your Eternal Reward, Triumph and Tears at the Judgment Seat of Christ, pp. 66, 67

Questions God Asks, Pt. 6

Questions God Asks, Pt. 6

Study Guide, November 6, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


There is one subject in the Christian life over which there is much confusion. And it has to do with ‘justice’. But in the midst of a teaching on perseverance in prayer Jesus also gives a teaching on justice…God’s justice for His people. And He gives it in the form of another question. Let’s look: Luke 18:1-8- “Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’ And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said; now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly…” NASU

This is kind of an unusual teaching on persevering in prayer because the Lord didn’t mean that persistent prayers bother Him, nor will we ‘wear Him out’ to the point that He just gives into us like this unrighteous judge; no, just the opposite. The point was that if this unrighteous judge would become willing to help this woman with a genuine need, how much more is our righteous Father willing to hear our prayers and help us in our genuine needs as well. So certainly, bring your cares and concerns and needs and hopes to your loving Heavenly Father. Choose prayer as your first, foremost, and faith-filled response to any and everything you ever have to face in life, because your loving God cares about your prayers, and is more than willing to help you.

But in the midst of this encouragement on praying faithfully Jesus injects another encouragement about God’s justice on behalf of His children. And His question is – “…will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly…” How interesting that the King James Version states God’s justice in these terms: Luke 18:7-8- “And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.” KJV Now, as far as the timing of God doing justice for or avenging His people, the point was that as soon as any injustice is done to one of God’s children, He is already preparing the justice that will be done and determining the vengeance that will be carried out. And, as always, we can be sure of that, yet we need to wait on God for His timing.

But what we are examining here is one of the most misunderstood and confused aspects of the Christian life, especially when it comes to justice and forgiveness. For example: Many assume that somehow wrong doers can get away with doing wrong…especially to God’s people, since God’s people are obligated to forgive others. But not only is this a completely false assumption by those who have been wronged and even by wrongdoers themselves, but it is also a completely false understanding about ‘forgiveness’, which then unnecessarily burdens and disturbs them with this sense of injustice about it all.

So let’s look at what is often overlooked about ‘forgiveness. So many believers tend to think that justice delayed means justice denied. Oh, justice may seem to be delayed at times, but justice will never be denied nor will it be ignored. Many do not understand that in God’s promise to do justice on behalf of His children that He is promising, as John Gill put it in his exposition of this passage: “God has loved them with an everlasting love, and hence they are peculiarly His: and these He will avenge and vindicate, right their wrongs, do them justice, and deliver them from their adversaries, and take vengeance on them; as may be concluded from His hatred of sin, His justice, and His holiness, from His promises, and from His power, and from the efficacy of prayer, and the regard He has to it…whose prayers He always hears; whose tears He (even) puts up in His bottle…” (John Gill’s Exposition of the Old and New Testaments)

Does that sound like God permits wrongdoers of God’s people to ever get away with any wrongdoing against God’s people? Not at all! For not only is God the God of all love, He is also the God of all justice! So again, be sure…justice delayed is never justice denied. God has not only promised to right every wrong ever done to us, but He has even promised to do what we cannot do as powerfully and judicially as He can. What do we mean? Perhaps we all need to become far more familiar with what God declared about Himself throughout the Old and New Testaments in over 50 places, but we’ll just give some of these striking examples to help us understand what God is teaching us when it comes to avenging His people.

Deut 32:35-36- “Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, In due time their foot will slip;

For the day of their calamity is near, And the impending things are hastening upon them.’

For the Lord will vindicate His people, And will have compassion on His servants…”

2 Sam 22:47-48- “The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock; And exalted be God, the rock of my salvation, The God who executes vengeance for me…”

Isa 35:4- “Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, But He will save you.”

Nah 1:2-3- “A jealous and avenging God is the Lord; The Lord is avenging and wrathful.

The Lord takes vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies. The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, And the Lord will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.”

Rom 12:19-20- “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.” NASU

One thing we need to very clear about, even for the sake of our own spiritual, emotional, and physical wellbeing, is this fact that no injustice ever done to any believer…ever done to us, will ever be ignored by God, or gotten away with by the wrongdoer. For God is our ‘Avenger’ who has declared “Vengeance is Mine” and has promised us “I will repay”. Have you added that identity of God’s yet to your understanding of Who your God is? Yes, God is my light and my salvation, my Rock and my refuge…yes, and God is also ‘my Avenger’! And regardless of what Hollywood has ever imagined an Avenger to be, there has never been nor will there ever be an ‘Avenger’ like our God is our ‘Avenger’. Anyone who wrongs God’s people in any way and does not repent of their wrong and make it right before God and to God’s people are going to have to face God’s vengeance, God’s justice. And, again, God’s vengeance will be far more that we could ever do.

And so, as you understand this and then dwell on what God is telling His children about what He is going to do in defense of them, this will not only answer your questions about injustice and unrighteousness and about any wrong doing ever done to you or to others of God’s people, it will also satisfy your rightful sense of the need for justice to be done and the need for the guilty to be punished. And why does it satisfy our need for justice to be done? Because God has declared to the whole world, and especially to His children who have been wronged by this world: “Vengeance is Mine…I will repay! I will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.”

Know this: You have a personal Avenger. God is your personal Avenger. And therefore, no one who has ever wronged you in any way, without making it right by you through confession and even restitution if needed, will ever get away with that injustice toward you, for God is your Avenger who has promised to repay the wrongdoer with His judgment upon them.

We have a very powerful statement about this from the Apostle Paul’s own experience when he was writing to Timothy from a prison cell in Rome. Note what he said: 2 Tim 4:13-15- “When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching.” NASU One remarkable thing about this is that this man is believed to be the same man that was causing division in the church in Ephesus, whom Paul called for the church to discipline him through disfellowshipping with this carnal believer. Apparently, he was still causing trouble later. So here is Paul revealing to the other believers that God’s justice and judgment was coming to Alexander because of his divisiveness in the church. And remember, those who cause division among the Brethren is one of the top seven sins listed in Proverbs six that God says that He hates!

But note carefully what Paul knew about God’s justice here, and what we are to know about it, too. Just like with Paul, we, too, are assured here that God will repay anyone for any harm they have ever caused you, for which they have not made it right with God and with you, whether that be from unbelievers or even believers. And what this understanding did for Paul was that it assured him that justice would be done on his behalf concerning any injustice ever done to him from destructive unbelievers outside the church or even from divisive believers from inside the church…because God was his personal Avenger. God is your personal Avenger. God will not allow any injustice against any of His children to stand without His vengeance being carried out upon them.

Now, factor this fact of God’s sure justice back into the teaching of forgiveness. Sometimes Christians confuse the whole concept of forgiveness because they fail to factor in God’s vengeance, or God’s justice. They think: ‘How can you forgive someone when justice has not been done?’ The point is: Justice has already been set into motion and it will be done, that’s how! In fact, in God’s eyes, this justice is already as good as done, for God sees what’s going to be done because He is going to do it. Without repentance over their wrongdoing, God will carry out His sure and certain justice upon them.

And this is another reason that we are to walk by faith and not by sight, because we can’t yet see the rest of this picture about God carrying out His justice that God already sees. That’s why we are to look at every instance of injustice through the Scripture’s lenses of what God says He is already doing and is going to do about it. We need to know what God says about what He sees in order for us to then see the situation through ‘eyes of faith’ about the justice that is going to be done. Remember, sin against God and against God’s people sets God’s justice, God’s vengeance, into motion against them. Only repentance and confession to God and to the one who was wronged averts this vengeance. And God taught us this in His Word so that we would know this and that it would comfort us and assure us that every injustice ever done to you will be made right for you…God has promised to see to that!

Therefore, that’s what we are to see when it comes to this step of forgiving offenses toward you. Your forgiveness doesn’t release the offender of their injustice toward you, rather it releases them from your hands into the hands of the God of all justice, who will then carry out justice on them. Plus, and here is the real healing and helping purpose of forgiveness; it releases you from having to carry the burden of the offense anymore or being controlled by it anymore. You see, often when a believer has been offended by another, the believer tends to carry the offense, dwell on the offense, and unknowingly, that just allows it to continue to offend. But what the offended believer needs is a way to be released from that offense. Therefore, through forgiveness God gives us a way to release the offense by having us release the offender to Him. We release them from our hands into God’s hands. And think about it: When through forgiveness you release the offender from your own vengeance by releasing them over to God, well, realize this: God’s vengeance is far more than you could ever impart to the offender anyway! Your Avenger is going to take care of the offender for you.

Did you know that the real benefit of forgiveness is first for the sake of the one doing the forgiving, even before the one being forgiven? This is a remarkable revelation about ‘forgiveness’ that we find in what God says to us in Isa 43:25- “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.” NASU How about that? God forgives us first for His own sake. Think about it: God so loved us so much that He found a way that He could satisfy the justice necessary against us because of our sins against Him, and therefore could forgive us so that He could then have us become His forever children, redeemed from sin and death. And so our forgiveness was foremost for God’s own sake, so that He could then fully love us because His justice was fully satisfied toward us. But again, note this carefully, even with God’s forgiveness, God’s forgiveness could only be given to us by Him first giving His Son to carry out the justice that was required in order to forgive sin.

And that’s something we are to always remember…Biblical forgiveness is never detached from Biblical justice. When we choose to forgive an offense and the offender, it’s not like we’re just shoving ‘justice’ off the table onto the floor. No, forgiving someone who has harmed or offended you is not like letting them off the hook. No, not at all! No, you are just moving them to another hook…from your hook to God’s hook. Certainly, as we forgive them we also pray that they will repent of their offense, repent of their sin or sins, and confess and forsake their sin, apologize for their sin, and thus be released of their sin, since justice has then been satisfied. But if they do not or will not repent of their sin, then again, in order for forgiveness to be granted, justice must also be satisfied.

So here it is: The reason we can forgive even unrepentant sinners is because God is going to see to it that justice will be satisfied. It’s just like with Jesus’ sacrifice for sins. Jesus bore the just penalty for our sins in our place, and His sacrifice became the satisfaction of the just punishment for our sins. That’s why when people reject or neglect the salvation offered to them by Jesus, based upon His sacrifice to cover the justice due because of their sin, well, if they will not receive His sacrifice for their sin, then they must endure the just penalty themselves for their sins.

But the point is, God can forgive us because Jesus bore the just penalty of our sins for us. God could pour out forgiveness upon us because justice was poured out upon Jesus for us. Still, that blessed exchange was not automatic for us…our repentance was first required by us in order for God’s justice to be satisfied towards us.

Which takes us back to this…so now when we forgive someone for their offense against us, we are not excusing their offense or eliminating the consequences of the justice that they will face; rather, we are simply handing them over to the God of all justice who will then justly deal with them as their sins deserve. And they will either repent of their offense or offenses and seek to make it right with God and with us, or, if they will not repent, then they will face God’s just vengeance, for God is just and His justice will be done!

This understanding that God is our Avenger is meant to be one of the greatest sources of consolation for anyone who has ever been unjustly treated in any way, by either an unbeliever or a believer…for you can rest assured that justice is coming to you. Plus, God also intends for this to be a caution and a correction for even His own people in how they treat one another, for His timeless principle of sowing and reaping also applies to God’s children. If there are offenses and wrongs done that were not accounted for on Earth, they will accounted for at the Judgment Seat of Christ, so that all accounts are settled before God’s children move into the New Earth. Death does not remove accountability before God even for God’s children; it actually reveals it. As the Apostle Paul said to the believers in Rome: “So then, each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” Rom.14:12 NASB

We’ll continue exploring this next time.

Questions God Asks, Pt. 5

Questions God Asks, Pt. 5

Study Guide, October 23, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


Naturally we ask a lot of questions to God. We don’t yet know the answers, but we’re hoping to find them. And yet, God also asks a lot of questions to us, too. Interestingly enough, God already knows the answers to every question that He asks us. But the point is for us to then come to also know what God already knows about the answers to those questions that He asks us, instead of just knowing what we do know or think we know. You know what I mean? Of course! And since in weeks past we have been examining some of those questions that God asks, let’s explore another one that is perhaps one of the most unusual questions God ever asked, as well as a most surprising question, since it differs widely from what most people imagine when they think about God, however they imagine Him.

All right…so what’s the question? Are you ready to maybe also be surprised? Here it is: In Luke 12:51-53 Jesus said- “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” NASU

I can imagine, after hearing Jesus say this, that many people in the crowd that were standing there were now standing there with their mouths fallen wide open, as in: “What did He say? Did I hear that right? Did He say that He didn’t come to grant peace on earth, but division?” Oh yeah! That’s exactly what Jesus said!

But wait a minute. Didn’t even the multitude of Angels announce at Jesus’ birth – “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”? (Luke 2:14 NKJV) And didn’t the Prophet Isaiah inform us that even one of Jesus’ names is ‘Prince of Peace’? And aren’t the virtues of love and peace the very virtues that followers of Christ are to carry in their minds and hearts and then communicate and demonstrate these very things in their relationships with both those inside the household of faith and with those outside the household of faith?

Right again…partially…! Wait…what do you mean, partially? How about this? Is this not one of the most remarkable verses in the Psalms? Ps 85:10-“Lovingkindness and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” NASU What a word picture! That speaks of the complete harmony and unity of God’s ‘lovingkindness, truth, righteousness, and peace’. These virtues not only travel together along God’s paths, but they are also inseparable from each other. In fact, not only are they inseparable…they are also ‘life giving’. Which means that if they are separated, the consequences become ‘life threatening’. What do we mean by that?

An example from nature can illustrate this. Sodium requires great care when being handled. If it comes into contact with water, the reaction can be flammable, while powdered sodium has the potential to be explosive in oxygen or air.

Chlorine is an extremely caustic and dangerous substance. It can be a toxic gas that is extremely harmful to the respiratory system. If it reacts with the lining of the lungs, it can be lethal. But if you combine them together, well, then you can reach for them in your shaker bottle and sprinkle a little of it on your food or in your cooking pot, and the result is…yummy tasting good old ‘salt’.1 Again, when properly combined, they become useful and beneficial…even peaceful. But improperly used apart from one another…they can be harmful and dangerous, even deadly.

We think of that statement about genuine unity: “Truth without love is legalism. Love without truth is lawlessness. But truth with love is peacefulness.” You see, what the world wants is peace, and they want love…what the natural man wants from God is lovingkindness and peace…but they want it all on their own terms. And their own terms tend to exclude righteousness and truth, because that would require changes in their life about other things, like: God’s authority over their life, and like their accountability to God, and like their need to surrender to the Sovereignty of God in their life. Oh yeah, they most definitely want a God that will grant them peace, as long as they can basically live their life as their own god. But wasn’t that mankind’s problem from the very beginning? Remember the lie? “You shall be like God.” What the Enemy meant was they would be like ‘their own god’. And that has been the main problem with people throughout history. How ironic, that whenever a person attempts to be like God, as in like their own god, that is when they are most unlike God.

Of all the images that God warned man not to make, there is one image that is actually the worst image…also the most overlooked. And that image is that whenever anyone attempts to make God in his or her own image, that is a false image and an idol! Remember, God created us in His image, but ever since the Fall of man into sin, people have been attempting to make God in their own image, after the imaginations of their own mind, and after the desires of their own will. God created man in His image, but many people now want to create a god that is in their image! So again, not only is that the worst image, it is also the worst ‘idol’. When you allow your personal life to replace the Lord of life; when you allow your personal self to replace the personal Savior, when you allow the image of God to be replaced by a god in your own image, you have moved into idolatry…into the worship of the self instead of worship of the Sovereign Creator and Redeemer.

But that’s what happens when people leave out the key component which makes up genuine unity and genuine faith and genuine righteousness and genuine peace and genuine love. Whenever you leave out the key component of ‘Truth’ you leave out ‘Jesus’, because Jesus is Himself, the what? ‘The Way, the Truth, and the Life’!

Again, the world is calling out for ‘Peace’ and ‘Love’, but at the same time, just like the religious yet unrepentant people of Jesus’ day, they are really just saying to the Prince of Peace and to the God of Love, but “We will not have this Man rule over us!”…even though Jesus is the perfect God and perfect Man. Remember: The essence of sin is the desire for man to rule over himself or herself…to be like their own god. But what a foolish conflict that creates? For in order to have the Prince of Peace and the God of Love grant to you His peace and His love in your life, you have to invite the God of Truth to rule and to reign in your life. Mark it down: ‘Lovingkindness, truth, righteousness, and peace’ are ‘One’! And just like it says in the Great Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4- “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is One!” NASB God cannot and will not be divided between love and truth, for God is both Love and Truth!

However, the sin nature of man longs for a love that is made in their own image and imagination of what love is. The sin nature of man rejects the love that is defined within the image of God and the Word of God. The sin nature of man longs for a counterfeit truth that is fashioned by their own image and imagination but rejects the genuine truth that is defined in the image of God and the Word of God. And now notice: It is this very rejection of Truth that results in division between those who will worship the One True God and those who will not, because they want a god who they have fashioned in their own image. That’s why you so often hear those foolish and illogical statements by those who have rejected the One True God, saying things like, “We each have our own truths. You have your truth and I have my truth.”

The problem with that is that kind of thinking is that – nothing could be further from the truth! When beliefs or statements about Jesus Christ and the Bible contradict one another, they cannot both be true! When Jesus Christ says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”, it cannot also be true that there is another way, or another truth, and another life apart from Jesus Christ. When other religious belief systems declare that Jesus Christ is not the One True God and only Savior of mankind, then their belief cannot also be true, because Jesus said He is the only True God and the only Savior of mankind.

Jesus didn’t come to grant peace without truth because genuine peace only results from genuine truth, and in then placing your personal faith in that truth. That’s why the Apostle Paul revealed that ‘peace with God’ only comes after ‘becoming justified before God’. Notice: Rom 5:1- “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” NASU That is where the world stumbles in their understanding and continues to fall short in having a relationship with God because they want the ‘peace of God’ without first ‘making peace WITH God’. Until a person turns to God in repentance from their sin and self and puts their trust in Christ’s life and sacrifice for their sins, they are not justified…they are not declared to be in right relationship with God, nor is their soul at peace with God. And therefore, they cannot experience the ‘peace of God’ nor ‘eternal life’ with God, for they have rejected the ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life’ of God!

Friends, Jesus is never the cause of division. Truth simply exposes a divisive heart; it does not cause it. The sin of rejecting God’s truth is the cause of division. When you share the Gospel of truth, or share the truths of the Scriptures, and it causes division, it’s just like with those Jesus pointed out: “…five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law…” and even between friends and others.

No, the Gospel and the Word of God are not the cause of division, nor are you, who are courageously sharing the truths of God Word, the cause of division. No, the sin of rejecting the Gospel and the sin of rejecting the Word of God, and even the sin or rejecting the ones who care enough to share the truths of God’s Words…it is this sin of rejection is the cause of division. The Gospel and the Word of God are, in fact, the only hope for anyone of escaping from their bondage to their sinful habit of rejecting God’s truths! Remember, unregenerate souls are in slavery to their sin nature. Even saved, yet carnal Christians, can be enslaved by their own human reasoning that is still resisting surrendering to the Lordship of Christ in their lives. Christians need to be careful to be renewing and transforming their mind from their own faulty human reasoning to God’s truthful revelation.

Again: It is only when a truth rejecting person repents before the One True God and becomes a ‘truth receiving’ person, that they then become right with God, and also then at peace with God, and then can experience the peace of God. Plus, it is also only then that they are finally able to be at peace with their fellow man.

How fascinating that even when the Angels were saying ‘Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men’, that what they were actually declaring was an offer from God that was being made to mankind. God was offering His peace and offering His good will toward all people. And His offer was lying in a manger…available for any and all who would accept His offer of peace in the One who was ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life’. Just think: everyone’s eternal peace with God, as well as their present peace in their heart and life, all depends on what they have done with God’s offer: Will they receive the only One who is the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life…or will they continue to reject Him and thus forfeit both eternal life and personal peace. Remember: The only thing left when you reject Truth is division…division between the divisive person and God…division between the divisive person and God’s people…and eternal division between the divisive person and their only Creator and Redeemer.

The New American Standard Bible says, “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division…” But another version translates it in a very fascinating way: “Is it your opinion that I have come to give peace on earth? I say to you, No, but division…” (Luke 12:51 BBE [Bible in Basic English]) And therein lies the basic problem with the sin nature of mankind. People have this self-destructive habit of starting nearly everything with ‘their opinion’ rather than starting with ‘God’s revelation’! But man’s opinion always leads to either ‘love without truth’ or ‘truth without love’. But both are divisive and toxic to humans. It is only when you have God’s love combined with God’s truth that you have genuine peace and genuine unity and genuine relationships, both with God and with one another. It is only when you commit to God’s truth and receive God’s love and seek to ‘speak truth in love’ and ‘love in truth’ that you then experience what Jesus also said: John 14:27- “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.” NASU

God’s love, God’s truth…they always go together. And those who keep them together are the ones who are seeking to worship and serve God, and to help others find peace with God and experience the peace of God. Those who divide them from each other are the ones who are seeking to worship and serve themselves…and that is the cause of division.

John 4:23-24- “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” NASU

  1. Readworks.org, Everyday Compound or Poison?

If Your Eye is Clear

If Your Eye is Clear

Study Guide, October 9, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


One of the amazing principles that comes out the Scriptures is that in life it is not only ‘what’ we see, but ‘how’ we see that is important. Consider this statement: ‘You don’t see the world as it is…you see the world as you are.’ How remarkable is that? Just think: People can be looking at the same picture, looking at the same event, looking at the same issue, looking at the same scene, yet seeing each of these things entirely differently from each other. What’s the difference? Let’s explore.

In the midst of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He revealed a truly eye-opening reality to us who have ears to hear and eyes to see. Let’s look: Matt 6:22-23- “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” NASU Jesus was in the midst of teaching us all about the need for preparing for Kingdom living by laying up our treasures in Heaven. He was calling for us to prioritize our attitude toward the material world by connecting it to the spiritual world. And we do this by serving God first and foremost through the stewardship of our treasures. As has been stated: Money makes a terrible master, but it makes a great servant. We can serve God greatly through the service of our treasures. Throughout history God has often richly blessed His people and looked for His people to then richly bless others through His rich provisions. And then He promises to multiply those blessings back to His generous servants…in His times and in His ways, but with His promises of that to be sure!

So having a clear eye about this and a clear understanding about this and acting on this simply influences your entire life and future as well. But having a bad eye, or a dark attitude from loving the things of this world more than the Giver of the things of this world just creates more and more darkness in the mind and soul. And instead of the material things then being a blessing to you and others, it becomes a curse to you and others. Instead of your resources being multiplied back to you by God, they simply rust and turn to dust. Rather, if we think clearly about this we will then see clearly and then will clearly be rewarded because of our being rich in good works and in sharing with others, and thus investing in the Kingdom.

All right…then also uncovered in Jesus’ revelation about the ‘eye’ is how crucial it is to have a clear eye and to guard against having a bad eye. For one leads to blessing and further light, and the other leads to destruction and further darkness. And again, who you are powerfully influences everything you see as well as what you do. So basically – your eye is your character. And why this is essential to understand is because it explains why people see what they see and why they do what they do. For again, you do not see the world as it is, you see the world as you are!

Case in point: The Prophet Elijah was one of the noblest, committed, and faithful followers of God in the history of God’s people. He looked at life through eyes of faithfulness and duty to God. Everything he saw around him in his nation he saw through the filter of God’s sovereignty and authority over all the nation and over all of life. He looked at life through a character that was developed through the daily disciplines of seeking to please and obey His Lord and Redeemer. And therefore, he not only looked at everything around him through these ‘lenses of humble obedience to God’, but he was then able to discern the righteousness or the unrighteousness of everything around him based upon seeing it from God’s viewpoint of all things.

On the other hand, you have King Ahab, son of Omri, one of the orneriest Kings of Israel. Omri the Ornery! But Ahab followed well in his footsteps. Ahab incited the judgment of God by not only continuing the calf worship of Jeroboam, but also adding the worship of Baal to the mix. Ahab looked at life through the bad eye of pride and self-centeredness…of deciding for himself what was good or not, instead of looking to God to reveal what was righteous or unrighteous. Ahab even had a man put to death just because he wanted the man’s vineyard for himself. He was one bad grape …or apple.

But here’s the thing, when Ahab saw Elijah coming to confront him, this is how Ahab saw Elijah: “When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is this you, you troubler of Israel?” Elijah said, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and you have followed the Baals.” 1 Kings 18:17-18 NASU So basically, Ahab says to Elijah: “You’re the trouble-maker!” And Elijah says to Ahab: “No, you are the trouble-maker!” Ahab didn’t see Elijah as Elijah really was, but as Ahab really was, the real trouble-maker. However, Elijah clearly did see Ahab as he was because he was seeing Ahab through a ‘clear eye’…through sight that had been developed through obedience to God and God’s Word.

Mark it down: Your vision of this world and even of the world to come is only as clear as your character development and your obedience to God. Everything you see is affected by those two things. Spiritual vision is measured by the qualities of your character and obedience to God. You cannot see more clearly than you have developed in your character and obedience to God. You cannot understand further than you have developed in your character and obedience to God. In fact, you cannot accomplish anything of lasting value greater than what you have accomplished in the development your character and have achieved in your obedience to God.

The Apostle Peter makes that as clear as can be made clear. And although we have expounded on this passage before, this is the central teaching on how your life will be measured as ‘useful and fruitful’ or ‘not useful and unfruitful’. It is the true measure of ‘success’ in life, as well it will determine the abundance of your Kingdom privileges or the forfeiture of them. So note carefully: 2 Peter 1:2-11- “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” NASU

This is one of the most important passages in all of Scripture for understanding what discipleship is really all about; conformity to the image of Christ. And, as we have stated before, sometimes you catch the impact of what the Scriptures are saying by also saying what the Scriptures are not saying. Say what? Like verse 8 says: “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So note that this Scripture does not say; For if these qualities are not yours and are not increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Of course that is not what is says! It says that if these qualities are not yours and are not increasing then they will indeed render your works not useful and unfruitful! And who wants to have God reveal to them that the sum of their works have been examined by God and have been determined to be ‘not useful and unfruitful’ because they were not obedient to increasing in the practice these character qualities, which God instructed us to practice?!

Do you see what God is saying to us through the Apostle Peter? All of our works, the successfulness of the efforts of our lives, all of the real fruit that was grown or will remain from the deeds of our days, will all be measured by these seven character qualities, which of course, all had their perfection in Christ. But God intends for each of us to increasingly practice each one of these of our lives. And then God will use these character qualities to determine the usefulness and the fruitfulness of what we did and what we said and how we lived since becoming born again into the family of God. Again, it is not perfection that God is looking for in our Christ-like character development. However, what God certainly is looking for is for each of us to be practicing each of these in an ever ‘increasing’ way in our development of them. Otherwise, the works of our lives will have to be counted as ‘not useful and unfruitful’.

Note that the first character quality that God is looking for us to be giving great effort to practicing and increasing in its development is this – ‘moral excellence’! God begins the list with morality…why? Because if it breaks down here, it will breakdown everywhere else. Why do seemingly intelligent, talented, and accomplished Christians often finish so poorly, so tarnished, so damaged in reputation and impact on other’s lives? It’s because of a breakdown in morality in their lives. History is filled with their stories. Why do seemingly good, church going, community contributing marriages and families often break apart at some point? It’s often because of a breakdown in morality in someone’s life. History is filled with their stories. Why do strong, affluent, and world leading nations often decline into weak leadership and damaged cultures and hurting people? It’s because of a breakdown in morality. As President John Adams stated: “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” History is filled with stories of nations that collapsed because of the decay of immorality in their leaders and their people. And friends, that decay is on full display right now in our nation. And be sure of this: the battle between morality and immorality is the true battle in America today! A nation cannot lose to immorality and hope to win in peace and community. Immorality is the destroyer of nations. Especially for the follower of Christ, we each have to recommit to strive for moral excellence in our individual lives, our family life, our church life, and community lives. We must choose the morals of the Scriptures over the immoralities of our society.

And then note that God ends the list of these seven qualities with ‘Love’. And this ‘love’, as defined by the Scriptures, is what God then uses in the evaluation of our lives to determine the true lasting value and the actual real profit of the works, the words, and the deeds of our lives. In a pivotal teaching in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul made this point as clear as can be made. It is often used in wedding devotionals, but it was written to followers of Christ, in order to both understand what Biblical love is as opposed to worldly love, and to also then warn them to be careful to order their works in such a way that their failure to inject God’s love in their works would not destroy everything they thought they were building, again, by tearing it down with their failure to build with this critical tool of God’s love. For God’s love is the most important tool in building God’s Kingdom. That’s what Paul is revealing to us.

Note: 1 Cor 13:1-7- “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” NLT

How interesting here that the Apostle himself tells us both what love is and what love is not! And that is priceless information to know. So whatever a person may think or have thought, or imagined, or learned, or assumed about what love is, the reality is that genuine love is exactly what God says it is right here. First notice what love is not: Love is not envious, boastful, proud, or rude with others or destructively critical toward others. Love is not selfish, not demanding so as to have its own way, not controlling and uncaring about the feelings and interests of others. Love is not irritable, not easily offended, even though for unloving people it seems so easy and comfortable for them to offend others. How ironic it us that easily offended people are often the same ones that are so easily offended by others, at least in their minds. Then – Love does not keep records of how they have perceived that others have offended them; they do not hold onto grudges nor keep reminding others of their sins. Once again, the irony of it – that, if they would have been loving, they would have also then been forgiving and would release others from that sin. (Which by the way, we are to understand that boastful, proud, rude, and grudge holding individuals also have a twisted understanding of forgiveness, in that while they think that others should forgive and forget their sins toward them, yet they do not forgive nor do they forget the seeming sins of others toward themselves. To proud and calloused people, forgiveness is a one-way street, always in their favor, but not reciprocated with either their apologies or their forgiveness. For if they did that, that would require them to change, to repent, and to become someone they have not been…caring and cooperative, as opposed to being the critical and controlling spirit that they have been and still are.)

Mark this down: Practicing Biblical love has nothing to do with your personality. It has everything to do with your obedience to Christ! For to become a loving follower of Christ, the Apostles Paul and Peter state that God is instructing us all to practice and then commit to increasingly become more and more patient with others, more kind in our speech and conduct toward others, seeking to learn and know truth – regardless of what you previously thought about anything, being more hopeful and encouraging others around you to be hopeful as well, and to practice forbearance – enduring and overlooking seeming slights as well as actual troubles, all for the sake of showing not only your love, but showing Christ’s love to someone else, just as Christ has shown His love towards you. You are simply passing on the love that Christ has shown to you!

And remember, none of this is a suggestion by God for those who are so inclined to be caring and cooperative with others. It is not an option for those who have critical spirits and controlling personalities to just not pay attention to it, as though it doesn’t apply to them. No, it is God’s wake-up call to each of us and the commandments of God to us, in which He is informing us and warning us that without practicing and infusing His way of love into our words and into our works, then when He adds up the sum of our life’s works, He will have to pronounce them as having accomplished ‘nothing’…exactly as Paul warned us about.

Remember this: the practice of Biblical love is either the ‘highlighter’ over the works of our lives or the ‘eraser’ over the works of our lives. Will your works be highlighted and counted for reward forever…or erased and counted as loss forever? Every day we make the choices about what we will do about living out these essential character qualities. But God will choose the consequences of what we did about it when He evaluates our works and efforts to be awarded with ‘rewards’, or God judges that our works and efforts are to be counted as ‘loss’. We are deciding every day if our words and works are like noisy gongs and clanging cymbals and will profit nothing of lasting value, or if our words and works are like sweet offerings that are pleasing to God and will result in multiplied privileges and rewards forever and ever in God’s soon coming Kingdom.

And how like our God that it all comes down to ‘showing the love to others that Christ showed to us’. Eph 4:30-32- “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, He has identified you as His own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” NLT



Restored Dominion

Restored Dominion

Study Guide, October 2, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


There is a continual anticipation that exists in both Heaven and Earth. The Apostle Paul revealed it to us in Rom 8:19-22- “For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who His children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” NLT

Creation is certainly groaning… like the groaning of storms, the unraveling weather, and just the overall wearing out of the Earth. And both the animal kingdom and the human kingdom, at least God’s kingdom family, are all eagerly awaiting the full redemption of all creation. Again, from the Angels in Heaven and all the saved in Heaven, throughout all the Ages, to God’s children and God’s creatures here on Earth, all live with this anticipation of God’s Kingdom that is soon to be revealed. And of course, one of the keys that triggers the Rapture of the Church is the completion of the Church for the Church Age. Rom 11:25- “I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ.” NLT This will complete the Church Age, and then God’s plan will continue for Israel and the countdown of the return of the King with the fulfillment of the Tribulation Age.

Which, by the way, is another powerful motivation for witnessing, since the next person to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior could be the last one that completes the Church Age and sets off the Rapture of the Church! That’s a great picture to keep in mind in our witnessing commission. Another thing is that we know that the reason this dark and sinful world has been allowed to continue is because of this: 2 Peter 3:9- “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” NASU

Yes, we have pointed this out many times, but it is imperative that we understand that the reason that God is tarrying as long as He is and is permitting this ungodly world to go on as long as it has, is because God is building the family that will spend all eternity with Him and each other. And so it is to be with us; we are to also be patient with the problems of this world because we, too, are not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance…just like we came to repentance and are now saved and destined for Heaven where we will share eternity with our Creator and our Savior.

And even as we prepare to share this Communion together in just a little while, it is remarkable to remember that this anticipation for God’s Kingdom to come, and for all of God’s people to finally be living the life that God intended for His children, was clearly evident even in what Jesus said at the Last Supper. Notice: Matt 26:29- “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” NASU Jesus put the Disciples on alert that the Kingdom of God was not only coming, but that they were to think and to live with this anticipation about it even as Jesus lived with anticipation for it!

Remember, the world is on the verge of it being restored to what God originally planned for all that He created. We talked about the fact that the Animal Kingdom is on the verge of being restored to its original order of peace and harmony for all creatures. We pointed out that the Human Kingdom is on the verge of being restored to its original nature that was without sin, and just how unimaginably joyful that will be to live in complete cooperation, service, and love toward one another. And that is so hard to imagine because all that mankind has known since the Fall on Man into sin has been strife and slander and envy and pride and wars. All this mess within the nature of man is about to be changed for good and forever.

But there is something else that God planned for His children to do in His created Universe that was terribly damaged and distorted in the Fall. But this, too, will soon be restored in the Kingdom, and that is, the ‘dominion’ that God planned for Man is about to be restored as well. Gen 1:27-28- “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” KJV

Even the understanding of this ‘dominion’ needs to be restored because sin has so damaged the mind of man that through the ages people have lost most of the understanding of what this ‘dominion’ concept means because people tend to think by extremes. Man’s history with the Earth has swung on the pendulum of destroying the Earth on one side to worshipping the Earth on the other side. Since so few understand man’s role as ‘Stewards’ of the Earth, they stumble in the darkness and swing from abusing the Earth to bowing before it. Mark it down: A person must understand Who owns the Earth in order to understand what the Owner intended for the Earth. Then you must understand what the Owner intended for the people of the Earth to be…His ‘Stewards’ of the Earth in order to then understand that as Stewards of the Earth mankind was intended to manage, care for, develop, and do all that the Owner planned for them to do in their ‘dominion’ service with their Creator of the Earth. Remember: Rightful ‘dominion’ of the Earth is directly related to rightful ‘service’ to its Creator in the ‘stewardship’ of the Earth.

All right…now watch what happens, because included in this concept of ‘dominion’ is something else, which God reveals will also be a part of God’s redeemed children’s destiny on the Earth.

Notice: Rev 5:9-10- “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” NASU

Rev 20:6- “Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.” NASU

Rev 22:2- “And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.” NASU

So included in the concept of ‘dominion’ is ‘reigning’…ruling and reigning with Christ over, not only the Millennial Kingdom, as pointed out in Revelation 20, but also reigning with Christ over the Eternal Kingdom, as pointed out in Revelation 22. So Revelation 22 reveals the extent of the dominion of Genesis 2! And it also reveals why God created the physical Heavens and Earth in the first place. Here’s one reason: Rev 4:11- “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” KJV So, for one thing, God created all things for His pleasure…because He loves to create! Hey, we don’t call God ‘Creator’ for nothing! And now here’s where it gets even more fascinating…for God tells us that He created man in His image! Why do you think people love to create things, to build things…even to explore things. Where did that instinct come from? It came with ‘the image’…the ‘image’ of our Creator.

And so now back to ‘dominion’. Why else besides the fact that God created all things for His pleasure did He create all things? That’s what the Psalmist reveals to us in Ps 8:3-6- “When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him? For Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet.” KJV

At this point you ought to start feeling a few ‘heebie jeebies’…in a good way, because here the Psalmist just expanded the scope of God’s children’s dominion from the beginning point of being over the Earth in Genesis 2 to the expansion point of Revelation 22, which the Psalmist reveals includes all the works of God’s hands, as in ‘Thy heavens…the moon and the stars’! One renown commentary, the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, put it like this: “Thou hast put all things under his feet,” with the important difference that here, in Christ, the dominion of man is extended over “all things,” universally and without exception, not only on earth, but also in heaven.”

How about those ‘heebie jeebies’ now?! Think about it: Where did this fascination within mankind with the heavens, the moon and the stars come from in the first place? Why have people of all the ages longed to explore, not only our own beautiful planet, but also the planets above and the stars beyond? Could it be that there is something within the very creation of mankind that longs for some sense of ‘dominion’ over these works of God’s hands? Could it be that there is an innate understanding that we were meant to tend and to care for, to develop and to explore, to manage and to rule and reign with our Creator over all the works of our Creator’s hands? Of course it could be! That’s what Moses and the Psalmist and the Apostle John is trying to tell us! Our Creator created the physical creation as His gifts for His physical family to enjoy and to steward, and develop, and rule and reign over it all together with their Creator and Redeemer!

And even more, and just like our God…God Himself is even looking forward to the time when He gives His kingdom over to His redeemed children to continue and to expand the dominion that was damaged in the Fall. He sees it coming. God sees what we do not yet see. That was another reason that Jesus said what He said about us not worrying so much about these temporal things now, because of what He knows about all that He is about to grant to us. Plus, it’s one of the overlooked points about this familiar passage in Luke 12:29-32- “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.” (And here is the major point in what Jesus just said to help us to not worry about the temporal things…verse 32) “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” NKJV

It’s like how children have to trust their Parents about the good things that their Parents are preparing for them. And, although it’s not even a close comparison as an illustration…it’s like children playing with their worn or broken toys just before Christmas. Their Parents have new presents awaiting them. It’s just not time yet for the new ones to be revealed and given to them. Well, we too, are to trust in our Heavenly Father with how things are now, because along with Christ in His coming, God has prepared gifts for His children. It’s like the ultimate Christmas is coming for God’s children, because God Himself is looking forward to granting His children His kingdom, which includes ‘all the works of His hands’…the New Heavens and the New Earth. Jesus even told us that He has gone to prepare a place for us. And then in Rev. 21 John sees the Capitol City of the New Jerusalem coming down to the Capitol Planet of the New Earth, which is in the midst of the New Heavens, of which all of it comprises ‘the works of God’s hands.’ Plus, and again, we are to realize that all of this brings great pleasure to God as He grants His children dominion over all the works of His hands; as we join Him in ruling and reigning and managing and exploring, and creating, and developing all of these gifts from our Heavenly Father to His redeemed family to enjoy with Him forever!

This also gives new meaning to the Christmas song, as in God singing to us: “Do you hear what I hear? Do you see what I see? Do you know what I know?” Do you know that your ‘dominion’ position in God’s kingdom is about to be restored to what God originally intended it to be for you? Knowing this is supposed to not only console us about the difficulties of the short days of our lives now, but it is also intended to move us to greater prepare for this ‘reigning time’ through greater faithfulness in this ‘training time’. Plus, it is intended to thrill us to know that our God is anxious to give to us His presents of His Kingdom…the works that His hands have been preparing and will continue to prepare for all that love Him and will spend eternity with Him reigning with their God over His New Heavens and New Earth.

End of Summer Tune-Up, Pt. 3

End of Summer Tune-Up, Pt. 3

Study Guide, September 11, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


If you have ever lived in really high altitudes, you discovered that there were some adjustments that you needed to make. According to National Geographic, high altitude living is at least 8,000 feet above sea level. Although, some effects of higher altitudes are noticed at levels somewhat lower than that as well. Sharon and I once lived where the altitude was 9,000 feet. Even your car is affected at that altitude because of the lower oxygen levels. Your car can lose 3% power for every 1000 feet you climb. And tire pressures have to be raised several pounds as well. Plus, you have to make some adjustments in other things; like baking. Things bake faster at higher altitudes, so you have to adjust your baking times to account for that. Even batter rises faster, so you need to use a little less to prevent overflows.

Plus, the effects on the body are profound. With lower oxygen and humidity your lungs need to get acclimated, and you need more fluids and certain foods, like more carbohydrates. I loved that part! Essentially, a body needed about three months to get fully acclimated for ‘high altitude’ living. However, in order to get fully acclimated for ‘high attitude’ living it’s even a little longer than that…actually, it’s sort of life-long. But ‘high attitude’ living is right where followers of Jesus Christ need to be living. And since we are making some end of summer adjustments for a spiritual tune-up, several Scriptural adjustments are required in order to reach and maintain ‘high attitude’ living.

So just how high are we talking about in our ‘attitude’? How about this high? Col 3:1-4- “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” NASU We did an expositional study of this passage not long ago, so we’ll just bring out a few things that go along with our adjustments and tune-up.

For one thing, in order to maintain a ‘high attitude’ in how we conduct our lives, we will need to also maintain a ‘high altitude’ from which we view all life. Again, and how high is that? “…keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” Where Christ is now seated is the position from where we are to view all things…from Heaven at the right hand of God. In other words, if we are going to understand the things of Earth, see the things of Earth, and do what we need to do while on Earth, we are going to have to live our lives while on Earth from the vantage point of Heaven.

Sometimes people charge Christians with being so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good. Well, sure, sometimes people have been careless and unfaithful in their duties as servants of God to the people of Earth, but that’s just another form of disobedience. Rather, we are to serve our God in Heaven by serving others on Earth. But the only way to really do earthly good is by doing it according to the directives of Heaven, and through Heaven’s view of Earth. Remember, everything good on Earth originated in Heaven, anyway. Col 1:15-20- “He (Jesus Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” NASU

So from Creation to the Cross to the coming Kingdom, everything good on Earth originated in Heaven…the God of Heaven and Earth. Therefore, anything of true good and of lasting value upon the Earth also originates in Heaven…often working through God’s people on Earth. But in order for God’s people to see what is truly good, and to discern what is really of lasting value, we will need to view it all from the vantage point of Heaven. And the way that we can view these things of Earth from the viewpoint of Heaven is through the lenses of the Holy Scriptures. Or, the only way to have spiritual 20/20 vision of the things of Earth is by looking at the Earth through the 39/27 vision of the Bible…the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament. For, you see, without using the lenses of the Scriptures everything you see on Earth will be out of focus. And not only will it be out of focus, but worse, it will be disconnected from truth…as in, lies and deception.

Did you ever stop to think that for those who do not live their lives according to the truths of God’s Word that they have lived their whole lives according to the lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil? When your whole life is lived based upon the lies of the devil and the deceptions of your sin nature and the distortions of the world, how horrible and regrettable will it be when your appointment with your Maker arrives and He says to you: “…I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matt 7:23 NKJV If your Maker says, “Depart from Me”, then your whole life will fall apart, and it will stay that way forever. To go through life and to not come to know Jesus Christ as your own personal Lord and Savior is to have both wasted your entire life and your eternal future as well.

Make sure that you have repented of your sins and turned to Christ to follow Him, and trusted in His sacrificial life and death for your salvation. The one thing on Earth that you want to be sure of and can be sure of is that you have called upon Jesus Christ to be your own Lord and Savior. Make sure of that today!

And then, spend the rest of your life making adjustments to live more and more according to the teachings and the truths of God’s Word. Decide day after day to look at life from a ‘high altitude’…from the heights of the Scriptures. And determine day after day to walk in this world with a ‘high attitude’…not a ‘haughty attitude’ of course, but a ‘humble attitude’ that takes a ‘high attitude’ toward all the issues of life, including the hard issues of life. Which will not be easy, when so much of the world around us is being dragged down by the opinions that arise from the sin-nature of man and the traditions of man that revolve around the worship of man…which is just another idol. Remember, worship is not an option for mankind…only who or what man worships. A person will either worship the Holy Trinity of God alone or the unholy trinity of the world, the flesh, and the devil. But everyone is worshipping someone…or something.

So, again, in every issue, be it a cultural issue or a personal issue, there are two paths to pursue it…from either the low ground of man’s opinions or from the high ground of God’s words. And remember, it’s easy to walk the low ground, the ground of man’s opinion and cultural pressures. It takes practice and the power of God to walk the high ground. But it’s doable. The Psalmist told us about it, remember? “The God who girds me with strength and makes my way blameless…He makes my feet like hinds’ feet, and sets me upon my high places.” Ps 18:32-33 NASU

That’s a favorite passage of many Christians. And rightly so, since it is so inspiring and reassuring. And we need God’s reassurance, especially when we are walking as on ‘hind’s feet upon high places.’ That’s not for the spiritually faint of heart. I remember doing some mountain hikes in Colorado where the face of the mountain was kind of steep and rocky, and then seeing some mountain deer running around on the rocks, looking at us stumbling along like: “What’s their problem…those clumsy humans!”

Now fortunately, not all the high places that we are to walk are that steep. Sometimes, they might seem that way…especially when it comes to taking the high ground, the Scriptural ground on the hard issues of life. But that is when we are going to have to be ‘stubborn’, in a good way…stubborn for God. But whenever you take sides for God, just remember that God is on your side. It’s like that great saying: “God plus one is a majority in any crowd!” And also know that since you are taking God’s side, God will enable you to take your stand for God, no matter how steep the slope might be that you are walking, like with those deer on the rocky slopes. It’s like what God said to Ezekiel. Ezek 3:7-9- “But the people of Israel will refuse to listen to you because they refuse to listen to Me. All the people of Israel are very stubborn and hardheaded. Yet, I will make you as stubborn and as hardheaded as they are. I will make you as hard as a diamond, harder than stone. Don’t be afraid of them. Don’t be terrified in their presence, even though they are rebellious people.” GOD’S WORD Version

God says to us disciples who are willing to take a stand for God and God’s glory: “I will make you as stubborn and as hardheaded as they are. I will make you as hard as a diamond, harder than stone.” How’s that for encouragement in discipleship training with others? “God will make you as stubborn and as hardheaded as the rebellious people around you.” But note carefully that there is a great difference between being ‘stubborn and hardheaded’ for God and in being ‘stubborn and hardheaded’ against God! For if you are hardheaded against God that reveals that you are also hard hearted toward God. But if you are hardheaded for God that reveals that you are also soft hearted toward God…sensitive toward God. And the more sensitive and soft hearted you are toward God and the things God cares about, the more you are also like a diamond in God’s hand that He uses to deal with the stone hearts around you. Diamonds are often used to cut through stone. Plus, it’s a testimony from God about just how valuable He views His faithful people.

And this brings out another wonder of the Word of God. Remember what we are told in

Heb 4:12- “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” NASU As God’s people, we carry in our hearts and minds and hands the most powerful force on Earth: Truth…the truths of God’s Word. As we deal with the hardened hearts and the hard issues as we walk in this world we don’t have to fuss about having to give people a piece of our mind…no, just give them the Bible! Remember: What is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword is not our opinion, but God’s Word! What pierces as far as the division of soul and spirit is not our reasoning, but God’s Revelation! What is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of people’s hearts around us is not our cleverness, but God’s Truthfulness! And what rescues and redeems people around us is not what is done by our might and power, but what is done by God’s Spirit, as He uses His people as His vessels of truth and mercy in a world that is passing away and perishing.

Remember, Jesus often went up to the Mount of Olives. It was a high place above the city of Jerusalem. From that higher altitude Jesus shared His higher attitude with us…His thoughts with us. And even though many times He had to deal with the hardheaded and hard hearted religious and non-religious people in the city with tough love…even though He was ‘tough’ with them, there was still ‘love’ towards them. Remember, He even over-turned tables in the Temple, but His desire was to over-turn their souls…to have them to turn their hearts to Him.

Shortly before He went to the Cross, He shared with us the prayer that He prayed over them in Matt 23:37- “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” NIV What a revelation of the heart of God toward the perishing. Jesus foremost desire was to rescue the perishing…and yet so many were not willing to be rescued…they not willing to repent of their sins and give their heart to Him to be saved from their sin.

As we walk that high ground with Jesus, at times we too must deal with unrepentant and hard hearts around us with tough love, just like Jesus did. But we must also carry that high attitude of even though being tough with them, still, having love towards them…not wishing that any should perish, but for all come to repentance. From the high altitude of the Scriptures, we have learned that, yes, God is just…and He must be just. That’s why there must be a Hell as well as a Heaven. Unrepented of sin must be judged. Unsaved sinners cannot enter Heaven. But we have also learned that the Judge of the Universe foremost desires to be merciful. God’s highest motive is mercy. That’s why He saved us, who were once lost, but were then willing to be gathered to Him…who repented and trusted in Jesus for our salvation. Remember, the primary reason this sinful and perishing world has been permitted to go on in its rebellion, as long as it has toward the Creator and Redeemer, is because of this: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 NASU

As we go up to the high altitude of the Scriptures to learn from them, we are to then carry Jesus’ high attitude in how He lived and how He dealt with others around Him…He judged with righteous judgment those who needed tough love, and He also prayed with lovingkindness and mercy for whosoever would believe, so that they would not perish.

Remember: The high attitude that we are to develop and to then practice is that kind of high attitude – Jesus’ high attitude.


End of Summer Tune Up, Pt. 2

End of Summer Tune Up, Pt. 2

Study Guide, September 4, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


Let’s walk through another ‘tune up’ session together as we finish up our Summer. A tune up is not only good for your car it’s good for your body and soul as well. So here we go. Sometimes we can simply just expand on what we are already familiar with in order to get a good tune up. For instance: There are names we have become familiar with that actually have an interesting history to them, especially names that are ‘acronyms’. We use the word ‘Laser’ a lot, referring to a beam of light. But ‘Laser’ stands for ‘Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation’. Or, how about ‘Taser’, that shocking device? The inventor of the ‘Taser’ named it after an old adventure novel that he liked and called it the Tom A. Swift Electric Rifle…or ‘Taser’. Then, ‘IKEA’ is named after Ingvar Kamprad, who grew up on the farm of Elmtaryd near Agunnaryd, in Sweden…or, IKEA. Even ‘Scuba’ in Scuba diving stands for ‘Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus’. And then there’s another one of man’s best friends, besides a dog and duct tape…WD-40. The WD stands for Water Displacement. And the 40?…the 40 stands for the 40th time they got it to work after 39 failed attempts!1 Now that’s ‘perseverance’!

Well, there is also a whole lot more to discover about the wondrous things that we deal with every day in our everyday discipleship. So let’s explore.

Every day we live with the wonder, but also the tension between the ‘Ideal’ and the ‘Real’. And the better we understand both, the better we will then be able to deal with our discipleship and to also prepare for life in the coming Kingdom. We could put it like this: The first two chapters of the Bible reveal the Ideal. Genesis 1 and 2 reveal the perfection of Creation and the plan of God for His newly created family. And the last two chapters of Revelation unveil the continuation of that plan with the recreation of the New Earth and the New Heavens. But in between the Ideal of Genesis 1 and 2 and Revelation 21 and 22 is the ‘Real’ of human history with the curse of sin which interrupted God’s Ideal plan. Again, what interrupted the perfect plan of God between Genesis 1 and 2 to Revelation 21 and 22 was the imperfection of man because of the sin of man, which led to the Cross of Christ in order to rescue and redeem man, or to save whosoever would repent of their sins and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

But the thing is, even though we are now living in the ‘Real’, the ‘Ideal’ is still the deal! It’s just that we are now living in the days of the ‘Real’, where God’s perfect plan for His perfect world has been interrupted by imperfect people in an imperfect world, including even His own redeemed children, for as is stated so well in the Heidelburg catechism: “…even our best works in this life are all imperfect.” So even our best works are still ‘imperfect’, at best.

So now here is where we can get tuned up in relation to this wonder and tension between the Ideal and the Real. We need to align our thinking with Biblical thinking in order to both pursue the goal of God’s Ideal for us and to keep persevering even when our best works are still imperfect at best, because we still fall short of the Ideal. We will need to make peace with imperfection if we are going to experience peace while we pursue the perfect. What do we mean by that?

Here is how the Apostle Paul described this tension between the Ideal and the Real in Phil 3:12-14- “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” NLT

And note, the prize that he is referring to here is not salvation in Heaven, for that is God’s gift to us. What Paul is referring to is his Kingdom rewards in Heaven for the works of his service for God here on Earth. But notice again the reality of the Ideal and the Real. What’s the Ideal here? The Ideal is his coming perfection in godly character and service for God. And what’s the ‘Real’ here? The ‘Real’ is that he hadn’t reached this perfection yet! He hadn’t yet arrived at that perfection. He was still dealing with his ‘imperfections’ all the while he was pressing on toward perfection…perfection in his character and service. Which, by the way, one day we actually will reach that perfection when we leave this imperfect world and our imperfect nature…when we finally leave our sin nature behind us. For the only nature we will have in Heaven will be the new nature, the nature that is without sin, the shared divine nature with our Divine Lord and Savior! Our sin nature will be severed from us, and we will finally be free of even the presence of sin in our lives. Yes, one day the ‘Ideal’ and the ‘Real’ will be the same for us in its completion…in the perfection of our holy moral character and in our devoted service unto the Lord. But that ‘day’ has not yet arrived for us, just like it hadn’t yet arrived for Paul.

All right, so let’s unpack this concept even more. So, you are reading along in 1 Peter. You are reading about God’s great mercy that has caused you to become ‘Born Again’, and that you now have an inheritance, which is imperishable and undefiled and is even reserved in Heaven for you, with the fullness of your salvation awaiting you. But now, in the meantime, we then come face to face with this challenge from God for how we are to live now: 1 Peter 1:14-16- “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” NASU

So…how’s that working for you? Have you got that ‘being holy in all your behavior like your God is holy’ down yet? Still working on that, right? I think we would all most likely borrow from the Apostle Paul, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection.” I’m so glad the Apostle Paul told us about that. It’s great to have fellowship with the Apostle Paul right here. Yes, that’s good. However, we are also to be in good fellowship with him by also committing to the other part from Paul as well… “But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” So sure, we haven’t arrived, but we sure ought to be pressing on toward that goal!

God is calling us, calling His children to be holy in all our behavior. He commands us to be holy just as He is holy. He calls for us to be perfect in our character and in our conduct and in our service unto Him. However, both God and we know that we have not yet achieved that level of holiness, nor have we arrived in being perfect in our character and conduct. Oh, we know about the ‘Ideal’, but we’re caught up in wrestling with the ‘Real’. That is the wonder and the tension we live with. But here’s the deal: God doesn’t have a problem with us falling short of complete ‘holiness’ or with not having yet arrived at being perfect in our character and service, as long as…and here is the key point…as long as we are committed to pressing on toward both! For that is what fulfills the command! And that is what God is looking for in each of us. As long as we are pressing on toward becoming more and more holy in our holy moral character, and as long as we are pressing on toward the goal of becoming perfect in becoming all that God created us to be and to do for Him…as long as that is our pursuit, God does not have a problem with our imperfections, as long as our imperfections are related to our pursuit of holiness and service for Him.

However, God does have a problem when there is little or no pursuit toward this godly goal. God does have a problem with those children of God who are not pressing on toward holiness and are not pressing on in becoming all He intended for them to become in their character and service for Him. God does have a problem when the stumbling is not toward holiness, but away from holiness, as in having little or no intent to be holy in all their behavior even though God has commanded them to be holy because their God is holy. That’s when God has a problem with it! And whatever God has a problem with will become a problem for God’s people if they are not pursuing what God has called them to pursue!

Remember, to several of the Churches of Revelation God told them that He had several things against them, many concerned their compromising with the sins of their culture. And He was especially disturbed by the believers of Laodicea over their ‘lukewarm’ attitude toward their relationship with Him and their responsibilities to Him. Friends, take your spiritual temperature often! Make sure it’s stays ‘high’. You do not want it to fall into a ‘lukewarm’ temperature towards Christ, in your worship and service for Christ. That sets you up for discipline now and loss of Kingdom privileges later. You do not want to have to deal with the consequences of having lived a lukewarm life as a follower of Christ.

But again, even when we have a really warm or hot temperature for seeking to follow our God, God knows that we stumble in many ways, as the Apostle James says. But He also wants us to know that “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.” Ps 37:23-24 NLT How wonderfully encouraging is it to know that?! How great to know that not only does the Lord know that we still fall short in holiness and righteousness, but He is also ready to forgive and to lift us up again and again to walk with Him again. He even tells us this in Ps 147:11- “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy.” NKJV So God takes pleasure in those who seek to follow Him, and at the same time who also look to God to trust in His mercy when we fall…or fail to follow as much as we had hoped.

We could also put it like this. God wants us to enjoy our attempts at holiness and obedience, and at the same time, to not be dismayed at our imperfections in both. Oftentimes the Accuser of the Brethren, as well as our own distorted conscience, uses the imperfections of our obedience to discourage us in our discipleship. Every imperfect obedience you do is not intended to add guilt to you, but to inspire thanks to Jesus for His perfect obedience for you…in your place. But, again, the devil and the flesh always look for reasons in ourselves to rejoice, as though we ourselves are the source of our righteousness and strength. But that is not only a deception of the devil, it also sets us up to get caught up in either the sin of self-pride or sin of self-pity. The problem is that both are looking to the ‘Self’ as the source for rejoicing. We have trouble with rejoicing because we look to the wrong source…ourselves…No, remember, our ways are imperfect, at best. Again, The Lord tells us to enjoy the gifts and the talents and the abilities that He has given us to enjoy. However, when it comes to ‘rejoicing’, we are to rejoice in Christ alone, as being the only source of all good things. Phil 4:4-Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! NASU The word for ‘rejoice’ here is nearly synonymous with what Paul says in Gal 6:14- “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” KJV So both could also read: “Glory in the Lord always; again, I will say, glory!”…and “But God forbid that I should ‘rejoice’, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” There is an ultimate rejoicing and an ultimate glorying that belongs to Christ alone, as being the only source of our righteousness, our joy, and our peace.

To rejoice in ourselves is to steal the glory that belongs to God alone. When it comes to ‘rejoicing’, rejoicing has both one direction and one source: Rejoice in the Lord. Yes, be happy at your attempts at holiness. Yes, enjoy your efforts of obedience. Yes, be encouraged by your growth in your character and conduct. Yes, enjoy the gifts and the talents and abilities that God has given you for blessing in your family and career and leisure pursuits. But when it comes to rejoicing, reserve your rejoicing for rejoicing in Christ alone…especially when it comes to your relationship and your fellowship with Christ. What do we mean?

Well, back to Christ’s perfections and our imperfections. Even the Old Testament prophets revealed that the source of our peace and our joy is found not in our own imperfect righteousness, but in our Savior’s perfect righteousness. Notice: Isa 45:24-25- “The people will declare, “The Lord is the source of all my righteousness and strength.”…In the Lord all the generations of Israel will be justified, and in Him they will boast.” NASB Remember, our right standing with God in our salvation is based upon the gift of Christ’s own perfect righteousness that He earned in His obedient life for us and then gave to us in His gift of salvation to us. We are saved by both His perfect obedience to the Law and His perfect sacrifice to pay for our sins. So again, we are to enjoy our efforts to practice righteous living, but we are to rejoice, we are to glory in the perfect righteousness of Christ whereby we a right relationship with God and thus, eternal life with God!

So, we will be and we should be aware of our imperfections in righteousness and in holiness. But this is not to cause us to despair, but to cause us to press on…to press on in pursuing the perfect, the completion of becoming all that God created us to be and to do. And it should cause us to rejoice even more in the righteousness of Christ that He has clothed us in for our salvation and rejoice in the holiness of Christ that he has bestowed upon us in His holy relationship with us. Knowing our imperfections keeps us humble. Knowing Christ’s perfections that cover us keeps us rejoicing! We need both!

  1. AHIPS! (Acronyms Hidden In Plain Sight), p. 61 Readers Digest, Sept. 2022



End of Summer Tune-up

End of Summer Tune-up

Study Guide, August 14, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


At one of our Men’s Retreat/Advance meetings we were talking about some of our old cars. That was fun and fascinating. My Grandpa had a 51 Chevy. It was a beauty. My brother drove it while he was in college. A car like that could bring up to $40K today. My other brother had a 57 Chevy. It was a sweet car. A car like that could bring up to $60K today. I once had a 64 Chevy Chevelle. A car like that could bring up to $50K today. And then I had a 70 Roadrunner for a while. That car could really move. But we won’t go into that right now…That muscle car in pristine condition could bring up to $75K today. Don’t you wish you would have held onto your old cars? But, if you think about it…I think that this means that we are getting much more valuable the older we get too! Right? That just seems logical, doesn’t it? Although my Dad used to say his ‘trade-in’ value just kept going down.

But the thing is, a lot of owners of old cars loved to tinker and tune-up their beloved autos, and some still do. And of course, with those older cars, you could do a lot of work on them yourselves…before the engines turned into computers. Those, too, still need tune-ups…it’s just a lot more complicated.

We all need tune-ups ourselves now and again. Fortunately, we have the Owner’s Manual that we can use to adjust the carburetor of our soul and re-align the tires of our emotions and re-ignite the spark plugs of our minds. You get the picture, right? So let’s do a little ‘end of Summer Tune-up’ for some more efficient running in our travels as Disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Here’s something that regularly needs adjustment. The Apostle Paul put it like this: Eph 5:18- “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit…” NASU So, we might ask: “What is ‘dissipation’? The Greek word for ‘dissipation’ is ‘asotia’. And ‘asotia’ means ‘profligacy’. Well, that helps, right? What is ‘profligacy’? Profligacy is something you don’t want to be known for…for to be characterized by profligacy is to known as ‘foolish’, ‘reckless’, and ‘prone to excessiveness.’ So basically, Paul is instructing us Disciples to avoid alcoholic drunkenness or intoxication, which then promotes foolishness, recklessness, and then one is prone to excessiveness in thoughts and actions. But instead, we are to be filled with a different ‘Spirit’, or rather, we are to be intoxicated or under the influence and control of the Holy Spirit.

That’s quite a striking word picture right there, don’t you think? And that’s also pretty clear to understand. But where it gets a bit cloudy in our thinking is how we are to go about this ‘filling of the Holy Spirit’. And it gets cloudy because we naturally begin thinking that to be filled with more of the Holy Spirit, we just need to find a way to get more of God the Holy Spirit in our life, as though God was somewhat hidden or aloof or even reluctant about it all. And so off many Believers go, searching for, and looking for ways, and formulas, and just trying to figure out how to obtain more of God in their life.

The problem is that so many are going about ‘being filled with the Spirit’ by following their own flawed human reasoning about it all, because ‘being filled with the Spirit’ doesn’t begin with an ‘action’…it begins with an ‘attitude’…a right attitude that then produces a right action. Now, many of us are familiar with this passage about this attitude, but we haven’t developed the ‘aptitude’ in practicing this ‘attitude’. But this passage instructs in both. And right here is also where we need the ‘tune-up’. So let’s look: Phil 2:5-8- “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” NASU

So the experience of ‘filling with the Holy Spirit’ doesn’t begin with the action of getting more of the Holy Spirit, it begins with an ‘attitude of emptying’ something out of us first! It doesn’t begin with an action of acquiring, but with an attitude of emptying. Now, in the theological context of this we know that Jesus attitude of ‘emptying’ included emptying Himself in relation to His independent use of His divine attributes. In other words, in Jesus’ ministry as the Last Adam, or the perfect Human, He emptied or surrendered His will to the Father’s will in all things, as in, “Not My will, but Thy will be done.” Jesus was continually emptying Himself in submitting to God’s Spirit in all things. Certainly, as perfectly divine and perfectly human Jesus was also continually and perfectly filled with the Holy Spirit, but it is this ‘attitude of emptying’ that we are commanded to practice. And note, not ‘suggested’ to practice, like being filled with the Holy Spirit is an optional thing for believers who are into that sort of thing…no, being filled with the Holy Spirit is a command by God to us. And yet, just like our God, it is a command that creates the experience of ‘blessedness’ and ‘usefulness’ and ‘fruitfulness’ and so on.

But a key concept that we are to take away from this is that God is never holding out on us experiencing more of His Spirit and His life. Rather, it is us who simply need to, day by day, make more room for God in our life so that the Holy Spirit then has room to fill us, to influence us, to take control in us, which the Holy Spirit is more than willing and ready to do! So, again, the way that we experience more of God in our life is by giving God more room in our life for God to then fill us with His Spirit and His Spirit’s work!

Which brings us to these two pitchers of water. To simply illustrate this concept simply, we could think of one of these pitchers as us and the other pitcher as Spirit of God. Now, both of these pitchers are full. One is full of us…the other is full of the Spirit. Which points out the challenge. There is only one way to fill our pitcher with more from this pitcher of the Spirit of God, right? And it’s obvious to everyone what we’re going to do here. However, what is not so obvious is that this is exactly what we are to be doing in our own lives every day, in order to be making room for and being filled more with God the Holy Spirit. What is also not so obvious is how our natural human reasoning so often just defaults to thinking that there is some way to experience more of God without first emptying out more of us first! But that is not only illogical…it is also unreasonable. What is also not so obvious is that we so often wonder why we don’t seem to be filling up with more of God in our life, when all the while we are still so full of ourselves. We have to first make room for God, and we have to keep making more room for God in our life by first emptying out more of our own selves first and regularly, as in…day by day. And what we are emptying out is our independent use of our own life, our own self, as in…our self-will, our self-occupation, our self-expectations, and so on. What we are trying to adopt in our practice is pronouncing Jesus’ prayer of: “Father, not my will, but Thy will be done.” And we then do this by adopting Jesus’ attitude about it all.

Basically, until we adopt an ‘attitude of emptying’ we will never develop the ‘aptitude of filling’. Just like with this simple exercise of first emptying this pitcher in order to make room for the filling by this pitcher, so are we to first empty more of our self-willed life in order to be filled with more of the Spirit-willed life in us.

Again, some might think of this exhortation as… “Elementary dear Watson!” And if so, that’s great. Yet, for many of us, we simply need more simple steps in order to get ‘tuned-up’ in this discipline of being filled with less of ourselves and more of God’s Spirit. It’s simply one of the ‘dailies of our daily Discipleship’…daily ‘emptying’ out more of yourself in order to make more room for God’s Spirit to fill you and then use you and then bless you.

Speaking of ‘blessings’…Here’s another concept that we could all use a little tuning up in…in both our understanding and our experience. The Beatitudes, or the ‘Blessed Attitudes’, have nine pronouncements of ‘Blessed’ in nine verses in a row. And, of course, the Beatitudes encompass every experience of Discipleship. We did a series on the Beatitudes a while back, so let’s just do a ‘tune-up’ here on one the main components. Plus, just like most concepts in the Christian life, there are greater depths of meaning and experience in these virtues than is often realized, especially in this pronouncement by Jesus of ‘Blessed’. So, again, let’s get on with a ‘tune-up’ on this one as well.

Blessed’ is a very unusual word-concept because it not only carries many features, it also carries a ‘double tense’. For example: This word has often been translated as ‘Happy’. And ‘happy’ is often associated with present joy, pleasure, and gladness. Certainly, these are included in relation to the Beatitudes. But wait, there’s more! The Greek word for ‘Blessed’ is ‘Makarios’. And ‘makarios’ includes not only present joy, but also the continued possession of God’s favor along with His future reward of this ‘Blessed’ accomplishment. That’s why we find Jesus declaring that even those that are persecuted for His sake are ‘Blessed’, as in they can not only experience the fruit of God’s Spirit of His ‘love’ and ‘joy’ and ‘peace’ in the present, but they can also be assured of God’s continued favor and of His future rewards for them for any and all of their hardships now. Their ‘blessed’ condition connects the present with the future.

Some Greek translations use the term ‘Congratulations’ as synonymous with the word ‘Blessed’. How about that? That’s quite an eye-opening way to read the Beatitudes! (Read Mt. 5:3-12) So ‘Blessed’ is a double-tense reference to God both conferring His favor on you in the present and God also promising His rewards on you in the future. How amazing is that?

There is also another feature to this featured word of ‘Blessed’. For not only is it a pronouncement of God’s fortunes conferred upon us, but it is also a practice that can be created by us, that is, by working with God’s working in us. What? What does that mean? Well, let’s think about it. Often in our lives when things are challenging, or things are difficult, or we are just going through hard times or hardships…that’s often when we nobly think or say, “Well, I’m just going to have to make the ‘best’ of it”, or “We are just going to try to make the ‘best’ of it.” And, yes, that is a really noble attitude and a brave way to look at and to attempt to deal with whatever tough things you have going on in your life…trying to make the ‘best’ of it. That’s good. However, there’s something ‘better’ than even the ‘best’. Yes, there is even another step that takes ‘making the best of it’ up to another level. And that is, because of God the Holy Spirit dwelling within us and empowering us, as God’s children we can not only seek to ‘make the best’ of whatever it is we are dealing with or going through, but also, and more so, we can make the ‘blessed’ of whatever it is that we are dealing with or going through! We can make the ‘blessed’ of it! We can tune-up our good attitude of trying to make the ‘best’ of things in life into an even better attitude by now trying to make the ‘blessed’ of things in your life and other’s lives as well.

For when you try to make the ‘blessed’ of whatever it is that you are doing, you are tying it into God’s ways of doing it. And by tying it into God’s ways of doing it, you then set every present situation into motion in such a way that it not only brings God’s sufficient grace into your present, but also sets up God’s special rewards for your future. When you try to ‘make the blessed’ of things, you are connecting it to even bigger things, even future things. One example of this comes from what was said about Moses in the heroes of the faith chapter in Hebrews. Heb 11:24-26- “It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.” NLT Moses made the ‘blessed’ of his conditions by choosing God’s righteous ways for dealing with his difficult days. And so he experienced not only God’s present favor, but he was also assured of God’s future rewards for him as well.

Again, go back to what Jesus was saying…for every step in following Jesus from being humble in spirit to persecuted for His sake…every step was not only accompanied by an inner soul happiness but also a promised future fulfillment. Each ‘blessed’ was also joined with a ‘they shall’ or a ‘they shall be’! Read verses 4-9

By the grace of God working in us we can not only make the best of things for now, we can make them be the ‘blessed’ of things for both now and forever. By the grace of God working in us we can not only make the best of things even for others now, we can even make the blessed of things for others now and forever, as we seek to be used by God as He works His blessed works in us and through us in the lives of others around us. So we can even tune-up our attempts of dealing with the difficulties of life by dealing with them the ‘blessed’ way we can. And remember: Trying to make the ‘blessed of things’ is the way that we can multiply the impact and the value and the significance of trying to make the best of things. It turns even the ‘best’ into the ‘blessed’. And the ‘blessed’ is even bigger than the ‘best’!


Questions God Asks, Pt. 4

Questions God Asks, Pt. 4

Study Guide, July 24, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


It’s just like our God that the first words to His disciples after His resurrection were “Peace be with you.” They were experiencing the greatest upheaval of their lives. They were under attack from the Roman government and the religious authorities, and even from their own consciences. On the Mount of Olives in a place called Gethsemane, Jesus had told them that the Shepherd was about to be struck and the sheep would be scattered. Peter assured Jesus that he would not forsake Him…and all the others vowed the same. But just after that Jesus was arrested and the sheep did scatter. Matthew said, “The disciples left Him and fled.” And now their lives were in danger, their families were in danger, and their hopes were in shambles. And yet something was happening that would seem too good to be true, but it was. Jesus was fulfilling hundreds of Old Testament prophecies. He was purchasing our salvation with His own sinless blood. And they were about to learn that He had risen from the dead as our living Lord and Savior, proving that all the prophecies and promises were true…just as Jesus had said.

And so while the disciples are experiencing the greatest trials of their lives, Jesus comes into their midst and gives them the greatest peace for their lives. Notice the encounter: Luke 24:33-37- “And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.” Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized Him as He was breaking the bread. And just as they were telling about it, Jesus Himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” He said. But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!” NLT

Before we get to the questions that Jesus then asks them, it’s these ‘first words’ by Jesus to the disciples that stand out like a neon sign. Again, the disciples were in danger, they were in doubt, and they were in despair. And they were still aware of what they had promised Jesus, that even if everyone else fell away, they never would even if they had to die. They would not leave Him, they said…well, again, those vows were all broken now, and they were living with it all…living with trials from their enemies and troubles from themselves. But instead of rebuke or reprimand Jesus comes to them and says, “Peace be with you.” And such is our God!

Peace’ is one of the most multifaceted words there is, especially in the Biblical sense. Remember, the Apostle Paul said that for the Christian, ‘peace’ is like a ‘birthright’ for us. How so? Rom 5:1-2- “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.” NASU Through Jesus’ judicial sacrifice to remove the penalty and guilt of our sins against the holiness of God, we now stand ‘justified’ before God…declared ‘not guilty’ and declared ‘righteous’ before God. We are now in ‘right standing’ with God because Jesus bore the sin-penalty for us and granted His ‘righteous standing’ to us. Therefore, we stand before God as those who are in ‘right standing’ with God. God’s justice is satisfied by Jesus’ offering in our place, and therefore God’s peace is now our birthright by being born again into the very family of God. Seems too good to be true, but it is!

If you have turned to God in repentance of your sins against God, and asked Jesus to be your personal Lord and Savior, you, therefore, have been justified by faith, and have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Plus, in this grace…in this place of unmerited favor in which you stand, you also can exult in this hope…in the assured hope of the glory of God. Oh yes, seems too good to be true, but it is!

So now Jesus has a couple questions for them…Luke 24:38-43- “And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them.” NASU

And to this all the fishermen say, “Hallelujah!” Yes, Jesus loves to eat fish! Even in our resurrected bodies we will get to enjoy fish! Remember, later on Jesus even served up a fried fish breakfast on the beach. Oh yeah, we have a lot of good fish and chips meals ahead for us Brethren!

So Jesus’ own resurrected body was an astounding joy for them, and for us. But His questions reached further than even their immediate experience, for there would be further trials and further problems, and they were going to have to deal with them differently than they had in order to face these outward storms with inner peace. What do we mean?

The Greek language is far more picturesque than our English is. For example, Jesus asked them why they were ‘troubled’. The Greek word for ‘troubled’ here is like a river of rapids…as in a river of white-water rapids. It’s like if you could see inside of them, it was like looking at white-water rapids in their mind and soul.

Many people are like that…Regardless of their outward appearance, they are full of white-water rapids in their mind and soul. They may claim to be just fine, they may even say they are at peace…but still there churning waters of unrest and agitation in their spirit. And coupled with that is the next question: “…why do doubts arise in your heart?” The Greek word pictures ‘doubt’ as an internal debate going on within a person with much of the discussion based upon one’s own ‘imagination’ and ‘inner reasoning’. Imagination and inner reasoning? That means that our doubts are often like a debate going on inside our heads between our own fanciful imagination on one side and our faulty reasoning on the other side. And those are both deceived and distorted! So no wonder we are so often living with such a mess of agitation in our mind and spirit when we have this debate going on in our souls between our messed-up imagination and our messed-up reasoning!

Remember, our unrealistic imagination and our faulty reasoning can never be trusted to lead us to ‘truth’. Truth lies outside of us…outside of humanity. Truth comes from a source outside of humanity. Truth comes from God alone! Truth is foremost a Person: Jesus said I am the way, the truth, and the life”. Which means, when it comes to our own imagination or reasoning or thinking, think about it: ‘how’ we think is even more important than ‘what’ we think…because ‘how’ we think ‘will’ determine ‘what’ we think.

We need to think outside of ourselves. Or, we desperately need a ‘Third Debater’! We need to be listening to another source in order to calm our troubled waters and settle our doubting mind! And so up steps Jesus and says to us: “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Brothers and Sisters, This same Jesus that showed His hands and His feet to His disciples, and who then let them hold His hands and touch their God is the same Jesus that says to you and me every day: “Peace be with you…”

That sounds too good to be true, but it is! And why can ‘peace be with you and me’? Because Jesus is with you and me every day, and Jesus is our Peace. One of Jesus’ names is even “Prince of Peace”. And although He is not standing before us like He was then, He is dwelling within us through the Holy Spirit of Christ! Therefore, ‘Peace’ Himself dwells within us! But this peace is not as the world gives…for our peace is not in our surroundings or in our circumstances. No, remember, for the disciples, their circumstances got a lot harder after that. Their service for their Lord turned into a sacrifice of their very lives for their Lord. No, their tribulations got a lot harder…but their inner troubles…the ones that were like white-water on stormy seas, well, those turned into like a calm lake within their souls. And those doubting debates between their fanciful imagination and their faulty reasoning…that turned into blessed assurance based upon the rock-solid truths of God’s Words.

When Jesus walked into that room they were looking at themselves and each other, and they were troubled and doubting. It was only when they looked away from themselves and past each other and looked to Jesus that they found ‘peace’ and ‘assurance’. It’s like how Dr. Wiersbe often put it… “If you look to yourself, you’ll be discouraged. If you look to others, you’ll be distracted. But if you look to Jesus, you’ll be delighted!” Remember, just like with the disciples, you have to go outside of yourself to gain peace inside of yourself. You have to go to the source outside of your life in order to find truth for your life. The only source of peace and truth is Jesus Christ!

One of the most insidious lies of our enemy and one that is promoted relentlessly by our culture and our world is that the answers to life lie within ourselves…that a person should trust their own heart in all things. But nothing could be further from the truth! The wisest person who ever lived reminded us of this: Prov 28:26- “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered.” NASU And the Prophet Jeremiah explains why we dare not trust our own heart: Jer 17:9- “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” NIV

When it comes to God’s truths, the human heart is completely deceived in false reasoning, and it cannot be cured. It has to be replaced. That’s why when we call for people to repent, we often put that in terms of giving their heart to Christ. It’s a call for them to turn their life over to Christ to be willing to follow Him, and also by faith to trust Him alone to save them, rather than trusting in their own works. And then He gives them a new heart…a new nature that is in union with His own nature, or His own heart. It’s like how Ezekiel described the ‘New Birth’ even in the Old Testament: Ezek 11:19-21- “And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God.” NASU

In the recent session in our Wednesday night Summer series of ‘The Chosen’, Jesus reminded Mary that all that He wants from us is our heart. How about that? It’s like God is looking over the whole world, looking to every person and saying, “All I want is your heart.” That comes right from Prov 23:26- “Give me your heart, my son, and let your eyes delight in my ways.” NASU Each person has something that God wants…their heart. And just like the picture in Revelation 3:20 of Jesus standing at the door…standing at the door of a person’s heart, He is waiting for them to open the door…to invite Him in, to give Him their heart. And like Ezekiel reveals, after God come into our life and unites His heart, His life, His Spirit with us, He turns our repentance, or our willingness to follow Him into the ability to follow Him, a Holy Spirit empowered ability we never had before, ‘that we may walk in His statutes and keep His ordinances and do them.’

That, too, may even seem too good to be true, but it is, because it comes from the promise of the One who is the Truth, and is the Way, and is the Life. Have you ever given to Christ the one thing that He wants from you…your heart? Don’t keep Him waiting, waiting outside the door of your life. Invite Jesus in today…give Him your heart today, and He will make it a new heart, united to His own heart and life.

And then, like the disciples learned, they would need to look past themselves, past each other, past their daily troubles and trials in order to find the peace they needed to deal with the problems before them. They needed to look to Jesus and to listen to His words and let His promises and His truths rule in their minds and hearts. They needed to replace their habit of trusting in their own unrealistic imaginations and their faulty reasoning with a new habit…this habit: Col 3:15-17- “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” NASU

We have a faith-life that seems too good to be true, but it is. All of the foundational teachings of the Christian doctrines seem too good to be true, but they are. And the more that you review what is true and rest in what is true the more that peace will be with you.

So, in order to let the peace of Christ rule in our lives we have to let the words of Christ rule in our minds. For remember, both ‘Peace’ and ‘Truth’ are things not found in the heart of man or in humanity at all…both come from a Source outside of humanity…from the One who is both God and Man, Jesus Christ. Look to Jesus each day…listen to Jesus’ words each day…follow Him each day, and the peace which passes all human understanding will guard your heart and mind each day.

Questions God Asks, Pt. 3

Questions God Asks, Pt. 3

Who do you say that I am?”

Study Guide, July 10, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


One of the most important questions ever asked was asked in the vicinity of a city called Caesarea Philippi. It was about 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee and at the base of Mt. Hermon. This is considered to be the headwaters of the Jordan River. Strangely enough, it was also where a large sanctuary to the Greek god of Pan was located. The rock walls still show where sacrifices were offered to Pan, one of the oldest of many Greek gods. This cave area was often referred to as the ‘Gates of Hades’. Sound familiar? Some Bible scholars believe that with this backdrop in mind, it may have been that after Jesus asked His question, He went on to say that He would build His church and the ‘gates of Hades’ would not be able to defeat it. Which, by the way, means that with all the mess and confusion and waring going on in this world …Christ and His church are going to overcome it all! Christ will conquer death and sin and every false claim made up and laid up against God and His Church. It’s only a matter of time. And it’s only a matter of time before the King returns in His second advent!

It’s also only a matter of time before every person stands before Him and confesses the answer to that question that Jesus posed to His disciples at Caesarea Philippi. And blessed are those who will have already answered it in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But condemned will be those who answer it having rejected or neglected to repent and believe from their heart in the Lord Jesus Christ. So let’s look at the question.

First, Jesus asks it about others…then He asks it of them personally. Matt 16:13-16- “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” NASU

Notice that Peter said “You are the Christ.” Part of the meaning of ‘Christ’ is ‘anointed one’. But Jesus was not just an anointed one, as priests and prophet before Him were anointed, no…Jesus was ‘thee Anointed One’. Jesus was ‘the One’ whom God had anointed as the coming Messiah of prophecy past. Peter also connected that prophecy with Jesus being ‘the Son of the living God.’ He was the ‘only-begotten’ Son of God. And Son of ‘the living God’. Oh, the people everywhere knew a lot about a lot of so-called gods throughout history. There was that shrine of the god of Pan right near them. And they knew all about the Canaanite gods, the Phoenician gods, the Roman gods, the Greek gods, and more. But none of those were ‘living gods’. But the people of God, the people of the Book, also knew what God had revealed about all those claims in what the prophet Isaiah had recorded. Take a look at God’s comments about the ‘gods of the nations’. Isa 46:5-9- “To whom will you compare Me? Who is My equal? Some people pour out their silver and gold and hire a craftsman to make a god from it. Then they bow down and worship it! They carry it around on their shoulders, and when they set it down, it stays there. It can’t even move! And when someone prays to it, there is no answer. It can’t rescue anyone from trouble. Do not forget this! Keep it in mind! Remember this, you guilty ones. Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like Me.” NLT

Just think of all the people coming to the shrine of Pan to offer sacrifices to a god that did not even exist. And yet, what about 2,000 years after this worship to Pan faded? What do we see the enlightened people of this 21st Century doing? They are still doing the same things. So many people the world over are still worshiping images of gods made up from silver and gold and wood. Others are worshiping gods that have no form, but they sure have their prophets…false prophets. Yet, God’s response to them all is still the same that He had Isaiah record… “I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like Me.” In fact, God stated this truth several times for Isaiah to record so that there would be no question about it. Notice Isa 44:6-8- “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me. ‘Who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it; Yes, let him recount it to Me in order, From the time that I established the ancient nation. And let them declare to them the things that are coming and the events that are going to take place. Do not tremble and do not be afraid; Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me, Or is there any other Rock? I know of none.'” NASU

And since God does not know of any other god in existence, and since, God is omniscient…He knows all things, that means that no other gods exist. He even said it again in Isa 45:5- “I am the Lord, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God.” NASU My, why do you think God believed that He needed to repeat that fact so many times? Could it be that mankind just continues to repeat that false idea so many times that there is or there are other gods? You know, the Psalmist tells us that the stars in the heavens are declaring to the world the glory of God. It seems they are also declaring to the world: “There are no other gods beside the only Creator and Savior of the world!”

Bible teacher and theologian, R.C. Sproul, who now lives in Heaven, was once asked if by teaching about Christ alone that he might be offending other religions and gods. And he answered: “You mean, besides the fact that no other gods even exist?” That’s rather the point, right? There are no other gods. But there is a devil. And the devil is the supreme counterfeiter who has legions of demonic spirits ready to pose as gods for whoever are willing to follow their deception.

But again, God has been daily declaring His deity to the entire world through all that He has created, as we pointed out before, from the bodies in the heavens to our bodies on Earth. And He has been daily drawing people to Himself through His laws written on the very hearts and consciences of all people. He has been speaking to us through His prophets and prophecies throughout history. And even…even…well, let’s let God tell us about it in His Word…Heb 1:1-3- “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” NASU

By the way, what did that Scripture call these days? ‘These last days’. So, in what days are we living? Oh yeah, we are living in ‘the last days’. Certainly, many things are prophetically being revealed about the end times of these last days, but the point of the passage was to reveal that before God established His kingdom on His earth there would be a visitation upon the earth by God Himself, that is, in the Incarnation of God, and as Peter stated – ‘the Son of the living God.’ And in doing so, God would then fulfill His other identity. And for that we go back to Isaiah:

Isa 43:11- “I, even I, am the Lord, And there is no savior besides Me.” NASU

So not only do no other gods exist in the world, but neither does any other Savior exist in the world. And that’s why God came to the Earth to both speak to this world through His Son and to then make purification of sins, or to make propitiation of sins, which is the satisfaction of the justice required to pardon sin, and thus become both Lord and Savior, and ready to save all who come to the only Savior in order to be saved.

How strange that although the identity of Jesus Christ is so clear, the identity that people have of themselves is so confused. Jesus said that His very coming to the Earth was because of what each person’s true identity really was apart from Him. Do you know what every person on Earths true identity is, every person who has not come to the Christ, the Son of the living God in order to be saved by the only Savior of the world? Let’s let Jesus answer that: Luke 19:10- “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” NLT ‘Lost’…That is the true identity of an unsaved person…Lost! Whatever a person calls themselves, either by his or her name or even by their title…whatever anyone else calls them, either by their status or by their accomplishments, every person’s true identity, their soul identity, is either ‘saved’ or ‘lost’. And if you are ‘lost’, then no matter what you have accomplished or achieved in this life…well, let’s let Jesus speak to us about that as well… “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” Matt 16:26 NKJV

The unfortunate history of the world is filled with people who have gained so much of this world yet have lost their own soul. They failed to seek the answer to the most important question ever asked. The question was asked by Jesus: “Who do you say that I am?” God even had 66 books written down for the whole world to come to know ‘Who He Is’. There are many places even online that give descriptions of Jesus in every book of the Bible. Just for an example: In the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible…in Genesis Jesus is the Creator of the world and the Seed of a Woman, the coming Messiah. In Exodus He is the Passover Lamb, who covers the sins of the people. In Leviticus He is the high priest and also the sacrifice for sin. In Numbers He is the Shekinah glory, guiding His people in the cloud by day and the fire by night. In Deuteronomy He is the Prophet revealing the words of God. And when you come to the New Testament, the Gospels clearly reveal who Jesus is: In Matthew He is both the King of the Jews and the promised Messiah. In Mark He is the Holy One of God yet Servant of all. In Luke He is the Son of Man, the Bread of life, and the Light of the world. In John He is the Son of God, the Word of God, and the only Savior of the world. And on and on it goes, revealing ‘Who’ Jesus is to anyone who has ears to hear and eyes to see, who will seek the One who has been calling them to Himself through the Creation around them, and through their conscience within them, and through the Gospel to them. God has made a promise to all: Jer 29:12-13 – “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” NKJV

And, yes, no one starts out as a ‘seeker’ until Jesus starts the knocking. Rev 3:20- “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” NASU And as we know from the thieves on the crosses with Jesus, the knocking never stops until the beating of the heart stops, and the door is closed forever. Until that time, as the repentant thief found out, he could open the door of His heart and Jesus would come in. And then he would come into Jesus’ kingdom with Him.

Jesus asks every person in the world: “Who do you say that I am?” What have you answered Him? We trust that it’s been like Peter’s answer: “You are the Christ. The Son of the living God.” And then like Peter, you opened the door of your heart to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior. No longer ‘lost’, but ‘found’…found by Jesus and now saved forever.

As we now share in our Communion time together, spend some time in thanksgiving to your Savior of all He has done and all His has become to you. And if there is any question about your assurance of your relationship with Jesus, now is a wonderful time to make sure you have opened the door of your life and asked Jesus to come into your life as your Lord and Savior.


God of the Nations

God of the Nations

Study Guide, July 3, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


In 1787 Benjamin Franklin spoke at the Constitutional convention. And as they were discussing how each state would be represented in the new nation, Benjamin Franklin reminded them all that they were to look for their guidance on all of this by calling on the God of the nations. Here’s what he said: “I have lived…a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured…in the writings of the Sacred Scriptures, that ‘except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this, and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel.”1

One of the most understood and most important tenets of America’s Founding Fathers was that God governs in the affairs of men. They understood that God was sovereign over the nations of the world, and thus any attempt to build a nation and govern a nation was to be done by doing it according to God’s directions for all nations and people. Because every nation either represents a Towel of Babel or a Nation Under God!

That’s quite a revelation of a country’s real identification: A Tower of Babel or a Nation Under God. As of 2022, technically, the number of countries in the world is counted at 197. And of course, every country has its own identity. However, in reality, every nation that is seeking to build apart from the instructions of the God of nations in His ‘Sacred Scriptures’, is really, just as Benjamin Franklin pointed out: “…no better than the Builders of Babel.” So whatever they call their country, its real name is just another ‘Tower of Babel’. And those who govern their country are ‘Builders of Babel’. They are building their country according to man’s corrupt reasoning, and just building for the glory of themselves. And so, they are under judgment by the God of the Nations.

And that’s what the Founding Fathers were trying to spare America from…from being under judgment by God because of governing by man’s corrupt reasoning instead of by God’s blessed revelation. They understood that governing a nation is to be under God’s authority and the Scripture’s guidance just as much as governing a family is to be.

In the Scriptures this is all very clear. God’s sovereignty over the nations is proclaimed throughout the Bible. Take a look at just a few examples:

Ps 22:28- “For the kingdom is the Lord’s and He rules over the nations.” NASU

Ps 47:8- “God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne.” NASU

Ps 66:7- “For by His great power He rules forever. He watches every movement of the nations; let no rebel rise in defiance.” NLT

Ps 67:4- “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy; For You will judge the peoples with uprightness and guide the nations on the earth. Selah.” NASU

Ps 72:11- “And let all kings bow down before Him, all nations serve Him.” NASU

Ps 82:8- “Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You who possesses all the nations.” NASU

Ps 96:3-10- “Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before Him, Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary. Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name; bring an offering and come into His courts. Worship the Lord in holy attire; tremble before Him, all the earth. Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns; Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved; He will judge the peoples with equity.” NASU

What amazing proclamations from God’s Word! It is as Abraham Kuyper is quoted as saying: “There is not one square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’” And that includes all governments. And our Founders knew that! They knew that the Creator God was to be honored and served by all the nations of the world. You see, 50 of the 55 Founding Fathers were orthodox, evangelical Christians. James Madison said: “Religion is the basis and foundation of government.” And don’t you love this quote by George Washington: “It is impossible to rightly govern without God and the Bible.”

Impossible to rightly govern…’, he said. Which means that much of the governing going on in our country today is completely wrongful governing because it is governing without God and the Bible. And then this is another great quote from President John Quincy Adams: “The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: It connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government and the principles of Christianity.” And ‘indissoluble’ means ‘cannot by separated’!

So, again, this is why when our Founders started laying the foundation for building America, they started with the Declaration of Independence before they compiled the Constitution. Let’s let Samuel Adams, the Father of the American Revolution, answer that. He said, “Before the formation of the Constitution, this Declaration of Independence was received and ratified by all the States of the Union and has never been disannulled.” Furthermore, the admission of territories as States into the United States was often based upon an assurance by the new states that they would not only uphold the specifics of the Constitution but also the principles of the Declaration.

Previous generations understood that the Constitution could not be properly interpreted apart from the God-centered principles and values in the Declaration. And let’s let John Quincy Adams clarify that: “The virtue which had been infused into the Constitution of the United States was no other than the concretion of those (Bibically based) principles which had first been proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence…This was the platform upon which the Constitution of the United States had been erected. Its virtues…character…consisted in its conformity to the principles proclaimed in the Declaration.”2

As wonderful as our Constitution is, it is like the walls and windows and doors and roof that were all built upon the foundation of the Declaration. The Constitution was never intended to stand on its own, or stand apart from the God-centered Declaration of Independence, which was basically their ‘Declaration of dependence upon God’. And the substance of the Declaration was made up from the principles of the Bible! Actually, much of the Declaration was made up from sermons from Colonial Pastors. Plus, according to a University of Houston study of roughly 1500 writings of the Founding Fathers, 34% of their quotes were from the Bible. It’s as John Adams stated: “The Declaration of Independence laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity.”

So what is it about the Declaration that so blesses a nation when honored and followed, but also so curses a nation that dishonors and rejects it’s guidance? How about the fact that it proclaims that there is a Creator! Therefore, all people owe their lives and allegiance to Him. The Founders knew all about Ps.24:1- “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” NASU Therefore, God is the sole Owner of all…all nature, all nations, all people, all creatures…God owns it all. That makes everyone else on Earth a ‘steward’ or at most a ‘manager’ of that which is solely owned by God, including everything from our buildings to our bodies. (That’s one of the reasons why the saying of ‘My body, my choice’ is so false and so destructive to human understanding. You would have to be the ‘creator’ of your body in order to be the ‘owner’ of your body. But no one has created themselves, and thus no one owns themselves. God is the Creator and the Owner of every ‘body’, and thus, everybody is accountable to God for what he or she does with their body that is owned by God alone! We are only permitted to do with these bodies that are owned by God that which God has permitted us to do and will bless us in doing. Everything or anything else we do with our body that God does not permit is rebellion against our Creator, which is the essence of ‘sin’ against our Creator.)

And then along with Psalm 24:1 is Ps 2:10-12- ‘Now then, you kings, act wisely! Be warned, you rulers of the earth! Serve the Lord with reverent fear, and rejoice with trembling. Submit to God’s royal Son, or He will become angry, and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities—for His anger flares up in an instant. But what joy for all who take refuge in Him!” NLT All the kings and rulers of the earth are commanded to serve the Lord. So the first two steps for anyone to take who is assigned a position in government is to humbly acknowledge God as the sovereign Creator over the Earth and to then submit to God’s authority as they serve in their governmental position. And by the way, it’s this submitting to God’s authority over the nation that then leads to ‘limited Government’. It’s when God is removed from government that the government then starts acting like it is unlimited in its power because the government then acts like it is the god of the nation. But that’s called an ‘idol’…a false god. That is a government that is guilty of ‘Idolatry’! And idolatry is always judged by God! Nations are judge ‘in time’ and individuals are judged ‘throughout eternity’!

Then, it’s from the Declaration of Independence that we proclaim our freedoms! “We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…” And we know that part, but not as many know the rest of it. So let’s continue: “…that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government…” And that’s exactly what the Founding Fathers did!

So when our American government was founded, our Founders even reminded everyone of what the purpose of government is in the first place! Why does our government or any government even exist? The answer is: God established government in order to secure and protect the rights of all people who are created by God and are also endowed by God with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness! That’s why God created government in the first place and that’s what every government on earth is accountable to God to carry out…securing and protecting our God-given rights! And it all starts with….Life! One of the reasons Bible believing Christians are rejoicing over the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade is its declaration that no government has a constitutional right to permit the destruction of human life. The unborn have committed no crime worthy of capital punishment, and therefore, the government is responsible to protect this God given right for another human being to live!

Then, another responsibility of government is to secure and protect the individual freedoms of every person to live according to their personal beliefs and conscience…freedom of religious beliefs and the practice of them…as long as they do not infringe on the inalienable rights of others. And, one such freedom is that other inalienable right…the pursuit of happiness. Which does not mean the pursuit of anything that someone thinks might make them happy. That would be the destruction of everything the Declaration was declaring! What’s the context? The context is that life, liberty, and happiness are gifts from our Creator. Therefore, we have the right to pursue whatever the Creator has given us the right to do! And in pursuing that which the Creator has given us the right to do, we then discover and experience ‘happiness’.

Again, each of these inalienable rights are connected to our Creator, as our Founding Fathers were trying to make it clear, that everything is connected to our Creator, especially the outworking and the responsibilities of government. And in declaring such, they were also stating that government is limited to such. Again, the purpose of government is to secure and protect these God-given rights of all people; and get this: and to only collect enough taxes to carry out this purpose!

But, again, all governments are responsible to govern in submission to the God of all nations. And that also explains, right there, why so many in our present government are intentionally ignoring and omitting the Declaration of Independence in their governing of the nation…because there are so many in our present government that are rebelling against the God of the nations…rebelling against the God of this nation. As such, they are under judgment by God, and thus, sadly, are also causing so much pain and problems for our nation. Their rebellion is nothing new…it’s just another form of a godless government and godless culture that our Founding Fathers tried to get away from and tried to protect succeeding generation from by giving us the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. They even sought to educate the people about the kind of government our Creator gave to nations. And then they worked to honor God and to do all they could to establish a God centered government in a nation called ‘America’, where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness would be secured and protected as everyone lived their lives ‘Under God’, under God’s authority and under God’s instructions for nations.

That’s the kind of America we are to work on and pray for as well. And also then assist and pray for every God fearing Brother and Sister in Christ who are in positions in our government…pray for these godly warriors, who are already tirelessly working toward having the Lord build the house, looking to the Lord to build our nation, instead of letting the rebels further build just another Tower of Babel! A ‘Nation Under God’ or a ‘Tower of Babel’. It’s either one or the other!

  1. William J. Federer, America’s God and Country, pp. 248,249
  2. David Barton, Tim Barton, The American Story, p. 221

Questions God Asks, Pt. 2

Questions God Asks, Pt. 2

Study Guide, June 12, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


Have you noticed that people have a lot of questions about Bible prophecy? That’s a good thing. People should be asking a lot of questions about prophecy, because the more you learn about God’s plan for the world to come the better equipped you are to live in the world that is…or the world of today. The Women’s Monday Life Group is going through a great study on prophecy right now, and that is both commendable and super rewarding. And here’s an interesting thing…God Himself asked Ezekiel a question about prophecy. And this question had not only an encouraging answer for their day, but a powerful revelation for now and forever. What do we mean? Let’s explore.

When you open the book of Ezekiel you find the people from the Southern Kingdom of Judah living 800 miles away from Israel. That’s because they were under judgment from having abandoned God, and thus had been over-run by the Kingdom of Babylonia in the first siege of 597 B.C. And in the second siege of 586 B.C. the city of Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. Earlier, in 722 B.C., the Northern Kingdom of Israel had fallen under the same judgment and had been displaced throughout Assyria. So now both the nations were under judgment and were no longer living as sovereign countries. And they had little hope of that ever changing. But ‘hope’ is something that God specializes in. Hope is actually a birthright virtue of believers, especially since our Messiah is Himself ‘the Blessed Hope’. So no matter what situation we find ourselves in, or no matter how much we are without or how much we have lost, since we are ‘in Christ’ we always have ‘hope’, since ‘hope’ is primarily a Person, the Person of Hope, our Messiah and God!

So the Lord comes to Ezekiel and says, “Let’s take a walk”…or a ride actually…at least through a vision, that much is revealed. Let’s look: Ezek 37:1-3- “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” NASU Quite a question, huh? Now, there are a lot of things going on here. Remember, every passage has a primary interpretation and then secondary applications. One of the applications is resurrection. One thing for sure is that we know about the joy of ‘resurrection’. We know that of course, our bones and bodies can live again.

We think of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. You know, I always found Martha’s objection to Lazarus’s resurrection kind of odd. Do you remember that? I like how the King James put it… “…but Lord, he stinketh!” Uh oh! Now, that is a problem…he stinketh…maybe just call the whole thing off…But no, dead bodies stinketh, but resurrected bodies don’t stinketh…so no worries!

But seriously, one of the greatest joys of the Christian life is that we know that these mortal bodies of ours are simply just temporary previews of the amazing immortal bodies that God is going to give to each one of us. And these immortal bodies will be equipped to live with Him on both the coming eternal Earth and to travel throughout the eternal Heavens. Every pain you feel in your temporal body now is going to be replaced by the best feeling and the most physical strength and health that you could ever imagine. So, yes, we know that these bones can live again!

But this message to Ezekiel was primarily a revelation about a national resurrection…a resurrection of God’s promise about the place and plan God has for the people of Israel as a national people group that God promised would have an eternal existence and identity. It was a powerful reminder of the Abrahamic Covenant, where God promised that God would raise up a nation that would have an eternal identity and was promised an eternal land grant. God promised this to Abraham: Gen 12:2-3- “And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” And then God got even more specific: Gen 13:14-15- “The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Now lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever.” NASU

So God promised that the nation that was derived out of the heritage of Abraham, Israel to be exact, would have an identity and a specific property on the Earth for how long? Forever! That means even in the coming Millennial Kingdom and on into the Eternal Kingdom…because forever is ‘forever’. And God’s promises always come to pass. And we could do another series on that, but in a nutshell, that is the Abrahamic Covenant. And that leads us back to this:

Ezek 37:3-14- “And I answered, “O Lord God, You know.” Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.’ Thus says the Lord God to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. ‘I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the Lord.'” So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life.”‘” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken and done it,” declares the Lord.'” NASU

God was assuring Ezekiel of the Abrahamic Covenant! Though the nation had been judged, it was not over. It would never be over, as God has plans for the nation of Israel. And those plans are extremely significant especially as we see the End Times unfolding before our very eyes. As the authors in Charting the End Times point out: “The return of Israel to her land is unique in all of human history! There are ancient peoples who have always occupied their lands, such as the Egyptians. But never have they left their ancient boundaries only to return. Israel is the only nation that has ever been deported from her homeland, remained a distinct people while outside the land, and then returned to her original country.”1

Now, we know that many returned to the land after the Babylonian captivity and lived in the land right on into Jesus’ days in Israel. But they were an occupied territory under the Romans, and then dispersed by Romans and Greeks once again, until May 5, 1948, when Israel became a ‘sovereign’ nation once again! So when you look at the nation of Israel and hear about the nation of Israel in the news, you are looking at a partial fulfillment of prophecy, and a modern miracle…a miracle that Ezekiel prophesied about in 580 B.C. However, there’s still more to be fulfilled, because although the dry bones have come together again, there is still something missing. How’s that? Well, let’s talk about it.

We praise God that many Jewish people around the world are receiving their Messiah. The Chapel has long supported the Life in Messiah mission work. And those missionaries who serve with Life in Messiah are some really brave Brother and Sisters, for they seek to help Jewish people find life in Jesus Christ, the true Messiah and Lord of all. We actually have a family visiting us this Summer from France, who minister to the Jewish population of Paris, one the largest Jewish populations in the world. So, Praise God for that work and for our many Messianic Jewish Brothers and Sisters in Christ. However, among the Jewish people in Israel and other parts of the world, there is still what the Apostle Paul referred to as ‘a hardening’ toward the true Messiah that lies over their hearts. Look what Paul said about that: Rom 11:25-27- “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery — so that you will not be wise in your own estimation — that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB. THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS.” NASU

It’s like in Ezekiel’s vision, the bones have come together, but there is still the spiritual life that is missing. The Hebrew word used in Ezekiel for ‘breath’ is ‘ruwach’. It is often interchanged with the word ‘spirit’. Jesus used the Greek equivalent of that word when He told Nicodemus that he needed to be ‘Born Again’ by receiving a new ‘spirit’…new spiritual life. That is what’s missing in the theology of much of Israel today, is their need for the dry bones to receive the new spirit of life in the only Messiah and Lord, Jesus Christ. However, Paul says, when the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, then a worldwide evangelistic wave will bring peoples from every tongue, tribe, and people into a saving relationship with Jesus, the Messiah…many, of which, will be from the nation of Israel.

Remember, ‘the fullness of the Gentiles’ is a reference to the Church Age. And the Church Age began at Pentecost and will be completed at the Rapture of the Church. It’s like an intermediate Age between God’s work with Israel in the Old Testament and God’s renewed work with Israel in the Tribulation Age, or the Tribulation period, just before Jesus returns to establish the Millennial Kingdom on Earth. And again, the fullness of the Gentiles is used of the Church because Israel had rejected the Messiah. Remember what John told us in John 1:11-12- “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” NASU Jesus came out of the Jewish line of Judah. Daniel had even given the people of Israel a timeline to watch for Jesus’ coming in His first advent. But they neglected both the Scriptures and thus neglected their mission of carrying the Gospel of the Messiah to the world. Thus, God raised up the Church to carry the Gospel to the world, which includes of course Jews and Gentiles.

But remember, Daniel also said that following the Church Age, there would be one more period before the second advent, the 70th week of Daniel, the Tribulation Age, when God would raise up the nation of Israel once again. In fact, this time, many Jewish people will receive their Messiah and help share the saving Gospel with every tongue, tribe, and nation on Earth. In fact again, the Apostle John gets very specific in revealing that God seals Jewish representatives from every tribe of Israel and gives them special assignments during the Tribulation Age. You often hear people talk about ‘the lost tribes of Israel’. Well, God knows exactly where they are and who they are. So, it’s all covered! Look at Rev 7:2-4- “And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads. And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel…” NASU We are not told their exact mission, but the fact that at that time the Gospel is spread throughout the whole world, along with the Angel messenger proclaiming it as well, strongly indicates their mission to be evangelistic…especially since the Messiah is about to return to the Earth.

Is this exciting or what? If you’re having trouble in dealing with the things of today, try focusing more on the things that are coming in the ‘tomorrows’ ahead, and it will strengthen you to deal with the things of today. That’s a fact! It’s like a statement Sharon recently read to me that when Jesus first came to Earth the whole world judged Him. But when Jesus comes back, He is going to judge the whole world. Jesus is in charge! The whole world belongs to Jesus, even though many people live like it belongs to them. They are on the verge of finding out differently. What people need to find out is how they can escape their captivity to the devil and become Born Again and then belong to Jesus forever! They need to find out how their dry bones can receive new breath, new life, new spiritual life and become a forever child of God.

We pray that this brief examination of Ezekiel’s prophecy gets you even more excited about the wondrous plans that God has and is working on even now. And we pray that you will make sure that you have received the Spirit of Christ, the only Messiah and Lord into your life. And that you will commit to finding ways to share that message, the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ, with others around you.

  1. Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, Charting the End Times, p. 91


Questions God Asks

Questions God Asks

Study Guide, May 22, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


In much of our lives as Christians, we tend to focus on the questions we ask of God. And because our God is so benevolent and gracious towards us, He invites our questions, especially those that cause us to grow deeper in our understanding and relationship with Him and His Word. One of my favorite passages about this is Jer 9:23-24- “Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.” NASU How amazing to know that one of the things God wants most in our relationship with Him is for us to better understand and know our God…to know His Personhood and know His passion, to understand His character and understand His ways, and to especially better understand and know His revealed words to us; the Scriptures. Many Christians know a lot of things about God, but they don’t understand or know Him very well as a Person…God’s heart and character and even God’s personality. But that’s really what our Lord Jesus wants from us – to not only know what Jesus likes, but to also know what Jesus is like…as a Person.

But back to our issue of ‘understanding’ before we get to the issue of ‘questions’. In a recent conversation I had with another believer we were talking about our quest to understand things, and how good it is to want to better understand our world and our lives and all kinds of things. However, one thing we all are to understand is that our understanding is limited to two realms. God put it like this: Deut 29:29- “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.” NASU

There are two realms in which we live life: the realm of the secret things and the realm of the revealed things. The revealed things include much of creation around us and especially the Scriptures that God has given to us. And God has promised to guide us and lead us and teach us in the understanding of His created world and especially His revealed Word, the Scriptures. However, as long as we are on this side of Heaven, there is also that realm of the ‘secret things’ that belong to God…and therefore, these things require our trust over things that go beyond our understanding. The secret things are the mysteries of life which God has not yet revealed, such as our questions about the details of different matters of life, such as trials and tribulations and sicknesses and persecution and tragedies, and so on. They are the Job-like ‘Why’ questions of life. Again, whatever God has not revealed to us from His revelation; from His information and His explanation in His Word, it therefore lies in the realm of the yet secret things…things yet to be revealed…things that we may not yet understand, but things about which we can certainly trust our Lord and rest in His wisdom and His works. Remember, everything in the things He has already revealed to us prove God to be more than worthy of our trust and our love and our worship and our service, even when we are wrestling with things we don’t understand. And hopefully, in understanding this, it will help us with our own questions that we have for God.

Which now brings us to pondering some questions that God has asked of us…or at least of others like us. For example: the first question we see God ask in the Bible is this: Gen 3:8-9- “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”” NASU

Right away, one of the fascinating things about this passage is that it’s also the first display of what is theologically called a ‘Theophany’, which is the pre-incarnate presence of Christ in the Old Testament. Within the Godhead, whenever any physical manifestation of God was required, it was Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, that would interact with people in a physical form. Remember the encounter that Abraham had with the three men that came to his camp? Two were Angels and one was the Lord…as in, the Lord Christ, a Theophany or Christophany…the pre-incarnate person of God. We know that because later when Jesus was teaching at the temple in Jerusalem, He revealed to the religious leaders just Who it was that they were talking to: John 8:56- “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” NASU

So, yes, before Christ permanently took on the human body of Jesus, as in Jesus Christ, He took on other physical forms in the Old Testament, one was what we see in Genesis, where God in Christ is walking in the Garden in the cool of the day with Adam and Eve and His created animals. That was a favorite pastime for them all. And how really cool is that? Have you ever thought about God walking around on the Earth He created, especially this Garden paradise, with His first created humans? Plus, knowing that He would one day take on a human body Himself and become God and man forever?

So they heard God walking toward them, but we know this time was different; because this time Adam and Eve were hiding. Which brings out the question from God: “Where are you?” Do you think God already knew where they were? Of course God knew where they were. So God wasn’t asking where they were in the Garden, He was asking where they were in their relationship with their God? “Adam…Eve…where are you in your relationship with Me now?”

Every person on Earth is either a son or daughter of Adam and Eve. And in a very real sense, God asks that question to each person: “Where are you?” Where are you in your relationship with your God…with your Creator…with your only Savior? And just like with our first parents, every person is either walking in a saved relationship with their God and Savior, or they are hiding…hiding in the trees of the garden, the garden of Earth. Those trees might be their job or their hobbies or their family or their friends and such. And there’s nothing wrong with the trees…it’s just that they were never meant to be places to hide from God. They were meant to be places and things where you walk in a saved and serving relationship with your God throughout the garden of your life.

The strange thing is that many people don’t realize that they are hiding. They think they’ve got it all covered. Remember what Adam and Eve did? Gen 3:7- “So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.” NLT They thought they had covered their guilt with their works. But their works couldn’t cover their guilt. So what did God have to do to cover their guilt? Gen 3:20- “And the Lord God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife.” NLT It was the first instance of death in the Garden. Their sin had caused death. And they also learned that they couldn’t cover the guilt of their sin by the works of their own hands. God would have to do that. Only God could cover them, cover their guilt of sin. And in order to do that, it would require the death of an innocent one in their place in order to cover the guilt of their sin. And that became the lesson that the people of God learned and watched take place for the next thousands of years. They watched God covering their sin, atoning for their sin, by the sacrificial offerings of innocent animals in their place, because the justice for sin is death…physical and spiritual. They watched these temporary coverings or atonement sacrifices until the final Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, offered Himself, the innocent on behalf of the guilty…us, so that God could cover us with His righteous garment…cover us with His innocent skin, as it were.

In a sense, Adam and Eve’s story is our own story. God called out to us: “Where are you?” We were hiding. We may not have even realized that we were hiding, but we were. We may have even been hiding behind our own works…behind the fig leaves of our own good works, thinking we were covered, thinking that our relationship with God was covered by the fig leaves that we made ourselves. But then God points us to the Lamb of God and we learned that in order to be right with God, someone had to die in our place, and we would have to be clothed in His skin, in Jesus’ works, in Jesus’ innocent life in order to cover the guilt of our sin.

Like Adam and Eve…no one can cover themselves…only God can cover you. And He covers you with the skin of the Lamb of God as you repent of your sin and ask God to cover you with Jesus’ righteousness.

Remember what Paul said? Phil 3:9- “…and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith…” NASU There are two ways to approach God…in a righteousness of your own…in fig leaves that you have sown, or in the righteousness which comes from God, in the skin of the Lamb of God. Isaiah called this ‘a robe of righteousness’. Isa 61:10- “I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” NASU

So, a question for the world…for everyone really is: “Where are you?” Where are you in your relationship to God? To help with the answer to that is perhaps another question: “What are you wearing? Everyone is either wearing the fig leaves of their own works or the skin of the Lamb of God? But as Adam and Eve showed us – our own leaves won’t cover our sin…only the Lamb’s skin covers our sin. Have you ever asked God to cover you with the Lamb of God’s skin…to cover you with Jesus’ sinless righteousness instead of your own sin-stained attempts at righteousness? If you have any doubt about that, just ask Jesus to cover your sin with His righteousness, and He will. He will clothe you with His garments of salvation and wrap you in His robe of righteousness. And you will be covered and saved forever.

All right, one more question for today that God asked, and then we’ll wrap it up. But before that question, another question…So, do you ever feel down in the dumps, a bit depressed…just feel like singing the blues? You’re not alone. Even one of the heroes of the Bible got really bummed out and wandered out to a wilderness place and just started hanging out under a Juniper tree. But an angel delivered some Domino’s to him…I don’t know, it might have been Jericho’s…Jericho’s Pizza…or something like that. And then Elijah moved on and wandered off to a cave…but still down, still bummed. So God came to him and asked him this: 1 Kings 19:9- “Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” NASU

Again, God knew what he was doing, but He wanted Elijah to talk to Him about what he was doing. And it wasn’t so much about the place Elijah was in – it was more about the state Elijah was in…the state of his spirit and his mind and his emotions. And before we get into that, consider this: Once again, what do we see? We see God coming to His people in their time of need. We see God being even more concerned than even His people are with whatever is concerning His people.

One of the false assumptions that even God’s people have about God is that they think they are more concerned about their concerns that their God is. But nothing could be further from the truth, for as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is God lovingkindness and compassion and concern for us. Plus, we are on God’s mind all the time. Did you realize that? You are on God’s mind all the time. The Psalmist reminded us: Ps 139:17-18- “How precious are Your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, You are still with me!” NLT The next time you go walking on the beach, take a look at the sand around you, and realize that you are looking at the number of thoughts that God is thinking about you. Really? Yes, really! The Psalmist said so! God is thinking about everything that you are thinking about, and are troubled about, and are anxious about, and are concerned about. In fact, God is even more concerned about your concerns than you are concerned about your concerns!

So what did God do to help Elijah? After a series of amazing object lessons reminding Elijah of the power and the presence of his Lord with him, and then also encouraging him greatly by reminding him of others that were also serving God and fighting the good fight of faith, God then gave him a mission…a mission to anoint kings and another prophet. And in doing so God reminded Elijah of his great significance to God and then gave him a mission of great significance.

Often when we are down and depressed, we lose sight of both. But that’s when God wants us to realize how significant we are to Him and to others, and how significant our mission is for Him to others around us. And here’s the deal: God often seeks to communicate that to His people through His people…through you and me. You and I are the messengers of this message of how greatly significant our Brothers and Sisters in Christ around us really are, both to God and in their mission for God.

So how about that? You and I can help others around us who might be down, by encouraging them to also better understand ‘what they are doing here’, simply by assuring them of how important they are to God and how important each thing is that they do unto God. They matter greatly to God, and what they do for God matters greatly. And that’s something they can feel great about. And in reminding others about that it will also remind you about that as well. And that will then also help you get up when life knocks you down.

Celebrating the Wonders of the Resurrection

Celebrating the Wonders of the Resurrection

Study Guide, April 17, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


Of all people of the world, God’s people are to celebrate life…especially God’s gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus. And of all Sundays, Resurrection Sunday is a day to celebrate our Lord of life and the wonders of the Resurrection. Last week on Palm Sunday, it was a day that “Hosanna” was the shout of the day. And today, Resurrection Sunday, is the day that “Hallelujah” is the shout of the day.

Hosanna’ is from the Hebrew words ‘yasha’ and ‘anna’, meaning ‘save now’ or save us’. And ‘Hallelujah’ is a transliteration of the Hebrew words ‘haleluh and yah’, meaning ‘praise ye yah’…or ‘praise ye Yahweh’. So, some things might be Greek to you, but this is all Hebrew! Praise ye Yahweh!

Another way we can connect Hosanna and Hallelujah is by the Cross itself. Notice our majestic cross over here…When we look at the Cross there is the horizontal beam…we think of Jesus’ death on our behalf, of the atoning sacrifice of His sinless life in paying our sin sentence in our place. And we know that He completely paid the full price of our debt, since He said “Tetelestai!”, “It is finished!” Our sin penalty was ‘paid in full!’ Amen? But then there is the vertical beam…and we think of Jesus’ words: “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of His enemies. He will be killed, but three days later He will rise from the dead.” Mark 9:31 NLT The horizontal beam of the Cross says, “It is finished” and the vertical beam says, “He is risen!”

But that’s not all that Jesus said about His own resurrection, for when He was telling the people that He was going to rise from the dead, He told them this: John 10:18- “No one can take My life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.” NLT Another version says, “I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it up again.” The only reason Jesus Christ was able to be put to death on the Cross was because He voluntarily allowed it. Jesus was in charge of His sacrifice!

Plus, who again was it that raised Jesus from the dead? In Gal 1:1 we find the Apostle Paul revealing this: “Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)…” NKJV So God the Father raised Jesus from the dead. And then in 1 Peter 3:18 the Apostle Peter informs us: “Christ Himself suffered when He died for you, and with that one death He paid for your sins. He was not guilty, but He died for people who are guilty. He did this to bring all of you to God. In His physical form He was killed, but He was made alive by the Spirit.” ERV So God the Holy Spirit also raised Jesus from the dead. And then when talking with the religious leaders about what was going to happen with His bodily death and resurrection Jesus said: “Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Jn. 2:19 NASU So again, Jesus reveals that He Himself will raise Himself from the dead. So in answer to ‘Who raised Jesus from the dead?”…Each Person of the Trinity was involved in the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior. So, think about it, all three Persons of the Trinity were involved in Creation, all of the Triune Godhead were involved in salvation, and each of the Trinity was involved in the resurrection.1 What a wonder of wonders!

English Educator and Historian Thomas Arnold stated: “I know of no one fact in the history of mankind, which is proved by better evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God has given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.” The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, like everything else that God has done and said, was right out in the open for believers and skeptics alike to come and see, to inquire and investigate, to examine all the facts and then, just like Thomas after Jesus revealed Himself to him in His resurrected body, Jesus said: “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” John 20:27-29 NASU

The Resurrection says, ‘He is risen!’ And because He is risen, like Thomas, everyone should now say, “My Lord and my God!”…and to then trust in Jesus as their personal Savior. And for those who do, Jesus pronounced His blessing upon them…upon us! “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” We have not physically seen Jesus yet, but we have seen Him in the revelation of the Scriptures, and we have seen Him in the wonders of Creation, and we have seen Him in the witness of our soul and conscience, and we have seen Him in the works of our lives and the lives of God’s people throughout history. And, yes, one day we will physically see Him as well. Are you getting ready for that?

Just like God’s creation, Jesus’ resurrected body was and is a physical body that one can see and touch and feel is real! And once again, how moving to realize that Jesus will be the only one in Heaven with scars on His hands and feet…for He was the Lamb of God who was sacrificed to take away the sins of the world…to take away our sins…and make us His own forever family.

And then, remember, Jesus appeared to more than 500 people at one time. It’s like the Apostle Paul said, ‘none of this was done in a corner!’ God’s works are right out in the open for all the world to see and witness. The Resurrection was no secret…Jesus traveled all over the area, revealing His resurrected body to hundreds of people. In fact, the ripple effect of Jesus resurrection also created a startling, yet amazing celebration in Jerusalem. You think the raising of Lazarus caused a stir…imagine what this did for the journalists at the Jerusalem Post…for Matt 27:52-53 records this: “The graves opened, and many of God’s people who had died were raised from death. They came out of the graves. And after Jesus was raised from death, they went into the holy city, and many people saw them.” ERV

How do you think the Pharisees handled this? Remember, with Jesus they spread a story that the Disciples of Jesus had stolen the body. Well, Jesus was soon to ascend to Heaven, but it’s like God saying… “So, you think you covered up the story of Lazarus and also now My Son’s resurrection? Let’s see how you handle these dozens and dozens of resurrected people running around Jerusalem.” That’s not a Scripture verse, just an implication there… But the false teachers thought they had ridden out the wave of the Resurrection, but then came this tidal wave of resurrected people going back and walking all around Jerusalem from out of the cemeteries.

But you see, that’s where the world just keeps stumbling and bumbling in all its attempts to discredit the miracles of God, like Jesus’ Resurrection. They somehow forget…God is really into proving Himself and His words. He’s been proving His Godhood and His Sovereignty and His Saviorhood since the beginning of the world. Proving His Words and His works is what God specializes in! Just because the world refuses to acknowledge God’s proofs, they cannot refute God’s proofs that He is the Creator and Lord of this world and mankind’s only Savior! That’s why over one third of the Bible is prophecy. Prophecy could also be called ‘Proof-ecy!’ Or ‘Proof-you see!’ God has purposefully given prophecies and had them recorded to prove to a rebellious world that He alone is God and Lord of all. Do you remember what God said in Isaiah 46:8-10- “Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you transgressors. Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure…” NASU

God has been telling mankind about man’s future from the beginning of life on Earth. God has been telling the whole world how this whole world is going to work out from the beginning of this world. Remember, Jesus kept telling His disciples and everyone else that He was going to die for their sins, be buried for three days, and then rise from the dead. Again, God is into prophesying what is going to happen and then proving it all true! God has even told every person on earth how their life is going to work out. They will either be raised to eternal life to live with their Lord and their Savior, or they will be separated to live forever apart from God if they rejected or neglected to repent and receive Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. God has already declared the end from the beginning for everyone’s life. And as sure as every other prophecy that has been fulfilled, so every other prophecy of God’s is going to be fulfilled. And we pray that each one here today has turned to God to follow Him and have trusted in Jesus as your own personal Savior. Be sure you have asked Jesus to be your Savior while it’s still called ‘Today’.

And that’s another wonder of the Resurrection. Again, on the Cross Jesus said, “It is finished!” And at the Resurrection God the Father said, “Amen!” The mission of providing for our salvation was completed! Again, Paul put it this way: 1 Cor 15:17-20- “And if Christ has not been raised from death, then your faith is for nothing; you are still guilty of your sins. And those in Christ who have already died are lost. If our hope in Christ is only for this life here on earth, then people should feel more sorry for us than for anyone else. But Christ really has been raised from death—the first one of all those who will be raised.” ERV Yes, the Resurrection proclaimed victory over sin and death. It proved that everything that Jesus said and taught was all true. In fact, it proved that everything in the Scriptures were all true…from every prophecy to every promise. No one ever should put a question mark where God has put a period. God’s Word is all true and sure, and will surely come to pass, just like Jesus’ resurrection came to pass.

And so now…now with our new life in Christ, new life for each day for eternity…we have new hope. Since Jesus is the Blessed Hope, and since His mercies are new each morning, each day we have new hope. As hopeless as much of this world has become, our hope is found in nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Our hope is built upon the solid rock of our Savior and God. Every day we can have new hope because Jesus is with us every day, and He is ‘our hope’!

Now, with our new life in Christ, we also have new peace. It is certainly not well with the world, but with Jesus, it is well with our soul. You can rightly sing about that day by day because it’s all true, no matter what comes your way…high prices, hateful people, worrisome health, stressful times…it may be all wrong with this world, but because Jesus is our peace and our present help in time of need, as well as our Savior from our sins and from this world…still, it is well with my soul. The most important part about you is safe and secure and heading for Heaven, where all God’s resurrected family will call ‘Home’ forever!

And that’s why resurrected people can now also live with new joy. For ‘joy’ is not primarily an emotion, but primarily an ‘admission’…an admission that to live is Christ, and to die is gain. When the worst in this life is but a ‘gateway to gain’, then you have nothing to lose…for in Christ you have ‘everything’ you need for eternity! As the missionary and martyr Jim Elliot so wonderfully stated: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Have you ever thought about the fact that everything in this life is ‘extra’ because in Christ you have everything you need? When you have everything you need, in Christ, then everything else is ‘extra’. Our salvation in Christ is complete. Our relationship with Christ is complete. And our citizenship in Heaven with Christ is complete. It is well with my soul, INDEED!

So dwell often and long on the many wonders of the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It proved everything and it provides the power to now do everything we need to do while we prepare to join our Resurrected Savior when we rise to our forever new home…Heaven!

  1. Who resurrected Jesus? Gotquestions.org

A Long Walk to the Cross

A Long Walk to the Cross

Study Guide, April 10, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


It is estimated that during Jesus’ years of ministry that He walked about 3,125 miles. That’s a lot of walking! And over the course of His life on Earth, the estimate is about 21,500 miles. That’s almost the circumference of the entire Earth, which is 24,900 miles. And of course, they didn’t have gel pad inserts or air-cooled memory foam for their sandals. Just good old hard leather. But how amazing to think about Jesus, the Creator of the Earth, walking in the fields and on the roads of the very Earth He created. And one day He is coming back to walk upon His Earth again!

But although He walked to many places and walked many roads, we know that the real walk that He was on was His walk to the Cross. And, right away, we think of His walk along the stations of the Cross, along the Via Dolorosa, which means ‘Sorrowful Road’. But in a very real sense His walk to the Cross started much earlier…much, much earlier. Let’s highlight some of the stops along the way and about Jesus’ long walk to the Cross. And if you listen carefully, you can hear His footsteps all through the Law and the Prophets. Let’s explore.

Although there are some differences in the final tally, one scholar, J. Barton Payne, has found as many as 574 verses in the Old Testament that somehow point to or describe or reference the coming Messiah. Alfred Edersheim found 456 Old Testament verses referring to the Messiah or His times. Conservatively, Jesus fulfilled at least 300 prophecies in His earthly ministry. The point being, the possibility of one person fulfilling all 300 prophecies is far beyond any normal chance or likelihood. The only explanation of the fulfillment of that proportion is a supernatural explanation…it could only be done by God Himself! But one interesting way to think about the prophecies of Jesus’ coming is to think of them as ‘footsteps’. Think of the prophecies of Jesus as ‘footsteps of Jesus’ coming’. Even now, the fulfilling of the prophecies of Jesus’ return are ‘footsteps’ as well. Sometimes it almost like we can hear His footsteps getting closer…closer to the return of our Savior and King!

The footsteps started very early, even before the account of Genesis, for it started with this:

Acts 2:23-24- “…this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.” NASU The walk to the Cross began with a plan. And even though the things that godless men did to Jesus were all wrong, it was all right according to the plan. It was horrible and heart wrenching, but it was still necessary because of what one prophecy stop along the way to the Cross revealed to us: Isa 53:5-6- “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” NASU

How strange, yet unique, that Jesus is the only Person who was ever born that was born for the purpose of dying. He was the Passover Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world. Isaiah reveals that Jesus was spiritually and physically ‘pierced through for our transgressions’, for our sins, or rather, because of our sins. You don’t often hear the phrase, but we should hear it more – that, yes, Jesus died for us, but more, Jesus died because of us. Who is responsible for the death of the Son of God? Are you ready? You are…and I am…and so is each human being that has ever lived. Collectively and individually, we are responsible for the death of the Son of God on the Cross of Calvary. Our hands didn’t drive the nails that pierced our Savior, but our sins did. “He was pierced through for our transgressions…” One Bible version puts it like this: Isa 53:6- “We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on Him, on Him.” Message Bible

So Jesus died because of our sins, but He also died because of His love. What put Him on the Cross was our sins, but what held Him to the Cross was His love. He found a way to pardon our sins so that we could be forgiven the sentence of eternal death and instead be given eternal life through our repentance of our sins and our receiving of Him as our Lord and Savior.

But again, those footsteps began early on, very early on. Gen 3:15- “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” NIV This is the ‘protoevangelium’…the first gospel. This first prophecy declares that a human child would become the Deliverer, even having victory of the Devil himself. Only God can do that…and that is exactly who Jesus is: God and King and Savior and Deliverer. When God declared that revelation, it must have been like a thunderous footstep that shook the Garden of Eden.

Then, of all people, a Midianite soothsayer said this: Num 24:17- “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel…” NASU Balaam is the one that prophesied this. And Who did this ‘sanctimonious soothsayer’ say that he saw? Again, of all people, because of the prophetic vision that God gave him for this prophecy, this sanctimonious soothsayer saw a coming ruler. And he saw Him coming through the line of Judah and also then being granted royalty and rule as King over all. Balaam prophetically saw the coming of Jesus the King!

David also predicted the coming of the King, the coming of King Jesus. As a Scripture songwriter, David may have even had some music to it, making his version of ‘The King is Coming’ long before Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote their version of it. Look at this: Ps 2:10-12- “Now then, you kings, act wisely! Be warned, you rulers of the earth! Serve the Lord with reverent fear, and rejoice with trembling. Submit to God’s royal son, or He will become angry, and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities—for His anger flares up in an instant. But what joy for all who take refuge in Him!” NLT The Psalmist is calling for all the Earths kings, rulers, and judges to submit to the Messiah God and King. He knew that the Messiah would one day come to the Earth, but even then, David knew that the Messiah ruled over the Earth from Heaven. Friends, this call is still going out today…going out to our world. This is the timeless message we are to be sending to the rulers of our nation as well.

Now note, there is rightly so a separation of Church denomination from the State, so that no one denomination controls a government, but there never has been nor was there ever to be any separation of submission to the Messiah God from the State! God calls for every ruler of every government to submit to His sovereign rule as Creator and Lord of all the Earth. Every government on Earth is accountable to the Creator, and the only Messiah of the Earth. And like David, we are to call all kings, rulers, and judges to also submit to the authority of the Messiah God and King in how they govern and rule. For everything else is rebellion against God’s royal Son. And the result of rebellion is as the Psalmist declared – destruction. That’s why King Solomon also reminded us that righteousness exalts a nation, but sin destroys it. And ‘sin’ doesn’t pay any attention to any so-called separation of church and state…sin simply destroys wherever it exists and in whoever it exists.

God also expected everyone to pay attention to another ‘footstep’ of the coming Messiah in the fascinating timetable that Daniel gave of the end times. First: Do you know what time it is? Not by your watch, but by Daniel’s timetable? It’s the interim time between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel. Notice: Dan 9:24-27- “A period of seventy sets of seven (seventy weeks) has been decreed for your people and your holy city to finish their rebellion, to put an end to their sin, to atone for their guilt, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to confirm the prophetic vision, and to anoint the Most Holy Place. Now listen and understand! Seven sets of seven plus sixty-two sets of seven will pass from the time the command is given to rebuild Jerusalem until a ruler—the Anointed One—comes. Jerusalem will be rebuilt with streets and strong defenses, despite the perilous times. After this period of sixty-two sets of seven, the Anointed One will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing, and a ruler will arise whose armies will destroy the city and the Temple. The end will come with a flood, and war and its miseries are decreed from that time to the very end. The ruler will make a treaty with the people for a period of one set of seven, but after half this time, he will put an end to the sacrifices and offerings. And as a climax to all his terrible deeds, he will set up a sacrilegious object that causes desecration, until the fate decreed for this defiler is finally poured out on him.” NLT

Now, to unpack all of that requires several study times. But the point we are making today is that we are living in this interim period, also called ‘The Church Age’. We are living in between what happened at the end of the 69th week of Daniel and before what is yet to occur in the 70th week. (That would be a great question to ask people: “So, do you know what period of Earth history we are living in? We’re living between the 69th week and the 70th week of Daniel. And even if you get a blank stare after that, well, that’s a great time to share some Bible prophecy and about Jesus’ return to Earth.) But what happened at the end of the 69th week is that the Anointed One was killed. To be more exact, the Messiah was put to death at the end of the 69th week of Daniel. And without delineating the timeline, as we have done before, suffice it to say, from the issuing of the decree by Artaxerexes Longimanus in 444 B.C. to rebuild the temple to the time of the ‘cutting off’ of the Messiah, those 69 weeks of Daniel were fulfilled. In fact, history records that the timing of this prophecy worked out to the very day that the Messiah rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. And of course, just days later He gave Himself up on the Cross as our sacrificial atonement for our sins.

By the way, this is why Jesus charged the leaders with reminding them that they should have understood the time of His visitation. Daniel had even given them a precise timeline of His coming and of His sacrificial death as the Lamb of God! But that’s no surprise that they didn’t follow the Scriptures. Human nature has not changed. Much of the world is still ignoring God’s timeline for the Messiah and for the finish of the times of Men on Earth as we know it. Also remember, after the Church Age, there is one week left, or week of years…the 70th week, the seven years of Tribulation. So Daniel’s prophecy was a huge footstep of Jesus’ approach to the Earth in His first advent.

But then for today, there is another prophetic footstep associated with Palm Sunday. And it is found in Zech 9:9- “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” NASU Think about it: 500 years before that first Palm Sunday, the Prophet Zechariah not only stated that their Messianic King would enter Jerusalem to provide salvation for whosoever will…but he also states that He would enter Jerusalem on a foal of a donkey. And that is exactly what happened. Those who watched Jesus coming into Jerusalem and who knew this prophecy of Zecahariah, when they saw Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey, they probably got major goose bumps right then… ‘spiritual goose bumps’.

Also, conquering Kings, Kings coming to conquer people didn’t ride foals of a donkey when they entered a city. They rode stallions, powerful horses, not humble donkey colts. But Jesus was first coming to conquer a different foe, or foes… the foes of sin and death. And you conquer those by dying…by dying a sacrificial death. And that’s exactly what Jesus did. And then, or now having conquered sin and death, the next time Jesus rides into Jerusalem it will be on a stallion. He will come again as the conquering King of kings and Lord of lords. Which means that now…now the people of Earth should be listening, not only for the footsteps of Jesus, but also for the hoofbeats of His coming. And of course, when that happens, we will be riding with Him, as His church returns with the Messianic King.

Well, that was only six of the prophetic footsteps foretelling the coming of our Messiah. We still have 294 to go. The prophetic promises of our Lord Jesus coming to give His life for us are simply overwhelming. The people of Jesus’ own day should have spiritually heard the prophetic footsteps of their coming Messiah, Jesus. But many did not have ears to hear, just like many people today. So many people of Earth have closed their eyes to truth, and covered their ears to understanding, and hardened their hearts to God’s royal Son, Jesus Christ. But we pray for them to open their eyes, and open their ears, and give their hearts to God’s royal Son…to Jesus as their Savior. And for all who have opened the door of our heart for our Messiah and Lord to come right on in to our hearts and lives…we rejoice over our Savior and we exult in our salvation. We have said, “Hosanna…save us…” and He has. Jesus has saved us and conquered sin and death for us.


What is My Purpose?

What is My Purpose?

Study Guide, April 3, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen

In 1646 a group of English and Scottish theologians compiled a manual to use for basic instruction for families for Biblical knowledge and understanding. That manual came to be known as The Westminster Shorter Catechism. They chose to begin with one of the most asked questions by people throughout history. That question is: “What is my purpose?” They phrased it like this: “What is the chief aim of man?” And the answer: “The chief aim of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”

What a great perspective! Right away it links us to God, and it links God with joy and joy with God! It connects man’s greatest experience with man’s greatest privilege…to know God and to glorify Him in our lives…thus reaping joy. It even sets the focus on not just doing things for God, but on doing things for God based upon being in this marvelous and privileged relationship with God!

So right away we see a huge mental adjustment that we are to make in not just asking the question of “What is my purpose?”, but asking, “What is God’s purpose for my life?” And in asking this it turns our attention to, not only what am I to do, but also, what am I to be? Meaning…people usually ask the question of “What is my purpose?” with the focus on ‘the doing’…as in what should I be doing? But the Scriptures always focus first not on the issue of ‘doing’, but first on the issue of ‘being’…because what comprises your ‘being’ will determine your ‘doing’, or at least what becomes of whatever it is that you do. That’s one reason the Apostle Paul tells us: 1 Cor 10:31- “Whether then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” NASU We are not only to see everything that we do in connection with our relationship to God, but we are also to do everything that we do to the glory of God. So now when thinking about ‘my purpose’, we are to think of it in direct connection with ‘my God’! So now ‘my purpose’ is directly connected to ‘my daily and my eternal relationship with my God’!

It’s as Dr. Hendricks often said, “Who you are is more important than what you do; because ‘who’ you are will determine ‘what’ you do.” Yes, ‘who you are’ will determine either the lasting value or the fleeting vanity of whatever it is that you do. Who you are in your character will determine either the gain or the loss of whatever you do in your conduct. Remember, the most important part of your conduct is your character. The most important part of whatever it is that you do is your motive for whatever it was that you did. Here are some essential memory verses for us all to know:

Prov 16:2- “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives.” NASU

1 Cor 4:5- “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” NASU

In other words, what determines the real value, the lasting value, the rewardable value of whatever it is that we do is based upon the motive or motives for whatever it is we have done or plan to do. And in order to simplify our thinking about all of that, Paul helps us immensely by basically saying to us all, “Whatever you do, make sure you do it in a way that honors and pleases God. Because if that’s not your motive, then you will not have accomplished what you think you accomplished in whatever it was that you did.”

And Paul’s striking example of that is what he said about the essential motive of ‘love’ in all that we do. Remember that? 1 Cor 13:1-3- “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” NASU Paul is simply getting real with us here. He says that the absence of the motive of love in whatever it is that we do cancels out the true good and the lasting value and the eternal reward of whatever it is that we did.

You talk about an ‘essential motive’ to practice in whatever we do…that motive is ‘love’! Think about what Paul revealed here: If we know much, but do not have love…if we do much, but do not have love…if we have much, but do not have love…what is the sum total of that? The sum total of everything that we know plus everything we have done plus everything that we have minus love equals – ‘Nothing’! So one essential part of your purpose in life is to commit to injecting ‘Biblical love’ into whatever knowledge you acquire, and into whatever good thing that you do or grand thing that you accomplish, and into whatever you acquire or share with others. God made it very clear: In order for anything in our lives to last, each thing must be laced with love. Sure, at times it may be ‘tough love’, just as we saw Jesus demonstrate in His dealings with hard hearted people, but love, just the same…as opposed to malice and slander and spite and grudges and so on. Again, mark it down: Love is the essential component that determines what will have lasting value or what will come to ‘nothing’.

But since we are talking about motives, we need to clarify something about one so-called motive that causes much confusion in the life and service of many Christians. Many Christians base much of their service and works upon one of the least important motives in all of life…that is, based upon whether they ‘want to’ or ‘feel like it’. And even more confusing, many think that if it’s really something that God wants them to do then they will want to do it, too. And if they don’t want to do it, then they either just dismiss it, or they go ahead and do it, but then they feel really guilty because they think that since they didn’t want to do it, their reluctance to do it will cancel out the fact that they did it.

Sound confusing? That’s because that kind of thinking is confusing, and it is also so unnecessary, because the Bible is filled with heroes of the faith that reluctantly did things that they didn’t want to do, but they went ahead and did them simply because God wanted them to do it and thus, it was the right thing to do. And God, who wasn’t expecting them to want to do it anyway, blessed them and rewarded them because they were ‘willing’ to do what they didn’t ‘want’ to do for the sake of glorifying their God and pleasing their God! And if you can learn this principle of ‘the blessings of reluctant obedience’ you will free yourself from unnecessary guilt and angst, and you will then sense a new release in yourself to reach a new level in the adventure of service and work for the sake of Jesus.

Here’s the exact story that Jesus gave to us to teach us this principle of the rewards of reluctant obedience and how it glorifies God. The whole context reveals the receiving of God by repentant sinners as opposed to unrepentant sinners, but the application of it reveals the approval of God upon reluctant yet obedient service. Notice what Jesus said: Matt 21:28-31- “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ “And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. “The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. “Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” NASU

The point we are making is that God values willingness even when there is little or no ‘wanting-ness’. (That’s a real word, isn’t it? wanting-ness…or it should be) Case in point: Here are two different versions of Moses’ encounter with God. One is accurate and the other is not…see if you can tell which is which:

Ex 3:10- “Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.” NASU

Then this one: “Therefore, if you want to, I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.”

Right, God never asked Moses if he wanted to do this task. God already knew that Moses didn’t want to give the rest of his life to delivering and leading this nascent nation of Israel. Nor did God expect Moses to want to do it. But God loved Moses and He knew that Moses loved his Lord, and because he loved his Lord he would be ‘willing’ to do it, with God’s persuasion, even though he didn’t want to do it. God even assisted Moses in his ‘willingness’, even though God knew Moses didn’t ‘want’ to do it. And even after leading the Israelites for years Moses still didn’t ‘want’ to do it. In a strange way, and somewhat surprisingly humorous way, notice what Moses once said to God about his challenge of working with the Israelites. Num 11:14-15- “I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.” NASU That’s kind of a different prayer, right? It’s like Moses saying, “O Lord, if you will do me a real kindness, just kill me now!” That’s how rough it was on Moses working with this stubborn and rebellious people.

But the point is, do not worry about not wanting to do what you know is the right thing to do. Don’t worry about not feeling like doing something that you know is the God honoring and God pleasing thing to do. That’s why we are called to walk ‘by faith’ and not ‘by sight’…not by our feelings about it. Remember – Our old nature still messes with our new nature when it comes to serving and obeying God. So pay less attention to your wanting to do God’s will or to your feelings about obeying God’s Word and instead, by faith, just be willing to do whatever you ought to do in order to glorify God and bless others. And when you do, guess what…that ‘faith walk’ is the very way to then experience the rest of that statement… ‘…and enjoy Him forever’. It is the obedience of faith that opens the experience of joy. Plus remember, right feelings often follow right actions…they often don’t precede them.

Again, God knows that our wants and our feelings are not what are supposed to guide our actions and reactions anyway. Our actions in life and our reactions to life are to be guided by the Will of God and the Word of God. And our natural wants and our natural feelings are often in conflict with the supernatural Will and supernatural Word of God. But when we are willing to do what we may not want to do, and when we are willing to obey what we may not feel like obeying, it is this ‘willingness’ to honor God’s will above our own wants that both glorifies God and pleases God! And whatever glorifies God will for sure become ‘gain’ for us. God will make sure of that!

So, once again, whatever angst or worries you have had or guilt you’ve felt because you thought that your obedience to the Will and Word of God should be accompanied by a greater ‘wanting’ to do whatever that is that you should be doing…Friends, you can just let go of those worries…let them be washed away by the revelation of God’s Word that reveals that God honors ‘reluctant obedience’ and even rewards it, because it means that you are choosing to glorify and honor God even above your own wants and feelings about it all. You are in good company with Moses and Gideon and Jeremiah and Ezekiel and Peter and Paul and more. They were all ‘reluctant servants’, but they were all ‘willing servants’ because of Who it was they served and Who it was that they sought to glorify. They made it their purpose in life that whatever they did they chose to do it all to the glory and for the pleasure of their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ!

So again, don’t worry if you are reluctant at first about some particular service or some particular obedience. God credits reluctant obedience as ‘obedience’ just the same. God never requires us to ‘want’ to do what is right…He is only calling us to be ‘willing’ to do what is right. He will help us with our ‘wants’ after we get rolling in ‘obedience’.

Here’s something remarkable: In the Psalms we find David praying that God would even help him with his willingness to obey. It’s fascinating what he said:

Ps 51:12- “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and make me willing to obey You.” NLT It was like David was asking God to over-ride David’s own will with His will. And how amazing it is that like Jesus taught, the more that we choose to do God’s Will and choose to obey God’s Word that we will then find that we really are happier for having done so. The happiness follows the obedience. The joys follow the disciplines. And this then will influence our willingness to obey even more, because by nature we want to be happy. And God will even help our ‘wants’ to rightly then adjust to our ‘will’, since our will to obey will both glorify God and will help us to enjoy our relationship with God forever. It is the doing of God’s will that results in our experience of happiness, which our soul wants anyway! Learn the Biblical secret and then practice the Biblical joys of working from inside the Word out…to outside in your life…just make sure not to work the other way around.

And now, as we partake of the Lord’s Supper together, realize that in doing so we really are glorifying God and bringing glory to God. God joyfully receives our offering of thanksgiving and devotion and adoration in our thanking Him for His sacrifice of His life so that we could be forgiven the sentence of our sin and be given a share in His own eternal life. And then we also glorify God by proclaiming these truths to a world captured by falsehoods and sin. We glorify God by finding ways to share the light of the Gospel of life to a lost and dying world around us. We glorify God by looking forward to when we will share this Lord’s Supper again in the very presence of our Lord Jesus…sharing it in our new Kingdom with Him.


Who Am I?

Who Am I?

Study Guide, March 20, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


A Teacher once said to a little boy, “So, tell me about yourself.” And the boy said, “I don’t know myself!” Well, that was a surprising answer, for sure. At least the little guy was honest. It seems that many people go throughout life pretty confused about the whole thing of knowing themselves…or knowing ‘who they are’. We know that because one of the basic questions people ask about their life is “Who am I?”

But that is the wrong place to begin, for when you begin with yourself you will never know who you really are. That’s right…You have to begin with ‘who God is’ if you are ever going to know ‘who you are’. It’s like we saw in our last study that humans have their very origin in their Creator. Even after the Fall every human being still bears the ‘image of God’ in their soul, even though that image has been tainted and tarnished by their sin and their sin nature. Still, since their origin is connected to their Creator, how foolish to think that their identity can be found apart from their Creator.

Really, until we can accurately answer the question of ‘Who am I?’ that was asked by Someone that came before us, we will never have an accurate answer to nor a correct understanding of our own question of ‘Who am I?’ What do we mean? Let’s look. Matt 16:13-15 – “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” NASU

That is a question that every person on Earth must answer, because until you know who Jesus Christ is, you can never really know who you are. Or, until you know who your Creator and your God is, you can never accurately know who you are. Remember, one of the key things that happened in the Fall of man is that mankind became separated from God’s divine nature. Man’s nature became a sin-nature. And one of the key aspects of this fallen sin-nature of mankind is this ‘self-separation’ in life, especially in our ‘thinking’. God intended for His created children to live a ‘shared life’ with Him…even sharing in His divine nature. Of course, that ‘divine nature’ is what we saw was lost in the Fall of Man into sin in our last study. But in our redemption, in our salvation, we are reunited with God’s divine nature and once again are now able to forever experience this amazing ‘shared life’ with our Creator and our Savior. And this ‘shared-life’ is the key to the issue of ‘self-identity’.

So again, until a person knows who Jesus is, their Creator and their Savior, with whom, through being Born Again in their spirit, they can now share in His own eternal life and divine nature, they will never really know who they are, since their focus is on living out their ‘self-life’ instead of this ‘shared-life’ with Christ.

The greatest quest of Paul’s life was not to know ‘Paul’ better, but to know ‘Jesus’ better! Phil 3:10-11 – “…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” NASU The Apostle and Teacher of the New Testament has tried to spare us all a lot of unnecessary angst and misguided effort and wasted opportunity from our bad habit of gazing into the crystal ball of our ‘Self’ by instructing us to turn our eyes upon our Creator and Savior, Jesus! Again, the ‘carnal quest’ of our culture is focused on finding yourself and knowing yourself and nurturing yourself and so on. Certainly, we are to care for the body and soul…meaning mind, emotions, and will. God wants us to experience and enjoy whatever blessings and abilities that have been bestowed upon us. But still, for the follower of Christ, the most blessed mindset and attitude, the most angst freeing outlook, the most liberating way of experiencing our ‘new self’ that is united to Christ’s own nature and self is that of thinking and living according to a mind that is no longer fixed upon the ‘self-life’, but now fixed upon the ‘shared-life’…the life that you now share with your Creator and Savior. Heb 12:2 – “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” NIV

Note another way that Paul described this new mind-set: Gal 2:20- “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” NASU Paul was not talking about the elimination of his ‘self-life’, but the fact that he now shared in the very eternal life and divine nature of the One who created him and loved him and saved him. Paul’s new self-identity was a new ‘shared-identity’! He no longer thought or lived or acted independently from His Lord and Savior. Rather, he now thought and lived and acted dependently and co-operatively with His Lord and Savior.

How interesting that we see a reflection of this mind-set in God’s gift of marriage. The Scriptures basically instruct a husband and wife to move from thinking in terms of ‘Me’ to now thinking in terms of ‘We’! They are to think of themselves as one who now lives a life ‘shared’ by the one to whom God united them. No wonder Jesus referred to the Church as the ‘Bride of Christ’. As believers we are no longer bound to ourselves, we are now ‘bonded’ to Christ. Why, we even now share a body together – our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit!

So here’s the thing: If you will ever break free from the bondage of your ‘old conflicted self’ you will need to adjust your mindset about yourself and about Christ, that is, in your relation to Christ. You will need to no longer think of your Christian life in terms of ‘Me’, but to think of your Christian life in terms of ‘We’. The ‘new self-identity’ is a ‘shared self-identity’. You will have to practice thinking of yourself and of your life not as one that is separate from Christ, but as one that is ‘inseparable from Christ’.

Think about it: When we think and live and do life ‘apart’ from our new ‘shared self-identity’ we set our soul and spirit into inner conflicts, since we are thinking contrary to reality. Again, that’s just ‘stinking thinking!’ It’s just stinking up your mind! We are not thinking according to who we are ‘in Christ’ but we are still thinking like who we were apart from Christ. Paul said that if anyone is ‘in Christ’ he or she is a ‘new creature’! (2Cor. 5:17) So if we do not think like a new creature…or think like one who now shares their life with Christ’s Spirit and nature, well that causes mental, emotional, and even physical conflicts.

In order to break free from those inner conflicts, from those things which are interfering with both the growth of the fruit of the Spirit in your life and interfering with the bearing of fruit through your life, you will have to stop thinking, deciding, planning, and doing life apart from your real identity, which is that your new self-identity is a ‘shared self-identity’. You share your identity WITH Christ…not apart from Christ.

It’s similar to one of the key principles in Premarital Counseling, where each one is instructed to share not only their home, but also their lives. Meaning – they now look to their spouse to share in any planning, decision making, problem solving, and just in their day-to-day activities. Where they once did life independently, they now do life dependently, co-operatively, looking to, learning from, and living life together.

We often say that God wants to do life together with us. But in order for that to happen, we have to want to and then focus on doing life together with our God…even sharing our life with our God, especially since we now share His very nature and His eternal life! In order to have a healthy self-identity we have to look to our Savior to share in any planning, decision making, problem solving, and just in doing our day-to-day activities of life together. Remember, our very life is now a life that is ‘In-Christ’. Therefore, again, to plan, decide, solve, or go about our day-to-day activities apart from including Christ is just opening up ourselves to both inner and outer conflicts, as well as a lot of confusion in our life.

Now then, to show just how benevolent and kind our great God and Savior is, not only do we now have a ‘shared identity’ with our Lord, but He even expands our understanding of what our true identity really entails, or ‘who’ we really are. We could look at many examples, but we’ll just consider a few of these encouraging offerings. After Joshua died, several Judges were raised up in order to guide the people and to help deliver them from their enemies. One such Judge was Gideon. But first, God had to make an adjustment to Gideon’s identity. Notice: Judg 6:12;14-16- “The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.” …The Lord looked at him and said, “Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?” He said to Him, “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.” But the Lord said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.” NASU

The Lord calls Gideon “O valiant warrior!” And Gideon says, “Who, me? I think you’ve got the wrong guy, Lord. Besides, my family is the least in the bunch of families, and I’m even the youngest of the bunch in my family.” But that was just a bunch of baloney…because remember something very important: You are not who you say you are, and you are not who others say you are…no, you are who God says you are! And if God says you are a valiant warrior…then that’s who you are!

What do you say? How about trying that on for size? To yourself, say your name, and then add ‘Valiant Warrior’! How does that feel? Well, you should get used to it, because that’s who you are. Paul said we are ‘soldiers’ of the Cross. And God sees His soldiers, His warriors, as valiant warriors. So when you think about your identity, about who you really are, include that! Since God is with you, you are a ‘valiant warrior’ in this world that is at war with God.

But wait…there’s more! Look at what God calls us in 1 John 5:4-6- “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” NASU So not only are you a ‘Valiant Warrior’ in this life that you share with Christ, but you are also an ‘Overcomer’! That means that though the world, the flesh, and the devil will try to drag you down in trials and troubles, since you are an Overcomer in Christ, you can now anticipate and know that you will overcome them all in some measure and in some way, but for sure.

But wait…there’s more! How about that passage we read in our Responsive Reading? Rom 8:37- “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” NASU So not only are we Valiant Warriors in Christ, and Overcomers in Christ, but we are also Conquerors through Christ! So who are you? You are a Valiant Warrior, an Overcomer, and a Conqueror through Christ. And God intends for His identities of us to help give us and help us live with confidence before this world of people who do not know who they are, because they do not know who Jesus is, nor have they received Him as their Lord and Savior.

But wait…there’s more! Not only will these aspects of your identity give you confidence before this world, but these aspects of your identity will give you confidence before your God. Remember, who you really are is who God says you are. So fasten your head to that…and then fasten your heart to this: 1 Peter 2:9-10- “But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.” NASU

Remember, in the Fall the spiritual relationship was lost. But because of God’s great mercy and love, Jesus took the fall…took the penalty of sin for us. So now God comes to the Orphanage of Earth and says to you, “I choose you to be My Child, and you can live in My home with Me forever.” So part of your forever identity is that you are a royal son or daughter of God’s! When you think, ‘Who am I?’, you can answer that with, “I am a royal child of God!”

Plus, since you are a royal child of God that means you are a forever member of God’s family, you are redeemed and forgiven, you are secure in your relationship with God, you are a citizen of Heaven, you are branch of the Vine of Jesus, you are an ambassador for Jesus, you are a co-heir of the Kingdom, and you are precious in the sight of your Heavenly Father! And this is just to name a few of the things you are as one who has been Born Again and now shares in the very divine nature and life of God.

All of this is who God says you are. And who God says you are – is who you really are! And the more that you dwell on who God says you really are the more caught up you will be with Who God really is. And the more caught up you are with Who God is, the better everything in your life will be, as you share not only your life together with God, but also share your very identity with Him. And as you share your life with Jesus, Jesus will share His life with you, and then you will know ‘who you are’. And then you will be whole and will be at peace. Remember, God reserves His peace for those who look for their peace in Jesus and in living a ‘shared life’ with Him!

Imago Dei

Imago Dei

Study Guide, March 13, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


We live in a world that is becoming increasingly disconnected from God. Many people are busy going here and there, but they don’t know where they are going, really. And more – they don’t know who they are. So many are like this poem about aimless wandering: “Wandering aimlessly through my mind, thoughts crowd in and out amid much faith and doubt. No settling anywhere – on anything – causes insecurity to wreak havoc in my daily life. Wanting to know the trueness – the sureness of everything around me, I end up with only uncertainty and the failure of doubt sitting heavily upon me. Finding no path straight enough to follow, my mind sits down and chooses not to bother anymore. Wandering aimlessly through my mind, continues the same forevermore.1

That kind of reminds us of the author of Ecclesiastes conclusion: Eccl 1:14-15- “I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind. What is crooked cannot be straightened and what is lacking cannot be counted.” NASU Remember, God let Solomon be the ultimate example to the world to put to the ultimate test man’s idea of fulfillment. He tested the limits of power, pleasure, and possessions to see if any or all would bring ultimate fulfillment to man’s soul. But his conclusion was: ‘Vanity of vanities…striving after the wind…meaningless folly’. He found that nothing that is temporal can fill the need of the eternal soul. For the need of the soul is to be filled with that which is eternal…specifically filled with the One who is eternal – The Creator of the soul Himself, our Triune God. That’s why Augustine said: “Our souls are restless until they find their rest in God.”

But how strange and ironic that so many of this world are still testing out this failed test of Solomon’s, like somehow this time, somehow for them, it will be different. That is not only like that definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and yet expecting different results – but it is also the very definition of ‘a fool’. Also, Jesus words were mean to settle any question about the limits of this temporal world: Matt 16:26- “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” NKJV And the answer is? None! Again, the temporal is not and was never meant to be a substitute for the eternal. And Solomon’s final conclusion was similar: Eccl 12:13-14 – “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” NASU

Mark it down: If a person’s life does not center around his or her eternal Creator, then it will be centered around temporal substitutes. But the results of that test have already been completed and documented: ‘Vanity of vanities…striving after the wind…meaningless folly.’ If a person’s life is not connected to his or her eternal Creator and Redeemer, then it will be like a boat untethered from the dock: it will drift aimlessly…it will be tossed here and there in aimless wandering throughout the remainder of their temporal life.

The Apostle Paul even warned followers of Christ about wandering from the truths of revelation: Eph 4:13-14 – “…until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming…” NASU

Next time you are at the Ocean and watching the wind and waves crashing back and forth, think about what Paul said is happening to people who are not grounded in the Lord and His Word: they are being tossed around by every wind of false teaching, false beliefs, and the deceitful ideas being planted in their minds by deceived people and even the Deceiver himself.

One of the greatest ironies about mankind is that not only do most people not know ‘who they really are’, but they also do not even know ‘what they are’! Remember when the Psalmist asked the question: “What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?” Ps 8:4 NASU Now, David was also asking this in a humble sense of one who was in awe of God’s love and benevolent works with him and others. But in the most basic sense of the question, it asks about the most basic reality of life: “What is man?” Sometimes when people think about the most basic questions of life they think of ones like: Who am I? and What is my purpose? and what happens when I die? But actually, even before the question of ‘Who am I?’ comes the question of ‘What am I?’ And that is why the answer to that as revealed in Genesis is crucial for every person on earth to know. Let’s explore.

Gen 1:26-27- “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” NASU Do you think God was trying to make a point here? Within two verses God says three times that man was created ‘in the image of God’! Of course, the triune God does have a fondness for things that come in ‘trinities’.

Imago Dei, ‘the image of God’, is the very key to life on planet Earth. How so? The ‘image of God’ refers to the immaterial part of humanity. ‘Mentally’, humans were created with the powers of reason and rational thinking and with a conscience to guide their thinking. ‘Volitionally’, humans were created with a free will; the ability to make choices and take actions based upon these choices, as guided by their powers of reason and logic and rational thinking. ‘Emotionally’, humanity was created with feelings and abilities to experience joy and love and delight and so on. ‘Socially’, humanity was created for fellowship; first with their Creator and then with their fellow created humans, and then all of God’s created world. And then ‘Morally’, humanity was originally created in righteousness and holiness. Man’s divine moral nature, before the Fall, was united to God’s divine moral nature…united in holiness, or uniquely set apart for righteous fellowship with God.2

Man was a living soul, with mind, will, and emotions…and originally with a spirit union with the Divine nature of God Himself. However, we know what went wrong…with the possession of a ‘free will’ came the potential for bad fall…a fall into sin and a fall from unity with God’s spirit. So let’s think about that.

A question: Man was created in the image of God. (That’s not the question…here’s the question) So after the Fall of man, because of the sin of rebellion in choosing against God, as in ‘Lord, not Thy will be done, but my will be done’, what then was lost? Or, what of that ‘image of God’ was lost? Think about it: Even after the Fall of mankind in sin every human still has the faculty of the mind…reason and logic and rational thinking. Every human still has volition…the powers of the will in making choices and determining actions and such. Every human still has emotions, the ability to experience joy and love and such. Every human still has needs and desires for fellowship, or least the sense of that need. And, actually, every human still has a moral conscience, that faculty of the mind that tells us to do right and not wrong. Of course, the conscience tells us to do right and not wrong, but it cannot define what IS right and what IS wrong…No, that is defined by the revelation of our Creator for us in His owner’s manual for life, the Bible.

That’s why you should not follow your conscience…you should listen to your conscience, but you should follow the Word of God. Be very clear about that! Plus, we know that the conscience can become seared or calloused and hardened by self-will and sin, but still, how amazing that even in the unconverted, the conscience is still active because of this great reality: Rom 2:14-15- “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them…” NASU

The moral law of God is written or imprinted on every human heart. It convicts them of right and wrong and their need for a right relationship with their Creator. Whether they respond to that which is written in their hearts will determine their eternal destiny. But even in the Fall their moral conscience was not lost. So again, in the Fall of humanity in sin, what of the image of God was lost? Or, as God warned…Gen 2:17 – “…for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” NASU When our first parents sinned that day what died? Their physical bodies did not immediately die. They would, in time, since their immortal bodies became mortal bodies. Also, their mind, will, and emotions did not die. So what died?

That question is answered throughout the Bible, but we see it clearly in Eph 2:1- “In the past you were spiritually dead because of your sins and the things you did against God.” ERV With their sin came the death of their spirit, or their separation from the Spirit of God. They still had their soul, or their mind, will, and emotions, but what they lost was their spiritual DNA. And what is that? Well, in the human body the DNA is deoxyribonucleic acid. This material is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. Nearly every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA that is unique to him or her, yet they also share a portion of it with their family. So every human naturally has physical DNA. What they do not have, because their sin has separated them from God’s Spirit, is that they do not have spiritual DNA, or Divine Nature Attachment, meaning; their spirit is not attached to the Spirit of God, or is not united to the nature of God. They have a human nature, but they do not share in the Divine nature of God. And that is why Jesus said that in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven you must be ‘born again’. He said: John 3:6-7 – “Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. So don’t be surprised when I say, ‘You must be born again.” NLT And that is why having a relationship with God is not based upon religious behavior, but it is based upon spiritual birth…the rebirth of a person’s spirit into union with God’s Spirit. And of course, that is Jesus’ free gift to all who turn to Him to follow Him and receive Him into their life as their Lord and Savior. Behavior follows Birth, spiritual birth.

So again, what was lost in the Fall of mankind into sin was their attachment to the Divine nature of God and the holy moral character of God. So now notice how this works out in the life of a Born again follower of Christ. When a person turns from sin and self and trusts in Jesus Christ to save them from their penalty of sin and to follow Him as their God, the Holy Spirit brings their once dead spirit back to life again. They become born again in their spirit and are thus, united to the eternal life of God, or become attached to the Divine nature of God. Look at how the Apostle Peter reveals this: 2 Peter 1:4- “And because of His glory and excellence, He has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share His divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.” NLT

So, because of our spiritual rebirth into union with God we now share in His divine nature. We have God’s DNA in our spirit, attached to our spirit. We have the Divine Nature Attachment in our spirit and soul. However, remember the other part that was lost in the Fall was God’s holy character. So at our salvation, we are united to God’s holy nature, and yet, God’s holy character must be developed throughout our sanctification. In other words, when someone becomes a born again Christian, their spirit is reborn, but their character is not yet formed…or transformed. Just because someone becomes a Christian doesn’t mean that they automatically now think and act like a Christian. That is why Peter went on to instruct us to now focus on this: 2 Peter 1:5-11- “In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins. So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” NLT

And we did an extensive study on this passage awhile back, but what we are to clearly understand is that while God’s holy moral nature is His gift to us at our salvation, His holy moral character is something that we need to develop in our thinking and in our conduct the rest of our lives. And it’s this holy moral character that then makes us useful to God in using us to carry out the works He prepared for us to do in serving Him and blessing others. And, of course, this will also then determine our destiny or our inheritance privileges in the coming Kingdom of God.

But what we need to see here is that every person you see, everyone around you, every human that has ever lived still bears part of the image of God. That is what gives them divine value, and human sanctity, and individual worth and such. And, again, what gives them their eternal need is their separation from God’s Spirit and His eternal life because all have sinned and are awaiting their sentencing. But when they do turn to God in repentance and receive Jesus in faith as their Savior they are then forgiven of their sin and given a share in or are reunited to God’s own divine nature, His eternal life. The divine nature of the Imago Dei is returned to them. But note carefully – God’s call for His reborn children is to then go on to the fullness of His image by being transformed in their character. God calls His spiritually reborn children to become transformed and conformed more and more into the image of Christ. God’s divine nature is His gift to us…our transformation into God’s character is our gift to Him…certainly by His grace, but through our obedient devotion to Christ as our Lord and Savior.

We’ll continue to explore this next time…

  1. Aimless Wandering Poem, by RoseAnn V. Shawiak
  1. What does it mean that humanity is made in the Image of God? Got Questions.org

Every Crisis is a Call for a Fresh Commitment, Pt. 2

Every Crisis is a Call for a Fresh Commitment, Pt. 2

Study Guide, February 27, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


In our Men’s Life Group we were talking about a Jonah-like experience that recently happened to a couple of women who were with a group of Kayakers that went out ‘Whale watching’. And while they were watching these gigantic 50 feet long Humpback whales from afar…one of these whales was not afar off at all. In fact, this Whale had come up to the surface right under their double kayak. And when it surfaced it knocked the two of them right into its massive mouth! After they fell into its mouth, they then sensed the Whale diving down with them…but fortunately when they slammed against its throat the Whale ejected them from its mouth.1 You talk about trials and tribulations!

But really, we are talking about trials and tribulations, not exactly like that one, but the general trials and tribulations of life. And in our last study we pointed out that the Apostle Paul revealed that there is an actual process for dealing with trials and tribulations…even those of being swallowed by a whale. But let’s explore.

We return to Rom 5:3-5- “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” NASU

Now, right away we might be thinking… “We do what with our tribulations? We exult…we rejoice…we glory in our tribulations?” Are you sure about that Paul? But notice, the Apostle didn’t say we exult ‘over’ our tribulations, but ‘in’ them. It’s like with what he wrote in Philippians 4:6 – “Be anxious for nothing, but ‘in everything’ by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” NASB He didn’t say ‘for everything’, but ‘in everything’. The ‘everything’ is not the ‘end’, but we can make it a means to an end…a means to a greater good. And so it is with ‘tribulations’. The trouble is not the end, but rather, we can make it a means to an end…a means to a greater good. God has so worked it out for His children that since His children have to live in a world of tribulations, He is going to make these tribulations produce a greater good in their lives…again, either in this old world, or the new world, or both, but for sure!

Now, this is a fascinating progression for producing these various strengths and virtues and experiences in the life of a follower of Christ who commits to practicing this progression. Let’s examine it. Paul says that tribulation brings about perseverance, or troubles develop this strength of perseverance. How so? Perhaps an analogy can help.

In weightlifting and weight training for strength purposes you have plates of weights and a barbell. And these plates come in different sizes. You work up from lighter to heavier. And for what purpose? For the purpose of gains in strength, gains in overall health, and gains in being better prepared for assisting others in their health, safety, and security. And while the weights themselves pull you down with their weight, your working-out with those weights lifts you up. Working out results in working up…again up in strength, up in fitness, up in readiness to deal with the other ‘weights’ of this world. You are then better prepared to deal with the other plates of weights or plates of problems in this world.

Again, tribulations are like metal plates on a weightlifting bar. Or – problems are like iron plates. So, in this sense, just like you would think about ‘pumping iron’, you can think about handling your problems as ‘pumping problems’. And either the weight of these plates of problems will simply ‘weigh you down’ or you can make them ‘build you up’ by re-purposing them to help make you stronger in dealing with other issues or other needs, and even assisting others in your life. When you make the troubles that usually just ‘work you over’ now become things that you use to ‘work out’ with, it will not only strengthen you to better deal with those problems, but God will then be able to better use you to help others with whatever weights of problems that are weighing them down as well.

So when tribulations or troubles or problems present themselves, don’t just get worked over by them, rather make them work out with you and for you. Put them on your barbell and pump some problems and make them produce greater strength in your body and soul. Make them develop greater perseverance in your commitment to serving God by serving others. Meet the resistance of your problems with your persistence in working out with them to increase your gains in persevering for the sake of your God, your family, your country, and your reward from your God. When you ‘pump your problems’ instead of just letting them pull you down, they will ‘pump you up’!

Now, whenever there are key words in a passage to describe key developments in your discipleship it’s very helpful to do some ‘word studies’ of them. So let’s do that. In various translations this Greek word for ‘perseverance’ is ‘hupomone’. And it includes such concepts as ‘perseverance’ and ‘endurance’ and ‘patience’. But they all point to what Paul later referred to as ‘pressing on’, as in Phil 3:13-14 – “…but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” NASU

Now, Paul went through many more hard times than most Christians will ever have to endure, but he re-purposed his hard times to simply harden his resolve even more in fighting the good fight of faith. He used his ‘work-outs’ with troubles to make him even more determined and able to finish his race of faith strong. We may start out our Christian journey weak or even have weak moments along the way, but like Paul, we can each commit to finishing strong! In athletics, the competition is about how you finish…you try your best to finish strong…to finish well…to finish by giving it your best shot…giving it your all…not leaving anything on the field, as they say.

As Christians, you might finish worn down or worked over or worked hard in your mind, and emotions, and body, but you can finish strong in your spirit…strong in your perseverance…strong in your endurance for the sake of honoring your King and your Savior and your loved ones around you.

So next, the Apostle says when you grow stronger in your perseverance, in your endurance, then by that you also strengthen your character…you develop stronger character; “…knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character.” And since we’re doing some ‘word studies’ here, the Greek work for this one is ‘dokime’, and it has the meaning of ‘proven experience’ or ‘proven character’ or even ‘trustworthiness’. This particular component speaks of a sense of consistency where you know you can always count on it being a certain way. It’s like the way that a landmark serves as something a traveler can always count on being there to help them know when they are close to their destination. They can count on it to assure them that they are not lost.

It’s like one foggy night a Ship Captain saw another light right on a crash course with him. So he radioed out, “We are on a collision course. You need to turn 10 degrees to the south. The response was, “No, you need to turn 10 degrees to the north.” A little miffed at that, the Captain said, “But I am a Captain, and I say you need to turn 10 degrees to the south!” And the response came back, “I am seaman third class…you alter your course 10 degrees north.” Furious at that the captain sent a final message, “Alter your course 10 degrees south. I am a battleship.” The reply was, “Alter your course 10 degrees north. I am a Lighthouse!” A little lesson on ‘humility’ there as well. But you can always count on a good landmark to help you out.

Here’s a question: You can answer it to yourself…Have you come to a place in your perseverance for Christ, in your endurance for Christ, in your pressing on for Christ, and in your trustworthiness in your character that others can look to you like they would a landmark, knowing that they can count on you always be there for them…and knowing what you will always be like to them in your consistent character and service and compassion for them? Can God count on you to persevere in faith in the midst of tribulations and troubles?

When the world, the flesh, or the devil comes to test you, and be sure, everyone who desires to live godly will be tested by the world, the flesh, and the devil…but when they come to test you, can God count on you, can others count on you to press on through the test toward the goal of being found faithful to your Savior and your King? As we pointed out last time, we cannot choose the troubles and trials and tests that come our way, but we can choose to make each test become part of the testimony we offer to the glory of God and the blessing of others and even the gain for ourselves.

And then Paul adds another component to this process for dealing with troubles. Notice: “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Now, this is a little surprising, because we normally think that when facing tribulations that one would start with ‘hope’. But here, ‘hope’ is after these other two components. What’s up with that? Well, that’s where another word study can help, because the Greek word for ‘hope here is ‘elpis’. And ‘elpis’ refers to a particular kind of ‘hope’. Often in our usual use of the word, or our culture’s idea about hope, people use ‘hope’ in a way that is more connected to ‘fate’ than it is to ‘faith’. They think of hope in a ‘hope so’ kind of way, without much connection, or being mostly disconnected to any ‘know so’ kind of attitude about it. But the Biblical kind of ‘hope’ is quite different from this cultural kind of hope because Biblical hope is always connected to Biblical faith. And Biblical faith is not about fate at all; it’s about facts…facts based upon the Person of Christ and the promises of Christ. We could say Biblical hope is a rope of faith that is tied to the Rock of our Salvation, Jesus Christ!

That’s why Paul added, “… and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” This is not a ‘hope so, but don’t know so, just trying to think so’ attitude about God helping us in our trials and tribulations. NO, this is a ‘hope that lets you know so’ that God is so willing and so wanting to help you in your trials and tribulations because God loves you so’. He loves you so much that He has eternally untied His very own Spirit with you and placed His very own Spirit within you. Thus, whatever you are going through, God is also going through it with you, and thus, of course He will help you…in His way and in His time. Which is another aspect of this ‘elpis’ kind of Biblical hope…it includes ‘trust’…trusting in the ways and works of the One who dwells with us and even within us. Remember, you are not a single dwelling home. No, when you received Jesus as your Savior, and He came into your life, and you became a dual dwelling home. You share your body now with God the Holy Spirit…so naturally, whatever you are going through in triumphs or in trials, God is going through them with you. But since God is with you and also within you, now you can justifiably have a confident hope that God will turn whatever trials you have to face into triumphs for His sake and for your sake as well. And that’s why we can trust Him to do so…in His time and in His ways, but for sure. You can tie your rope of hope onto that Rock and relax about it!

And, again, this ‘hope that Paul speaks about is the kind of hope that has walked with the Blessed Hope. This ‘hope is a trust that has grown even stronger from following our training of working out with the weights of troubles. It has become more consistent by our using even crises to make deeper commitments to becoming more like Christ in our character and conduct. This is a confident hope that has been a long obedience in the same direction. That’s why Paul didn’t start with ‘hope’ because it takes a while to develop this confident and settled hope by coming to know our Blessed Hope better and better.

And when you think about it – the only reason it’s still called ‘hope’ is because we are not yet ‘Home’. But one day our daily ‘hope’ will become our eternal ‘Home’. And it will be more than we ever hoped it would be or even imagined it would be. And one day even our walk of ‘faith’ will become a walk of ‘sight’. We will then see face to face the One we trusted in by faith. And as for God’s love for us and our love for Him and for all of our Brothers and Sisters in Christ…well, that love will only become more and more amazing love.

  1. Emily Landau, Readers Digest, I Survived Being Swallowed By A Whale, pp 60,61


Every Crisis is a Call for a Fresh Commitment

Every Crisis is a Call for a Fresh Commitment

Study Guide, February 20, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


There is an old Russian saying about Christians: ‘Christians are like a nail…the harder you hit it, the deeper into the wood it goes.’ That was a reference, of course, to the way that they observed how Christians responded to hardship and persecution and crises…they went deeper into their relationship with the Lord and their commitment to Christ. What a powerful testimony and teaching!

And really, there are many things in life beyond our control. But the thing is, those things beyond our control can start controlling our lives. They shouldn’t, but they often seem to have that effect. And thus, many people live their lives being controlled by things that are beyond their control. That’s what the Brits call ‘A sticky wicket’…or what Laurel and Hardy called ‘A fine kettle of fish’…remember those guys?

But one of the great provisions of God for His people is the power to live proactively rather than reactively. Christians have the power from God’s Spirit to live not under the control of the conflicts around us but to live by our commitments to the Lord above us…and not only above us, but even within us, through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

And even though we are not exempt from the trials of this world, and although we are not insulated from the crises of this world, we are empowered to turn trials into triumphs and to make every crisis a call to make a fresh commitment to Christ. We can’t determine the degree of the difficulties we may face, but we can always determine the direction our faith will take…and that direction is deeper into our relationship with Christ and higher in our devotion to Christ.

The history of God’s work in the lives of His people is filled with turning loses into gains and turning trials into triumphs. And we as God’s people, can know that He will do the same in our own lives as we commit more of ourselves to His will and to His work. Let’s explore.

Remember, Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. Joseph could have become bitter and self-serving. But instead, he became even more committed to honoring God in his beliefs and his morals and more committed to serving others for the sake of His Lord. And as a result, he was granted a position of power in the land of Egypt second only to Pharoah himself, which put him in a position to rescue his own family and further the redemptive plan of God. But that didn’t happen overnight, remember…no, it was over thirteen years between his slavery to his sovereignty. But Joseph used that time to make fresh commitments to honoring and serving God…and he left the timing of the results in God’s hands.

That was one of the themes of King David’s life: Ps 31:15 – “My times are in Your hand; Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me.” NASU That would be a great theme for us all to live by… ‘My times are in Your hand, O Lord.’ Do you have trouble leaving the times for things in God’s hands? Yeah, that’s a tough one. Remember, David was anointed as King by the Prophet Samuel. And then he was crowned as King right away and he then lived a peaceful and carefree life ever after…right? Wrong! No, what came soon after his anointing as King was his battle with Goliath. That was bad, right? No, that was good, compared to his battles with Saul. David had to live his life on the run from Saul who was constantly threatening his life. He went from hiding in the desert and being forced to out of his own country to even having to fight other people’s battles for them. It was about 15 years between the time he was anointed as King to being crowned as King. Those had to be awfully frustrating and trying times.

You can imagine the Prophet Samuel saying, “David, I have some good news and some bad news for you.” The good news is that you’re going to be the new King of Israel. The bad news is that as soon as the old King finds out about it, he’s going to chase you all over the country trying to kill you! Now, have a cookie and some falafels.”

But, again, the point is, although we can’t determine the times or the difficulties of the times that we are going through, we can determine the direction that we are going to go through them. We can determine or pre-determine that whatever the crisis is that we might have to face that we are going to use the crisis to be a call for us to make a fresh commitment to Christ to go deeper in our relationship with Christ and higher in our devotion to Christ. And when you do make that commitment, then come what may…whatever test it is, it will result in a testimony for the glory of God and in the blessing of others and in gain or gains for you. The world, the flesh, and the devil may intend evil for you, but the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit will turn it into good…in His times…for you. Trust God in the bad tests of your life, and God will turn the bad tests into good testimonies for you. Every great test can become a great testimony for you and others around you, if you determine to make any crisis be a call for you to make a fresh commitment to Christ.

All right, sounds good. But what’s the plan? What’s the process to put this into action? Well, just like our gracious and merciful God, He has laid it out for us in Rom 5:1-5 – “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” NASU

Every person’s faith walk with Christ begins with being ‘justified by faith’. We are declared righteous by God because Christ grants His righteousness to us, along with His pardon of us. Justification is the legal pardon of our sin penalty because of Christ’s substitutionary atonement, or His dying in our place to remove that sin penalty that was upon us. And now being ‘declared righteous…declared right with God’, we now and forever have ‘peace with God’. And when you have peace with God you then have peace from God, along with the peace of God. And friends, this is the ‘peace’ that then takes precedent and priority over every other kind of problem in the world. Actually, this ‘peace with God and peace of God’ is what then gives us the power to deal with the problems that this world throws at us. It is the peace of knowing that we now stand in the position of being God’s own son or daughter and nothing will ever change that!

Remember how later on in Romans the Apostle goes on a celebration of the love of Christ for us and how nothing can ever take His love away from us? Rom 8:33-39- “Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for His own? No one—for God Himself has given us right standing with Himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and He is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?…No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” NLT

This is why we’ve been making such a big deal lately about our ‘Position in Christ’, because it is the biggest deal in our life! Everything that we think about, or need to face, or have to do, is now to come out of our ‘position’ in Christ. There’s something about you that neither this world, nor the flesh, nor the devil can ever touch or change…that is your position as a forever child of God and your security as a forever beloved son or daughter of God’s.

Sometimes when Christians read that passage in Romans they think: “But what if I do something to separate myself from the love of Christ?” Nope, the Apostle said that can’t happen either! So do not worry about that! I love how in the NASB puts it: “…nor any other created thing can separate us from the love of Christ.” Guess what? You are ‘a created thing’, and I am ‘a created thing’…and ‘no created thing’ can separate us from the love of Christ! Why? Because our Creator and our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, has already justified and sanctified and has even already glorified us when He forgave us the penalty of our sin and birthed us into His forever family!

In fact, God makes a point to point that out that very thing to us in Romans 8:30, which is often overlooked, but is one of the strongest statements about our eternal security in the Scriptures. Notice: Rom 8:30- “Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” NKJV This verse has been called ‘The unbreakable golden chain’! What a great picture of all the parts of our salvation…an ‘unbreakable golden chain’. Note carefully, that when we turn from sin and self and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, the Apostle Paul says that we are ‘Justified’, as he pointed out in Rom. 5:1. Okay, we see that. But now he reveals that something else that we also need to see. He reveals that in connection with our being ‘justified that we are also ‘glorified’! And the wonder and joy of it all is that Paul says this has already been completed… “…and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” And ‘glorified’ has to do with our already being ‘seated in the heavenly places with Christ’. That was the study that we recently examined. This is Paul’s message of assurance for us. He wants us to understand that you cannot separate ‘justification’ from ‘glorification’ in the life of one who has been ‘Born Again’! And that is why God speaks of them both here as being ‘past tense’…already finished! Mark it down and then find rest for your soul in this: When God saved you from your past, He also saved you in your present and saved you in your future. Christ’s salvation enclosed your life and encircled your entire life from your New Birth to the New Earth.

When God saves you, He also saves a place for you in Heaven at the same time. Again, when God speaks about saving us, He also speaks about already seeing us in Heaven with Him…already justified and already glorified. That’s eternal security! And that’s one reason that Paul goes on in Romans 8 to further explain that nothing can separate us from ‘the love of Christ’. And ‘the love of Christ’ is another way of saying ‘our relationship with Christ’. And why can’t anything now separate us? Because you cannot separate ‘justification’ from ‘glorification’. When Christ looks at your present life on Earth, He also sees your future life in Heaven with Him at the same time.

You are already ‘glorified’ in your ‘position’ both in Christ and in Heaven, therefore now live out whatever time you have left on this earth from your glorified position in Heaven and from your eternal relationship with Christ!

By the way, how great is it to know that there is a part of you; your soul and your eternal relationship with Christ, that nothing or no one in this world can touch. Your saved soul and your secure relationship with Christ are beyond the reach of anything or anyone in this world. Remember, in a wondrous and remarkable way, you have already been raised up and seated in the Heavenlies with Christ! So, you can say to the troubles of this world, as well as the troublemakers of this world – “Hey, you can’t touch me…you can’t touch the real me! You can’t touch my soul or my future in Heaven! You can’t touch this!” Now, you might not want to make that a habit of saying that with just everybody…it kind of needs some explanation. But in the right time, and right place…there you go! Plus, as long as you know this truth about your life it will help you better deal with anything in life that comes your way…such as the inevitable crises in our lives.

However, when crises do come, now you can even make the crises, make the problems produce something of lasting value for God’s sake, and for the blessings of others around you, and for the gains for your own life and future. And you do that by making the crisis become a call for a fresh commitment to go deeper in your relationship with Christ and higher in your devotion to Christ. And we’ll walk further through those steps in Romans 5 of doing all of this in our next study.

Who Does Jesus Say That He Is?

Who Does Jesus Say That He Is?

Study Guide, February 13, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


Being that it’s Valentine’s Appreciation Sunday, and that Valentines is also a time of sharing gifts with and gratitude to our loved ones, the Chapel has a gift for each of you. We are passing on a gift that the Chapel was gifted with…a book study on the amazing identity and love of God. It’s called ‘Gentle and Lowly’, by Pastor Dane Ortlund. So after the service be sure and pick up your copy and get ready to enjoy a Biblical look at our God and Savior and this special way that Jesus describes Himself. And for a preview we are going to highlight some of the themes and implications from this Biblical study of God’s amazing love for us. And perhaps you will come to see and to know our Savior in fresh ways that will then impact your understanding of both our great God and of your relationship with Him. So here we go…(And besides the Scripture passages, I’m also going to put the references I get from the book in italics in the study guide so that you will know to look for those as you read it. And the book and author are noted in the guides as well. It’s always important to give credit where credit is due.)

The Bible is filled with names of our great God and Savior. Names like ‘the Bright Morning Star’, the Chief Cornerstone’, ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life’, the Light of the World’, ‘the Alpha and Omega’, and many more. But there is one place in the Scriptures where Jesus not only says ‘Who He is’, but in saying ‘Who He is’, He also speaks volumes about what He is really like, and how we are to understand what He is really like, as well as to then understand what we can expect in our relationship with Him. And when you think about it, oddly enough, even many Christians often think of Jesus and then relate to Jesus in ways that are not at all according to Jesus’ real character, nor the way that Jesus wants them to relate to Him and to understand Him and to do life together with Him.

Let’s look: Matt 11:28-30- “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” NKJV Of all the ways the Mighty God, Creator and Lord, the Judge of all the Earth, could have described Himself, Jesus chooses ‘gentle and lowly’ as the way in which He wanted people to understand Who Jesus, our Messiah, really is!

Charles Spurgeon pointed out that in the four Gospels, out of eighty-nine chapters of Biblical text-there’s only one place where Jesus tells us about His own heart. It’s here in Matthew 11:29. And remember, the heart is what drives all we do. It is who we are. Jesus’ heart is not only ‘gentle and lowly’ it is gentle and lowly’ towards us. Did you catch that? When you come to Jesus you are not coming to a heart that is harsh and uncaring, you are not coming to a heart that is vindictive and reluctant, you are not coming to a heart that is capricious and confusing, no…when you come to Jesus you are coming to a heart that is kind and caring, gracious and merciful, considerate and humble. Is that the way that you know Jesus? And, is that the way you come to Jesus and the way you communicate with Jesus and the way you relate to Jesus? Is that how you see Jesus? Do you see Jesus the way Jesus sees Himself? Do you see Jesus the way Jesus said we are to see Him and to understand His heart?

How about this? Do you come to Jesus the way Jesus wants you to come to Him? Matt 11:28-30- “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” At one time or another, perhaps even often, doesn’t that pretty much include all of us? Whatever your burden is, Jesus says to you: “Come to Me with it.” Maybe your burden that you carry is the struggle against the ungodliness and the unfairness and the injustice all around you. Maybe your burden is your relationship at home or at the office or among your peers. Maybe your burden is frustration with your health or your finances or your circumstances. Maybe your burden is your remorse or regrets or even your reluctance to come to Jesus because of it all. But what does Jesus say about any of and all of your burdens? ‘Come to Me with all of your burdens…bring all of your burdens to Me, no matter how heavy they are, bring them to Me and I will give you rest.’

Now, you know very well how your burdens make you feel. But did you ever stop to realize how it makes Jesus feel when you gather up your burdens and bring them to Him? Did you realize that Jesus delights to have you come to Him with your burdens, and that He delights to show you mercy, and that He delights to forgive you, and that He delights to be the One you turn to when you are weary and heavy laden? Did you ever realize in your life that what Jesus wants most in life is you coming to Him? Just come…over and over. Come to Him every day…and come in whatever way and in whatever circumstances you are in…just come. Come with whatever burdens you have or needs you have. God made you to do life with Him. He wants you to come to Him, not only with your blessings of worship and service unto Him, but also with your failings and your flaws and your heavy burdens that you carry in your life. He made you to do it all with Him…in all of life’s majestic-ness, and with all of life’s messiness…even your messiness.

Did you realize that when you turn to Jesus as the One who is your all and all for any and all of the problems and the burdens that you carry, that you bring Him great delight? He delights in knowing that you would think and are thinking of and are looking to your God and Savior as being the very One that you most need and most want in life? Does it amaze you to know that Jesus delights in being wanted and needed by you? Jesus says to you, ‘Come to Me…come every day and in every way and for everything on your mind and heart. Just come.’

When you first came to Jesus for your salvation, you came just as you were. We rejoice in the healing words of the hymn – ‘Just As I Am’. It comforts our soul and calms our mind because it’s so encouraging to learn that whatever our sins or struggles or failings were, we know that Jesus wanted us to come to Him just like we were. And we were assured that Jesus’ arms would be wide open to us to just come to Him in our sin and shame. Well, guess what? Jesus hasn’t changed. Jesus hasn’t changed in how much He wanted you to come to Him then, and in how much He wants you to come to Him now, again and again, just as you are. Not for your salvation, because He already gave you His gift of His eternal life when you opened the door of your life and asked Him to come in and be your Lord and Savior. But now there is one thing that has changed. Note how the Apostle Paul put it: Rom 5:10-11- “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. NASU

God’s wondrous love for us now is even much more than it was before, now that we are His very children. And this means that Jesus arms are still wide open to us to come to Him just as we are. Jesus’ heart was gently and lowly towards us when we were lost. Will His heart be any different towards us now that we are found? He has even given you and me a special invitation to come to Him, especially in our time of need. Heb 4:14-16- “So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same testings we do, yet He did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” NLT

But what often happens is when we need His mercy most is when we least feel that we can come to Him. But that’s the faulty reasoning of our fallen nature at work in our minds. Do not trust the feelings of your fallen nature. Trust the truths of Jesus’ words to you…Just come, and come boldly, confidently, assuredly to the throne of your gracious God. Jesus promises to give you His mercy when you give Him your burdens…even your burdens of sin. That’s why we sing about Amazing Grace…because it is amazing.

And, as pointed out in Ortlund’s study: Christ’s own joy, comfort, happiness, and glory are increased and enlarged by His showing grace and mercy, in pardoning, relieving, and comforting His members (children) here on Earth. Christ gets more joy and comfort than we do when we come to Him for help and mercy. It’s the same way that a loving husband gets more relief and comfort in his wife’s healing that in his own. Is that how you understand Jesus’ giving you His mercy and giving you His grace in your time of need? It should if you are to enjoy the kind of relationship with Jesus that He wants you to enjoy.

Let’s expand this a bit. So, when did God’s love for you begin? When you earned it, when you deserved it, when you demonstrated your love for Him? Listen to what God said to His people after years of their wandering, stumbling, and failing and now being restored to fellowship with Him. I’ll list several versions for clarification.

Jer 31:3- “The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” NKJV

Jer 31:3- “I appeared to them from far away. People of Israel, I have always loved you, so I continue to show you My constant love.” TEV

Jer 31:3- “From far away he saw the Lord: My love for you is an eternal love: so with mercy I have made you come with me.” BBE

God loved you even before He made you. Therefore, God’s love for you is not based upon what you have done, it’s based upon ‘Who’ God is, and ‘who’ God has made you. That’s why God’s love for us as His children is unconditional for us because it is conditional upon God Himself and His promises to us. It’s conditioned upon the fact that God has loved us with an everlasting love, an eternal love, whereby God says to us, “I have always loved you, so I continue to show you My constant love.” That is God’s promise to you and to me. And it’s based upon our relationship with God as being our Heavenly Father and our Eternal Savior.

Here is another mind jarring difference between us and God, especially in relation to the wonder of ‘love’. The Bible often talks about God’s people having love for one another. Jesus even commanded us to love one another. The Apostle John charged us to show love to one another and to, again, have love for one another. But here’s the amazing difference: As God’s children, we ‘have’ love, but with God, as the Apostle reveals to us all…as for God, God ‘is’ love. God doesn’t just ‘have’ love like we ‘have’ love. No, God ‘IS’ love.

As is pointed out in Ortlund’s study: God’s love is, as Jonathan Edwards put it: “an ocean without shores or bottom.” God’s love is as boundless as God Himself. This is why the Apostle Paul speaks of divine love as a reality that stretches to an immeasurable ‘breadth and length and height and depth’ (Eph.3:18) – the only thing in the universe as immeasurable as that is God Himself. God’s love is as expansive as God Himself…God does not simply ‘have’ love; for He ‘is’ love. (1 Jn. 4:16)

Have you ever thought about the love of God as being like ‘an ocean without shores or bottom’? One of the blessings of living right by the Atlantic Ocean is getting to see with our own eyes just how immense and overwhelming in size and depth the Ocean really is. I’ve even heard some people that were visiting here say that one of the reasons they were here is that their Doctor said that being near and looking at and listening to and experiencing the wonders of the Ocean would be good therapy for them. It would have a therapeutic effect on them. I think we can all attest to that. Well, try seeing something else when you look out over the Ocean…try seeing it as ‘the love of God’. And not only see this ‘Ocean of God’s love’, but also listen to it and let yourself be surrounded by this sea of God’s love, and then learn to do what the Apostle Peter once did upon it. Matt 14:25-31- “About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw Him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!” Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt Me?” NLT

We each need to learn to walk upon the water with Jesus. Sure, we live on land, but we need to walk by faith upon the water…upon the water of God’s love. For that is the therapy our souls need. That is the assurance our minds and hearts need. And if the winds get strong and the waves get rough…if the world confuses you and your own heart discourages you, if you feel heavy laden and carry heavy burdens, look to Jesus and listen to what He is saying to you: “Yes, come.” “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Come to Jesus and get to know His heart toward you, and it will change your heart about your God and your life and everything else.

(Italicized notes from the book ‘Gentle and Lowly’ by Dane Ortlund)

Where You Sit Determines How You Walk

Where You Sit Determines How You Walk

Study Guide, February 6, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


So when you look up into the sky you see the Sun, Moon, and Stars. But you know what? There’s also a lot of other stuff up there, particularly in our orbital space zone. Like what? Like 8,082 man-made satellites! And each year dozens more are added to those. That’s a lot of satellites floating around the Earth! Last November, in an anti-satellite missile test, Russia destroyed one of their non-working satellites. The only problem is that the explosion sent 1,500 pieces of debris shooting through space. But that only added to the 23,000 chunks of other space debris that’s also out there. And, get this…so not only is there a lot of space junk out there, that junk is also flying around through Earth’s orbit at over 15,000 miles per hour! And I thought ‘pot holes’ were bad. Space-ships really have to watch out for space junk!

So whenever you are looking into the sky, add that little reality check to the picture of what you are seeing. But also, add this next marvel, too, to the picture of what can you see when you look into the sky…because, you see, there’s something truly amazing that’s out there. And although it’s not visible by telescope, it is genuinely there, nevertheless. What we are talking about is a ‘seat’ of some sort, a designated spot, a reserved place. And even more amazing, this reserved seat has your name on it. Let’s explore.

We’re going to put several passages of the Scriptures together and then look at the picture they make. 1 Peter 1:3-4- “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” NASU

You already have a reservation in Heaven awaiting you. When you turned from following self to follow Christ and you trusted in Him to be your Savior and were thus born again in your spirit, a reservation was made for you in Heaven. Even your name was ‘written down’ in Heaven. Notice Luke 10:20- “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” NIV So your name is written in Heaven because you have been made a member of God’s Kingdom and a citizen of Heaven. And you can rejoice about that every day, right? But now add to that what Paul says in Eph 2:4-6- “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” NASU

So every born again child of God already has a reservation in Heaven…their name is written down as a permanent citizen that belongs to the Kingdom of Heaven because of their eternal birth-right…and plus, they already have an assigned place, a seat at the Kingdom table with Christ.

I was thinking of the Knights of the Round Table. Every Knight had a place at the table. And that place was reserved for them…that seat was their place…it belonged to them as special servants of the King. They were named as Knights of the King and were known as Knights of the Round Table.

So even though you and I are still living out the remainder of our time here on Earth of worship and service to our King, still our names have already been recorded, already written down in Heaven. We have a place, a position, a seat at the table reserved with our name on it, just waiting for us to take our place at the King’s table. That is what we are to add to our picture when we look up into the heavens. There’s a place, a reserved spot, a seat somewhere up there with our name already on it. We are already members of God’s eternal family and of His eternal Kingdom.

Now, of course, when we get there, we’ll find out just what this reserved place or seated place symbolizes, or even looks like, along with all the other furnishings of heaven, but as for now…now we can clearly see what our ‘position’ actually is; our position both in the heavenly places and in these earthly places. What do we mean? In Theology this is referred to as ‘Positional Sanctification’. What it refers to is our ‘position in Christ’. In fact, understanding our position in Christ is the key to understanding nearly everything else that brings purpose and peace to our lives. Let’s explain…

As the Apostle Paul revealed, when God saved us by His grace through our faith, He not only raised up our spirit from the dead…He also raised us to a new position…to now belonging to another Kingdom. Remember what Paul said in Col 1:13-14- “For He has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.” NLT In the life of every born again child of God there are things that have already been done, already accomplished, already completed by God. We have already been rescued from the kingdom of darkness…rescued from being separated from God because of the sin penalty that was upon us. We have been purchased by the sacrifice and payment of the sinless Lamb of God, and thus we now belong to Jesus. We have already been forgiven of the debt of our sins and we are ‘justified’ before God…we have been declared right with God. All of that has already been completed. And that’s why our ‘position’ with God is also already complete. Our very soul and spirit are forever untied to God’s own eternal life, and nothing will ever change that! We are now and forever positionally ‘in Christ’…in union with Christ, our Creator and Redeemer and King.

So that is our position…we are ‘in Christ’, united to Christ…forever a child of Christ. So now what comes next…what is to come out of our ‘position in Christ’? What is now to come out of our position in Christ is our practice for Christ…our practice of daily living out our position as Christ’s disciples by what we practice in our lives as Christ’s disciples.

And again, in Theology, this is called ‘Practical Sanctification’. Since we have been forever set apart as to who we are in our position as a royal son or daughter of God’s, now we are to set apart our lives to practice those disciplines, those habits, those values, those responsibilities that our now ours because of who we now are…Kingdom Men and Kingdom Women. In other words, we ‘practice’ the disciplines of the Christian life from our ‘position’ of being ‘in Christ’.

And this also reveals one of the fallacies of ‘behavior based’ religious teaching about Christianity, or ‘works righteousness’ religious teaching. These false religious teachings falsely teach that your practice of the Christian life is what then results in you earning a position with Christ in Heaven. But that is the opposite of God’s grace, and it is a dishonor to Christ’s work as our Savior, because you cannot live out the Christian life until your spirit is first re-united to Christ, first ‘born again’ into union with Christ. And you are then ‘in Christ’ and Christ’s life is ‘in you’. And so then, from your position as a Christian, your position as a family member of Christ’s, you are then freed from your bondage in sin and are now responsible for putting into practice the disciplines of the Christian life.

But again, the relationship with God is a gift of God’s grace. And you cannot earn that, for then it would no longer be grace…it would be wages. But as Paul said in Rom 6:23- “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” NLT People do earn their place in Hell, for that is the ‘wages of sin’, but no one earns a place in Heaven…for that is a free gift that was earned for us by Christ alone. As Paul also said, no one can become right with God through the law of works: Gal 5:4- “For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.” NLT

Remember, a person becomes a Christian by Birth…the New Birth, which is a gift of God’s grace. And you cannot work for a ‘gift’, otherwise you dishonor the Giver and forfeit the gift. But when you do receive the gift of the life of Christ, then you are to practice living out the Christian life in your behavior. But, again, ‘behavior’ is produced from the New Birth…the New Birth is never produced from the ‘behavior’. And that is the difference between the Gospel of Grace and the Gospel of Works. And ‘works’ cannot earn salvation because you cannot become a Christian through ‘your works’, but only through trusting in ‘Christ’s works’ of His living a sinless and righteous life in your place and by dying on the Cross to remove the penalty of your sin. Christ died ‘in your place’. That’s why we call Jesus ‘Our Savior’!

All right then…but again, one thing we are saying is that you cannot overstate the need to understand your ‘position’ in Christ, because our position identifies who we are and it determines what we are then to do. Or, our position is to determine our condition. That’s why we said, ‘Where you sit determines how you walk’. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” That is our position. We are already seated with God in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. And it is from this source that we are to draw on for our security and our strength and our enablement to practice and observe all the things that Christ has commanded us to do.

Why is this so important? This is so important because if a believer does not have a solid understanding of their position in Christ, their ‘Positional Sanctification’, then it will continually interfere with them living out their practice for Christ, or their ‘Practical Sanctification’. If you do not think and work from your ‘position in-Christ’ then you will be thinking and working from the changing condition of your faith instead of thinking and working from the unchanging position of your relationship with Christ. An author of a study on these things put it this put way: “When we concentrate on our condition, we are not living by faith, but by feelings and appearances…if the believer does not know of his position in the Lord Jesus, and how to abide in Him as his very life, there will be but one result. He will struggle in his condition rather than rest in his position.” 1

Only as we think and work from our position, from the fact of our already being seated in the heavenly places with Christ, can the Holy Spirit then grow His fruit in us and work His work through us. Think about it: If you have been troubled about not experiencing the fruit of the Holy Spirit nearly as much as you had hoped…like the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, self-control, and such, perhaps you need to consider where the focus of your faith has been. Have you been focusing on your position in Christ as being the source of your identity and your security and your strength for living? Or has the focus of your faith been tangled up in your practice…your condition…focused on your feelings and your performance and your wavering faith?

In most cases, believers are more aware of their unfinished condition than of their finished position! It is no wonder then that they are experiencing only a fraction of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in their lives. But the enjoyment of the fruit of God’s Spirit is the part of our birth-right inheritance that we are meant to enjoy and experience now. The fruit of the Spirit is one of the things that is to be part of what sets God’s people apart from the world. And yet, so many believers are unnecessarily forfeiting the enjoyment of God’s fruit for their lives because their focus is on their own wavering condition of their faith instead of their permanent position of their relationship with Christ. Mark it down: God’s fruit is only grown when God’s people focus on the source of it’s growth. When we focus on our finished position in Christ and in His finished work on our behalf that He accomplished to give us His free gift of eternal life and seat us with Him as a forever member of His forever family, it opens the flow of the Vine to grow His fruit through His branches…you and me. You see, spiritual fruit grows from our spiritual focus.

Oh yes, work on being more and more faithful to your Savior, but work on it from your finished position in Christ, not from your unfinished condition as a Christian. Fix your eyes upon Jesus and who He has already made you as His own eternal child of God…and then let Him make you more and more like Him in what you think and do in your service for Him. Work out your practice of Christian living from your position as one who is already ‘in-Christ’…already seated in the heavenlies with Christ. Because remember, where you are seated determines how you walk. Friends, determine to focus on your position in your relationship with Christ and watch what it does to your practice and enjoyment of your faith walk for Christ.

  1. The Complete Green Letters, Miles J. Stanford, p. 78

Aliens and Strangers

Aliens and Strangers

Study Guide, January 23, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


Do you know why this world feels so strange to us? Do you know why this world feels so foreign to us…why you feel so out of place in this world? 1 Peter 2:9-11- “But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” NASU

The people of this world do not understand who you are. Yes, you were born into this world, but you were ‘Born Again’ into another world…into God’s world…into God’s Kingdom! And the change was so great to your soul and spirit that it not only changed your eternity, it changed your very identity, especially as to who you are in relation to this world. You are an ‘alien and stranger’ here, a ‘sojourner and pilgrim’ here, a ‘foreigner and an exile’ here in this world.

Well then, no wonder we feel so out of place in this place. And the longer we live in this world the more aware we are that we do not belong to this world. Brothers and Sisters, think on these things, because it is the world to which we do belong that determines everything about how we are to live and deal with this world to which we do not belong. In Jesus’ central prayer to the Father for His people He said this: John 17:14-19- “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. “For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.” NASU

We are to seek to understand all we can about this world, but do not expect to be understood by this world. Why? Because you are an alien and stranger here, and you do not belong to this world. Seek to share the truths of God’s Word with this world, but do not be surprised when others resist or refuse or reject these truths. Why? Because you are an alien and stranger here, and you do not belong to this world, and thus, many of this world will not receive God’s truths. In fact, the closer God’s world gets to overtaking this world, the more this world will resist and refuse and reject everything about God’s coming world…including you.

The spirit of this world is getting darker. It is not primarily you it is rejecting…it is not primarily morals it is rejecting…it is not primarily the Church it is rejecting…it is primarily Jesus Christ that this world is rejecting. These are Jesus’ words to you and to me: John 15:18-23- “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also.” NASU

Why do so many people in this world hate those who love Jesus? Because so many people in this world hate Jesus. And since they hate Jesus, they hate the Father also. That is exactly what Jesus said. When Christians seek to share the truths of the Gospel and the truths of God’s Word about justice and mercy and morals and values, why do so many resist and refuse and reject Biblical justice and Biblical mercy and Biblical morals and Biblical values? It’s because they are rejecting the Biblical Jesus and His justice and His mercy and His morals and His values. “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also.”

Again, that is what we must know about who we really are, and why this world is the way it is. But, and the great encouragement is, that we must also then realize that because of who we really are, and Whose we really are, that now everything we do to honor Christ and share His truths and bless others is extremely needed by this world, and is extremely valuable, and has everlasting results. Know this: This world is in desperate need of you and me and every follower of Jesus Christ. This world is in desperate need for you and me to live in this dark and dying world as a light for truth and righteousness and the Gospel of salvation. This world’s only hope is Jesus Christ and His saving grace and eternal life. And He has chosen to use His body, you and me, as the primary way to draw people unto Him. It is in fact, the main reason that you and I are still here, in this world that is not our home…in this world to which do not belong. We are called to extend God’s grace to those who don’t deserve it, knowing that God also extended His grace to us who did not deserve it. That is a challenge to be sure, but also be sure…that is our commission.

Again, God’s world, God’s Kingdom, God’s Heaven is our Home. That is where we belong. But as long as we are still here, we are still here because…well, remember what Jesus said about that: “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.”

Brothers and Sisters, consider yourself ‘Sent’…personally sent by Jesus. We have each been personally sent by Jesus to be a light to this world that is growing darker spiritually, morally, and physically. That darkness is growing every year that gets closer to Jesus’ return. We have each been personally sent by Jesus to be salt to this world…to this world that is decaying more and more spiritually, morally, and physically. That decay is growing worse every year that gets closer to Jesus’ return. Again, consider yourself sent. You have been commissioned by Jesus Himself. You are on assignment for Jesus and His Kingdom that is coming soon. And it means that from here on out you and I are to do everything that we can, in such a way, that something will show through our lives as a light unto Christ and as salt unto others.

In other words, whatever you do, make sure that you do it all unto the glory of God. Whatever you are doing, even whatever you have to go through, or whatever you have opportunity to do…do it differently from the world. Do it all as one who belongs to another world. We do not belong to this world. But even so, we may have to go through everything that those of this world go through. But remember this: Disciples of Jesus Christ do everything differently from those of this world. We do it all according to who we really are…we are aliens and strangers. We are those who are passing through this world…passing through this world that is passing away. And when we do whatever we have to do, or when we go through whatever we have to go through as unto the Lord and in dependence and trust in the Lord, then God transforms whatever we do into light and salt in the eyes of this world. And God the Holy Spirit then uses that light and that salt to convict and change the souls of the lost and the dying around us in this world.

C.S. Lewis said that those who do the most for this world of Earth are those who dwell most on the world of Heaven. The Apostle Paul put it like this: Col 3:1-4- “Therefore if (and since) you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” NASU

Remember, the real you is, for the most part, ‘hidden’ from this world. You are a chosen and adopted and royal son or daughter of the Creator and Lord of all life. You are God’s precious possession, purchased by the sinless blood of Christ. You are destined to reign with Christ over all the New Heavens and New Earth. This world does not know that about you, about who you really are. But you must know that about you, because only when you know who you really are can you live how you really should, by the power of the Holy Spirit who indwells you. Plus, you see, the more that we set our minds on the things above and on the realities of who we really are, the more we can then deal with everything in this life according to who we really are; and do it all differently from the ways that those who are of this world deal with everything. What do we mean?

Take, for example, this world-wide sickness, this pestilence, that is afflicting so many people. What does God say about how His people deal with afflictions? 2 Cor 1:3-7- “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.” NASU

In a world of suffering, suffering is normal. On the battlefield of life, battles are normal. In a land of afflictions, affliction is normal. What is not normal is having a Father of mercies and a God of all comfort to comfort us in our afflictions. This is different. And although we do not know what afflictions we may have to endure we do know that our Father of mercies will come to us and will comfort us and will have mercy upon us.

And we know that even while living in this mortal world, we have each had wondrous healings, even miraculous healings. In fact, but for the healings of God, both those we know about and others we didn’t even know about, yet, if not for our God being our Jehovah Rapha, our Healer, we would not even be here today. The Psalmist revealed that the Lord is healing us most times in ways that we are not even aware of. Ps 103:1-3- “Bless the Lord, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases.” NASU Again, we live in a lost and dying world, a sick and diseased world. The surprise is not that we endure sicknesses in this sick world…no, the surprise is that any of us are ever well at all! Even now, the Psalmist points out, our God has been and is healing our diseases. At times, these healings are in time. At times these healings are immediate. And at other times these healings are the ultimate…our ultimate healing, for this mortal must put on immortality in order to live in the new world of Immortals.

Many of us have or know loved ones who have just experienced the ultimate healing. We call it ‘death’ on this side…it is the ‘ultimate healing’ on the other side. It is the putting off of the ‘mortal’ in order to put on ‘immortality’. And those, who were once afflicted in this world where afflictions are normal, are now experiencing a new normal! And this new normal is now ‘life with no death, no sorrow, no mourning, no suffering, no pain.’ Even the best day any believer ever experienced on Earth of feeling as well as they possibly could pales in comparison to how wonderful every believer in Heaven now feels every single day! And this reality is your near future. This amazing experience of perfect health is soon to be your new normal! It is just one of the wondrous joys that awaits each of us who belong to Jesus Christ through becoming ‘Born Again’.

This is just one example of how Disciples of Jesus can do whatever they have to do differently from those of this world who do not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. This world knows too much about crises. This world knows too much about chaos. This world knows too much about confusion. What this world does not know much about is the comfort of God…about ‘the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.’ God comforts us through His presence; He comforts us through His promises; and He comforts us through His people.

We are and can be carriers of God’s comforting ministry. It’s just one way that Disciples do life differently than this world…because we belong to another world. And we’ll explore more about all of that next time.

But one preview to think about that we’ll talk about; it’s this: ‘Where you are seated determines how you walk.’ When God raised our spirit unto new life, He also seated us in heavenly places. Therefore, being already seated in Heaven is now to determine how we walk throughout this Earth.


Communing with Christ Throughout the New Year

Communing with Christ Throughout the New Year

Study Guide, January 2, 2022

Pastor Clay Olsen


Do you practice the tradition of making a resolution or resolutions for the New Year? Of course, the common ones are things like: Exercise to get in better shape…(But as a wise man once said: “Round is a shape”); Another common one is: Eat healthier…Lose weight; then there’s: Manage finances better; or Learn a new skill, and so on.

Some less common resolutions are ones like: Stop procrastinating…except for today, that is! Or – Use a paper map just for fun instead of your GPS. Or – Learn a new trick to show your family and friends. And then – Learn a new family game. Those are good.

But since we are beginning the New Year with observing Communion together, what if we were to make this ‘beginning’ not just a beginning tradition, but a continuing practice, as in, continuing right on throughout the New Year? What do we mean? Well, what if we were to expand this ‘memorial’ of Communion so that it becomes a ‘method’ of how we do life? I like how the origin of the word for ‘Methodists’ came from students at Oxford University, where John and Charles Wesley and a few others formed a Bible Club where they would order their lives by ‘methodically’ living out the central teachings of the Scriptures. And thus, they came to be known as “Methodists”.

Of course, we think of some of the great songs we often sing that were written by Charles Wesley, such as: “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” “Christ the Lord Is Ris’n Today,” “Soldiers of Christ, Arise,” and “Rejoice, the Lord Is King,” and more.

The thing is, the Wesley’s made it a point to clarify that the Scriptures teach that, for one thing, because of man’s sin against God, all were thus ‘dead in sin’, or separated from a relationship with God. Therefore, and secondly, everyone’s need was to become ‘justified by faith alone.’ This involved turning to Christ alone to give them a ‘new birth’ of their spirit into a saved relationship with Christ. And their third foundational point was that by living by faith, by trusting daily in Christ’s leading and working, that would then produce inward and outward holiness in their lives. Because of that, some gave them the name, ‘The Holy Club’.

I love looking into the origins of things, don’t you? But the point we’re getting to here is that we are designed to live by a design. We are designed to live by a ‘method’ of practice…or a set of ‘disciplines’, since we actually are ‘Disciples’ of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are ‘disciplined’ followers of Christ. And one of the key disciplines is not only observing the practice of ‘Communion’ in remembrance of our Lord Jesus’ sacrifice, but we are to then keep practicing ‘Communing’ with our Lord Jesus and living a sacrificial life as our thank-offering to Him.

And that is a key connection in understanding not only this memorial of Communion, but also in understanding our practice of communing with our Lord, day by day. And that ‘connection’ is related to the fact that ‘Communion’ is connected with ‘sacrifice’. Remember, as Jesus introduced this memorial of ‘Communion’, or the Lord’s Supper, He said this: “When the time came, Jesus and the apostles sat down together at the table. Jesus said, “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before My suffering begins. For I tell you now that I won’t eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.” Luke 22:14-16 NLT Every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper it’s like a ‘preview’ of when we will partake of it with Jesus in the Kingdom of God. It appears, that along with some of the Feasts of Israel, that we will be celebrating this memorial of the Lord’s Supper in the New Kingdom.

Can you imagine sharing the elements of the Lord’s Supper with countless numbers of God’s family, no doubt raising up the bread and wine as tributes to Jesus for His infinite sacrifice in order to eternally save us each? Every Lord’s Supper here is a preview of the celebration of the Lord’s Supper there. Makes us think that we might even sing in concert with all the family of God those words of ‘When I Survey the Wondrous Cross’ – On which the Prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, Save in the death of Christ my God! All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood. See from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down! Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown? Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.

And now imagine what that song would sound like with millions and millions of voices singing in unison those words of love and thanks and commitment as the Lord Jesus Christ sits on His throne, in the midst of all of His people, listening to and loving it all. How amazing…how awesome!

Now, let’s bring it back to our resolutions. What we are saying is that our central resolutions, those particular points of our resolve, the ones that make us who we are and cause us to do what we do, should also be like ‘preview resolutions’ of what we will be doing in the coming Kingdom of Christ. And one central practice in the Kingdom will be our communing with our Lord. Communing in the sense of making Christ be the central focus of our day to day living. Communing in the sense of Christ being the central motivation for what we do and why we do it. Communing in the sense of Christ being the One for whom we willingly sacrifice anything in our life in order to serve and to please the One who gave His entire life to save us. Again, ‘Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all!’

Resolve to commune this way with Jesus each day and watch what it does not only to you, but to others around you. For when you give of yourself in communing service to the Lord it results in building up and blessing the lives of those around you. Your sacrifice of your time and your talents and your treasures to Jesus not only honors your Savior, but it enriches the lives of those around you.

Now, communing with Christ also has a particular result, a priceless result, and because of the grace of God, this one is for you…it’s from Christ to you. In fact, it’s one of the most prized experiential qualities of life that people have craved throughout history. Even the secular world craves it, and raves about it, and calls it ‘The greatest treasure of life’. Well, we know the greatest treasure of life is Jesus Christ Himself, but you get the picture. But however much the world longs for it, it is universally reserved for those believers…those followers of Christ who seek to commune with their Lord and Savior throughout their lives. For, you see, ‘communing’ with Christ’ results in ‘contentment in Christ’. And, again, ‘contentment’ is one of the highest joys that a human can experience.

In my Noah Webster 1828 dictionary, when language and words were rooted in their real meaning in relation to the Giver of language, the Word and Logos Himself, Jesus Christ, we come to better understand this connection between communing with Christ and genuine ‘contentment’. Let’s explore…

Now this will be completely different from the world’s idea of ‘contentment’, for as it states: “It is our duty to be content with the dispensations of providence.” Say what? A duty? Have you ever thought about ‘contentment’ as being a ‘duty’? A ‘duty’ is not something we first experience to the benefit of ourselves. No, a ‘duty’ is something that we first give to another because we owe it to them! And what is this ‘duty’ and to Whom do we owe it? Back to the song: “Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.” So ‘contentment’ is a duty because it’s connected with our surrender to Christ as Lord of our lives! And as we surrender to Christ as Lord of our lives we find that embedded in the offering of our ‘duty’ of our devotion to Christ…embedded in it is this greatest treasure of human delight – ‘Contentment’!

Let’s explore further: The root of the word contentment comes from the Latin contentus, which means ‘held together’ and ‘contained within limits’. It was used in relation to containers and their contents. So ‘contentment’ referred to a container and what the contents were inside the container. Are you getting a little ‘de ja vu’ here? Take a look at this: 2 Cor 4:7- “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves…” NASU How about that? So when applied to the human experience, contentment has everything to do with what contents are in the container. When we, the container, resolve to recognize and honor and pledge ourselves to the contents in our life, this treasure that is Christ Himself and His truth, it is then that we experience the out-workings of the treasure in our life…this peace, joy, love, and all those ingredients that make for a contented heart and mind.

In this sense, contentment is no longer just some tranquil experience we wish for or try to work up ourselves. No, not at all! Rather, contentment is a duty that we, as containers, then practice as we dwell upon, and devote ourselves to, and then share the contents of what God has placed into us earthen vessels…which is the Spirit of our Lord Jesus and His words of truth and life for us and others. It is as the Apostle Peter stated it: 1 Peter 2:9-10- “But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.” NASU As we are daily ‘caught up with Christ’ and communicate the excellencies of Christ, we then can enter into the ‘contentment of Christ’. It’s all connected.

So then one thing we should now clearly understand about genuine contentment is that it is not a stand-alone treasure. Rather, contentment is a by-product of the greatest treasure. Again, even the world thinks of contentment as the greatest treasure. But what they don’t recognize is that it is a treasure that is connected to Thee greatest treasure, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Plus, contentment travels with it’s twin virtue of ‘gratitude’. As Noah Webster explained further that a spirit of thankfulness promotes contentment. But there is one thing that destroys contentment, and that is a spirit of ‘complaining and grumbling’.

We can clearly see that! We see it in the bad attitudes in some the children of Israel, where their complaining against each other and their grumbling over this thing and that person destroyed any hope of contentment in their lives. Yes, complaining comes natural to us, but so does disease. Just because it comes natural to us doesn’t make it right. Rather, we are to fight against the vice of complaining and grumbling like we would against a disease…for that is what it is; a disease that destroys the joys of contentment in our lives, as well as damages the spirits of others.

And yet, how strange that some complaining, spiteful, and grumbling people often claim to be content. That’s because what they have developed is not a contented spirit, but a calloused conscience. What they call ‘peace’ is actually a seared conscience. Their conscience has become hardened by the sin of selfishness and slander and strife. But be warned: A calloused conscience is Satan’s counterfeit to genuine contentment. But a calloused conscience is one that is no longer sensitive to the Holy Spirit and His working and even His growing of spiritual fruit in our lives.

Now, sometimes believers develop an overly sensitive conscience. But all they need is just a little re-alignment in their thinking. They are still going the right way; they are just experiencing some unnecessary bumps and wobbles in their journey. But with the one that has grown a calloused conscience toward the concerns of others and the commands of God, well they need more than a re-alignment…they need a new transmission! They need to get their heart right with God. As God told even the believers of Ephesus: Rev 2:4-5- “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore, remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place — unless you repent.” NASU Calloused believers have become disconnected from the practice of communing with Christ, and therefore they have forfeited experiencing the contentment of Christ. But for those believers who commit to daily communing with Christ, you can also look forward to Christ then bestowing His treasure of contentment upon you and of experiencing His peace of mind and satisfaction of heart.

Exploring ‘The Advent’

Exploring ‘The Advent’

Study Guide, December 5, 2021


Pastor Clay Olsen

When we look at the Cosmos, or the ordered Universe, it’s like looking at the past, the present, and the future all at once. Plus, it’s really beautiful and amazing…even mesmerizing, right? Well, we say that to say this: It’s the same when we look at Christmas, because Christmas is also like looking at the past, the present, and the future all at once. What do we mean? Well, let’s explore.

One way we could do this is by using the Five Ws of journalism. We can look at the Who, What, When, Where, and Why? If we wanted to make it the Six Steps of Project Management, we would then also add one ‘H’ to it…the ‘How’. So, what do you think? Let’s try it. But let’s first start with the ‘When’, because when we think about the Christmas story, or the historical account of Christmas, as to ‘when’ it originated, it is far older than most people think. So let’s think about it.

In the message at Pentecost, the birth of the Church, the Apostle Peter gave an astounding revelation about God’s plan of redemption. Acts 2:22-24- “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know — this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.” NASU By the way, don’t you love that part about it being impossible for Jesus to be held in the power of death? Of course it’s impossible because Jesus is the source of all life itself!

But Peter reveals that Jesus entire life and even the events of the Cross were all planned from eternity past! Christmas didn’t begin at a manger in a stable. No, it began long before anything that exists ever existed. Even before there was a Cosmos there was a plan for Christmas. Even before Creation became a physical reality, Christmas was already a planned reality. And just like all of our God’s amazing works, this shouldn’t surprise us, because remember, through the Apostle Paul’s teaching in Ephesians we have come to know that even before the creation of the world, God already had plans for your life and for my life and for all who would receive the Christ of Christmas as their Lord and Savior. Your life and my life and Christmas are all eternal plans that God is now working out in time.

But again, we should also look at some other ‘When’s’. What do we mean by that? What we mean is that we should look to all of the amazing prophecies about the ‘When’ of Jesus’ Advent’, or His coming to Earth. We often think of that announcement by Gabriel to Mary. Luke 1:30-33- “The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” NASU

We also think of that great prophecy of Isaiah – Isa 9:6-7- “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.” NASU

One of the remarkable things about this prophecy is how Isaiah identifies just who this coming child actually is: He is also our Mighty God and our Eternal Father! Wow! Remember when Jesus said to Philip: “When you have seen Me you have seen the Father.” Right, the Triune God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Three in One! But, another thing is that this prophecy was given over 700 years before God the Son also became Jesus the human being. And remember: Bible prophecy always come to pass!

But now let’s go back even further, because we have a prophecy from Balaam, of all people, prophesying about the coming Ruler of all in Num 24:16-17- “The oracle of him who hears the words of God, And knows the knowledge of the Most High, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Falling down, yet having his eyes uncovered. I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel…” NASU Don’t you love it? God even used a rebellious prophet to prophesy of the coming King Jesus a couple of thousand years before the First Advent.

But there’s even a prophecy of Jesus’ advent that’s earlier than this one. In fact, as God rebuked the Devil, God also told our first parents about this Child who was going to be born who would be the Deliverer, and He would conquer Satan himself. And only God can do that…which means this coming Child would also be God Himself. Gen 3:15- “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” NIV God was speaking of Jesus here, who would conquer both Satan and sin and would deliver all who believe.

God’s words to Satan here are called the proto-evangelium, “the first Gospel,” because this is the first announcement of the coming Redeemer found in the Bible. To Satan, this was God’s declaration of war, climaxing in his condemnation, and to Eve, it was the assurance that she and Adam were forgiven, and that God would use a woman to bring the Redeemer into the world. (from The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament © 2001-2004 by Warren W. Wiersbe.)

(Now, here’s the deal: We have only looked at a few of over 300 prophecies that were fulfilled in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.)

Now for the ‘Where’, as in where Christmas was to be? Naturally we think of Bethlehem. How many have been to Bethlehem? I understand that it is harder to visit Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity now that this area is under Palestinian territorial control. To visit Bethlehem as a tourist, you have to go to an exchange point located outside the city, leave the Israeli bus and board a Palestinian bus or taxi, which takes you into the city. The Palestinians have even changed the name of the city to ‘Bayt Lahm’, which means ‘house of meat’. In Hebrew ‘Bethlehem’ means ‘house of bread’. But no one can change the fact that 700 years before Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem the Prophet Micah also prophesied this: Mic 5:2- “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.” NASU Ephrathah is an ancient title of Bethlehem which can be found in the accounts of Jacob and Rachael. You recall that Rachael died in childbirth with Benjamin. And even today, you can still see her burial site just outside of the city. I remember driving by it and feeling like I was transported back four thousand years! It’s overwhelming to travel through the lands of the Bible. But now, Boaz and Ruth also came to Bethlehem, and there gave birth to the most well know ancestor of Jesus, that is, King David. Plus, the Jews knew that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and would be from the line of David.

But Micah revealed something else that is often overlooked in this prophecy. He said that this coming ruler in Israel had His origins from “long ago, from the days of eternity.” Micah here declares the eternality of the Messiah here! The Christ stepped out of eternity and into time and into the human body of Jesus in a little village about 5 miles outside of Jerusalem to be mankind’s Redeemer; our Savior. Actually, Micah was putting the world on notice about all of this!

As Warren Wiersbe put it: “Whenever a prophet foretold the future, it was to awaken the people to their responsibilities in the present. Bible prophecy isn’t entertainment for the curious; it’s encouragement for the serious.”

Now, here is another wondrous thing about the ‘Where’ of Christmas. We talked a bit about it awhile back, but it is an astounding part of the Christmas account that often goes unnoticed. Just before Micah gave the prophecy about Bethlehem, he revealed another prophecy about a Tower near Bethlehem, which, again, has only been partially alluded to through the ages of Christmas tradition. And what is that? Well, look at the passage: Mic 4:8 – “As for you, tower of the flock, Hill of the daughter of Zion, To you it will come — Even the former dominion will come, The kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem.” NASU

What was this ‘tower of the flock’? Again, we first see it recorded in connection with the burial of Rachael in Gen 35:19-22- “So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Jacob set up a stone monument over Rachel’s grave, and it can be seen there to this day. Then Jacob traveled on and camped beyond Migdal-eder.” ‘Migdal-eder’ is the Hebrew for ‘Tower of the flock’. As time passed this area became the area that Shepherds would watch over and care for flocks of sheep, out of which some would be selected for Temple sacrifice. The tower was like a ‘watchtower’, which also had a room designated for the delivery and protection of these special lambs. This was a manger for lambs that were marked for sacrifice for the atonement of sins at the temple in nearby Jerusalem.

Perhaps some of you have read the great historical book by Alfred Edersheim, called “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”. Alfred Edersheim was a completed Messianic Jew and Bible historian, and he records that this ‘Migdal Eder’ was not the watchtower for ordinary flocks which pastured on these lands. Even in the Jewish writings of the Mishnah it is recorded that these lambs were destined for Temple-sacrifices, and that the shepherds who watched over them were not ordinary shepherds, but were Temple Shepherds, ‘priestly Shepherds’. And it was to these Temple Shepherds that this announcement was given: Luke 2:8-12- “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” NKJV

These Shepherds also knew their Scriptures. Because they knew that the ‘city of David’ was the town of Bethlehem. And near the town of Bethlehem was the ‘Migdal Eder’, the Tower of the flock. And on the ground floor there was room for the delivery and protection of these special lambs. So that’s where the Shepherds went, for that’s what Micah had foretold: “As for you, tower of the flock, Hill of the daughter of Zion, To you it will come —Even the former dominion will come, The kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem.”

The sign that the Angel told them about was not concerning what Jesus was wearing, the swaddling clothes. No, the sign was about ‘where Jesus would be lying’. They would find the promised Messiah in the very place where a sacrificial lamb would be placed. In the place where a lamb that was designated for the atoning sacrifices for sins would usually be, they would now find the Christ child, who would atone for the sins of all, once and for all. They would find ‘The Lamb of God’, who as John the Baptist said: ‘He is the One who takes away the sins of the world.’

The more we uncover of the wondrous works of God, the more we are in awe of God’s ways and God’s plan to save as many as will receive the Lamb of God as their own personal Savior and sacrifice for their sins.

We’ll continue exploring more of the other questions of ‘Who, What, and Why’…maybe even ‘How’ in our next study on Christmas.

thechristianweb.org Migdal Eder: Tower of the Flock, Dr. Charlie Dyer, The Land and the Book Radio (Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, pp. 186-187)

Thanksgiving – A Way of Living

Thanksgiving – A Way of Living

Pastor Clay

Slide Guide, November 28, 2021

What is God’s will for my life?” Answer: 1 Thess 5:18- “…in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” NASU

Having a mindset with our default attitude set on ‘thankfulness’ is part of God’s will for our lives!

Ps 100:4- “Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.” Whenever we pray we are essentially entering the gates of the throne room of God and coming right into the courts of God’s presence. So, try to picture that reality and then remember to start your prayers with thanksgiving and praise.

With this being our default starting point in our interactions and conversations with God, later the Apostle Paul tells us our ending point. Col 2:6-7- “You accepted Christ Jesus as Lord, so continue to live following him. You must depend on Christ only, drawing life and strength from him. Just as you were taught the truth, continue to grow stronger in your understanding of it. And never stop giving thanks to God.” ERV

Col 3:15-17- “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are all called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use His words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father.” NLT

The Apostle was saying these kinds of things about thankfulness to people of whom many were Roman slaves!

Our personal rights need to be constantly guided by our greater rights in order to fulfill the greater good for the sake of our God.

One of the reasons the Apostle told these Colossian believers to practice giving thanks for their blessings is because it was also a wonderful way for them to rise above their conditions. It was a way to get those who had been wronged in that forced slavery condition to now do be inspired to do right by giving themselves to voluntary service to each other.

The secret to being able to give yourself away in service is by building a habit of first giving yourself away in gratitude.

Both the Psalmist’s and the Apostle’s focus on the discipline of ‘giving thanks’ was that their focus was on the ‘constants’ about God rather than on the ‘changing things’ of this world.

Our human nature is to be constantly looking for reasons to practice thanksgiving over those things which are not constant, like our health and finances, and such.

2 Cor 4:16-18- “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” NASU

The Apostle is mentoring us in the ‘art of thanksgiving’ by calling us to zero in

on the constants…on ‘the eternals’, as providing the basis of our giving of thanks. He’s call us to the ‘constants’; like, Our Savior, our salvation, our sanctification, God’s Kingdom that is coming, God’s plan for our lives, God’s forever family, God’s constant work on our behalf, God’s grace and mercy in our lives, and God’s promises, which again, includes God’s compensation for all of the hard things we have ever had to endure.

Notice what poured out of Paul’s habit of thanks toward God. Eph 1:15-16 – “For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers.”

Gratefulness towards God develops our sensitivity towards others.

Gratefulness towards God also develops our communication with others. As believers develop their habit of communicating their thanks to God, they then become more adept at communicating their appreciation of others.


As we become more sensitive to the things of God and become more expressive of our praise and thanks to God, God then causes us to become more insightful towards those around us and more expressive in our communication to those around us.

The secret of the Christian life is that it’s not about living the Christian life; it’s about experiencing more of the life of Christ in us. It’s not you taking charge of living out the Christian life. It’s surrendering more of your life to Christ to be in charge of you.

As we develop this habit, God changes our thought patterns, He directs our emotions, He guides our will, and He uses our bodies, as we live out our lives in a more Christ-like way.

Not only does the habit of giving thanks develop our relationship with God and others, but it also protects us more from the dangers of our enemy.

We can fight off some of those fiery darts of Satan by offering up our thanks and praise to God.

Paul’s own habit of giving thanks: Col 1:3-8- “We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard that you trust in Christ Jesus and that you love all of God’s people. You do this because you are looking forward to the joys of heaven — as you have been ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News. This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is changing lives everywhere, just as it changed yours that very first day you heard and understood the truth about God’s great kindness to sinners. Epaphras, our much loved co-worker, was the one who brought you the Good News. He is Christ’s faithful servant, and he is helping us in your place. He is the one who told us about the great love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you.” NLT


Give thanks also over the salvation of those you know; Give thanks over the love and service of others; Give thanks over the way other believers are looking forward to Kingdom living when Christ returns; Give thanks over those whose lives are being changed by the gospel worldwide; and Give thanks over the way that God the Holy Spirit is providing you and other’s what we all need in order to carry out His will.


Overcoming Barriers to Faith, Pt. 4

Overcoming Barriers to Faith, Pt. 4

Study Guide, November 21, 2021

Pastor Clay Olsen


No doubt you have heard the saying, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. That is a famous line of course from a poem by Robert Burns, who was like the Shakespeare of Scotland. The poem had overtones of the battle between the aristocracy and the masses, but in general, many people have simply used it to point out the need to allow for even the best-intentioned plans to sometimes go awry. That’s a good word: ‘awry’. That’s a poetic word for ‘wack-o’! Sometimes even good plans and good intentions can go ‘wack-o’. There’s nothing wrong with the good intentions, it’s just that people and things in this world are simply failed and flawed. Or, as John Ortberg entitled a book that he wrote: “Everybody’s Normal Until You Get to Know Them”.

One of the things that the sin-nature of human beings implies is that there is something wrong with everybody! And when a lot of those human beings, in whom something is wrong with each one of them, get together, for say, like in any group, or like in any ‘church’, then even in a church’s best laid plans, there will inevitably be things that may go awry, either in with plans or in the people. And while many people simply understand that and allow for that, some use that as a barrier to their faith life and then make the charge that the Barna Research Group found that a lot of people use as a reason they have not committed to a local church. Their claim is: “…because there are many hypocrites in church.” You’ve heard that one a lot of times, right?

Here’s a question: “Well, isn’t that where hypocrites ought to go to find help?” What other group of people is going to help them with their hypocrisy? The church is not only a training camp for Christian soldiers, it’s also a hospital for sinners, both yet to be converted sinners and those already converted, but who still stumble. The Apostle James reminded us that we all stumble in different ways. That’s one of the unique aspects of a church, and of a church’s ministry. It’s the one place where people who may seem ‘normal until you get to know them’ can come and be accepted, and the one place where ‘there’s something wrong with everybody’ people can come and be part of a body where everyone is finding help and support and encouragement and comfort from one another and being brought closer to the only perfect Person in existence, the Lord Jesus Christ, who loves the failed and flawed people of the world!

So if someone ever says to you that there are hypocrites in your church, tell them, “Of course there are!” That’s where hypocrites have the best chance of being helped with their hypocrisy”, in church…in connection with other people who, although they don’t have everything together, or although they also haven’t arrived at being all that God created them to be, at least they are putting themselves in the best position possible to move forward in that direction more and more…as they try to follow Jesus Christ more and more.

Here is something that the church, and those in the church, ought to be showing both each other and the world around them. And the thing is, it is something that is really ‘rare’ in our world today. And it’s getting more and more rare in our society. In fact, it is so rare, that when you show it to people, they are pretty surprised and amazed and often even stunned by it. The Revised Standard Version puts it like this: “Let all men know your forbearance.” Phil 4:5 Or, “Let your forbearance be shown to all men.” ‘Forbearance’? What is ‘forbearance’? Forbearance is related to long-suffering, which is related to patience, which is related to gentleness, which is related to restraint, which is related to consideration, which is related to forgiveness, which is related to grace, which is related to God! And thank God for His forbearance towards us and with us!

Now, justice is also related to God. So, forbearance is not the elimination of justice. God calls us also to do justice, to hold others accountable for wrong-doing. So forbearance is not the tempering of justice; forbearance is the tempering of judgmentalism. And judgmentalism is a growing problem in our society. But as for justice, remember, Jesus carried out justice many times, like when He rebuked the false teachers and even physically drove the corrupt money changers out of the Temple. There’s a time and a season for everything, right? There’s a time to show justice, and then there’s also a time to show forbearance. And we have to understand those times.

But Jesus was also patient with the doubting; He was long-suffering with the mis-informed; He was gentle with the hurting; He was considerate with the confused; He was gracious with the irritating; and basically…He was forbearing with the undeserving. And then through the Apostle Paul He says to us: ‘Now, let ‘YOUR’ forbearance be shown to all men.’

When you show people around you what forbearance looks like, you’ll be showing them something that they don’t often see…especially in the world around them. Our society is not much into the virtue of showing others ‘long-suffering’. No, our society is more into making others suffer-longer. Our society is more into criticism than consideration. Our society is more into giving others grief and strife than giving others grace and space.

But this is where followers of Christ are to be different and are to show others how different we are by ‘letting our forbearing spirit be shown to all men’. Now, let’s bring it back to where we began, in recognizing that there’s something wrong with everybody, because even Born Again believers have to battle against their old sin-natures. Some of the sins of others are the same sins that you deal with. And then some sins of others may be different from those you deal with, but that doesn’t mean we put a ‘hypocrite’ label on them, and then use them as a reason we no longer worship and serve in a local church. If anyone is waiting to find a church without hypocrites, then the first church service they attend will be after they die, that is, if they were Born Again. And if they were ‘Born Again’, then they were expected to be a serving part of a local church where they worked with Jesus to help hypocrites grow closer to Jesus and thus become less hypocritical.

Forbearance’. By the way, you know that great passage in Philippians 4 that talks about those wonderful gifts and experiences of joy and peace? Yeah, those two wonderful grace gifts that every believer wants to have growing and thriving in their lives. Well, guess what? Linked in between the experience of joy and peace is the secret to both. It’s like hinge pin that swings open the doors to both joy and peace in our lives. And it’s quite surprising what it is, because right in the middle of the part about rejoicing and the part about being anxious for nothing, along with the peace that passes understanding is this command that we are supposed to be acting upon in order to experience that joy and that peace. Once again, it’s this: “Let all men know your forbearance.” Phil 4:5 RSV Or, “Let your forbearance be shown to all men.”

That verse is like the ‘hidden verse’ that few people think about when they are thinking about this amazing passage on joy and peace. But the thing is, the Apostle Paul says to us: “Think about it!” The key condition of experiencing personal joy and personal peace is related to this practice of interpersonal forbearance. Or, as the The Complete Biblical Library commentary puts it: “In other words, a person cannot enjoy the peace of God unless he can forbear other people.” What was that again? “In other words, a person cannot enjoy the peace of God unless he can forbear other people.” Do you realize the implication of this? It means that our practice of forbearance in our treatment of others eithers connects us to peace and joy in our own lives, or our failure to practice forbearance in our treatment of others will then cancel out joy and peace in our lives. That means that you cannot experience the joy of the Lord if you are not forbearing and considerate and forgiving with others. It means that you cannot experience the peace of God if you are giving others the grief of your grumbling. You cannot experience the peace of God in your spirit if you are dishing out impatience with others. You cannot culture the fruit of joy for yourself if you are harboring an inconsiderate spirit toward others. Or simply put; You cannot receive the joy of the Lord if you’re being cranky with others. You can’t be joyful and judgmental. You cannot have the peace of God while holding grudges against others. Those cancel out that very joy and peace and we all long to have in our lives.

But on the other hand, you can grow the fruit of joy in your spirit by showing more of the forbearance of Christ to others. You can be less anxious in everything by being more forgiving to others. You can experience more of the peace that passes understanding by passing on more grace and space to others around you that mess up your peace because of whatever is wrong with them.

Abraham Lincoln once said: “Most people are about as happy as they choose to be.” There’s a lot of substance to that, but let’s expand it. When we connect our choices and decisions with what Paul has revealed here in Philippians 4:5 we find that we really do determine how much joy and peace or happiness we will experience. And we find that this is based upon how much joy and peace we try to pass onto others around us; particularly with those whom we find to be neither joyful nor peaceful to be around. But still, we are to show them our forbearing spirit towards them. And in showing forbearance towards them it them opens the doors to us of then getting to experience more of the fruit of joy and peace that we so long to experience ourselves. So in essence, here’s the deal: By showing forbearance and forgiveness to others you are actually assisting in the growing of joy and peace in yourself. That’s how big of a deal this deal about ‘forbearance’ really is!

Now then, we’ll finish this part up with this strange accusation that many people use as a barrier to the faith life and walk. They say: “I don’t believe in fairy tales.” Well, neither do I, but what’s that got to do with the Bible? Oddly enough, so many have attacked the reliability and authenticity of the Bible for so long that many believe these false accusations. As has been said: “Nothing is so absurd that if you say it long enough people will believe it.” This charge against the Bible’s reliability is one of the most absurd accusations there is because the Bible is the most credible and reliable and historically corroborated document in existence.

There are literally thousands of copies of the Scriptures from ancient times. The text of the Bible is better preserved than writings that most people take for granted as being reliable, like those of Plato and Aristotle. Like with Plato, only seven copies have survived. But from just the New Testament alone there are more than 5,900 Greek manuscripts that still exist today. And many non-Biblical ancient documents were copied more than 1200 years after their originals. But we have copies of eye-witness accounts of the Gospels that were copied less than three hundred years from the actual events and from the actual scrolls of the New Testament.

Then, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls really took the reliability factor up to another level when they found that after comparing these writings of the Scriptures to other copies, up to one thousand years apart, the only variations among them were in spelling differences. That’s all! The teachings and the doctrines and the accounts of the Bible’s authors were identical! That is absolutely amazing! Plus,

the more that Archaeologists dig in the lands of the Bible they discover more real places and real people and real events of the Bible. They have copies of Sumerian Kings from 2100 BC recording accounts of a world-wide flood, just as the book of Genesis records. And then, up to one hundred years ago some historians were claiming that the Hittites were an imaginary people made up by Old Testament authors. Well, they claimed that until Archaeologists uncovered the capital city of the Hittites near the city of Ankara, Turkey. They were forced to then withdraw their attack after that discovery.

And in Egypt there is the great Karnak temple. And along its walls are carvings dating back to 1200 BC. One carving in particular is of a Pharoah and a group of a foreign vanquished people…who just happened to be Israelites…who just happened to be living in Egypt at that very time, of course. And then one more, and this is one of my favorites, is the discovery of a pottery cylinder in ancient Babylon that dated back to 539 BC. It tells of King Cyrus of Persia’s conquest of Babylon and of his decree to let the captives of Babylon return to their lands and restore their temples. Well, well…It just so happens that over a hundred years before it happened, the Prophet Isaiah both named and predicted that a Persian King, again, before this King was even born…Isaiah predicted that this King named Cyrus would conquer Babylon and make a decree that the Jewish people could return to Judah and rebuilt their temple! And I love the passage on that: Isa 44:28 – “The Lord says to Cyrus, “You are my shepherd. You will do what I want. You will say to Jerusalem, ‘You will be rebuilt!’ You will tell the Temple, ‘Your foundations will be put in place!'” 45:4- “I do this for My servant, Jacob. I do it for My chosen people, Israel. Cyrus, I am calling you by name. You don’t know Me, but I know you.” ERV Whoa! Don’t you love that part? “You don’t know Me, but I know you.”

God’s Word always comes to pass! We’ll consider later some other barriers that people have. But it comes back to the fact that our faith is built upon facts! As Paul said, “None of these things were done in a corner.” God calls for all to ‘Come and See’. And when they come and see, then they can believe and receive…just like we have done and are now blessed to be children of God, both now and for eternity.

Archaeology information: Rose Book of Bible Charts, Maps, and Time Line,

pp 73-78

Overcoming Barriers to Faith, Pt. 3

Overcoming Barriers to Faith, Pt. 3

Study Guide, November 7, 2021

Pastor Clay Olsen


The Great Wall of China was built to be a series of fortifications to protect from invaders. The building of it started in the 7th century BC and continued off and on until almost 1644 AD. That’s a long construction project! It was also used it for border control and even for the transportation of goods. And take a guess at how far this wall stretches across China. It’s about 12,000 miles in length!

So why do we bring this up? Because in many people’s lives, there are some things, some barriers to faith, that are like ‘a great wall’ between them and their Creator. And for some people they, too, have been working on their wall, and even letting others work on adding to their wall for a long time. So, their wall or their walls have become substantial. And walls like this don’t come down very easily. It takes something powerful to break through walls like the Great Wall. The only thing that can break through walls of falsehoods are the powerful truths of God’s Word!

Here is a great verse that also makes for a great memory verse, as well as a being a huge confidence builder in knowing and sharing the Word of God with others. How about this?

Jer 23:29- “Is not My word like fire?” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock?” NASU Like a hammer that shatters rock! The truths of the Bible are more powerful than we can even think or imagine. Note the corollary verse in Hebrews about this: Heb 4:12- “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” NASU

One of reasons that many Christians get discouraged about sharing things about their faith and the Gospel and such matters is that they let the world steer the conversations into talking about the Bible instead of just letting the Bible speak for itself. I have always loved how Dr. Howard Hendricks put it. He said: “The Bible is like a lion. You don’t have to defend it: you just need to let it out of its cage!”

A fascinating exchange is recorded in the book of John that took place between the Pharisees and the temple guards, and even Nicodemus. Catch what they said: “When the Temple guards returned without having arrested Jesus, the leading priests and Pharisees demanded, “Why didn’t you bring Him in?” “We have never heard anyone speak like this!” the guards responded. “Have you been led astray, too?” the Pharisees mocked. “Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in Him? This foolish crowd follows Him, but they are ignorant of the law. God’s curse is on them!” Then Nicodemus, the leader who had met with Jesus earlier, spoke up. “Is it legal to convict a man before he is given a hearing?” he asked. They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Search the Scriptures and see for yourself—no prophet ever comes from Galilee!” John 7:45-52 NLT

And by the way, they were the ones who were ignorant of the Scriptures, because Jonah the Prophet was from Galilee. But back to what struck the guards…and struck them in such a way that they said something for which they could have been struck dead over. They said: “We have never heard anyone speak like this!” Actually, the Greek states it even more striking, because what they really said was: “Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks!” That was truer than even they realized. They were not aware that they had just declared one of the greatest truths ever spoken, because what they revealed is that Jesus’ words were not the words of just a man…they were the words of God Himself!

That’s part of the point that you and I must understand…that no man, no one, no earthly religion has ever spoken the way this Man…the God-Man Jesus Christ has spoken and is still speaking through the revelation of God’s Words to mankind; the Bible! Whenever we share the words of the Scriptures, we are sharing the words, sharing the truths that no mere mortal man has ever spoken. Oh sure, people throughout history have spoken about the Bible, spoken about God, spoken about their faith, and spoken about their ideas about faith and God and such. But only when we let Jesus speak for Himself, when we share the words of the Bible itself, it’s then that the ‘truths of life’ are revealed and the power of the Scriptures, which are attended by the presence of the Holy Spirit, then begin to pierce the division of people’s soul and spirit and begin to burn in their souls and begin to shatter the rocks of falsehoods and human opinions like a hammer shatters rock!

The Bible is unique. The words of God are unique. They are more powerful than any two-edged sword, they are like fire, they are like a hammer that shatters rock. We need to let words of God speak to the people of this world, because no man has ever spoken what the God-Man, Jesus Christ, has spoken and is speaking to the world today through His Word, the Bible. Plus, remember, the devil does not fear words about religion or words by religious people throughout the world and its world religions. Satan knows that mankind is religious by nature. That’s why he has inspired every false religion in the world. He wants to keep people focused on unbiblical humanistic religions in order to keep them from establishing a genuine relationship with the God of the Bible. Again, Satan doesn’t fear ‘religious discussions’…what he fears is God’s Word! In the wilderness temptations every time Jesus answered Satan’s challenges He said: “It is written!”And after three “It is writtens”…Satan was written off!

Jesus example for us is to be our standard procedure when dealing with the challenges of Satan and with any of those he uses to counter our Biblical faith. One of the worst things you or I can do is to try to give Satan or others a piece of our mind. Just give them the Bible. Give them a piece of God’s mind…God’s Word. Our words are not two-edged swords, but God’s Words are! Our words are not like a fire or a hammer that breaks rock, but God’s Words are! In fact, God intends for His children to deal with every challenge of life the same way that Jesus dealt with every challenge in the wilderness…give it or give them an ‘It is written’ and then let the Holy Spirit do what He does with His Word!

Now then, also remember that just before this encounter with the Pharisees and the guards here, Nicodemus had heard words from Jesus that pierced his soul and shattered the rocks of his false religious beliefs that he had learned from man and the devil, but not from God. He learned from Jesus something that separates Biblical Christianity from all the religions of the world. He learned what makes Biblical Christianity unique among all of the world’s religions. He learned the Gospel of the ‘New Birth’. John 3:2-6- “After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent You to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with You.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” Jesus replied, “I assure you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.” NLT

The ‘water’ here was a reference to ‘physical life’ and the ‘spirit’ here was a reference to ‘spiritual life’. But it is this Biblical revelation of the New Birth, of the need for everyone to be ‘Born Again’ in their human spirit that separates Biblical Christianity from all other religions…even from ‘Cultural Christianity’, as Patrick Morley aptly describes it. This lack of understanding the New Birth is one of the greatest walls or biggest barriers to faith that people face.

Here is something that Born Again Christians must understand about people around us. By nature, most people believe that they are going to Heaven, whatever they imagine ‘heaven’ to be, based upon their belief that humans are basically good and that they are basically a good person. In other words, men and women around the world, regardless of whatever their religion might be, even in cultural or social Christianity, believe that going to heaven is based upon behavior. Again, even the Pharisees, who thought of all the people in the world, they had the most understanding about just what behaviors, in particular, would insure a person going to heaven. Why, they had 613 laws about it! But then Jesus speaks the words of God and shatters the humanistic belief that going to heaven is based upon behavior and says… ‘No, going to heaven is based upon ‘birth’…spiritual birth.’ I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

One of the biggest barriers to faith…or we should put it like this: One of the biggest barriers to people going to heaven is that they already think that they are going to Heaven. And the reason they already think they are going to heaven is that, just like Nicodemus, they think that going to heaven is based upon behavior, when Jesus says, ‘NO, entering the Kingdom of Heaven is based upon birth, spiritual rebirth, not behavior.’ Obedient behavior is to follow rebirth, but it cannot give spiritual life. Only the gift of life from Jesus Christ can do that!

Know this: Most everyone around you in your life, unless they have been spiritually Born Again by turning to God in repentance and trusting in Jesus as their Savior as the One who gives them new spiritual life…everyone around you believes that mankind is basically good. And since they believe going to heaven is based upon behavior, and since they believe they are basically a good person, they thus believe that they are going to Heaven. Which also means that they believe that they basically do not need whatever your faith beliefs are or that your faith offers them.

And that is why the only thing that gets through the walls of ‘behavior based religion’ is the ‘New Birth message’ that Jesus said to the premier religious teacher in Israel…“I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” The hammer that shatters the rocks of ‘behavior based religion’ is ‘Born Again Biblical Christianity’. The two-edged sword that cuts through ‘works righteousness humanistic religion’ is the ‘New Birth Gospel of Jesus Christ’…which declares the need for everyone to become spiritually Born Again in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. A relationship with God is not established by behavior, it is established by birth…spiritual rebirth! Obedient behavior makes the relationship grow and flourish, but it is the spiritual birth into the family of God that establishes the relationship. And that is a gift from God that each one must receive in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. That is the Biblical message that separates Biblical Christianity from all the religions of the world.

That’s something else to understand about barriers to faith in the lives of so many people in our world. They also believe the lie that they are already spiritually alive. That is a basic humanistic belief of all people. Only through the revelation of the Bible can we come to understand that not only have all people have sinned, but that the effect that sin has had on their human spirit is that sin in their life killed their human spirit. And that means that without becoming spiritually born again every person is spiritually dead in trespasses and sin. Eph 2:1-2- “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” NASU

Try adding that revelation to your picture of everyone that you know and see…that unless they have been spiritually born again, you are looking at a person who is still spiritually dead in trespasses and sin…spiritually separated from the Spirit of God and will remain so forever unless they turn to God in repentance and receive Jesus as their Savior and become born again in their spirit…and thus united to the eternal life of God.

The religions of the world, and again, even the religion of cultural or social Christianity, teaches that being right with God is based upon certain religious behavior. But be very clear on this: Being right with God does not begin with behavior, it begins with birth…it begins with receiving ‘life’ from God. As the Apostle Paul, once a behavior based works righteousness teaching Pharisee himself, points out in Gal 3:21-22 that not even the Law can impart spiritual life to anyone. Notice: “Is there a conflict, then, between God’s law and God’s promises? Absolutely not! If the law could give us new life, we could be made right with God by obeying it. But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ.” NLT And ‘Biblical believing’ means ‘personally receiving’.

This is what we must know and then share with a world deceived by man’s works based religions: The only thing that can give life to a person’s dead spirit is the Life-Giver Himself, Jesus Christ. Religions start with people already having spiritual life. They start with already having a relationship with God. They start with already being basically good. They start with thinking that they are already going to Heaven…so why would they need anything you might want to share with them about God? That’s what we need to know about how people around us are thinking. In fact, most of us use to think that same way…until, either through the spoken word or the written word or both, we came to learn that this unique message of Biblical Christianity is strikingly different from man’s natural reasoning about religion. We learned that the Bible teaches that since all have sinned and fall short of the righteousness of God, that we start not with being right with God nor having a relationship with God nor being basically good…no, we start with being basically dead…spiritually dead because we are already dead in trespasses and sin. We start with being already condemned and already going to Hell because our sins have separated us from the life of God and the just sentence of sin is eternal spiritual death and separation from God.

But then we learned that though Jesus’ own substitutionary life and death in our place, that we could be both pardoned from our sin and then also given new spiritual life…become united to Jesus’ own spiritual life and become re-born in our spirit…born again into an eternal relationship with God. And so we called out to Jesus and asked Him to save us and to make us become ‘Born Again’ with His gift of new spiritual life!

And that message is what is unique to Biblical Christianity. Plus, it is this ‘New Birth’…this ‘Born Again’ message of Jesus that breaks through the barriers…breaks through the walls of false human reasoning that is called ‘Religion’ by so many around us. The world needs the revelation of the New Birth because they will never reason it out on their own and the world’s religions and social gospel churches do not help people become Born Again. This message of the New Birth is what you and I need to commit to finding ways to sow into the lives of others around us wherever we go.

The world needs to know this: An eternal relationship with God is not based upon behavior; it’s based upon ‘Birth’…a new birth of their human spirit as they receive Jesus as their Savior and their Lord and become united to His very own eternal life.

Overcoming Barriers to Faith

Overcoming Barriers to Faith

Study Guide, October 17, 2021

Pastor Clay Olsen


Few things in the natural world are more striking than lightning. (Pun intended…) Really though, there is a natural fascination with lightning because of its brilliance and power. There are many things in creation that really are fascinating. And yet, for believers, even more fascinating than creation itself is our Creator Himself. Our Lord and Savior is the Alpha and Omega – the beginning and the end. He is the source of our life, the very provider of each breath, and the reason we have daily hope and assurance of eternal life. Actually, the beginning and the end of every day of our lives should include giving our praise and thanks to the Alpha and Omega of our life – Jesus Christ.

And really, the more that we do focus our minds and fix our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfector of our faith and life, the more our Creator and Savior will become the fascination of our life. And the more that Jesus becomes the ‘fascination’ of our life, the more we will find that ‘faithfulness’ to His Word and His Will, will then become a more natural part of our life. And the more that our faithfulness to Christ becomes a more natural part of our life, the more striking our life will look to the natural world around us. Remember, we are and are called to be ‘peculiar’ people who live in the midst of the natural world around us. And even as we do similar things that others do in this world, from our work to our play to our relationships and our fellowships, we are to do them ‘differently’ from the world…as in whatever we do we are to do it all to the glory of God! And as we live this ‘different’ life, in the midst of a deceived world, we are then to, as the Apostle Peter put it: “…sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” 1 Peter 3:15 NASU

We should expect questions from those around us about things they don’t understand or can’t reason out, because most of life is about things that can only be understood according to the revelation of God in the Holy Scriptures, the Bible. Again, since unsaved people in this natural world are controlled by their natural mind, naturally they think about the matters of life and even about faith matters from their own natural reasoning instead of from God’s revelation. And so they naturally carry around questions about faith that have become more like ‘barriers to faith’ for them. And sometimes these barriers are honest barriers that they just can’t get over. And at other times, people just use these barriers in a dishonest way in order to justify their desire to just keep doing life their own way, instead of God’s way. But either way, what are barriers to many people can also be opportunities for God’s people to point them to God’s Word and to the ‘striking answers’ that God has to the questions that people naturally have about faith.

Recently in our Men’s Fellowship we have been talking about some of these barriers to faith as identified by the Barna Research Group on such things. And since we have also recently been highlighting the great place that participating in a local Church family has in the life of every Christian, or in every person’s life as part of the body of Christ (if they are able) we thought it would be very helpful for all of us to become even more equipped to share some Biblical answers to these common questions about these faith matters. And remember, questions are good. Christians should never feel threatened or seek to avoid the questions that the unsaved carry around with them. Again, questions are good…and God’s answers are great! What we need to do is to try to carry around some of God’s great answers to share with those who have good questions. Jesus invited questions because it was an opportunity to speak truth to a world saturated in falsehood. And truth is what sets people free!

But again, what we want to try to carry with us are God’s truths…Biblical answers to the world’s questions. And, of course, that is to come from one of our ‘holy habits’ of ‘Studying God’s Word’ on a daily basis. As Charles Spurgeon put it: “Visit many good books, but live in the Bible.” So live your life from the inside out…live it from inside the Bible to then outside in the world. And if at times you’re not sure what the Bible says about someone’s question, just remind them that they have a really good question and that you’ll try to find out more about what the Bible says about it, since you don’t want to just give your human opinion about it. People often respect you for that. And it’s a chance to remind them that in life there really is just either man’s opinions or God’s Words.

Are you ready to ‘run over’ some faith hurdles that many people have? Actually, we’re going to slow it down and do a walk through some of them and unpack them a bit, and then you can condense whatever Biblical information we share so that you can have both some ‘pocket size Biblical answers’ and also then some ‘backpack size Biblical answers’ for those who want to explore these things further.

What do you suppose is the most common barrier or question that people have about faith? It’s this one: “I have a hard time believing that a good God would allow so much evil and suffering in the world.” That is at the top of the list that many people point to in their questions about the Christian faith. And again, it’s a good question. We could take that question even further and ask; “Why would our good God ever allow any evil and suffering to ever exist in His world in the first place?” Why would God ever allow any opposition to His will in this world at all? Before God created mankind, everything around God was perfect, and, plus, since God has no needs, why would He create people that He knew were going to mess His created world up so badly? God didn’t need mankind. But, and this is crucial…but He wanted a family. And that’s why He created human beings. In fact, you remember, God even planned on becoming Human Himself, as in, fully God and fully human, even before any humans were created. Why? Because He wanted a family. That’s what the saved people of God represent; from both the Old Testament and New Testament and through the ages until His new eternal Kingdom is ushered in…all the saved people of God are part of His family that, even though He didn’t need them…He wanted them. Even before the world even existed God wanted you and me to be a part of His forever family. How does that make you feel? Even way beyond special, right?

But now we come to something that is key to all of this…and it explains why such things as evil and suffering exist in this present world…and it’s this: God not only wanted a family…He wanted a family that He could love and a family that would love Him. But in order to have love, you have to have freedom…freedom to choose to love…freedom to choose to love God. And with this creation of freedom came the creation of choice. Both Angels, for a time, and people were created with freedom of choice. You recall the choice that Lucifer made, along with many Angels that followed his rebellion…or now ‘Demons’ that followed his rebellion. He chose to love himself instead of God, but that is to love death instead of life.

But again, what God gave to mankind was the freedom of choice. What God didn’t give to mankind was freedom from consequence. Every choice carries a consequence. And along with this freedom of choice came the consequences of bad choices, ungodly choices. That’s why we counsel young people, and everyone really, to first choose the consequence you would like to experience, and then choose the course of action that will result in that consequence. We see God counseling the children of Israel with this very principle. Deut 30:19-20- “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” NASU

Choosing to love God and live according to His counsel is to also choose the blessing and the blessed way of living. But to choose otherwise is to essentially choose the curse and choose the cursed way of living and even dying. That’s how sin entered the world of mankind. When our first parents chose against God’s Word, they chose the curse…and the curse is what they got, and this cursed world is what all mankind has experienced ever since the Fall of Man into sin. The perfect world that God created, a world without evil and suffering, became a cursed world, cursed because of the damaging presence of sin in this world that has affected both the human kingdom and the animal kingdom and everything in this world. Even the world’s weather systems are broken. It wasn’t supposed to be this way, but the toxic effects of sin have broken every facet of this world; and has resulted in death and decay and disease and strife and war and on and on.

So again, when our loving God created the freedom to choose; the freedom to choose loving God and His will, with that choice came the freedom to choose badly…to choose to love self and self-will. And whenever or wherever a person chooses to love self above God, all manner of evil can result, along with the suffering it causes in the lives of other fellow human beings.

One thing we should realize about this particular question about why a good God would allow evil or suffering is an underlying doubt about God’s goodness and God’s care. We have to understand that the crossroads of every question about God’s care is the Cross of Jesus Christ. The Cross of Christ is central to understanding everything about life! And if a person does not understand the message of the Cross of Christ, he or she will not understand much of anything else. But once you do understand the message of the Cross of Christ, you will never have to let any doubt about the love and care of God ever have a place in any issue of life. Think about the implications of this revelation: Rom 5:6-10- “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” NASU

There is no greater love than the love that God has for us. There is no greater demonstration of that love than the cross where God gave His life in order to save us from our sins. There is no greater statement of how much God cares than to reveal to us that while we were helpless, while we were sinners, while we were enemies, still – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Jn. 3:16 NASU So, and especially for now saved sons and daughters of God, since God loved us that much while we were enemies, how much more now does God love and care about us since we are now His very own children?

When you understand the message of the Cross and this height and depth and width and length of the love of God for us, it’s then that you can trust God even in the midst of things you can’t understand, like evil and suffering. The question then is no longer about our good and loving God. No, the question is then about ‘what’s wrong with this cursed and broken world?’ All evil, suffering, pain, and harm finds it’s source in this world, not in God. All that is good, true, blessed, and helpful is related to God. Harm is related to this world. Help is related to God.

Remember something very important; it was sin that added thorns to every good thing, to every good place, to every good field. So think about it: If there was only one field that you could walk through to get where you needed to go, and it was a field of thorns and thistles, then regardless of whether you were saved or unsaved, you would suffer the cuts and scrapes from walking through that field of thorns and thistles. This world is that field. And this world is the only world we have until God remolds and remakes a new world. This world is a field of thorns and thistles…thorns of sickness, disease, malice, strife, wars, disasters. And in order to be completely relieved from ever experiencing any suffering from any of these things in this world it would require being completely removed from this world. One day we will be removed, when we pass out of this world into Heaven, or when the Lord will return to renew and remake this world. But until then, anyone who lives in this world or thorns may suffering from them. And when it’s God’s children that suffer the cuts and pains, our Heavenly Father suffers right along with them. Sometimes we’re delivered from them…sometimes we’re delivered through them, but at all times we share it all with our Deliverer, our Lord Jesus Christ, and so we can trust Him through it all. And we’ll have more to unpack about all of this in our next study.

The Church: Body Parts Working Together, Pt. 4

The Church: Body Parts Working Together, Pt. 4

Study Guide, October 3, 2021

Pastor Clay Olsen


We’re looking forward to sharing in the Communion together in just a bit, as fittingly enough, the Lord’s Supper is a key worship experience of the body of Christ. Recently we have been focusing on the essential part we each have as ‘body parts’ of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. When it comes to the essential things in the life of a Disciple of Christ, the holy habit of worshipping and serving together is one of them.

And, of course, these strange times of the pandemic have certainly interrupted that holy habit in many Christians lives of the assembling of the body of Christ together. And we, along with other churches, are still recovering from that as believers slowly return to the gathering of the body for worship and fellowship. Some are still not able to do so, and that is understandable, and some have other health reasons as well. But when believers are able, then the Lord calls for His people to the assembly of themselves before Him for corporate worship and for body life service.

Again, there are specific habits that God has called His disciples to practice in their lives. And we have studied them before, but since we are in a period of recovering or regrouping as the body of Christ, it’s great to at least list them again, so that we can clearly think about them and then reinforce the practice of them in our lives. We’ll list them in the study guides, too, so you can each have them for your own use and benefit. They are the Six holy habits of Discipleship…six habits that saved followers of Jesus Christ are called to practice as essential habits in their lives. And we’ll give the Scripture references for them as well.

  1. Surrendering to the Lordship of Christ. Mark 8:34- “”If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” NASU (The Lordship of Christ is to be central in the life of every believer. And it really does require a daily surrender, because without it our old self-nature has this persistent habit of crawling back onto the throne of our lives. So remember to daily surrender the throne to your King Jesus.)
  2. Studying God’s Word. 2 Tim 2:15- “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” KJV (The only way to reshape your mind is to renew your mind day by day by partaking of the Daily Bread of God’s Word… and then dwelling on what God’s Word reveals about life…about your life.)
  3. Sowing Biblical Truths in word and in deed. (Witnessing and making disciples) Matt 28:19-20- “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” NASU (As Sowers of the Word, we are to find ways to sow seeds of truth and find ways to share the Gospel with others, either in spoken or written form. But, remember, we are Christ’s witnesses and we are under His commission to be so…and so we need to do so.)
  4. Serving as a New Testament Priest in intercessory prayer and sacrificial works. 1 Peter 2:5- “And now you have become living building-stones for God’s use in building His house. What’s more, you are His holy priests; so come to Him-[you who are acceptable to Him because of Jesus Christ]-and offer to God those things that please Him.” TLB (As a New Testament priest, we are each duty bound to pray for others and to also offer sacrificial service to one another. That’s just what priests do…and you are a priest in the service of our Great Hight Priest!)
  5. Sharing in fellowship with a local church family of God. Heb 10:25- “…not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” NASU ( To ‘not forsake’ is to ‘make it so’…make the assembling together with a local body of believers for worship and service be an essential practice of your life!)
  6. Stiving to become more like Christ in character and conduct. Gal 2:20-21- “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” NASU (Our independent life was crucified with Christ. The life which you and I now have is a ‘shared life’ in union with Jesus Christ. However, even though we now share our life with Christ we do not share in ownership or rulership of our life. That belongs to Christ alone. Remember, He be the Shepherd…we be the sheep. Christ’s part is leading…our part is following His lead. And as our beloved song says… “…and there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey! Remember, the key to happiness in life is obedience to Christ! It’s not complicated, but it is very precise!)

It’s interesting that one discussion in our society has been about what is essential or not. As the Scriptures point out, for followers of Christ, these six holy habits are totally essential. These habits are to mark our lives as servants of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Plus, it’s these very habits that distinguish us from the world, and actually shows the world that although we live in this world, we do not belong to this world…no, we belong to another world…another kingdom, the Kingdom of Christ, which is soon to be imposed upon this world.

These essential habits are holy habits that cause us to become conformed more and more to the image of our Savior rather than just defaulting to becoming conformed more and more to the image of our society. Which, again, conformity or deformity to the culture will happen to any believer who does not consciously and repeatedly make these holy habits become your own personal habits. As history says to us: “Show me your habits and I’ll show you who you are.” We all have habits…the question is: “Are they holy habits?” Do your habits make you more surrendered to the Lordship of Christ? Do your habits take you deeper into the understanding and the accurate handling of the Word of God? Do your habits help you share the truths and the Gospel of Christ more and more to a lost and dying world? Do your habits guide you in your duty of prayer and sacrificial service as a New Testament priest? Do your habits show the world that you are a part of the family of God that assembles regularly for worship to God and service for God? Do your habits cause you to not only think about what Jesus would do, but to also then actually do what Jesus would do? Remember: “Sow a thought…reap a habit…Sow a habit…reap a life…Sow a life…reap a destiny.”

Psychologists have observed that it takes six weeks of practicing a mental or physical activity in order to make it become a new habit. Certainly, these six habits have been essential parts of the lives of many in the Chapel family. And God bless you for your commitment and your essential service for God to His body and His ministry. But what if we each were to commit anew to consciously practicing these six habits for six weeks for the purpose of making these habits become essential holy habits of our lives? Are you up for a ‘Six week – Six holy habits’ challenge? Mark it on your calendar, and for a six-week period, consciously seek to put into your practice the six holy habits borne out of these six passages of the Scriptures…these disciplines of a disciple. Make yourself duty bound to act on these six habits for six weeks… and then see what difference it makes in your life – mentally, emotionally, spiritually, socially, and even physically.

And actually, it’s just like God said to us about His commandments to us: He reminded us that His commandments to us are designed to be His protection for us and His provision for us…mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and even physically. God’s instructions for us are, in fact, the most healing things that exist. Do you remember what Jesus said about that? John 8:31-32- “So Jesus said to the Jews who believed in him, “If you continue to accept and obey my teaching, you are really my followers. You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” ERV Real freedom is knowing and doing the truth revealed to us by Jesus Christ. You are only as personally free as you are personally faithful to Jesus Christ. And when we both know the truth and then do the truth, that is what frees us from those things which bind up so many in the world around us, both of the unsaved and even many of the saved, in many ways.

How about this? Have you ever known a time when people were so bound up with angst and strife and malice and slander and judgmentalism toward one another in our society? Talk about a prophetic sign…Jesus said the end times would be marked by cold hearts…calloused hearts and minds, where formerly caring people become spiteful and critical and uncaring toward others. It’s apparent that we are certainly in those times. We live in a self-centered society that is now dominated by judgmentalism and hate. The Pharisees would feel right at home even in many of America’s churches now.

Again, history tells us: “Show me your habits and I’ll show you who you are…Tell me your habits and I’ll tell you who you are.” Our country is now bound up in the practice of ‘Hateful habits’. No doubt we are living in one of the most ‘hate-filled’ times in our history. And it’s going to get worse, unless people change their habits…starting with a surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ in repentance and faith for the unsaved, and with a surrender to the Lordship of Christ for the saved. Even for believers, the only hope of breaking free from hateful habits is by committing to the practice of Holy habits. Otherwise, they will be overtaken with a root of bitterness that will defile their lives.

Note the warning of Heb 12:14-15- “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled….” NASU Remember, peace is like manna…you can’t gather it once and then think you can store it up…no, it will decay and rot away. You have to pursue it…you have to gather up ‘peace’ day by day in order to keep it fresh and satisfying and ready to share with others. On the other hand, bitterness only needs to be planted in our soul…to be given a place in our mind and emotions, and then like a root, bitterness will continue to grow like a creeping vine, and will wind itself around our heart and our mind and will choke out the goodness and kindness from of our character and our conscience, until we are defiled and become hard of heart.

The strange thing is…most people don’t recognize bitterness in their life. By the time bitterness has taken root in their minds they are deceived into thinking that they are justified to talk and treat others the way they are doing. They think it’s ‘justice’, when it is simply ‘judgmentalism’. We dare not trifle with hateful habits because hateful habits are hard to break, since they feed off of our old sin nature. The only way to break hateful habits is by the day-to-day practice of ‘holy habits’…because holy habits feed off of our new spiritual nature. And our new spiritual nature is rooted in the fruit of the Holy Spirit…of love, peace, joy, self-control, and so on. Again, it’s not complicated IF you are seeking to live under the control of God the Holy Spirit. But it is very precise: Eph 4:29-32- “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, He has identified you as His own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” NLT Think about it: Whenever a person will not forgive another, they are saying that although God should forgive their sins that caused the death of Jesus Christ, that neither God nor they should forgive the person who sinned against them…essentially making themselves out to be more important than God! But that kind of thinking is a far greater sin against God than whatever the sin was against them.

Friends, be careful in your treatment of others…be Biblical in your treatment of others…or you will find yourself fighting not only against others, but against God Himself. Instead – trust and obey…it will set you free! Practice holy habits and it will free you from hateful habits, as well as any other bad habits that have taken root in your life. Holiness cuts out harmfulness. Holy habits will not only produce personal holiness in your life, but they will also produce happiness in your life. Oh sure, you are still called to fight the good fight of faith as a Warrior for Christ for justice and against injustice…a Warrior for Christ for righteousness and against unrighteousness. But if you practice holy habits as you fight the good fight of faith, you will be able to fight it as a Happy Warrior for Christ instead of a Hateful Warrior for yourself. The Happy Warrior is a win-win result. The Hateful Warrior is a lose-lose result. Holy habits make Happy Warriors for Christ!

The Church: Body Parts Working Together, Pt 3

The Church: Body Parts Working Together, Pt 3

Study Guide, September 19, 2021

Pastor Clay Olsen


Teamwork is certainly one of the best ways to work. And when we think of God’s church, teamwork certainly is a central way God’s church is designed to work. Throughout life God’s church is designed to ‘do life together’, worshipping the Mighty God together, and serving God by serving others together, and by just assisting one another in learning and in growing and in just doing life together! And that has been the focus and strategy for the ministry and experience here at the Chapel. As has been pointed out: Ministry is making life better for others to the glory of God!

We even share helps and tips for the ordinary things of life. For example: Here’s a few tips for your day-to-day challenges: Remember this: We tend to remember things better by saying them out-loud; like remembering where you placed things, or when leaving your home, like “Stove is off…coffee pot is unplugged…refrigerator door is closed…”, or even say where you parked your car…and so on. This tip is especially helpful for remembering Scripture verses…say them out-loud; it really helps.

Some other tips are: In America, outlets generally have the larger end for plugs on the left side. This saves you trying one side and then the other when plugging electrical things in…Or, try using toothpaste to clear up your car’s film on your headlights…or use a staple remover to add keys to your keychain instead of using your fingernails…or when filling up your tank in your car, the dashboard has an arrow by the fuel gauge that shows which side your gas cap is on…or on hard to open jars, first release the pressure on the lid with a spoon or knife…or when you want to hang something heavy on your walls, use a strong magnet to find the nails in the wall studs…or even when you are camping and can’t find any dry kindling for your fire…hey, Doritos chips make for good kindling!

See, we’re talking practical helps for practically everything in life…especially when we’re sharing the helps and principles from the Word of God, which is… ‘God’s Owner’s Manual’ for life. One of the great things about living in this time of Church history is that we have so many great helps for better learning and using the Scriptures. The many kinds of Study Bibles have various guides; everything from chronological to theological to topical guides. My Ryrie Study Bible has everything from an Index to Subjects throughout the Bible to a Synopsis of Bible Doctrines to Archaeology of the Bible to Church History to Topics of Interest…from finding verses on Assurance to Christian Living to the Second Coming and to dealing with Trials and so on…And this is just one of dozens of different Study Bibles now available to us all.

So, our point is this: Not only is the Church called to learn about how to do life, but the Church is called to both learn and then ‘do life together’, as in doing life as a ‘teamwork’ approach to living. It’s just like with what we have been seeing in our recent studies…the church is a ‘body that needs the other body parts of the body’ in order to more fully worship and serve God together.

One of the clearest passages of explanation about God’s plan for how His people are to do life together is Eph 4:11-16- “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” NASU

Talk about covering it all! And talk about clarifying responsibilities, too! What does God hold church leaders responsible for? Equipping God’s people in order for God’s people to do God’s work. How about that? For example: Some Outdoor businesses are called ‘Outfitters’. And the purpose of these stores is to equip campers and hunters and fishermen with both the equipment and often the teaching, even sometimes the training for these campers to then go out and enjoy their camping and for hunters to then go out and effectively go hunting and for fishermen to be equipped for their adventures in fishing. And certainly those who often work in these business are avid campers and hunters and fishermen themselves. But again, the whole point of people going to get equipped for camping and hunting and fishing is to actually then do camping themselves and go hunting themselves get to the fishing themselves. The Outfitters are the equippers and the Outfitted are the campers and hunters and fishermen.

So how about we have a second sign by the road next to our Chapel By The Sea sign that says: ‘Outfitters By The Sea…Outfitting Christians to serve since 1968’ That would probably prompt some interesting conversations. Of course, one of the great things about the Chapel family is that so many at the Chapel have been carrying out this vision for the Church in Ephesians 4 for years and years. The Chapel has been blessed to have such committed and passionate members who have both understood their duty and who have also given of themselves in the active service of their duty to God and others. So a big time commendation goes out to all in the Chapel family who have served over the years and are in the service of serving God by serving others. So what we are saying here this morning is like with the words that the Apostle Paul gave to the faithful Thessalonians: “You have done well. Now, let’s excel still more.”

That’s our focus as Disciples of Jesus Christ…to not only do well, but to excel still more…especially so as we see the day of Jesus’ return drawing nearer. We want to give our utmost to God’s highest and do our utmost for God’s highest! We want to grow stronger in our resolve to serve one another and to grow deeper in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And so that’s why we are reviewing together this focus on the church of Jesus Christ; to do life together, and keep doing it better and better!

So back to the Apostle’s instructions… ‘to the building up of the body of Christ…’. What builds up or strengthens the body of Christ? The work of service. And that’s what each of us body parts are responsible for unto God! You and I are actually in ‘the ministry of body building’. We are each to be body builders. And Paul pointed out that the building follows…the what? The building follows ‘the serving’. It’s in the serving of the body by the body parts that the building up of the body, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically then happens!

For example: In order to strengthen and build muscle mass, you can’t just read articles about it…you can’t just watch videos about it…you can’t just go to seminars about it…rather, you must personally do the exercises; putting in the time, and the effort, and the sweat, and the training that your body requires in order to strengthen muscles and build muscle mass. Certainly, the information and the instruction and the demonstration and the inspiration are all super important and necessary, but…until a person actually acts upon it all…well then…no building…no growth.

That’s why we often point out that no one can do your discipleship for you. As a Disciple of Jesus Christ only you can do the discipleship that God has assigned you to do. And a key part of that is what we saw in our last study: “In His grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.” Rom 12:6-13 NLT

I always liked that part… ‘serve the Lord enthusiastically.’ Just like love covers a multitude of sins…enthusiasm covers a multitude of mess ups! We all tend to worry too much about not doing well in whatever we attempt to do, worrying about our performance in this activity or in that service and such. Like in the church, we worry about messing up if we try to share our faith with others, or mess up if we try to teach in some setting or another, or mess up if we try to help or encourage one other, or mess up if we try to give generously or extend a kindness or engage in some work of the church, or just mess up somehow in our service. But Paul says that our focus ought to be ‘Just work hard for the Lord and serve the Lord enthusiastically.’ In other words, ‘Don’t worry about messing up in anything…just work hard and serve the Lord, and if you mess up, mess up enthusiastically!’ If you are enthusiastic about it, that will cover up a whole lot of mess ups! I am speaking from experience here, friends! John Maxwell says, “If you fail, be sure and fail forward…toward the Lord.” And we could add to that: “And if you mess up, mess up enthusiastically, for the Lord.” God will reward you for your effort and your enthusiasm…even if you mess it up.” Just go for it for God’s sake!

The Bible is filled with followers of God who were flawed and failed and who often messed up in their ministry attempts. The amazing thing is, God often blessed up what they thought they messed up. That’s just how our amazing God does things. He often blesses in spite of and sometimes even through our messes. Do you remember Isaiah’s self-image? It wasn’t: “Now I’ve got it all together!” No, it was: “Woe is me…I’m an unclean man!” And so what did God do about that? He cleansed Isaiah and then used him to serve Him. God cleaned up what Isaiah thought he had messed up! God can use any of us ‘Woe-is-me’s’ because God is not looking at our abilities…He’s looking for our availability. He’s looking for our “Here am I Lord, send me…use me” attitude. What blesses God is when we are simply willing to do His will. And since God is then able to enable us to do His will, whenever we simply put whatever we’ve got into God’s hands, God takes what we’ve given Him and He makes more out of it than we can even imagine. Recall what Jesus did with two fish and five loaves of bread? The boy with the barley bread and fish sure didn’t see that coming, did he?

So don’t worry about what you’ve got to offer God of your time and talents and treasures. Just focus on making what you’ve got of your time and talents and treasures available for God to use. And then watch God go to work in your ministries and even in your mess-ups. Again, don’t worry about messing up…just focus on stepping up so that God can use you in blessing up others lives around you. Plus, remember, whatever you give to God comes back to you in multiplied form, one way or another; maybe now, but for sure in forever. Think about even how often you hear teachers say about teaching that they find that they learn the most by teaching others. It comes back to bless them! That’s because it comes from the very principle of sowing and reaping. In teaching we reap the joys of learning right along with those with whom we are sowing the seeds being taught! That’s the way it is with whatever act of service we do for others to the glory of God…the service for others comes back in blessing for us. That’s just the way our gracious God works it out for His children.

It’s just like in our passage that said: “..but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” What causes the growth of the body? The proper working of each individual part! That’s where each of us ‘body parts’ come into play. And that’s why we say, for those who are able, and when you are able, the body is in need of the working of its individual parts. And so one of the goals of the Chapel is to explore more opportunities for the members of this body of Christ to experience this amazing design for His local churches. We are going to be exploring more avenues of service opportunities in order for you to better use your gifts that God has given you, some of which are noted in passages like that of Romans 12, about different ways believers can serve God by serving others. And there are other ways that you might see of ways to reach needs, either in the body of Christ here and through the body of Christ here to others. That’s great, and we can explore those further as well. The thing is, since each of us who have been born again and now share in the life of Christ have also been placed into Christ’s family and now share in the body of Christ, we each have a part to play in order for the building up of the body in love and in order to multiply itself in ministry.

And again, what is ministry? Ministry is making life better for others to the glory of God! So each of us is responsible to God for doing just that. So the question you and I should be asking and answering is: In my service to God, as a body part in the church of Jesus Christ, how or in what way can I offer my time and my talents and my treasures to make life better for others to the glory of God? And then, the more and more that you do that, you will not only be blessing other’s lives in your ministry, but you will also personally thrive in being used in the service of our Lord and Savior.

The Church: Body Parts Working Together, Pt. 2

The Church: Body Parts Working Together, Pt. 2

Study Guide, September 12, 2021

Pastor Clay Olsen


One of the reasons for the growing disconnection between the world and the church really is a mixed message…the world doesn’t seem to understand why the Church even exists? Since most people believe that human nature is basically good, and they think that they are basically good, they conclude that they basically don’t need church in their life. In fact, research now shows that about 74% of Americans do not attend church on any given Sunday. And that’s from research that was done before the pandemic ever started. Which means that those who were committed to the holy habit of assembling with a church will resume that commitment as more and more of a sense of normalcy returns. However, those three out of four that weren’t part of a church family before still won’t be part of a church family now. And, again, part of the reason is that they think they are already right with God or at least, okay enough with God just as they are.

But this is one key area of misunderstanding by most people of the world where the Church is called to help clear the spiritual air. And how wonderful that God does call His born-again followers to assure others that God certainly does want them to come to Him ‘just as they are’. But the reason He is calling them to come just as they are, is similar to the reason a physician calls the sick to come to him just as they are…not because they are already healthy, but because they are ill and are in desperate need of healing. So it is with those who have not yet been born-again. Their soul is sick and in desperate need of healing and Jesus is the only One that can heal their soul! Remember Jesus’ words about that? Luke 5:31-32- “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” NASU

Anyone that has not been spiritually healed by Jesus Christ is still spiritually sick. The issue is not about if unsaved people think they need to go to church or not…no, the issue is this: have they come to Jesus just as they are and let Jesus heal their sin sick soul?!

Do you remember our memory verse, or verses from last week? It is the passage in Ezekiel that is the Old Testament counterpart of the Born-Again concept of the New Testament. Notice again: Ezek 36:25-27- “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” NASU This is the passage that Jesus expected Nicodemus to understand when Jesus said to him that you must be ‘born again’ in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Nicodemus was a teacher of the Law, but he had neglected the most important teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures. Why even Jeremiah had revealed that the natural heart is desperately sick and is beyond cure. If your spiritual heart is beyond cure, then what’s the only alternative? You need a new heart from God!

I can imagine people who have had physical heart transplants would be able to really deeply understand this Biblical teaching of receiving a new spiritual heart. Maybe we should start asking people around us if they have ever received a new spiritual heart transplant? Maybe that would dislodge their preoccupation with thinking they are already good enough to enter the Kingdom of Heaven just as they are. But Jesus made it clear that no one can enter the Kingdom of Heaven just as they are. They can come to Him just as they are, but they need to become spiritually born again to enter Heaven. Each person must receive a new spiritual heart transplant from God. Each person must have their sin sick heart replaced with a new spiritually alive heart that is a gift from God. But this gift is not automatic for anyone. Rather, it must be personally received by anyone who ever hopes to enter the Kingdom of God.

Now, how about this? Why is this clear teaching of Jesus so hard for people to understand? Because in a large part, when you look at people, you might as well imagine that everyone that has not been Born Again has a spiritual veil over their eyes. Notice what the Apostle Paul said about that: 2 Cor 3:14-18 – “But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” NASU

This was a passage in Sharon’s recent devotions, and she and her mother and I were talking about how clearly this explains how people, religious or not, go through all of life. It’s like there is this sin-stained veil over their eyes that clouds how they see everything and anything that has to do with God, and it distorts their understanding and beliefs about life. And that’s the way it stays for them unless, and until they ‘turn to the Lord’…and then the Lord removes the veil. That ‘turning to the Lord’ is the Biblical act of ‘repentance’. It’s a turning from following sin and self to following Jesus and His Spirit, along with trusting in Jesus alone to save you from your sin and give you a new spiritual life, a new spiritual heart. That’s called ‘conversion’, whereby your spirit is converted from being dead in trespasses and sin to being alive in Christ in liberty and life eternal!

That’s conversion of the soul and spirit. But Paul also revealed that there is now a supreme goal for every converted soul. Did you catch it? There is a supreme goal for every converted soul. Notice again: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” So now, we, who now have an unveiled face and a converted soul, we now have a supreme goal, which is the very transformation of our soul; the transformation of our mind, will, and emotions. We were converted into sharing Christ’s very life, and now we are to be transformed into sharing in Christ’s very ‘likeness’. And mark it down: That is the ultimate answer to the ultimate question of: What is the supreme goal for which every converted soul should be working toward? And the answer is: The supreme goal that every converted soul should be working toward is ‘Christ-likeness’ in their life and character.

And that process of transformation occurs primarily through two holy habits, or personal disciplines: One is your personal worship and service to God and the other is your corporate worship and service to God. Remember Pastor Robert’s super helpful teaching on Romans 12? Well, take another look and see if you can pick out these two holy habits from Paul’s revelation to us about discipleship. Notice: Rom 12:1-8- “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In His grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.” NLT

Pastor Robert may have planned to expound on this passage further, so I’ll just stick to our holy habit principles here. So holy habit number one: Surrender your body and soul in worship and service to God. Plus, guard your mind from being further conformed to this world, or deformed by this world, and set your thinking on a course to be transformed more and more to God’s way of thinking!

Now then, no one else can do that for you. You alone must personally commit to this surrender to personally worship and serve God. So again, that’s holy habit number one. But then there is another holy habit that Paul connects with this one, and that habit is no longer personally only, but now corporately, or bodily, or in the context of the local church. And one statement by Paul was maybe even quite surprising…maybe even quite startling: Note what he says: “We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” What? We belong to who?….we belong to each other! How amazing is that? You see, as we pointed out in our last study, when the Holy Spirit baptized us, placed us into the Body of Christ, made us a member of the eternal family of Christ, He also connected us to each other to now worship and serve together as a member or body part of Christ’s church. And in doing so God made us not only belong to Him, but as body parts we also now belong to each other! Meaning – now we really do need each other. Why? Because as members of Christ’s body we no longer belong to ourselves, rather “….we all belong to each other.”

Does that ever completely change the understanding of my relationship with other Christians, especially in the context of the local church. As a body part, you and I have been eternally untied to Christ, but we have also been eternally connected with one another. We share the same spiritual DNA, with the need to now function, or to now serve Christ together and serve one another. It’s just like what Paul pointed out in his instruction to local churches about how the ‘body parts of the body of Christ’ are supposed to function, when he said, 1 Cor 12:21- “The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” NLT Of course, they need each other, because they have been connected through their conversion to the other members of the body of Christ; a part of His church that He is building on Earth. Therefore, part of the ongoing transformation of each body part depends upon each body part functioning together, or worshipping and serving together in a local church body…again, as you are able, physically and such, as we talked about last time. God understands and compensates for that when you are not physically able and such.

When it is possible, when we are able, health-wise and so on, to worship and serve together with a local church body of Christ, we are not only to commit to doing so, but also, we are to understand that this holy habit is crucial to part of the transformation of our lives in becoming more and more conformed into the image of Christ. Realize this: The reason we need to make church a part of our life is because Jesus has forever made our life a part of His church. We are each a ‘body part’ that needs to worship and serve with other body parts in Christ’s body; both His universal body of the Church and His local bodies of His Church. And as we also pointed out from that passage in Hebrews 10, especially so as we see the day of Jesus’ return drawing nearer. And as they say, desperate times call for desperate measures. In these desperate times God’s people need to have these holy habits of personal and corporate worship and service going strong in their lives!

We all have busy lives; we all have personal business to attend to; but as Jesus said, “I must be about My Father’s business”, so we, too, must also be about our Heavenly Father’s business. And part of that business is building up others in the local church by serving God and serving others. It’s part of ‘our calling’. And, therefore, we are calling members of the body of Christ to connect or to re-connect to a local church, as you are able of course, in order to fulfill your calling and to advance the Kingdom of God through the building up of Christ’s church. Make sure that these two holy habits of a believer’s life are your holy habits: personally worshipping and serving the Lord Jesus and corporately worshipping and serving the Lord Jesus.

Maybe it will help if we turn Paul’s admonition to the local church into an encouragement for us in the local church…instead of “The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”, we could say, “As an eye, I will say to the hand: I do need you. Or as a part in the head, I will say to the feet: I do need you!” For once we realize that we belong to each other, and also realize how much we need to worship and serve together with the other parts of the body of Christ, then we can become even more committed and even inspired to do so. When we understand that even our very supreme goal of being transformed more and more into the image of Christ depends upon our serving one another in the context of the local church, well…that’s powerful motivation to do so!

So Church…it’s rallying time for serving time…serving our Lord Jesus Christ together!

The Church: Body Parts Working Together

The Church: Body Parts Working Together

Study Guide, September 5, 2021

Pastor Clay Olsen


Historically, September has been a ‘start-up’ month…the start-up of new projects, the start-up of the school year, the start-up of new programs, and so on. So we thought it would also be a great time to start-up a renewed emphasis on the wonder and the working of God’s church. So here we go.

It’s always refreshing to go back to the origins of things and see how and why they got started. Don’t you love that passage where Jesus says: “I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” Matt 16:18 NASU There is nothing in this world that can stop Jesus building His church. No government, no terrorists, no persecutors, no anything on Earth can stop Jesus from building His church on Earth! And here Jesus is talking about His universal church from every tongue, tribe, and nation. And don’t you love it when you get to John describing the scene he sees before the throne of Heaven and he says, “And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.” Rev 5:9-10 NASU

That’s a preview of the future of the Earth right there! God’s people from every walk of life, living as one people, one race, the redeemed human race, from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, reigning and ruling with their Lord and Savior upon the Earth. And by the way, there has never ever been anything such as ‘races’ upon the Earth. So many people are so completely confused and twisted in their thinking about that. There has been and will ever only be one race…the human race! It’s like what the Apostle Paul explained to the men of Athens: Acts 17:26-28- “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being…” NKJV

God created one human race. It’s humans themselves that have falsely divided it. The falsehood that there are ‘races’ of humans is a lie from Hades. There is only one human race. What God intended in His creation was for people to celebrate the variety of all God’s creatures, from plants and animals to people, whom God created in the image of God. He intended that all of us would embrace the beauty and wonder of this variety, especially in each other; those of God’s created human race. And one day we will celebrate it all, but even now, God’s church was and is designed to be the picture to the world of Christ’s one body, with all of its great variety in their human creation and all of its great unity as fellow Brothers and Sisters in their spiritual re-creation in Christ! Wherever there has been repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ, there is a fellow eternal Brother or Sister of yours, a fellow member of the Body of Christ! And each one is to be carefully and considerately treated as a member of the body of Christ, whom God loves as He loves each of us.

So that is Christ’s ‘Universal Church’ that Jesus is building. And yet, another fascinating thing about this is that Jesus has chosen to build His universal Church through the working together of His local church…or His local churches. That’s why much of the instruction of the New Testament is centered around Christ’s local churches worshipping and serving and working together. So, in tag-teaming with Pastor Robert’s really helpful teaching on the Body of Christ from Romans 12 we’ll now turn to the Apostle Paul’s other instructions to the Church, to us, from 1 Cor 12:12-28. Let’s first examine verses 12 and 13: “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”

So here is the revelation of the fact that as believers in Jesus Christ we have essentially become the ‘body of Christ’. Of course, we also know that ‘the body of Christ’ is synonymous with ‘the family of Christ’. But Paul uses ‘the body’ concept to especially help us to understand how intricately bound together we are with one another, and how essential it is then that we function as such; or work together as such. But also, verse 13 is the revelation to us of just how God formed us together as His body. Notice again: “…by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…” Baptized? When we see or hear the word ‘Baptized’ we tend to think of the ceremony of ‘water baptism’, like we are observing after the service today. We think of the baptism of the Great Commission, where baptism is an outward dedication of the inward regeneration of the person who has received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. But Paul is teaching us here about ‘Spirit baptism’. And he reveals that this Spirit baptism is what placed us into God’s family or identified us with Christ’s body.

Also notice that, whereas water baptism is our dedication to follow Christ as His disciple, Spirit baptism is God’s regeneration of us whereby we are made both a member of His family and placed into the membership of His body. When you receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you experience this ‘Spirit baptism’ in your soul. It is part of the ‘New Birth’ work of the Holy Spirit in which God causes our spirit that was dead, in trespasses and sin, to be resurrected to new life in Christ, and causes us to now be identified, or baptized into the very family and body of Christ. Again, this Spirit baptism of 1 Cor. 12:13 is related to our regeneration as a born-again child of God, whereas water baptism is related to our dedication to follow Christ as a disciple of God. It is very helpful and important to understand this distinction.

So now that Paul has revealed that part of the saving work of the Holy Spirit is to baptize or place us or connect us to the body of Christ, he then reveals how we each are to now function as parts of the body of Christ. And whenever I say that word, I will probably forever think of that VBS song that goes: “Give me umption in my gumption, help me function, function, function.” We have pointed this out before, but again, we all could use more ‘umption’ in our gumption, don’t you think? Maybe you could add that to your prayers, of: “Lord, please give me more umption in my gumption so that I may better function, function, function.” That’s power praying right there!

Now, let’s notice verses 14 through 26: “For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” NASU

Well now, sounds like we have new names to add to our identities…hand, ear, eye, feet…That would be a surprising addition to our own names. Some churches have name tags that they use when they come to church. The church I attended in college had boxes on the wall, and when you came for the service you would pick up your nametag and wear it. It was really helpful. Sometimes a friend of mine and I would be scheduled as Greeters for a while. His last name was ‘Potter’ and so we would often introduce ourselves as “He’s the Potter, and I’m the Clay.”

But really, what a fascinating passage! Sounds like we have our marching orders! Now, in the continued context of this passage, the Apostle is also explaining how the gifts of the Spirit are distributed throughout the ‘Body’ of the church and how they work together as God’s people work together. But one of the essential teachings in of all of this is that since God has made each of His spiritually re-born children to be a working part of His body, that each re-born child or each body part must do his or her part in working together with God’s body, God’s people, God’s church.

Each of us children of God, each of us ‘body parts’ has both a worship to offer and a work to do… ‘a worship to offer and a work to do’. And just like the health and strength and proper functioning of the physical parts of a body are dependent upon their connection and circulation with the rest of the body, so the health and strength and proper functioning of the spiritual parts of the body of Christ are dependent upon their connection and circulation with the rest of the body of Christ. And that connection and circulation and worship and service is in the context of Christ’s local churches.

And certainly, we have been going through an extremely difficult time for local churches because of the world-wide pandemic, but this design for the body of Christ in worshipping and serving together, as each one is able, has not changed. Thankfully, during this disruption and this interruption in the ministries of local churches, the church has been blessed to have this additional ‘Online’ connection in order to continue to worship together with one another, and even to worship together with those we wouldn’t have otherwise had that privilege, due to the distance between us. We have been blessed to worship with our foreign missionary families, like from Mozambique to Germany and from France to Bangkok (which is where our own children and grandchildren are) to local missionaries and other members who have moved to various parts of the state and country, to even my own sweet Sister Carol and dearest niece Kelly who often join in our worship from Idaho, and we have been able to make new connections with Brothers and Sisters in Christ around the county. What a blessing that is, indeed!

That’s why we said, ‘as each one is able’, because there have been many reasons that many have not been able to worship and fellowship and serve together in a local Bible believing, discipleship making, body of Christ; like for health-related reasons and such. That is understandable. God understands that, of course. But the goal is for ‘when you are able’ to then make it your goal to connect with your local Bible teaching/Gospel sharing church to worship and fellowship and serve together. It even behooves you to do so. And who doesn’t love that word ‘behoove’? So, it behooves you to move to interacting and serving in a local body of Christ. Remember, as a body part, your spiritual welfare is, in part, connected to what you receive through the circulation with other body parts in Christ’s local church. That’s just how God designed it. Now, again, when you are not able to act on this holy habit of fellowshipping with the body, God certainly compensates for that and helps you in your need. Sometimes a believer, for health reasons, is physically not able, and sometimes in our false gospel society, believers are just not able to find a Bible believing, Born Again teaching, Great Commission church. But when you are able, then just like the Apostle Paul pointed out, “…the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” Believers need to be active in a local church, whether they think they need to or not. There is a circulatory strength that works through the various spiritual parts of the body of Christ that each believer needs as much as the parts of the physical body needs the other parts. Again, it’s just how God designed His church to function.

Remember, the church is God’s idea. He calls for His universal church body to gather in local church bodies just like a universal army gathers and trains and serves in local camps together. And especially as we see the day drawing nearer for our King’s return. In fact, that’s just how God put it in Heb 10:23-25- “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” NASU

What a picture that is! It’s like God rallying His troops together in local training camps for further instruction and training and edification and inspiration! God is calling His people, those who are able to do so, to make assembling together to be a holy habit of their lives in order to worship together and fellowship together and serve together, not forsaking this habit, but making it be their habit even more so as we see the day of our King’s return drawing nearer. And Brothers and Sisters, do we ever see the day of our King’s return drawing nearer!

So for the sake of our King, for all Brothers and Sisters in Christ, for all parts of the body of Christ, for all who are able to do so, it’s time to connect or re-connect with a local body of Christ that shares the Gospel of grace of the New Birth, and celebrates the centrality and authority of the Scriptures, and worships and serves the King of kings and Lord of lords together.

Amazing Chapters in the Bible for All of the Chapters in Our Lives, Pt 6

Amazing Chapters in the Bible for All of the Chapters in Our Lives, Pt 6

Study Guide, August 15, 2021

Pastor Clay Olsen


It’s interesting that surnames haven’t always been part of people’s names. For example, in Europe, much of the population was broken up into villages, where most people knew each other. But as populations grew, so did the need to separate people who had the same name. Interestingly enough, sometimes they did this by choosing names from their surroundings, like Theodore Underhill or Karen Atwood probably got their names from references to hills or woods near where they lived, as did others like Sally Greenwood or Henry Burrows. Others chose surnames by their occupations; like Andrea Baker was probably a baker in the village. Robert Knight might have chosen his surname to reflect his social standing as a knight, or John Taylor, since he worked with cloth, or Thomas Smith, the local blacksmith.

Some even chose surnames that had religious connections, like Sarah Abbot or James Monk or Joseph Bishop, or they took them from music and the arts, like Jim Harper or Debra Piper.1 It’s really fascinating to look at some of these origins of last names. And if you notice, throughout the Bible you simply see people with just one name…yet often with who their Father and Mother were, like in the genealogies…except when you come to Jesus…then we have ‘Jesus Christ’; for Jesus is His human name, and Christ is His Divine name…His surname that is from the Trinity of the Godhead. And together you have the unique and glorious ‘Incarnation’ of God!

But we bring this up because we saw in that amazing chapter of Revelation 19 that when Jesus Christ returns to establish His Kingdom on Earth, He has several names, and even a new name which no one knows except Himself. Let’s explore. Rev 19:11-13 – “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.” And then verse16 – “And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” NASU

So in this brief passage we have these astounding titles or names given to Jesus: ‘Faithful and True’, ‘The Word of God’, ‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords’, plus another name that only Jesus knows Himself! What magnificent and profound names of our Lord and Savior! Often when I do visitation, I like to pass along this remarkable pamphlet of 50 Names of Jesus. Each one has the name with its Bible reference and meaning, along with some insights and related titles. For example: ‘Almighty’, from Revelation 1:8, meaning ‘Jesus is all-powerful’. And that means that Christ is the all-powerful Lord. Nothing is beyond His reach or impossible for Him. And some related titles are: Mighty God, Mighty in Battle, Power of God. And it goes on like this with 49 more names. Rose Publishing puts these out, which is now ‘Hendrickson Rose Publishers’, if you want to check them out. The point is, the better we understand the names that God has revealed about Himself throughout the Scriptures, the better we understand the very character and nature of God Himself. And how benevolent and kind of God to do this for us so that we can not only better know our God, but also then better walk with our God and better pray to our God and better trust in our God and better love our God in return for His loving us!

God has gone way beyond what He needed to do, all because He wants our daily fellowship with Him as well as our eternal relationship to Him. God is more personal and relational than we can even think or imagine. Do you think He gave us ‘prayer’ just so we can ask Him for things? Sure, He wants to be our help and our fortress and strength, but mostly He just wants to talk with us and do life together with us. I imagine it’s hard for Jesus not to visibly manifest Himself to show us He really is with us day by day. But it is not time for His visible manifestation just yet. Soon, though!

But with all of this in mind, think about it: “…and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True!” With a name like ‘Faithful and True’, do you think you can trust God with your cares and your concerns and can rely on everything He has revealed to you in His Word? “Faithful and True” pretty much says it all! And catch this: The Apostle Paul tells us that even when we are unfaithful to Him, Jesus remains faithful to us, because He cannot deny ‘Who He is!” 2 Tim 2:13- “If we are unfaithful, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny who He is.” NLT Sometimes people, even well-intentioned people, have not lived up to their names or their namesake. But Jesus always lives up to every name He has because He is the God of absolute righteousness and holiness and love!

Remember, Jesus also said, John 14:6- “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” NASU Even Jesus’ names reveal that He is the only way for anyone to get to God, and He is the very source of truth in the world, plus He is the very source of life in all the universe! Sometimes we need to stop and think: “Do I realize ‘Who’ it is that has forgiven me of my sins and given me the gift of eternal life?” Our Savior, Jesus, is the very source of all life in the Universe and is Himself the absolute ‘Truth’ about everything! And we have the privilege of being united with Him as God’s children forever!

Then we have: “…and His name is called The Word of God.” That’s the same name that God has given to His Scriptures. God equates His words to us with His very Person. Which means that when we look at the pages of the Bible, we are not only to see God’s instructions to us and God’s counsel unto us and God’s plans for us; we are also to see God with us! We are to see Jesus in His Word. Jesus is ‘Immanuel’, God with us, especially with us in His Word, for He Himself is ‘The Word of God’! So when you look into your Bible, also look for Jesus, for He is ‘The Word of God’. Even this amazing reality is meant to inspire our love for the Scriptures to grow more and more as we walk with Jesus more and more by walking with His Word more and more.

Now…How about when Pilate asked Jesus, “So, you are a king?” Jesus responded with, “You are right in saying I am a king.” Pilate had no idea who he was talking to…He was talking to the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Pilate should have been bowing before Jesus and confessing that Jesus is Lord and King. And you know what? One day Pilate will bow before Jesus, along with every person who has ever lived. Phil 2:9-11- “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” NASU God’s children will confess this voluntarily in worship and praise of their Savior. And the unsaved will be compelled to confess this as they are judged by the King of kings and Lord of lords. Wisdom is to confess Jesus as your Savior unto eternal life now, rather than admitting and confessing that when you stand before Him as your Judge to eternal death.

But remember, then there was this: “He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself.” Don’t you love a good mystery? I think it was Charles Swindoll that said: “God is too kind to be cruel; too wise to make a mistake, and too deep to fully understand.” That’s good. Plus, it’s like the Apostle Paul’s breakout doxology of Rom 11:33-36- “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” NASU

Unfathomable’…that’s like a depth in the ocean that cannot be sounded out, or like the height of the stars that cannot be measured. No doubt, this name for Jesus, ‘which no one knows except Himself’, has such depth and such height of meaning that our mortal minds are not capable of even comprehending it. It’s going to take immortal minds to begin to understand the depth of both the riches and the wisdom and knowledge of God. Remember, we are going to be learning more and more about our King of kings and Lord of lords forever and ever. We will still be Jesus’ Disciples, His students, forever and ever.

But now, in this passage of this Second Advent of Christ there is another amazing thing stated that is a key to understanding the Millennial Kingdom on the renovated Earth before God finalizes His Eternal Kingdom of the New Heavens and New Earth. Notice: Rev 19:15- “From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.” NASU So the Apostle John informs us that there will be a period on Earth where Jesus is reigning as King and will be ruling the nations with a rod of iron. We know that in Jesus First Advent, or First Coming He certainly didn’t rule the nations with a rod of iron, for His mission was a ‘rescue mission’, to rescue and ransom people and nations from their sin. So this period of time in which Jesus rules the nations with a rod of iron is still coming. And we also know that once the Final judgement occurs and the New Jerusalem descends upon the New Earth in the midst of the New Heavens of the Eternal Kingdom, there will be no need for the Lord to rule the nations with a rod of iron. There will be no sin or rebellion in the Kingdom of Heaven.

So, again, when will there ever be a time when Jesus will need to rule the world with a rod of iron? When will there ever be a time when King Jesus needs to impose justice and judgment upon people and nations living upon the Earth? It can only be, and it will be, during the promised Millennial Kingdom; the actual and literal 1,000 years foretold by the Prophets and the Apostle John. This is the period of time when the mortal believers who were upon the Earth when Jesus returns then enter into His Kingdom. And being mortal, they will populate the Earth. And being human, they will have children, who then, just as now…some of their children will embrace their King also as their Savior, yet some will still not repent and will reject and neglect so great salvation. And that’s why we see the Apostle revealing this in Rev 20:7-10- “When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” NASU

This ‘war’ is what’s called – ‘The Final Rebellion’. It occurs at the end of the Millennial Kingdom. And it is the last rebellion of the Devil and of unrepentant/unsaved mortal humans before the Eternal Kingdom is established. And note, it is also when Satan is finally judged and confined to Hell, where the Anti-Christ and False Prophet from the Tribulation period are already there. As for the rest of the unsaved humans, all the unsaved who have been temporarily confined in Hades will then be transferred to their permanent destination of Hell, after their sentencing at Great White Throne Judgment. But that’s another study in and of itself.

But just one other remarkable feature of this Millennial Kingdom it this: It is a unique time when great numbers of immortal human beings are interacting and living with mortal human beings who have not yet become immortal; or received their resurrected bodies yet. Remember, God’s people will be assisting King Jesus in ruling these nations, or, as John says, we will be reigning with Christ over the nations of the Millennial Kingdom. No doubt, it will seem rather strange at first, having believers in resurrected immortal bodies living among mortals who have not yet received their resurrected immortal bodies. But recall that Jesus already gave us a preview of what that would be like when He met and lived among people after His resurrection for forty days. Acts 1:3- “To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.” NASU

Actually, in all of the Christian life, as in a scene in the series of ‘The Chosen’, Jesus tells His disciples: ‘Get used to different!’ That’s good! Get used to different. We are to be thinking like citizens of Heaven even while we are still citizens of Earth. Yes, even now, get used to how God does things, how God does life, how God reveals to us what is true, what is right, what is honorable, what is excellent and worthy of praise, and then dwell on these things and do these things. Remember, it is this present world that is ‘weird’. This world readily accepts and believes the weirdest things about false beliefs and false gods and false futures, yet, they refuse to accept and believe the wondrous things about the real Jesus, who is the real God, and to believe in the real future of Earth and Heaven, which are coming soon. This weird world is filled with ungodliness and selfishness and foolishness and deception from the devil. And yet God’s ‘wonderful’ world is filled with godliness and fellowship and wisdom and glories from our Creator and Lord and Savior. But these wondrous realities will one day be experienced by God’s family, by us, as we live and walk with the King of kings and the Lord of lords, in first His renovated Millennial Kingdom, and then in His resurrected Eternal Kingdom.

Oh yes, get used to different! Get used to reality! Even so, come Lord Jesus!

  1. Paul Blake, What’s In a Name? Your Link to the Past, Bbc.co.uk/history/familyhistory

Amazing Chapters in the Bible for All of the Chapters in Our Lives, Pt. 5

Amazing Chapters in the Bible for All of the Chapters in Our Lives, Pt. 5

Study Guide, August 8, 2021

Pastor Clay Olsen



How many here have toured Israel? Most tours include a visit to the top of Mt. Carmel. There you’ll see a statue of Prophet Elijah, commemorating his challenge to and defeat of the prophets of Baal. And how great that in Israel, various Biblical events and Bible characters are their National Parks! They honestly show that the Bible is a record of real people that lived in real places in real times! What a refreshing difference to our present country that tries to cover up and remove Biblical people and Biblical accounts from public life. America needs to just ‘get real’!

But also, from the vantage point of Mt. Carmel you look out at the most significant Valley in all the world…the Jezreel Valley. This valley has been the site of many battles throughout history, from Barak with the Canaanites to Gideon with the Midianites to Joshua with the Mosquito bites…well, that may have been like a battle…that’s a battle for everyone. Anyway, Napoleon once called this valley the best battle ground on Earth for fighting a war. And no doubt that it is because Bible students know that this Valley is also called in Hebrew ‘Har-Magedon’…or better known as ‘Armageddon’, where the final battle of the present Earth will occur.

By the way, do you see in the distance shapes that look like landing strips for airplanes? That’s because they are. That is the sight of some underground hangers for the Israeli Airforce at the Ramat David Air Force base. Israel has one amazing and innovative Military organization. Also notice what town is very near this prophetically significant valley. Nazareth – How amazing that Jesus grew up just a few miles away from where He would one day return in what is prophetically called: The Second Advent, or the Second Coming of Christ. Also notice a few other sites on this map…You have Mt. Tabor. This was the site of the Transfiguration, where Peter, James, and John saw Jesus brilliantly transfigured and speaking with Moses and Elijah. And then you have Mt. Moreh. This is the site where Gideon started the attack against the Midianites. And to the right of that is Mt. Gilboa. This is where Saul and his three sons were slain in their battle with the Philistines. Which is all to say how helpful it is to put the real events of the Bible with the real events in the land where all these real things took place. We can all benefit by learning more and more about the lands of the Bible along with the people and the events of the Bible. It even deepens and inspires your personal devotional Bible reading when you can picture these real places in these real lands of the Bible.

But that brings us back to this: Once a month we read the Lord’s Prayer together. And in it is an appeal to God for His Kingdom to come so that His will can be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Well, chapter 19 of the book of Revelation is the answer to that prayer. Or we could also say, the answer to that prayer is about to come to pass, because God’s prophetic calendar is readily unfolding. So let’s explore one of the most amazing chapters in all of the Bible.

Rev. 19:11-16 reveals Christ to the world as He has never appeared before in history. And, whereas the Apostle John once introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, now he shows us that the Lamb that came to give His life as a ransom for our sins is now returning as the Lion who is coming to establish His Kingdom and rule over the nations with a rod of iron. Lets look: Rev 19:11-16- “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” NASU

I saw heaven opened”…John says that several times in this book. We often call it ‘prophetic vision’, but it’s actually just John seeing God’s plans before they happen. The book of Revelation is God’s plan-book…His future ‘play-book’. It’s God showing His plans to the Prophets and the Apostles things that are about to happen before they happen. And remember, God said that He is the only One who does that, which is another way of God saying to the world: “This is all the proof that you need to know that I am God”. In Isa 46:9-10 God says: “Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’…” NASU

It’s very important to understand that about one third of the Bible is prophecy. It is God revealing to the world what is going to happen before it happens so that the world, which God so loves, will turn to Him as their God and trust in Him as their Savior so that they can be saved from what He also said will happen if they refuse to repent and believe…that is, ‘they will perish’. Remember, God does not want anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance and be saved. But if they do not repent, if they will not say to God, “Thy will be done”, then God will have to say to them… “Then, thy will be done.” And they will get their way, but they will perish in their way.

The First Advent was proclaimed to the world thousands of years before Jesus came to Earth so that when He came, people would have been looking for Him and would have gotten ready to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior. And now, the Bible has been proclaiming the Second Advent for thousands of years so that the saved will be ready and will help others get ready by becoming Born Again, so that they can enter into His Kingdom. The Bible has put the world on notice that the Second Coming of Jesus is close…the trouble is, so few have taken notice or are taking notice.

God has also revealed to the world that the only two options for all people are: Salvation for the Saved or Separation for the Unsaved. Everyone you have ever known, everyone around you, everyone you know is either Saved or Lost. But they don’t have to remain ‘lost’, as Jesus said: Luke 19:10- “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” NASU Everyone on Earth is or once was ‘lost’. But Jesus came seeking to save the lost. So every person has either let themselves be found, and have let Jesus save them from their sin, or they are still lost in their sin. It’s not complicated, but it is eternally precise. And in this prophecy of Revelation 19 every person will either be returning with the King to enter into His Kingdom or are saved and ready to enter into His Kingdom, or they will have neglected so great a salvation and will thus be under the judgment of the King, and will be confined to Hades in temporary confinement and then transferred into Gehenna Hell for eternal separation from God.

And yet, with the return of Jesus to the Earth getting closer and closer, how very strange that people all around us are going about their business like neither the First Advent ever happened and like the Second Advent isn’t about to happen! It’s like those spiritual scales over people’s eyes are growing thicker and the minds of people are growing duller and the hearts of people are growing colder. But those very things are some of additional signs of the end times. So many are so deceived and are so willing to stay deceived. But the strange this is that they are but one breath away from death every day, and yet they live each day like they’ll live forever. Well, their soul will live forever, but because their spirit is already dead in their sins, they will live forever separated from God in a land called ‘Gehenna Hell’. Again, until you believe unto salvation you are eternally under condemnation. So Revelation 19 is message to the world that the King is about to set up His Kingdom, and all who believe will join in with Him, but He will judge all who refuse to believe and they will not enter His Kingdom.

Now, let’s point out some other amazing things from this amazing chapter. What has just happened on Earth before King Jesus returns? What had happened is what Jesus also predicted would happen just before His return. Matt 24:21- “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.” NASU All Christians should know and should be able to explain to our totally deceived world around us that this present world is not headed for some ‘utopian’ peaceful type of existence organized by the wisdom of mankind. No…far from it. For Jesus revealed that this world is heading toward the greatest period of the worst tribulation that the world has ever experienced in war, famine, pestilence, and judgment. In fact, the world-wide trouble and turmoil is going to be so bad that unless the Lord cut it short, no life would be left on the planet. That is what the near future holds for this world.

But again when or where do you ever hear about that? No, instead, government leaders, world scientists, corporate executives are all promising the world that humanity is on the verge of solving the problems that it faces if everyone just follows their instructions into a new world order. But what they always forget is that the central problem in life is not environmental or medical or governmental…no, the central problem in life is the sin-sick heart of mankind. We even have an X-ray of every human heart if people will only look at their true spiritual condition. Mark 7:21-23- “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” NASU And the Prophet Jeremiah reveals that: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jer 17:9 NIV

The most deceitful thing on earth is the sin-diseased heart of man, and it cannot be cured by man. Until mankind fixes that, any such talk of a future of peace on Earth and love between those who live on the Earth is complete foolishness and arrogance and deception and unbelief, and the worst…it’s rejection of the very Words of the Creator as to why He came to save us from our sin-diseased hearts and this world that is about to be judged.

Jesus is the only One who can save anyone from their sins…the only One that can give people a brand-new spiritual heart…and Jesus is the only One that can re-create a world that will be more peaceful and more loving than anyone could ever dream of or imagine. What the world needs now is not more lies from those who being used by the devil to deceive the nations…no what the world needs now is Jesus to be their Savior and Lord if they ever hope to experience the coming world of peace and love and joy that Jesus is about to create…or re-create.

So, again, just before Jesus returns as King to establish His Kingdom upon the Earth, the Earth has undergone the worst period of tribulation it has ever experienced. That’s what all of the earlier judgments in the book of Revelation reveal are going to happen in the near future. And just before this worst period of tribulation of the world is the best thing that has ever happened to Christians who are living on the earth, apart from their personal salvation of being born again as children of God. That is, before this period of what’s called ‘a period of wrath’ upon the Earth is the best and most exciting thing anyone living on the Earth could ever experience…and that is, to be ‘raptured’ from the Earth by the Lord Jesus Christ. The Rapture of the Church, which could happen at any time now, in which God’s people are removed from the Earth and translated into Heaven, will come just before these times of tribulation will happen upon the Earth.

Several corporations have recently developed space vehicles that are now capable of letting people travel into space to get a look at the Earth from space, just like the astronauts have done for years. That’s really cool, and if I find a quarter million dollars in change around the house, I might just book a flight myself. But as great as that is, every Christian who is living on Earth when Jesus comes for the Rapture of the Church, is going to see views of the Earth and the Heavens that mankind hasn’t even dreamed about yet! Again, that could be at any time now!

But then another thing that we notice will have happened just before Jesus returns to the Earth with His saved family is that we see that God’s people are “clothed in fine linen, white and clean…following Him on white horses.” And just before that the Apostle John tells us what this white linen represents that we are wearing… Rev 19:8- “Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her (the Church) to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)” NIV So John reveals to us that the Judgment Seat of Christ had been completed before God’s people return with the King. Remember, that is where all of God’s people, where we meet with Jesus, and He reviews our life to determine what rewards or Kingdom privileges and service assignments we will be given in His Kingdom based upon what we did with the time and the talents and the treasures we were given to serve Him now in this life. The fine linen represents the things that will have lasting inheritance rewards and service privileges as we reign with Christ in His Kingdom.

That’s another reason to make sure that our words and our works and even our motives, for which we will give an account of before Christ, are God honoring and will not be judged as carnal and selfish, and thus, will not be rewarded. Remember, what we are doing for Jesus in this present kingdom will determine what we get to do for Jesus in the coming Kingdom that is about to be established. And we will want to do as much as we can in the coming Kingdom in our service for the King. As has been aptly put: “Remember, this is Training time for Reigning time’! That’s right! We are Training for Reigning…or at least we should be. What you are doing with your time, and talents, and treasures that God has given to you to serve Him now will affect what time and talents and treasures God gives to you to serve Him later in the Kingdom of Heaven. Let’s each do our best to use them as wisely as possible!


Amazing Chapters in the Bible for All of the Chapters in Our Lives, Pt. 4

Amazing Chapters in the Bible for All of the Chapters in Our Lives, Pt. 4

Study Guide, July 25, 2021

Pastor Clay Olsen


Along with the instructions for happiness that we recently explored from our study on the Beatitudes…or the ‘Be Happy Attitudes’ in chapter 5 of Matthew, there is another amazing chapter in the Davidic Psalms that also gives precise instructions for a ‘Happy’ life, or we should say for a ‘Blessed’ life for all of the chapters of our lives. And it is the chapter in Psalms that we just read in our congregational reading. So let’s see what we can discover together from Psalm 1.

And by the way, do you think that it is just a coincidence that the Book of Psalms begins with these instructions? Right…I don’t think so either. Even though the first Psalm is not very long, Psalm 1 provides foundational teaching for godly living, along with the blessings that God connects with godly living.

The chapter itself is a two-part instruction…the first part contains instructions for the Righteous, and the last part contains warnings for the unrighteous. And as we know, there are actually two aspects of ‘Righteousness’ as well. For there is ‘Salvation Righteousness’ and there is ‘Sanctification Righteousness’. And our salvation is secured in having been clothed with the Righteousness of Christ, which includes His gift of forgiveness and our right standing with God. And then, our sanctification is strengthened or grown through our faithfulness in our daily worship and service to God. Therefore, when we are reading the Scriptures about ‘righteousness’ we always need to identify which kind of righteousness the passage is dealing with…as with Psalm 1 for example. The Psalmist is talking about the way that one who is righteous in salvation, or one who already ‘belongs’ to the Lord, can then live out a blessed and sanctified life…a righteous and happy life, along with a deep soul satisfaction in life. Or, it’s how a ‘Saved’ believer can live out a sanctified and blessed life. And, again, the latter part of the passage refers to those who do not belong to the Lord…those who are unsaved and are thus, perishing.

Ps 1:1-3- “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.” NASU

Now, interestingly enough, you would think that the sequence stated here would be just the opposite. You would think that the sitting would come before the standing, and that the standing would come before the walking. But not so here…Why is that? Note this: One of the recurring counsels in the Scriptures to Believers is to make a choice right away, and to re-make that choice pretty much every day about this: To whom will you conform…to your Lord or your world? Remember, that was part of the emphasis of a recent and important message by Pastor Robert about Romans 12. Rom 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” NASU

Now, right away we need to clarify one misconception that many people have about conformity. And the clarification is that conformity in this life is not an option. No, the only option is ‘to whom or what’ will you conform? The only way you could be independent from the powers and influences of conformity is if you created yourself…if you were your own creator. But since no one has created their own self, they are thus subject to the powers of conformity.

It’s also interesting, actually, both interesting and absolutely essential to know, that for the follower of Christ ‘conformity’ is more than just an option…it is the central purpose of our lives! That’s right! We are called to become conformed to….well let’s read it…“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son…” Rom 8:29 NASU

Even the word ‘conform’ here is related to the Latin word, ‘conformare’, which means ‘to mold and to shape after’. That makes us think of a Potter working with pottery in order for him to shape it and fashion it into the very design that he had in mind in creating it. Isa 64:8- “But now, O Lord, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.” NASU

God, our Potter, already knows what He is trying to mold us into and shape us into, along with the purposes He has for us. And the central feature of God’s design for us is to be molded and shaped more and more into the image of the Son, the image of Christ, both in character and in conduct. So, wisdom for us pottery is to yield to our Potter! That is the only wise thing to do! Resisting the Potter is absolute foolishness for the pottery. We have to continually say to ourselves, “Don’t work against the Potter, work with the Potter!”

Therefore, and again, the very goal of our growth, the very purpose of our sanctification, the central design for our life is for each saved child of God to become more and more conformed, and more and more transformed into the image and character of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior! That is to be the primary goal of our life, since that is the primary goal of God for our life!

And if you have not made this goal, becoming conformed to the image of Christ, to be your highest goal and be the premier pursuit of your life, then that also answers any questions you have about your discontentment in your life or your lack of inner peace or your problems with experiencing soul-satisfaction. Remember, contentment in your mind, body, and soul is directly connected with conforming more and more to the image of Christ, your Creator and Redeemer! Mark it down: Blessedness, happiness, contentment, and soul-fulfillment follows and flows out of conforming more and more into the image of the God who created us in His own image.

Okay, we needed to really reinforce that concept. And one reason for this need is to equip us to combat the warning of the Psalmist here…which is what? “…who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers…” Why? Because again, you are seeking to accomplish a different goal…a higher