Demystifying Church Discipline

The Lost Sheep A U SoordI was away this week, sharing a precious memorial service for my dearly beloved mom with my family. Consequently, I have selected one of the MOST IMPORTANT podcasts that we have recorded in our Jesus in HD series.

In this Encore PODCAST, as we continue in our chronological study of the life and ministry of Jesus, we come to Matthew 18:15-17 — one of the most seriously significant passages in all of the New Testament, the so-called “Church Discipline” passage.

Church Discipline, a teaching in many local churches that really rose into prominence in the late 1970’s and became quite the trend.

I can remember attending church leadership conferences back then and hearing pastors — I’ll use word “boast.” — of the fact that they recently removed individuals from their congregations, thereby “preserving the purity of their churches.” Others would then oooh and ahhh at the boldness of these pastors in confronting the sin in his church and taking decisive action in order to preserve the purity of his church by the process of Church Discipline as outline by Jesus here in Matthew 18.

Today, one of this nation’s leading Church Discipline proponents insists that church discipline, as outlined in Matthew 18, is one of the marks of a healthy church. He writes this on his website, clearly articulating the prevailing view of Church Discipline, and indeed includes this as one of his main talking points as he addresses pastors’ conferences throughout the country, encouraging them to do the same:

“Church discipline is the act of correcting sin in the life of the body, including the possible final step of excluding a professing Christian from membership in the church and participation in the Lord’s Supper because of serious unrepentant sin.”

Consequently, it has become standard practice to “exclude” or remove or excommunicate (you choose the term) unrepentant sinners from their local churches. This notion of Church Discipline is certainly included in many if not most of our evangelical churches’ bylaws.

Well, in light of the above definition — More importantly, in light of Jesus’ words in Matthew 18 — I must ask, Is that really what Jesus taught to His disciples and to us?

Let’s discover the answer together.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you as you listen.

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The Second Coming of Jesus

meggidoAs you will hear in this PODCAST, with Jesus’ words here in Matthew 24, the climax of human history as we know it will occur.

No one will miss it. No one will mistake it. Everyone will know exactly what it is that is happening and why it is happening!

The “it” to which I refer and which I intentionally repeated in the above sentences is Jesus’ Second Coming.

What did Jesus say? “Then all the tribes of the earth… will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

Quite a contrast to Jesus’ first coming, which you will remember was seen only by a few lowly shepherds out in the remote regions of Bethlehem. When Jesus came the first time, He came not with power and great glory, but as a newborn baby laid in an animal’s manger in the cold of a cave.

That was Jesus’ First Coming. In the run-up to the crucifixion, the disciples were understandably fixated on the future, specifically on Jesus’ Second Coming.

They were waiting; we are waiting. They were longing; we are longing. They were asking; we are asking: “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

In giving His answer, Jesus said this:

“That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes” (Matthew 24:39).

“So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42).

“You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected” (Matthew 24:44).

“But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne” (Matthew 25:31).

That’s what Jesus said just in Olivet Discourse. Indeed, the whole point of the Olivet Discourse is Jesus’ Second Coming.

So with all of that background, let’s discover together what Jesus taught us in the Olivet Discourse about His Second Coming.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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The Great Tribulation

coming_backAs you are about to hear in this PODCAST, with Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:15, words that describe a singularly hair-raising event, the Great Tribulation will begin.

A 3½-year period of unprecedented spiritual defection and oppression, along with its resultant worldwide suffering on a scale never seen before on this planet.

Don’t take my word for that. Take Jesus’ word for that. In Matthew 24:21,

“For then there will be great tribulation, greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again.”

The Great Tribulation, that will begin with the singular event to which Jesus alluded in Matthew 24:15, and will end with the climax of human history as we know it — the glorious Second Coming of Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Permit me the briefest of reviews. It is absolutely vital that we keep the end-times timeline straight.

The next event on God’s prophetic timetable is that wondrous event we commonly call The Rapture, where Christ-followers throughout the world will “meet the Lord in the air.”

Nothing needs to happen before the Rapture, that awesome event described so vividly in 1 Thessalonians 4, 1 Corinthians 15, and alluded to by Jesus in John 14. The Rapture, or as Paul called it, Our “blessed hope.” Titus 2:13,

“While we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Please note that Paul described our “blessed hope” as Jesus’ “appearing,” not His “coming,” a distinction of monumental importance.

Now again, nothing has to happen before the Rapture, where Jesus will appear in the clouds and we meet Him in the air, all of this near the beginning of Tribulation. Yes, you can indeed wake up every morning of every day with the hope-filled words flooding your troubled soul, Perhaps Today! Nothing has to happen before the Rapture.

That said, much, much has to happen before the Second Coming, where Jesus will literally come down to the earth, setting foot on the Mount of Olives, this at the very end of the Tribulation.

Most notably, what has to happen before the Second Coming? The event described by Jesus in Matthew 24:15, and by Daniel in Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11.

Hear it from Jesus’ lips to our ears:

“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Matthew 24:15).

“Let the reader understand.” Why that particular exhortation? Precisely because there is so much confusion about this prophecy, and so many who therefore do not understand.

Confusion which we will bring to a conclusion in this podcast.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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The Signs of the Times (Part 2)

maxresdefaultBirth pains. It’s all about the birth pains.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, as we enumerate the final three of the six “signs of the times,” both Paul and Jesus made it crystal-clear that we are to think of these signs in terms of birth pains.

Paul, who borrowed this most-meaningful metaphor from Jesus, used it most-appropriately when he in Romans 8 declared, “For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

It would not surprise me one bit to hear that some of you — Or should I say some of us? — have been groaning a little more than usual this past week.

It is all about the birth pains, that increase dramatically in frequency and in intensity as the moment of birth approaches. This troubled planet of ours is undeniably in the later stages of its own labor pains, as it waits in breathless anticipation as the moment of Jesus’ return approaches.

So said Paul.

So said Jesus.

Here in Matthew 24:8, spoken in the Olivet Discourse, on the Tuesday afternoon of His final week, in reference to these “signs of the times.” Jesus said, “All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

That is precisely where we are today. Groaning, watching, and waiting for the climax of human history as we know it finally and mercifully to dawn upon us.

In Luke’s abbreviated account of the Olivet Discourse, Jesus said in reference to these same “signs of the times,” “When these things (these birth pains) begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Stand up; and lift up. Those are phrases that speak of victory, not defeat!

We don’t sit down in defeat; we stand up in victory!

We don’t hang our heads in dismal distress; we lift up our heads in victorious anticipation.

We are not defeated. Not by a long shot. We are encouraged.

These “signs of the times,” these birth pains, have indeed begun to take place. Our redemption is indeed drawing nearer, every single day!

Yes, these six “signs of the times” have always characterized our world. Yet, these is no denying the acceleration of their frequency and intensity.

Let me briefly remind you of the first three, and then we’ll discuss in some detail the final three. All with a view to standing up and lifting up our heads, not in defeat but in glorious victory.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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The Signs of the Times (Part 1)

its_timeWelcome to the Olivet Discourse. The End Times prophetic address that Jesus gave to His disciples high atop the Mount of Olives, immediately to the East of the Holy City, Jerusalem.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, that lovely little land that we affectionately call Israel is the center of the world.

Literally and metaphorically.

Literally, because Israel is the place where the three major continents — Europe, Asia, and Africa — tenderly touch and affectionately kiss each other. Which goes a long way to explaining why God chose this modest piece of real estate — a mere 150 miles long (North-South), 50 miles wide (West-East) — as stage for the Greatest Story Ever Told.

Metaphorically the center of the world because throughout all of human history, the eyes of world have ever been focused squarely on the Middle East — so called because it sits in the middle or center of the world. And in center of the Middle East sits Israel.

So Israel is indeed the center of the world.

That said, Jerusalem is the center of Israel, and the Temple is the center of Jerusalem.

So it is no wonder that Jesus and His disciples took a timeout from all of the hubbub of activities on this Tuesday of Jesus’ final week, exactly three days before Jesus would go to the cross.

As they sat upon the Mount of Olives taking in that breathtaking view of the Holy City and its glorious Temple — God’s House, what Jesus called “My Father’s House,” what many of our Jewish friends call “The House” — the disciples were moved by that spectacular panoramic portrait to ask Jesus these two most important questions in Matthew 24:

“What will be the sign of your coming?”

and

“What will be the sign of the end of the age?”

Jesus’ answer to those questions comprise what we now call the Olivet Discourse, spanning two full chapters, Matthew 24 – 25.

As you are about to hear, there are Two All-Important Interpretive Keys to understanding these all-important prophetic chapters.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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Demystifying the End Times (Part 3)

Revelation-of-saint-john-devine-600x401Picture him there, a grizzled, stooped, aged apostle, marooned on an island of rock, confined to a cave.

See him in your mind’s eye, with quill to parchment, writing fast and furiously in a mad dash to record everything that he is now seeing and hearing.

Our old (and at the time of his writing Revelation) very old friend, the beloved apostle John.

Writing, as you will hear in this PODCAST, what sounds like fantastical tale in specific, yet an all-too-plausible scenario in the abstract. A story that brings to a climax the epic collision that has plagued this planet and every person who has ever trod its blood-soaked soil since the beginning of history.

The climax of the collision of good versus evil.

As we were so graphically reminded just last Thursday in the south of France.

Here in Revelation both good and evil are personified.

Here the wellsprings of good and evil are identified by name.

Here this human-history-long all-out war finally, mercifully coming to its end, thankfully with good as the victor, and evil as the loser.

When I mentioned a moment ago that this epic tale sounds fantastical in the specific, understand that we are talking about spirits, angels, demons, devil, Jesus. A unique combination of physical and spiritual forces fighting to the death that sounds like the kind of stuff ready-made for a Hollywood blockbuster.

I wouldn’t blame anyone for rolling their eyes and curving their lips into a smirk that says, You don’t really believe all of this, do you?

+ Just this week, I was listening online to a TED talk (Technology, Entertainment and Design), brings together elites, the intelligentsia of world, during which a TED talk presenter mercilessly mocked and ridiculed people of faith who believe in things like you will hear when I read to you from Revelation 16.

I will be the first to admit that what we are about to outline in this podcast indeed sounds fantastical — in the specific. But in the abstract, no one can deny that there is operating in our world today two distinct colliding forces: one for good, and one for evil.

About that, nobody laughs.

Whether its on the grand scale of someone in a van mowing down innocent pedestrians gathered in the south of France for a Bastille Day celebration. Or as modest as a child throwing a bit of a temper tantrum because he or she doesn’t get what they want.

Let the record show that a good many TED talks are devoted in one way or another to just that collision.

It is as though we are caught between two worlds: One of unbridled evil in which people do to people horrifically unimaginable things. While at the same time, others of us try our best each day to surrender to our better angels, as even TED Talk presenters will sometimes call them. And when they do indeed invoke that phrase, our better angels, no one in that elite audience of the world’s intelligentsia laughs. (I guess its OK to invoke the image of angels in the abstract, just not in the specific.)

Well, in this study, we will invoke the image of angels, good and evil, and a whole lot more, and will do so without laughing because this is deadly serious.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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Demystifying the End Times (Part 2)

danger11“Watch out that no one deceives you.”

As you will hear in this PODCAST, given the wild-eyed speculations with which Christian community has historically been bombarded regarding all-things prophecy-related, Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 give us a good warning indeed. A warning which explains why we want to take a sober, strictly-biblical look at what Jesus taught in Matthew 24 – 25 about His Second Coming and the end of the age.

Let me remind you that we are now on Tuesday of Jesus’ final week, a mere seventy-two hours before His crucifixion.

For the disciples, not to mention Jesus Himself, a head-spinning turbulent few days had just passed, highlighted by the Triumphal Entry and the Cleansing of the Temple. Yet, without trying to be cliched about it, they hadn’t seen anything yet.

And frankly, neither have we.

So for the moment, as they took a brief breather to gather their thoughts and emotions, Jesus and the twelve disciples huddled on the Mount of Olives and took in the breathtaking view laid out before them.

We can only imagine how many confusing thoughts were cascading through the disciples’ collective minds. So it’s no wonder that even in this moment of solitude that might have otherwise provided some much-needed quiet contemplation, they asked Jesus the question that was now haunting their hearts.

Naturally, they wondered about the future and how all of this 3+ year wild-ride they had been on with Jesus would end.

So, in response to their question, Jesus told them.

Ergo, the Olivet Discourse.

Though the Olivet Discourse centers primarily upon the events of the Tribulation and the Great Tribulation, which we will distinguish in this podcast, I thought it would be most-beneficial to give you a complete overview of the entire prophetic puzzle and its 7 principal pieces before we break down Jesus’ Olivet Discourse.

Last week, we discussed Rapture and AntiChrist. (Podcast #171)

This week, we’ll consider the Tribulation and the Great Tribulation.

And next week, we’ll round out this introductory overview by highlighting the Second Coming, the Millennium, and the Eternal State.

However, before we get embroiled in the Tribulation, as you will hear here, I must first make one especially helpful, clarifying remark about the Rapture.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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Demystifying the End Times (Part 1)

1080-Woman-looks-toward-Jerusalem-and-the-Temple-Mount-600x400I can’t tell you how excited I am in this PODCAST to break the seal on this, Jesus’ walk through the remainder of human history as we know it.

It’s typically referred to as the Olivet Discourse because Jesus gave this prophetic panorama while sitting on the Mount of Olives, immediately to the East of Jerusalem, right across the Kidron Valley from the glorious Temple. One of the most breathtaking vistas in all the world.

This is Tuesday of Jesus’ final week.

On Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday, on what they would have called Passover Lamb selection day.

On Monday, Jesus cleansed the Temple and cursed a fig tree.

This Tuesday, a scant 72 hrs before the crucifixion, was significant and confrontational in the extreme.

  • Jesus took on the religious leaders of the day, in a blistering take-down, essentially sealing His fate. (8 times in Matthew 23, Jesus will in effect consign them all to Hell with the fateful words, “Woe to you…”)
  • Jesus explained why He cursed the fig tree (as we discussed on Podcast #170).
  • And it is also on this day that Judas will set in motion his plot to betray Jesus to the Romans, selling out his rabbi for 30 pieces of silver.

By anyone’s measure, a consequential day indeed.

Here, right smack dab in middle of this eventful day, Jesus will talk to His disciples about the end of days.

The Olivet Discourse, one that spans two chapters, Matthew 24 and 25, and 2000 years and counting of the remainder of Human History.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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A Mother’s Lament

One more week of camp. So one more Encore Podcast.

mary-and-josephMy heart goes out to Mother Mary.

Her name means “Bitterness.” Sadly, and quite frankly, in many ways Mary lived up to her name.

Being the mother of Jesus was no small task. One that she fulfilled with great dignity. But boy did she face her challenges.

In this PODCAST, we will gaze upon a Scriptural snapshot of Mary unlike anything you have ever seen before. Not only that, but we will encounter Jesus in His darkest hour, second only to that night before the crucifixion when He sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane.

As we do, our love for Him will deepen. Our respect for His mom will broaden. And our understanding of the both of them will stir up within our own hearts a sense of God’s presence in our lives like we’ve never experienced before.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

May God richly bless you as you listen!

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Money Matters

online-greetingI’m off doing my camp speaking thing. (I sure would appreciate your prayers: for me, but especially for the campers who are stuck having to listen to me for the week. But I digress.)

Anyway, in this encore PODCAST, you will learn one singularly simple concept which, if you take it to heart, will change your life forever.

It is my sense that in contemporary Christian culture in America, we have lost sight of the elegant simplicity spoken of in the New Testament. And consequently, we have lost so much of God’s blessing in the process.

So here’s to simplicity, with the hope that your life overflows with God’s bountiful blessing as we together apply this principle to our lives.

Please note that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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