Retreat Epilogue: The Holy Spirit in Ephesians

In our recent three-day retreat in Pennsylvania, we laid a foundation of what the Scriptures teach about the Holy Spirit. In this follow-up lesson and in light of those foundational teachings, we look at Paul's letter to the Ephesians in perhaps a new light, as Paul has much to say about the Holy Spirit, and its role and importance in our lives as Christians.

The Spirit of Wisdom: Sustaining Prayer and Bible Study

On Saturday evening of our 2019 Retreat, several brothers taught on different topics in a session entitled The Spirit of Wisdom. In the second session, Timothy Adams asked whether our times with God equip, strengthen, and refresh us. He then shared many practical lessons from his own spiritual journey that have helped him deepen his relationship with God.

The Spirit of Wisdom: Staying Strong without an Ideal Local Fellowship

On Saturday evening of our 2019 Retreat, several brothers taught on different topics in a session entitled The Spirit of Wisdom. In the first session, brother Mahlon Fisher spoke about Staying Strong without an Ideal Local Fellowship, providing key principles that have helped him continue to grow as a Christian over the past years.

The Holy Spirit (Pt. 3 of 3): Walking in the Spirit

In this third of three foundational lessons on the Holy Spirit, we build upon Old Testament stories (introduced in the previous lesson) to explore what it means to live a life that is led by the Spirit today. We review the Spirit’s role in leading the apostles to “all truth” and inspiring the Scriptures; and consider how Jesus urges us to pray boldly and persistently for (more of) the Spirit. The Spirit also calls us to live holy lives, as Paul calls us to avoid immorality because “our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit”. Finally, we consider the Spirit’s role in helping us toward one of the toughest challenges of all: the unity of all Christians.

The Holy Spirit (Pt. 2 of 3): The Mission of the Holy Spirit

Understanding the nature, purpose, and role of the Holy Spirit is essential to our Christian faith. In this second of three lessons on the Holy Spirit, we begin by looking at the Trinity. We borrow from early Christian insights to understand (and explain to others, including 1.6 billion Muslims in the world) the "oneness" of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as well as their distinct roles and characteristics. Next, we look at pictures from the Old Testament that help us understand the role of the Holy Spirit, including: the pillar of cloud and fire in Israel's exodus journey and the rock which produced water in the desert. These examples provide great insight into the role of the Spirit in our lives individually, as well as collectively in the Church.

The Holy Spirit (Pt. 1 of 3): The Nature of the Holy Spirit

The night before He was crucified, Jesus told His closest disciples that He must depart in order to be able to send them the Holy Spirit: a Helper who would abide with them and be in them. Yet some churches today virtually ignore the role of the Spirit! We start this lesson by recounting the clash in perspectives that took place 100 years ago in the Churches of Christ on this subject, and its tragic aftermath. From there we begin the process of taking a fresh look at the character of the Spirit, starting with key insights from the Old Testament. This is the first lesson of a foundational 3-part series on the Spirit.

Jesus Prays for Unity (John 17:9-26)

In John 17, Jesus prays that His followers may be one as He and the Father are one. The goal of this unity was so that the world might know that God sent Jesus and loved the world as God loved His Son. Sadly, not only does this unity not exist today, but most Christians ignore this central (and extremely difficult) teaching. This lesson takes a hard look at Jesus' expectations regarding unity, what Christian unity does and does not look like, and provides an example from history to inspire us to strive for the unity Christ prayed for before His death.

Biblical Separation, Pt. 5: Sitting at Jesus' Feet

In this lesson, Ray Wenger looks at the story of Martha and Mary—not just the tale of Martha’s serving and complaining in isolation, but the whole scope of their story with Jesus—and explores what it means to “sit at Jesus’ feet.” The arc of Martha and Mary’s lives illustrates the way a transformed mind gains new desires, and who those desires are directed towards.

Biblical Separation, Pt. 4: Nonconformity through Transformation

In Romans 12, Paul appeals to Christians to be “transformed by the renewal of your mind.” This type of transformation is not superficial, but leads to a new, heavenly perspective on everything we encounter. This lesson explores this transformation, including how Biblical nonconformity affects how Christians treat each another and those outside of the church.

Biblical Separation, Pt. 3: Take Up Your Cross

In Matthew 16, Jesus grants Peter special blessings and privileges, but then promptly rebukes Peter for minding the things of men and not the things of God. This lesson looks at Peter (as well as good and bad examples from the Old Testament) and the temptation to embrace human interests and worldly methods, even as we seek to accomplish God’s purposes. Jesus’ clear direction points to a better way, that the world will simply never follow.

Biblical Separation, Pt. 2: Do Not Be Unequally Yoked

In 2 Corinthians chapter two, Paul directs the Christians not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. Instead, they are to come out from the world, so that God might receive them, dwell in them, and be a Father to them. In this lesson we take a close look at Moses’ hunger to know God, His ways, and to have God’s presence with him. Our longing as Christians to meet with God and to have close fellowship with Him is central to our Biblical separation from the world.

Biblical Separation, Pt. 1: Expelling the Canaanites (Judges 1-2)

In this first of a five-part series on Biblical Separation from the World, Ray Wenger describes foundational principles of Biblical separation from the world, including God’s goodness, examples of artificial separation, and how compromise in our obedience to God’s commandants leads to spiritual destruction. May we find decisive victory over our spiritual Canaanites where Israel failed, and reap the rewards that God seeks to bestow upon us.

Jesus Will Return to Glory (John 16:5-17:8)

Jesus has much to say in his farewell discourse. In this passage, we learn more about Jesus promise of the Holy Spirit. Jesus also speaks directly about His departure and return. Jesus then begins to pray, with a focus on the glory He shares with the Father and His longing to return to His Father's glory. Jesus' words have practical and significant application to our own lives and understanding of God.

The World Will Hate You (John 15:18-16:04)

In John 15, Jesus promises that the world will hate His followers. In this lesson we look at what Jesus had to say about persecution, including why the world will hate His disciples. We also look at examples of martyrdom and accounts of Christian persecution in the early Church. May Jesus' teaching on persecution and the faithful witness of the Church through history strengthen those Christians suffering around the world today. May it also prepare us in the West for persecution that may await us in the coming years.

Now I Call You My Friends (John 15:11-17)

Jesus, the Son of God, through whom the universe was made, opens the door in John 15 for everyone to become His friend. But what does it mean to be Jesus' friend?  What blessings did Jesus promise to give His friends?  And what did Jesus say was required to be His friend? This lesson answers these questions, and reveals how our friendship with Jesus is directly related to the effectiveness of our prayers, the depth of our love for others, and being saved at the end.  

The Vine and the Branches (John 15:1-10)

A  third of the world's population calls itself Christian. Yet most believe that following Jesus and making it to heaven does not actually require obeying what He taught. In John 15, Jesus provides an allegory of the Vine and the branches, a beautiful picture of how to understand our relationship with Jesus and what is required by us to be saved in the end. Grasp this teaching and you will also understand the blessings available to anyone who abides in Christ and allows himself or herself to be pruned by the Gardner. In just ten verses, this teaching may also do more to demolish the foundation of Reformation Theology than any other passage of Scripture.

He Will Teach You All Things (John 14:26b-31)

The night before Jesus died, He promised the apostles that the Holy Spirit would teach them “all things” and guide them “into all truth”. The idea that the faith was handed down to the apostles complete, with no improvements or changes to follow later, has revolutionary implications for the church today. In this lesson we will examine other New Testament passages that confirm this teaching. We also will consider attempts to make the modern Christian faith “more progressive” by incorporating popular teaching on radical feminism and homosexuality.

Jonah and Other Prophecies About the Resurrection of Jesus

The entire Christian faith hangs on the resurrection of Jesus on the third day. Paul told the Corinthian Christians that if it did not happen “your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins”. But how can we know for sure? Jesus and the apostles pointed to the evidence of Old Testament prophecies written hundreds of years before. In this lesson, given on an Easter Sunday, we look at several prophecies specifically about the resurrection. This includes one amazing prophecy woven into the details of the famous story of Jonah and the whale. This lesson that can strengthen your own faith, and equip you with the evidence to persuade others.