Category Archives: Bible Ideas

True Freedom

July 5, 2015

For many years (more than 40 years) one of my guiding verses comes from John 8:31-32. “To the Jew who had believed in him, Jesus said, ‘if you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.   Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’”

Those who heard Jesus make this statement were affronted. “We are Abraham’s descendents and have never been slaves of anyone,” they challenged. We who live in the United States might reply in similar words, “We are Americans, we are already free.”

In response, Jesus made it clear that he was talking about a different kind of freedom, freedom from slavery to sin. Jesus claims that He can set us free from bondage to sin. AND, He can give us a permanent place in God’s family, the family of our Heavenly Father.

In John 8 Jesus’ discussion turned into an argument (at least a one sided argument) with the Jews who heard Jesus’ words, calling him demon-possessed and picking up stones to kill Him.

As I reflect on this story from the gospel of John, I see a lot of parallels to our time. God has given us His Word (including the things Jesus taught) and if we will live in the way His Word says, we too will be freed from slavery to sin. That freedom comes from Jesus’ forgiveness, but it also comes from making choices/decisions based on the truth in God’s Word (“All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” II Tim 3:16).   When we live our lives according to God’s Word, we can live freed from bondage to sin.

However in today’s American culture, we think freedom is to opportunity to do whatever we want, without consequences. We also think that we can take away many unpleasant consequences to our choices by simply changing laws and forcing silence on those who disagree with us. We think we can make our own freedom from sin, by simply denying that such sin exists.

While it might feel like freedom for a short time, in the end we will discover that calling slavery to sin “freedom” does not make it any less slavery. To find real freedom, we need to listen to Jesus’ teaching, seek His forgiveness, and then learn how to live in the true freedom of God’s family.

We do no one a favor by ignoring the reality of sin, nor by labeling sinful behavior as OK. But we also do no one a favor by condemning their sinfulness with indignation. Instead, we need to live and speak the GOOD NEWS. All have sinned and come short of God’s glory. But, our sins can be forgiven, we can become part of God’s eternal family. In that family, our feet can walk a new kind of life. A life that follows Jesus’ teaching and discovers true FREEDOM. Oh, may that be our message – true freedom.

Everyday Wisdom

June 14, 2015

When I was growing up, we had three sets of clothes. We had our “Sunday clothes” or as some might still refer to them, “our Sunday best.” We wore these only on Sunday to church and once in a while for special occasions.

Then we had our “school clothes.” These we wore to school and other times when we needed to look presentable. But once we were home, they came off and we wore our “everyday clothes.”

“Everyday clothes” were not special, but they were the clothes we liked best. We could play, work, ride bikes and do whatever we wanted in our “everyday clothes.” They were the clothes we wore most often.

In somewhat the same sense, the wisdom of the book of Proverbs is an “everyday wisdom.” It is not wisdom only for special occasions or unique situations. Rather, it is wisdom that works in everyday life.

Trust the LORD, He is involved in our daily lives and plans.

Hard work brings success, laziness invites poverty.

Words are important, be careful what you say.

Watch out for pride, be humble and quick to take advice.

Parenting is important, do it well.

Adultery and sexual sin will destroy your life if you let them entice you.

Be careful who you let influence your life.

How you live with your neighbors is important, treat them with respect.

One’s inner life (one’s heart) is of great importance, watch over it.

Friends and family are important to us.

Plan and save, don’t borrow and loan.

Riches are not as important as they might seem.

Be generous and kind to the poor and those less fortunate than you.

Notice how practical these everyday ideas are? That is why ignoring wisdom from God’s Word and making decisions about everyday life based on the world’s values is so dangerous. Once we make a choice, we belong to the consequences of those choices. There are no “do over’s” in everyday life.

That is not to say that the Lord does not forgive and redeem. He will always receive us if we turn to Him. We can bring our broken lives to Him and find a new start. BUT, the consequences of our decisions live on, even after forgiveness and grace.   How much better to LISTEN to God’s wisdom and make good choices in everyday life.   “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.” (Proverbs 3:1-2)


April 26, 2015

Friday afternoon there was a wedding in our church building. A young couple from China asked me to marry them and I told them they could use our church building if they wanted to get married here. They did have the wedding here and the reception was here too.

Since I officiated at the wedding (much more of an honor in the Chinese community than in American weddings) I stayed for the meal. (In the spirit of full disclosure, the food was exceptionally great!) After the meal, the group did a lot of things focused on the new bride and groom. (This was a very “Chinese wedding” thing to do.) One part of the activities after the meal was a slide show of the couple followed by the groom singing a song to his new bride.  Although it was all in Chinese (and I did not understand much of what was said) I could tell that part of the slide show was Qing (the groom) asking Mingyi to marry him. He was pictured down on one knee, looking up at Mingyi and the next picture showed Qing jumping in the air with his arms raised in triumph and joy. Obviously Mingyi said “YES.”

Reading Ruth chapter 3 and thinking about what I should say about this chapter, “asking” is at the center of what happened.   Naomi leads Ruth to make a very elaborate “ask.” But asking is not just in the book of Ruth, it is all over the scripture. Yes, at times God acts on His own initiative and according to His intention. But, there are also MANY times when His people ask – just read the Psalms (Israel’s prayer and hymn book).

Jesus left us no doubt about the validity of asking. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8). Paul said “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). James said “You do not have, because you do not ask God” (James 4:3). Hebrews says “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb 4:16).

Some of us might be shy to ask, but the Bible’s invitation to approach God and ask for what we need is clear. Is our request too small for God’s interest? NO, not because our requests are all that important compared to the running of the universe, but because of God’s GRACE. His grace invites us to ASK.

How comfortable are you in asking God? He has opened the door for us, will we respond to His invitation?

Were You There?

April 5, 2015

A popular Easter song is the old Negro spiritual, “Were You There?” Have you ever wondered about its meaning?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed Him to the tree?

Were you there when they laid Him in the tomb?

Were you there when He rose up from the grave?

In answer to that question, one could say, “It all happened a long time ago, how could I have been there?” But, there is good – biblical – logic in saying, “Yes, I was there.”

First we were all there, because the reason for Jesus’ death was our sin. Not just the sins of the “world” (some unknown quantity of unknown people), but MY SINS. MY SINS put Jesus on the cross. MY SINS caused His suffering. MY SINS required a payment – a propitiation – before God. The death of Jesus was all about MY SIN. Yes, I was there.

Secondly, we should say we were there because we have eye witness accounts of the events. In the Bible we can read exactly what happened and know what took place. In fact, because we have them recorded in God’s Word, we know more about Jesus’ death and resurrection than those living in Jerusalem during those days. Out of the tens of thousands of people in Jerusalem during that Passover, only a small number actually saw what happened with their own eyes. Only a few took part. Most people were totally oblivious to Jesus’ death even though it occurred just a few miles away. Today, we have a better and more complete picture of those events than even the disciples with Jesus (after all, they were hiding away in fear). Yes, we were there, God’s Word takes us there and gives us a front row seat to all that happened.

Were you there? The biblical answer is “YES.” You were there, but you can choose not to believe it. You can turn your back on what Jesus did and pretend it is all fiction. But, if you do that, you will miss out on life’s greatest gift and the reason for His suffering will be lost in your unbelief.

These last four Sundays I have challenged us to take a “front row seat” to the Easter events. We would feel the disciples intimidation and danger. We would watch the religious leaders try to hold on to their power and their nation (even though they eventually lost it all). We would see Pilot discover that the Father is actually the One in control and because of that Jesus lays down His life. Yes, we were there. Easter is not just about the past, it is about us today! Let it change our lives just like it changed the lives of those first witnesses.

Is Jesus Really King?

March 29, 2015

Through the years I have preached many Palm Sunday sermons. One that I remember quite well was my first Palm Sunday message. I titled it, “Is Jesus Really King?” (I remember it because it was the first message I preached at First Baptist Church in Devils Lake, ND.) Since that time, I have taken that theme many times because I think it captures much of the emotion of Jesus’ Triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before His crucifixion. In fact, I think Jesus’ disciples were asking that very question as they watched the Palm Sunday events unfold.

The short answer to my homiletic question is, YES, Jesus really is King! The crowd used those words, “King of Israel,” “Son of David.” They shouted and waved their hands in joy and praise. They also put their cloaks, branches and Palm leaves on the ground for Jesus to walk on.

Jesus also accepted their praise and encouraged it. He rode a colt through the crowd for all to see (much like a famous person would ride in a limacine today).   When some criticized His acceptance of this praise, Jesus declared that if the crowd was quiet, “the rocks would cry out” (Luke 19:40). Many times in Jesus’ ministry and miracles, He told people to be quiet about what they saw. This time, He encouraged and promoted the praise.

YES, Jesus really is King! There is no clearer message in what happened on Palm Sunday.

BUT, the rest of the story seems to call Jesus’ royalty into question. He is betrayed, arrested, falsely accused and then condemned to execution, all with His complete knowledge and acceptance. Just days after His “coronation,” He hangs on a cross, executed because He accepted the recognition as King. Yes, Jesus really is King, BUT He is King of a different Kingdom (just as He told Pilate in John 18:36).

It is still very easy to misunderstand Jesus’ Kingship. Just like the Jews, our problem begins when we assume we know what kind of King Jesus should be. We make up our minds that Jesus should fill a certain role and then we ignore the things He does that do not fit the role we imagine for Him. The Jews did it in the 1st century and we still do it today. Jesus was NOT always nice. Jesus turned people away. Jesus confronted the most religious people He met. Jesus did not coddle His disciples but put them into difficult situations.

This week, the week leading up to Easter, will you lay down your image of Jesus and ask Him to reveal Himself to you in fresh ways? Will you read His story from the gospels and let yourself see things that you have ignored before? Will you give Him authority in your life to shape and mold you into something that is HIS image, not yours? Ask yourself this week, is Jesus really King?

Friendship or Fellowship

March 15, 2015

Lately, I have been thinking about the difference between friendship and fellowship. In many ways, I suspect we often think of them as the same. I am not so sure that is a good connection to make.

When I think of my friendships I think of the people I met and enjoyed their company at pivotal times in my life. As a young boy I had friends. Some of them are still my friends today. When I started graduate school in Denver, Karon and I developed friendships with a few other couples in similar stages of life and with similar responsibilities. In our first pastorate in Devils Lake, with new babies added to our family, once again Karon and I found friends in similar stages of life. It seems like friendship is a combination of personal connections, common life situations, and shared experiences. I am not sure that friendship can be created. It can be discovered, it can be cultivated and it certainly can be lost, but I do not think we can be commanded to make a friend of a certain person. In fact, the more I think about it, the more good friendships are like gifts from God. They are more rare than we might like and very precious when we have them.   Since we are on the subject, is there a friendship that you need to cultivate, appreciate, and encourage in your life right now?

How about fellowship?

When I think of fellowship my first thought is the meaning of the Greek word we usually translate as fellowship. That word might more accurately be translated as partnership. In fact, in Philippians 1:5 the NIV does use partnership as its English translation.

When we read the New Testament we see that fellowship is a reality of life in the church. Fellowship with the Spirit brings us into fellowship with each other (see Acts 2:42; Philippians 2; I John 1:3, 7). It is not optional nor situational. We who believe are partners because of our common bond in Jesus. Being connected to Jesus means I am connected to others who are connected to Jesus.

If I contrast partnership and friendship I notice right away that fellowship is much broader and less personal. We can have fellowship, without friendship. The demands of friendship are more personal, the demands of fellowship are more godly. Fellowship will not happen without godly love, forgiveness, grace and compassion. Yes, those are part of friendship too, but they tend to happen more naturally and with less discipline. Fellowship requires choice, commitment, selflessness, and respect. All of these we give because of JESUS, not because our partner deserves it. Fellowship is a choice we make, friendship is a gift we receive.

These are my thoughts…what do you think about friendship and fellowship?

Asking For Money

February 15, 2015

A few years ago there was a frequent and popular criticism of the church, namely, that the church was always asking for money. In response to that criticism, some churches scaled back the offering. They decided not to pass the offering plate during worship services, but instead, to put an offering box of some kind in the church building and encourage only members and regular attenders to give. I can understand that response to criticism.

Here at TBC, we did it differently. We decided long ago (about 15 years ago) that we will ground our offering in the teaching from the Bible. Each Sunday, before the offering, we would read a passage in the Bible that teaches the importance of giving. In fact, we would emphasize that giving is a very important part of worship. We did this, not to get more money, but because it was the biblical thing to do.

Our informal theme verse for this is II Corinthians 9:6-8. Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

Cheerful, faithful, generous, sacrificial giving is very good for us and very honoring to God. It is one of the ways we put our faith into action and discover that God really does give us what we need to abound in every good work (the good works He wants us to do). Giving is NOT a way to get something from our Heavenly Father, but it is a way to say, “we LOVE You.” It is a way to say, “we TRUST You.” It is a way to say, “We want Your Kingdom to come, Your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

It is my observation from I Corinthians that this attitude about giving has been a part of the church since its very beginning. We give, not so that others will see and praise us, but so that we can put our love for God into action. We give because the Father first loved us. We give because we love one another. We give because we are challenged to “lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven.” We give because the Father gave us His Son to be our Savior.

As we think about giving today, can you see how giving has grown in your life? No, do not compare with others. Do not think about the amount of your giving. Instead look into your heart. Do you see cheerful, generous giving there? Can you look back on your life and notice how God has taught you about giving? What is the next step for you in this important part of your spiritual life? What needs is God calling you to meet? Where can you be more generous?

Your pastor,

Dude Garrett

Good Business or Selfishness

February 1, 2015

Today is Super Bowl XLIX (that is 49 for us who are not familiar with Roman numerals). Some of us are old enough to remember the first Super Bowl (I remember it because I grew up in Kansas and the Kansas City Chiefs played in the first Super Bowl (I won’t talk about who they played or who won).   That was also back when the NFL and the AFL were leagues competing with each other, rather than conferences under one league as they are today. Things have changed a lot in the last 49 years.

You might remember that a few years ago, the NFL stopped churches and other groups from showing the televised Super Bowl to groups on its premises. It was a copyrighted telecast and the NFL wanted control and revenue (money) from its use. In more recent years, the NFL has become even more strict in licensing the use of the name “Super Bowl.” In fact, few businesses are permitted to use the name and those who use it illegally often face charges and fines.

Roger N. Behle Jr., an intellectual property lawyer, said the NFL’s monitoring is about maximizing revenue. “They do have a right to police it. They spent a lot of money to build the brand up, make it profitable and not have any Tom, Dick and Harry use the marks.” Behle has worked on licensing deals with the NFL and other major sports leagues.

According to another advertizing lawyer in New York, Jeff Greenbaum, the NFL’s strict enforcement of their trademarked name “is to create enough concern among marketers that they’re afraid to even get close to the line.”

It seems to me that the NFL has decided to use it huge resources (both popularity and money) to defend its right to make as much money as legally possible and to prevent others from piggybacking on their success. While I do not condemn them for trying to make money, I do call into question their efforts to prevent others from sharing in their success.

Does it diminish the NFL’s success if others share in it? It think not. In fact, I would suggest that if the NFL would be glad to share their success, it would benefit all involved. That is the principle of generosity. If I share my success, it becomes even more successful. If I hoard my success, one day it may be gone.

The Super Bowl is BIG business. And while I do not begrudge its success, I would call into question its apparent selfishness. As we watch and cheer the game, let us not be blind to the realities of life. Proverbs 18:1 says, “An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends; he defies all sound judgment.” Be careful NFL, for a business dependent on its fan base, you may one day wish you were more generous.

Your pastor,

Dude Garrett

First Things First

January 25, 2015

We have all heard the expression, “first things first.” I think it is a good guide about many matters in life. Like many good modern proverbs, it is short, sweet and its turn of the phrase makes it easy to remember. Had Paul lived in our time and culture, he probably would have said this in I Cor 15:3. It might have come out something like this, “Friends, as I close my letter, let me remind you to keep first things first in your faith.”

Our Christian faith speaks to many important issues in life. This might be a surprise to some because Christianity is about 2,000 years old. [In fact its roots in Judaism go back at least another 2,000 years.] Christianity has had a major role in shaping our lives today. Many of the things we take for granted in modern life are rooted in Christianity. Scientific discoveries, public and higher education, modern democracy, the abolishment of slavery, fair labor practices, and many other social and political principles are born out of a Christian world view and the values upon which that is founded.

I am proud to be a Christian and to know that the faith I value so highly is honorable and praiseworthy. BUT, if we are not careful, our Christian faith will become a reason and a guide for doing good and we can forget to put first things first.

What is the first thing about Christian faith? Paul tells us, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared (to many alive).” (I Cor 15:3-4) Our Christian faith is about many good things, but FIRST of all, it is about Jesus Christ’s death on the cross for our sins. His death atoned for our sins, paying our debt before God so that we could be forgiven and brought back into a right relationship with God. AND, that Jesus did not stay dead, He rose from the dead, alive again and promising that one day we too will share in His resurrection.

We must never let many good things overshadow that most important thing, Jesus’ death and resurrection. Without this foundation, Christianity is just another religion or philosophy. It is this foundation that gives each of us personal hope. It is this foundation that declares death is NOT the end. It is this foundation that promises whatever we do for our Lord Jesus, will never be forgotten. It is this foundation that has given believers the strength to stand against tyranny, persecution, and evil knowing that in the end, the Lord Jesus will reign.

These are wise words, “put first things first.” But like many wise words, they are easy to say, but difficult to do. I need to ask, what are my most important things? Is my faith about doing good things, or about what Jesus has done for me?

Your pastor,

Dude Garrett

Sanctity and Sin

January 18, 2015

Today is our recognition of the Sanctity of Human Life. Although we do not focus very much on special emphases for the Sundays of the year, this is one that I have followed for a long time. Those who are regular attendees of our church know that most years, I preach a message that focuses on the Sanctity of Life and its biblical foundation.   Today I will do that again and even the music will follow that same theme. It is my prayer that this emphasis will help us fight the trend in our world to devalue life and miss the wonder of being God’s special creation, “made in His image.”

As I work on this message, I am struck by the affect of sin on the sanctity of life. It is not a correlation I have considered before. Yes, I know we are all sinners and that our sin has separated us from God and His holiness, but I am more attentive today to the fact that sin keeps us from accepting the wonder and beauty of our simple daily lives.

When we sin, it pushes us away from God and when we reject God, we lose the reason for seeing life as wonderful and special. Sin makes us think that life is what we make it, rather than a gift from our Creator. Sin convinces us that some lives are not worth as much as others and even that our lives may not be worth enough to keep on living. My sinfulness pushes God out of my life and when He is kicked out, I loose all reason to see life as valuable, significant and worth living.

However, when I repent of my sin, turn back to my Creator, I discover that life is valuable just because it is a gift from God. He is the author of life and when I give Him His rightful place of authority, I can receive His gift of life in its beauty and simplicity. The wonder of being God’s child is far reaching. It makes each day special. It gives me worth without the baggage of accomplish, peer pressure, wealth and even happiness. Even something as simple as happiness is tied to what I’ve done, what I have, or what I want. All of those are centered around ME, my sinful self-centeredness. When I release that sinfulness to the Savior, in return He gives me the simple job of just being His child. That relationship of trust brings our Creator great glory and brings us great satisfaction.   I love John Piper’s insight, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

Psalm 8 says that God “made man a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” If we can believe that, it gives each one of us a reason to experience the joy and wonder of the Sanctity of Human Life. We need to turn away from our sin and receive the great gift of God, LIFE. Will you turn your face to the Creator and receive that gift?


Your pastor,

Dude Garrett