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Posts by: exoduspodcasts

Here’s to Eight Years of Lending with Kiva

Here’s to Eight Years of Lending with Kiva

We live at a time when the connectedness of the world brings us a daily deluge of difficult news from all over the world. Thankfully, the same technologies that introduce us to so much hardship also allow us to tangibly respond through a global movement that makes financing available to those most in need.

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Is Answered Prayer an Indication of God’s Will?

Is Answered Prayer an Indication of God’s Will?

We often think we can discern God’s will from the circumstances in our life. An answered prayer seems like a definite green light to go a certain direction. But can we rely on what we believe to be an answered prayer as an indication of God’s will for our life? Have you ever experienced a situation where you believed God answered a prayer, you went down that path, and things didn’t work out?

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Lot’s More on Discerning God’s Will

Lot’s More on Discerning God’s Will

In my previous blog post, I mentioned that I am going to be posting some of the sermons that I’ve taught as part of the teaching team at NewSong Church. While these sermons aren’t quite as interactive as our podcasts from the Interactive Forum, we do allow a time for Q&A at the end of many of our sermons, so you’ll still get a chance to hear the interactions we’ve had with those who are part of the congregation.

The first series we are posting is my most recent on Discerning God’s Will. Many who are familiar with our podcasts will recognize this as one of our most popular podcasts from the Interactive Forum, and we frequently hear from our online listeners about this topic.

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2015: A Look Ahead

2015: A Look Ahead

This past fall, we posted the last of our Exodus Podcasts, concluding with The Final Series. But we know that many of you are still discovering the podcasts for the first time, or continuing to listen along to series you’ve missed. It’s my hope that we can continue to update the blog with new posts that relate back to the many podcast topics we’ve covered, and we’re going to be posting some of my recent sermons at NewSong Church for those who’ve wondered if we had any more content to post.

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God’s Will Amensia

God’s Will Amensia

If there was such a thing as theological amnesia, it would be caused by any discussion about God’s will. Without fail, I find myself repeatedly in conversations about how to find God’s will – often with the same people I’ve already had the discussion with before.

Most of the time, the problems we have with finding God’s will stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of how we seek out His will.

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Other People’s Money

Other People’s Money

One ever-present element in the Christian culture is a fundraiser for a worthy cause. It might be a building initiative, a mission trip, the construction of a water well or raising scholarships to send kids to camp. Setting aside the fact that it is sacrificial giving that is taught in the scriptures, not fundraising, the practice of fundraising has several downsides.

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Opiate of the People

Opiate of the People

Spending time in Russia inevitably leads me to think about the communist system, especially when you see how quickly it was replaced with a Russian form of capitalism after the fall of the Soviet Union. Karl Marx famously proclaimed that “religion is the opiate of the masses,” but it seems that he may have missed the fact that material possessions are the strongest opiate of all.

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From Russia With Love

From Russia With Love

I spent the morning worshiping alongside Russian brothers and sisters at St. Petersburg Christian University at a time when relations between Russia and the West seem to be growing more tense every day. During the worship service, I was struck with the reality of how and why it is that Jesus Christ alone can bring peace to this world, both now and in the world to come.

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Lead Us Not Into Temptation

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

One more than one occasion, I’ve had the chance to teach on the Lord’s Prayer. Each time I got to the line “and lead us not into temptation,” I struggled with how to best explain this petition from the prayer. I knew there was a deep insight that lay just underneath these words, but I needed to experience these words a deeper level, to not only understand them in my mind, but in my heart as well. A month after I last taught on this petition, I found myself fervently praying these same words, but this time appreciating this line of the prayer at a level I had not previously grasped.

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Everything Happens for a Reason

Everything Happens for a Reason

Here is a verse that is not in the Bible: “Everything happens for a reason.” While the statement is logically true – everything does happen for some reason – the phrase itself is useless. It does not tell us what that reason is, nor does it tell us whether the reason is intended, accidental or naturally occurring. Saying that everything happens for a reason is no more informative than saying that something did or did not happen. The statement is always true, and yields nothing insightful.

Why are we so quick to write off real issues with trite phrases?

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The Final Series

The Final Series

After nine years of ministry, we invite you to listen in as we conclude with our Final Series. Join us for a behind-the-scenes look at what it took to put on the Interactive Forum every Sunday night, along with a celebration of what God accomplished through our time together. If you’ve been part of the Exodus community in person or online, or if you are just checking out Exodus for the first time, we invite you to listen in and learn more about what it took to present this unique ministry for close to a decade. We hope it will give you greater insight and appreciation into the podcasts that we’ve left behind as our contribution to the glory of God’s kingdom.

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Flying High

Flying High

Many of us lament the outright hostility to faith that has become its own institutionalized religion in secular universities, but how is it that so many students at Christian universities experience the same loss of faith, especially while they are still at school? Perhaps it comes from the temptation of so many Christian professors to deconstruct students in order to break down what they consider elementary or fundamentalist beliefs, with the goal of replacing those beliefs with more mature formulations of our faith. While deconstruction is a good first step to a more mature understanding, deconstruction by itself is sinful and abusive unless we are committed to reconstruct those with whom we interact.

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An Unfinished Life

An Unfinished Life

We naturally consider the end of our life to be the conclusion of our life’s work. But I wonder what God could accomplish through us if we saw our life’s work as something that could only be completed by the Lord after we had departed this life. What if we were intentional about building our life’s work so that it had to be completed by someone else, such that without God’s involvement, it would not come to fruition? What if we trusted that God would inspire others that came along after us to bring about the culmination of what we began?

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Pruned by the Gardener

Pruned by the Gardener

In John 15, Jesus teaches that “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.” (v. 1) He goes on to tell the disciples that “you are the branches,” and the Father “cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes.” (v. 2) We often focus our attention on the part of Jesus’ teaching that relates to remaining in him, so that we can bear fruit and avoid being cut off. But we ignore the fact that Jesus said that even branches that bear fruit will be pruned. How does the Lord prune those who bear fruit so that we bear even more fruit?

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We Are A Medieval Church Again

We Are A Medieval Church Again

It was Martin Luther, the great reformer, who said that printing was God’s “highest and extremest act of grace.” After all, the printing press finally allowed widespread access to the scriptures, giving fuel to the Reformation along the way. But in our time, when every translation of the scriptures travels with us on our phones and tablets, are we any more Biblically literate than our medieval counterparts? We are in danger of becoming the medieval church all over again, where the clergy are the only ones that read and interpret the scripture for us. No wonder our understanding of key doctrines is commonly distorted, and our teaching reduced to pithy statements and superstitious sayings.

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Hearing God’s Voice Through Deliberation – Part 2

Hearing God’s Voice Through Deliberation – Part 2

While Christians are keenly interested in hearing from God, our churches are structured in a way that misses one of the key ways in which God speaks: the deliberation of the body. Can churches practically engage in deliberation? After all, our church services — especially at our “successful” churches – have grown to a size where this type of interaction is unwieldy. But if we want to open up another avenue of hearing from God that we have long ignored, maybe we should stop questioning how we can practice deliberation in large groups, and start questioning the size of our groups.

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Hearing God’s Voice Through Deliberation – Part 1

Hearing God’s Voice Through Deliberation – Part 1

One of the subjects that always seems to find prominent space on the shelves of Christian bookstores is the subject of hearing from God. Many of you know that Exodus was founded in large part on a belief that God speaks to us all, but that our churches are structured in a way that misses one of the key ways in which God speaks: the deliberation of the body. From the birth of the early church, we see the apostles routinely deliberating together as a means of hearing from God. So here is an audacious claim: when you listen to the interaction which we recorded in our podcasts, you may be listening to the voice of the Spirit, manifested in the deliberation of the body.

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Growing in Hospitality – Part 2

Growing in Hospitality – Part 2

In my last post, I highlighted the discomfort that Americans have with hospitality, and gave the first part of a response to those who wonder why hospitality should be an important part of the Christian life. For example, we often miss the emphasis of Jesus’ teachings because of our lack of familiarity with the practices of hospitality. Yet, despite their unfamiliarity or discomfort with the centuries-old customs of hospitality, Americans remain the most generous people in the amount of dollars contributed to causes outside of themselves. Why is it that those who are so generous and possess such a desire to help others are so uncomfortable expressing hospitality? In this post, we examine the obstacles created by privacy and our discomfort with receiving as possible explanations to resolve this seeming contradiction.

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Growing in Hospitality – Part 1

Growing in Hospitality – Part 1

One stark observation made in our series on “Recovering Christian Hospitality” is that Americans, by and large, are uncomfortable with hospitality. In response, one of the most frequent comments we get from people who have wondered about whether to engage the series is, “What is so important about hospitality?” Because most of us have never heard a sermon about hospitality, we’re often skeptical that this practice could be a priority for us as Christians. But many of the key teachings of Jesus were placed in the context of hospitality. Even more importantly, the practice of Eastern hospitality was central to the spread of the Gospel throughout the Roman Empire, and it might be that our own awkwardness in practicing hospitality in the West is part of the reason we are encountering so much difficulty engaging others with the Gospel today.

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(Another) Eyewitness Testimony

(Another) Eyewitness Testimony

Recently, Christianity Today published the testimony of Kristen Powers, a contributor to USA Today, a columnist for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and a Democratic commentator for Fox News. She describes her transition from a person who doubted God, and was repelled by Christians, to one who personally encountered the Lord Jesus. The article also touches on her surprising encounters with Christians, and how those brought her closer to faith. The testimony is well worth the time to read, providing compelling evidence to the truth of Jesus Christ in a way that our series — by themselves — cannot.

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Eyewitness Testimony

Eyewitness Testimony

I am the first to state that we are often much better about talking about Jesus, rather than testifying to His very real action in our lives. Because of the importance of hearing directly from those who personally experience the work of Jesus in their lives, there is a rich tradition of Christians sharing their testimony with one another. It is meant to encourage one another, and it is born out of the Acts tradition of providing eyewitness testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ. While we have repeatedly relied upon and studied many “experts” in order to develop the teaching series we presented in our interactive forum, it is best to remember that the testimonies of the people who witness the activity of Christ in their life speak volumes to those who are weighing the evidence for Jesus Christ. It is in that spirit that I recently came across a few testimonies that I thought were worth passing along.

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Size Matters: Sunday Assembly Branches Out

Size Matters: Sunday Assembly Branches Out

Often times the reason we give for expanding our ministries to galactic proportions is that we are doing it for God. But what if we discovered that our Western mindset pushes us to expand our footprint in the world — even when we have no belief in God? Observing atheists gathering together allows us to examine how a group of people who profess no belief in God behave following the successful launch of their first church plant, and sheds light on how closely our behavior mirrors theirs.

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Taking Your Faith Private

Taking Your Faith Private

While many churches teach from popular evangelism series such as “Going Public With Your Faith,” the reality is that many Christians are feeling an increasing societal pressure to keep their faith to themselves. Court decisions, employment policies and cues from the culture are making it more difficult to speak openly about our beliefs. What is behind the stigma against Christianity? How does this stigma, coupled with other societal factors, lead to increased restriction of religious freedom? Who is behind this effort, why are these measures gaining ground, and how should Christians respond?

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Who Is My Neighbor?

Who Is My Neighbor?

The question of “who is my neighbor” is a familiar one from Jesus’ interaction with the teacher of the law in Luke 10. It leads us to recognize that if we are to be obedient to Christ and love our neighbor as ourselves, everyone is our neighbor, even those whom we would normally regard as enemies.

But what about our actual neighbors? Do our actual neighbors qualify as “neighbors?”

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PowerPoint Updates

PowerPoint Updates

Over the years, we’ve received repeated requests from our online listeners for access to the PowerPoint slides that accompany each of our podcasts, and many times we have emailed them directly to those who were looking to use them. One of the great features built into the redesigned site is the ability to add these slides as part of each series. Now that the new site is live, we are gradually uploading the slides for each of our podcasts. So far, we’ve uploaded slides for each of the following series:

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Our New Website is Live!

Our New Website is Live!

We’ve been working for several months behind the scenes on a new website, and if you’re reading this, then you’ve found it. In addition to a fresh look for the site, we’ve added a number of features which we will increasingly use in the months to come. Whether you have journeyed along with us for many years, or just discovered ExodusPodcasts, we hope that you take the time to engage these podcasts. Please share them with others who might benefit from them, and take the time to write to us to let us know about how these podcasts have impacted you.

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The New Babel

The New Babel

There has never been a greater congregator of people than the Internet. It is fair to say we have scarcely begun to appreciate its impact on humanity. Yet in some ways, the Tower of Babel still casts a long shadow over the manner in which we live our lives in these digital collectives. We couldn’t possibly list the vast number of changes that have come about as a result of this unprecedented means of communing together, nor list all the potential downsides that have accompanied it. But there is at least one danger that is worth singling out, and that is the tendency to justify (and often celebrate) sinful behavior in the online collectives to which we belong.

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Do All Children Go To Heaven?

Do All Children Go To Heaven?

One of the most difficult questions to address is the one regarding the salvation of young children and infants. In Part 7 of our Questions About Salvation series, we urged humility and honesty, and said that the most humble and honest response is that we don’t know for certain how God will deal with infants and those who do not appear able to put their faith in Christ. The Bible is silent on the point, and we have to recognize that many of our formulations are seeking to fill a void that is outside of God’s revelation to us. Yet even in the absence of solid direction from the scriptures, we can confidently say that we know the character of God, placing our faith in God’s love, mercy and grace.

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What Does Transformation Look Like?

What Does Transformation Look Like?

Author and pastor Drew Dyck recently put into words a dilemma we have all observed, but have rarely stated so eloquently:

“How is it possible for someone to go to church year after year, listen to great sermons, read the Bible, absorb Christian classics, find ways to serve, and even attend ministry conferences — and change very little. Strange question, I know, but not hypothetical. I ask it with someone specific in mind, someone whose minimal spiritual progress I’ve watched with mounting frustration. That person is me.” . . .

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Plagiarizing God

Plagiarizing God

I was recently listening to the keynote address at a large conference. The speaker was really enthusiastic about our collective obligation to help the “least of these,” urging those of us who had been given so much to be responsible to give back even more.

But I can guarantee that no matter how many conferences you’ve been to, you’ve never been to the type of conference I am talking about. This wasn’t a church growth conference. It wasn’t a missions conference. In fact, it wasn’t a Christian conference at all. It was a conference of 1500 lawyers . . .

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Questions About Salvation

Questions About Salvation

Explaining salvation to someone seems as easy as reciting John 3:16 — until you read all the other verses about salvation and try to fit them all together. If salvation was such an easy concept to understand, the church would not have inherited five centuries of debate about the nature of God’s action in salvation and whether humanity needs to respond. And while we all want salvation to be simple enough to fit on a bumper sticker, many committed Christians who take the time to read all the verses on salvation find that there’s more to God’s majestic plan of salvation than the sinner’s prayer.

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Giving to Church vs. Giving to Non-Profits – Part 3

Giving to Church vs. Giving to Non-Profits – Part 3

One view that is commonly shared among those skeptical of giving to the church is the belief that the church cannot utilize our giving as effectively as a non-profit organization. We’ve all heard these concerns, and some of us agree with them. You might hear someone ask, Isn’t the church mainly using the money to pay for buildings and salaries? Or you might wonder, Will anyone outside the church benefit from the gift that I am giving?

There was a time when I was tempted to view those who worked full time in ministry as living off the rest of us who had “real jobs.” As a result of unexamined pride, I challenged myself to make . . .

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Giving to Church vs. Giving to Non-Profits – Part 2

Giving to Church vs. Giving to Non-Profits – Part 2

In Part 1 of this blog post, I stated that it was my belief that giving to/through the church should be our primary means of giving. I pointed out that Acts 4:34 describes those who sold property laying the proceeds at the apostles feet. And I stated that this served as a model for our giving that is rarely articulated by the church.

The struggle many of us have is that we wonder whether our gift would be properly used if we laid it at the apostles’ (the church’s) feet. But for now, we need to ask the deeper question: Why is our skepticism limiting our generosity and preventing us from simply laying our gift at the apostles’ feet in obedience . . .

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Giving to Church vs. Giving to Non-Profits – Part 1

Giving to Church vs. Giving to Non-Profits – Part 1

Whenever we’ve discussed stewardship, generosity or giving, one question is sure to come up: How much of our giving should go to the church vs. a non-profit organization? Given the way that non-profits target very tangible needs, the proliferation in the number of non-profits, and the growing skepticism of the church as an institution, it’s no wonder the question keeps coming up.

I am not taking the position that there is anything wrong with giving to a non-profit. My wife and I do it regularly and we give to several different organizations. But the person asking me the question is not really looking for my opinion about whether it is acceptable to give outside the church. Instead, . . .

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Rediscovering Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew – Volume 4

Rediscovering Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew – Volume 4

Our audio commentary on the Book of Matthew continues. In Volume 4, we continue from Chapter 18. (For Volume 1, covering Chapters 3-7, click here; for Volume 2, covering Chapters 8-12, click here, for Volume 3, covering Chapters 13-18, click here.) As Christians, we often spend much of our time talking about the Bible, or talking about Jesus, without spending much time reading the words of Scripture itself. In this series, we go back to the actual text of the Gospel of Matthew and soak up each chapter, line by line, as we encounter Jesus all over again. Our goal is to rediscover passages we have forgotten, struggle with some of the more difficult teachings of Jesus, and compare what many of us think Jesus said with what He actually said.

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Atheists Meet Together in London “Church”

Atheists Meet Together in London “Church”

What does it say that atheists in London have formed their own “church”?

Several news outlets have recently featured stories about Sunday Assembly, a “church” comprised of atheists who meet each Sunday in a deconsecrated London church. According to one report from the Spring 2013 volume of Leadership Journal, “it looks a lot like Christian churches around the corner — just without God” and features a welcome, announcements, a message brought by a guest speaker, readings, and of course, the congregation singing to hit songs by Queen and Stevie Wonder. . . .

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The Power of the Holy Spirit

The Power of the Holy Spirit

Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would indwell every believer, giving us access to the very power of God to live as His disciples on earth. Why then does it seem that we are mostly getting by on our own power, and relying on our own abilities to live out the Christian life? Why is the church comprised mostly of human-sized efforts that rarely manifest the truly awe-inspiring work of God? As A. W. Tozer famously observed, if the Holy Spirit were taken away from today’s church, only 10% of what it does would cease. How did we get to a point where the book of Acts seems so distant from our every day experience? Why has the Holy Spirit been “forgotten,” and why do we know so little about the Third Person of the Trinity? In this series, we examine Who the Holy Spirit is, read Jesus’ own exhortation to His disciples about the Spirit, and rediscover the significant roles that are attributed to the Spirit in the New Testament.

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Christian Views On Hell

Christian Views On Hell

Many Christians today are ashamed of the doctrine of hell, while both believers and non-believers are downright troubled by it. But it turns out that it was Jesus who spoke most often about hell. Today, it has become scandalous to believe in hell, or even to preach the gospel in a way so that others can avoid hell. In this series, we examine the various Christian doctrines about hell: (1) the Traditional view of conscious, eternal torment; (2) the view of Christian Universalists, who believe that the salvation that Jesus offers is so all-encompassing that everyone will eventually be saved; and (3) the views of Annihilationists, who believe that hell will eventually result in destruction of those in hell, rather than their eternal torment.

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Identifying Idols In Our Lives

Identifying Idols In Our Lives

Is there anything you love more than God? Our immediate reaction is to say no, but the truth is that many things compete with the worship that should only be given to God. In this series we examine the subject of modern-day idols such as money, material possessions, relationships, romance, success, individualism, choice, and instant gratification. We ask deep questions intended to help examine the condition of our hearts and to discover where it is that we struggle with subtle idolatry.

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Troubling Images of God in the Old Testament

Troubling Images of God in the Old Testament

We often stop dead in our tracks when we read certain difficult passages in the Old Testament, then quickly move on without taking the time to develop a framework for how to think about these passages. Why does God at times seem so violent? Where is the grace and mercy that appears to be more central in the New Testament? Why was Israel commanded to follow seemingly arbitrary laws, and why was the punishment so severe for violating God’s ordinances? Why did God appear to allow Israel to continue to practice polygamy and slavery? What do we make of all the passages that depict God as ordering the destruction of men, women and children in Israel’s wars against the Canaanites?

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Recovering Christian Hospitality

Recovering Christian Hospitality

By and large, Americans are among the least hospitable cultures in the world. Anyone visiting a foreign country is immediately struck by how hospitable people are in other places. And yet hospitality was so central to Christians throughout the centuries that it has been credited as the reason the gospel spread so quickly. Moreover, so many of the stories in the scriptures — including many of Jesus’ teachings — are built around an assumption that hospitality was known and would be practiced by His followers.

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The Purpose of the Local Church

The Purpose of the Local Church

Forget about getting ring-side seats to a UFC or WWF championship match. If you want to see a real wrestling match break out, try convincing a group of young adults that they should attend a local church. After all, if every Christian is part of the universal church, what’s the point in being committed to a local church body? Are Christians really worse off if they are not involved in a church? Couldn’t a group of Christians just get together to hang out and call that a church?

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Hearing God

Hearing God

Christians often talk about a God who still speaks to us today but, if we are honest with ourselves, many of us have struggled with not hearing from God. If God does speak to us, how do we hear from Him? For what purposes does God speak? Can we have a conversational relationship with God? Have we placed too much emphasis on “hearing God in our hearts,” and not enough on hearing God in Scripture?

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Letter to the Ephesians

Letter to the Ephesians

Have you ever read the book of Ephesians? We decided to do that, line by line. Let’s face it: we have a tendency to skip around Paul’s letters and look for the verses that support our position or that answer our question, without reading the entire letter as a letter. We get lost in Paul’s lofty theological statements or his grand descriptions of God. Maybe it’s the way we quietly disagree with Paul’s ethical teaching. Most often, we just skim the sections that we don’t quite understand and ignore many of the passages we don’t agree with.

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How Should Christians Relate to Culture and Society?

How Should Christians Relate to Culture and Society?

Many Christians would agree that the church should be focused on proclaiming the gospel, caring for the needs of the community, interceding in prayer, worshipping God, and so on. But should the church also engage the society at large? Should the church be involved in advocating for certain legislation or opposing certain practices? Can the church transform culture, or is culture more often transforming the church? If we do become involved, should we address a wide array of issues or should we limit our involvement to exceptional circumstances? What methods should we utilize, and which ones do more harm than good?

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The Origin of the Bible

The Origin of the Bible

Many of us hold the Bible as the ultimate authority, but how much do we really know about how this book came to be in our hands? Even skeptics who regularly dismiss the Bible seem remarkably uninformed when it comes to the facts supporting the transmission of the Old and New Testament. How do we know that the Bible has been copied accurately over such a long period of time? Who decided what books to include, and which to exclude? How do we know that the text has not been changed since we don’t have any of the original manuscripts?

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Sad News from World Vision

We received this email last night.   I thought I’d pass it on.  It hit me pretty hard getting this news literally 30 minutes after our discussion about what true Discipleship costs. —— Dear Partner, It is with a heavy heart…

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Examining Evangelism

Examining Evangelism

If our relationship with Christ is such “Good News,” why are we always trying to convince ourselves that we should be evangelizing? In an age of social media, we don’t have any issue telling people the “good news” about the latest movie, our favorite music artists, the causes we support, or even our views on political issues. Why then is it so hard to share about our relationship with Christ? Is it because we really aren’t excited about that relationship? Is it because He hasn’t made a real impact on our life? Have we been silenced by society and shamed into thinking that faith is a “private matter?” Are we put off by the methods of others, and use that as an excuse to avoid sharing the gospel altogether? Or is it that we have our own doubts about the truth of Christianity that keep us from telling others about Jesus Christ?

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Run for Haiti

Exodus has partnered with World Vision for a while now and, in continuing with what God is doing through them, some of us have decided to run the Los Angeles 5k on March 20th in order to to help raise…

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Stewardship – An Update To Our Money Series

Stewardship – An Update To Our Money Series

Year after year, surveys reveal that Christians give little or nothing to Kingdom causes. In contrast, Jesus makes the incredible claim that “any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” How can we reconcile our refusal to comply with Christ’s ethic of generosity and productive use of our talents with the fact that so many of us live entirely for ourselves? In this series that updates our original series on Money (found here), we examine the role of Stewardship, and look deeper at this crucial relationship we have with Jesus concerning money and our possessions. We also take on the traps that prevent us from being good Stewards: materialism, debt and living for ourselves.

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Why Does God Allow Suffering and Evil?

Why Does God Allow Suffering and Evil?

Christians and Non-Christians alike cite this question as the biggest hindrance to their faith. Far from being a philosophical inquiry, when suffering befalls us, we are tempted to question the very existence of God. Reading through a large number of writers and theologians who have tackled this subject, we examine the answers that clearly fall short, while struggling with the various (and often surprising) views that are presented by the Biblical writers. If God knew humanity would fall, why give us free will or even create us in the first place? Can we really blame free will for so much suffering? What about suffering that can’t be explained by free will, such as natural disasters, illnesses, and tragic death? Does God cause suffering, or does He merely allow it?

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Rediscovering Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew – Volume 3

Rediscovering Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew – Volume 3

Our audio commentary on the Book of Matthew continues. In Volume 3, we pick up in Chapter 13 (for Volume 1, covering Chapters 3-7, click here; for Volume 2, covering Chapters 8-12, click here). As Christians, we often spend much of our time talking about the Bible, or talking about Jesus, without spending much time reading the words of Scripture itself. In this series, we go back to the actual text of the Gospel of Matthew and soak up each chapter, line by line, as we encounter Jesus all over again. Our goal is to rediscover passages we have forgotten, struggle with some of the more difficult teachings of Jesus, and compare what many of us think Jesus said with what He actually said.

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Responsibility

Something that Phil and I discussed later in the evening, after tonight’s talk had ended, was what it means to give and act responsibly. Let us start out with the premise that it is best to act responsibly whenever possible….

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Questions About Prayer

Questions About Prayer

So many Christians struggle with prayer. Despite hundreds of books and millions of sermons about how and why we should pray, most of us are left with unresolved guilt about not praying, or rigid formulas designed to force us to pray. After having examined prayer through the model of the Lord’s Prayer (found here) and as part of our series on Spiritual Disciplines (found here), we now turn to answer some of the toughest and most honest questions about prayer: Why pray if God already knows my needs? Does God ever change His mind? If God is sovereign and in control of all things, why pray at all? Why does Jesus teach that God will do anything we ask, when that doesn’t seem to happen in my life?

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Serving Directly vs. Indirectly

This last Wednesday night, we started discussing the book Irresistible Revolution and the subject of service came up.  Specifically we began talking about our interactions (or lack thereof) with the poor and homeless.  Everyone in our group agreed that it…

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Cursing Our Enemies?

A few weeks ago during our Wednesday night series on Lamentations, the concept of cursing our enemies during prayer came up.  It seemed as if there are multiple places in the Bible where people call on God to be wrathful…

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The Spiritual Disciplines and Spiritual Transformation

The Spiritual Disciplines and Spiritual Transformation

We have all heard talks about the Spiritual Disciplines that have left us confused as to how they benefit us, or guilty because we are not engaging them all the time. The Christian life seems busy enough without the added worry of how to work the Disciplines into our lives. In this series, we try to get to the heart of the matter: how do the Disciplines open us up spiritually to allow God to do the work of transforming us from the inside? Which Disciplines are most beneficial to us, and how do we know when we should be engaging in a particular Discipline?

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Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts

Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts

So many Christians have little or no knowledge about the subject of Spiritual Gifts. In this series we cover some of the most frequently asked questions: What are all the spiritual gifts? Where are they found in the Bible? Are they still active today? Why is there such a divide in the church over spiritual gifts? What about miracles, tongues and healing, are those still active? Does every Christian have a spiritual gift? Are certain spiritual gifts a sign of salvation?

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Biblical Justice

Biblical Justice

When Jesus denounced the Pharisees as hypocrites, He highlighted again God’s special concern for justice: “justice and mercy and faithfulness; these are the things you should have done.” (Matt. 23:23) Yet most of us would have a very hard time defining what it means to “do justice.” We tend to think of justice only in terms of God’s punishment, or some sort of holy retribution. What is Biblical justice?

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Rediscovering Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew – Volume 2

Rediscovering Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew – Volume 2

We are back in the book of Matthew. After spending thirteen weeks going through the start of Jesus’ ministry up through the Sermon on the Mount (see first part of the series here, we continue with Jesus’ miracles and the commissioning of the disciples. As Christians, we often spend much of our time talking about the Bible, or talking about Jesus, without spending much time reading the words of Scripture itself. In this series, we go back to the actual text of the Gospel of Matthew and soak up each chapter, line by line, as we encounter Jesus all over again. Our goal is to rediscover passages we have forgotten, struggle with some of the more difficult teachings of Jesus, and compare what many of us think Jesus said with what He actually said.

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The Beliefs of Major World Religions

The Beliefs of Major World Religions

As Christians, it is our hope to encounter others in sacred conversations that point people to the Truth, Jesus Christ. But we as Christians know so little about the beliefs and practices of other religions. Our ignorance often comes off as arrogance. Christians are therefore perceived as only being interested in discussing their own beliefs, and not caring enough to listen to the beliefs of others. If we truly want to engage others in discussions about our faith – and theirs – we need to know something about the beliefs of those around us.

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How NonChristians View Christianity

How NonChristians View Christianity

Many Christians think that NonChristians reject Christianity because they want to avoid the Truth, or because they want to live immoral lives. But what if many NonChristians actually reject Christianity because of the hurtful and harmful ways in which Christians act every day in the name of Christianity? Barna Group president David Kinnaman in his book “UnChristian” conducted three years of research including thousands of interviews and surveys to document why a majority of NonChristians believe Christians are judgmental, hypocritical, anti-homosexual, too involved in politics, out of touch with reality, insensitive to others, and focused only on converting others to Christianity. In this series, we take a hard, critical look at the church and the way that so many Christians live out their faith in an “UnChristian” manner.

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Rediscovering Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew – Volume 1

Rediscovering Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew – Volume 1

We often spend much of our time talking about the Bible, or talking about Jesus, without spending much time reading the words of Scripture itself. In this series, we go back to the actual text of the Gospel of Matthew and soak up each chapter, line by line, as we encounter Jesus all over again. Our goal is to rediscover passages we have forgotten, struggle with some of the more difficult teachings of Jesus, and compare what many of us think Jesus said with what He actually said.

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How to Ruin Your Life by 40

How to Ruin Your Life by 40

Based on Steve Farrar’s book by the same title, we examine the decisions that many Christians make in their early 20s that have significant consequences for their life by the time they reach 40: decisions about education, career, marriage and ministry. A recent Barna Group study found that 75% of people with some exposure to Christianity at the start of their 20s abandon their relationship with Jesus Christ by the time they are 29, and Steve Farrar points out that only 1 in 10 will make it to 40. What happened along the way?

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The Mystery of God’s Will

The Mystery of God’s Will

Does God have an individualized will for every single person? Does He care about every decision we make? Can God’s will be changed or thwarted? How does God’s sovereignty and His control over all things intersect with our free will? If there is an individual plan for my life, how can I find it? Does God’s will encompass all things, including evil, suffering, and sin?

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Examine Your Vision

Examine Your Vision

So often, Christians debate amongst themselves without stopping to examine the validity of their own beliefs. In this series we take time out to explore some of the places where Christians miss each other in the discussion. What exactly does it mean to be “saved?” When, or where, is the Kingdom of God? How should Christians engage culture? What does it mean to be in the world but not of the world?

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The Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

The Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is a central tenant of Christianity which, if proven false, would seriously call our beliefs into question. A recent Discovery Channel documentary written and directed by Simcha Jacobovici and produced by James Cameron claims that the bodily remains of Jesus and his family have been found. This series examines all of the claims of the documentary, as well as the historical evidence for the resurrection.

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A Fresh Look at the Parables of Jesus

A Fresh Look at the Parables of Jesus

Why did Jesus teach in parables? If His message was so important, why use a device that kept some people from the true meaning of His words? For those who think that the parables were taught at an elementary level, take a deeper look at the parables and discover some of Jesus’ hardest teachings.

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Defending Against Spiritual Warfare

Defending Against Spiritual Warfare

Some Christians blame everything on Satan, while others deny that he exists and think that our sin is the only thing that makes this world so tough to live in. Somewhere in the middle of those two extremes lies the truth about spiritual warfare and our call to be part of the battle.

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Understanding the Mystery of the Trinity

Understanding the Mystery of the Trinity

Nothing is harder for us to comprehend than God’s true nature: a triune being who is fully God, yet made up of three distinct co-equal and co-eternal persons. In this series, we take on the task of gaining a better understanding of the Trinity in the hopes of dispelling common misconceptions and seeking to better worship the Triune God of the Bible.

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The Messianic Prophecies

The Messianic Prophecies

Jesus fulfilled over 300 messianic prophecies. The odds of any one person fulfilling eight prophecies is beyond scientific improbability. And yet, most Christians have difficulty identifying messianic prophecies or locating them in scripture. God has given us a tremendous gift in these prophecies – each of them provides us with an assurance that Jesus was the One True Christ. These prophecies also give us assurance that scripture is inspired by the Living God. How else could different prophets, writing in different eras, predict such detailed events that would only take place hundreds of years later?

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Responding to the Claims of the Da Vinci Code

Responding to the Claims of the Da Vinci Code

The book sold over 40 million copies, becoming the most widely read fiction book of all time. But the book and its author have intimated that there is far more truth found in its pages than fiction. What claims does the Da Vinci Code make, why was it written, and do any of its claims affect the truth of Christianity?

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Basic Training: The Basics of Christianity

Basic Training: The Basics of Christianity

Once in a while, we need to put down some of the tougher topics and make sure we have a firm foundation about the basics. In this series, we spend one week going through the basics of Christianity, and the second week having participants from the group respond to some of the basic objections nonbelievers have about Christians and Christianity.

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Learning to Pray the Lord’s Prayer

Learning to Pray the Lord’s Prayer

Christians authors have written hundreds of books on how to have a more vibrant prayer life, but it seems that despite all the expert advice on the topic, we continue to struggle with what should be a simple conversation with our Lord, Father and Friend. In this series, we break through some of the “noise” that surrounds the subject of prayer, and instead focus on the model of prayer which Jesus left us in the Lord’s Prayer.

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Biblical View of Money

Biblical View of Money

The Bible contains 2350 verses on money, and 16 of the 38 parables Jesus taught were about money. Money is a complicated subject in the Bible, and Jesus’ words may actually surprise you about what he expected us to do with money.

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Sex in the Body of Christ

Sex in the Body of Christ

Every year, studies confirm that the level of premarital sex and other sexual sins within the church is the same as it is outside of the church. Why does our belief in Christ make no impact on our sexual behavior? In this series that reaches into the heart of the problem, we address the toughest questions about why God’s people continue to sin sexually in open defiance of God’s word.

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What Will Heaven be Like?

What Will Heaven be Like?

As Christians, we spend a good deal of time preaching about how to get to Heaven, but the truth is, most of us know very little about what life in Heaven will really be like. This series examines some of the most common questions about Heaven.

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John’s Newsong Sermons

John’s Newsong Sermons

Here’s a chance to get to hear John’s teaching in a totally different format — as part of the teaching team at Newsong Church in San Dimas. While these sermons aren’t quite as interactive as the podcasts series recorded in…

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